Hailey's Guide to Your First Few Days In Vienna

Hailey Neumann headshot
Hailey Neumann
January 24, 2024
A beautiful coffee with foam art of an apple on top

Whether you’re studying abroad for months at a time or just on vacation for a week, it’s always important to be prepared for your trip and know a few things about the city you’re going to. There are some major Dos and Don’ts for your first few days in Vienna and after being here for almost three days, I can attest to the fact that they can either make or break your trip.

If you don’t know me, my name is Hailey, I’m a Junior from the University of St. Thomas (MN) and I just started my study abroad adventure in Vienna with IES Abroad! If you can’t tell from all of my pictures, my favorite part so far has definitely been the food! Now let’s get on to the important stuff…

Do: Learn some basic words in your language. I feel incredibly lucky that so many people in Vienna know at least a little bit of English to help me along the way. So I always try to know the most common words and phrases used to show that I am trying. You definitely don’t have to be fluent in a language to visit somewhere, but knowing a little something will go a long way. Here in Austria, my most commonly used words have ended up being please and thank you, water, coffee and milk, and “Does anyone here speak english?” Hopefully, I’ll get better with my pronunciation and learn some more once we start our German classes!

Don’t: Take a nap right when you get off the plane! Wait until it is night time to get some sleep unless absolutely necessary. Even a short nap will throw off your sleep schedule! I recommend waiting until at least 7 p.m. to go to bed, even if your plane got in early that day. It’s definitely hard to sleep on a flight, but even a couple hours will help in the long run. Going to bed early that first night helps to reset your internal clock to avoid the worst parts of jet-lag. I usually keep melatonin on me so I can take some during my longest flight as well as in the first couple nights, just to make sure I’m out all night and can wake up refreshed in the morning.

Do: Learn to use the transit systems as fast as possible. It’s way cheaper than Ubers! It will usually take a few minutes more but it’s definitely been worth it for me as I run around the city visiting new districts. Google Maps has been my best friend telling me what trains and trams to get on to get to where I need to be! I haven’t taken a bus yet but that’s on my to-do list for this weekend!

Don’t: Speak too loudly. European’s speak at a naturally much lower volume and using a volume that would be normal in America will usually get you a couple looks if not glares. Especially in any sort of museum, or historical place as speaking too loudly is usually viewed as a sign of disrespect. Of course in public places this comes down to personal preference, if you don’t mind having a couple people give you a look then it’s not a big deal! Just make sure to check for any noise restricting laws. I personally try to stay a bit quieter than is natural for me to keep my conversations a bit more private but again that all comes down to personal preference.

Do: Explore as much as possible and avoid the touristy areas! My first full day in the city I didn’t know where to go to get breakfast, nor did I know that there was an open air market to get fresh produce from. Instead, I got a croissant from the first place I found (though it was a small family owned shop and was very good) and a few groceries from Billa when I likely would have been better off getting them at the market or a Hoffer(the Austrian Aldi). Also be careful to avoid the tourist traps. The tourist area in the first district is incredibly beautiful and definitely worth a walk-through to see the shops and all the historical monuments and buildings, but visitors should be cautious about buying certain things there and making sure the prices are reasonable. Food is much cheaper in Vienna than it is in the U.S., so while €16 for a soup and sandwich may seem reasonable at lunch time, there are definitely much better places to get good food. And this is not limited to food, it’s also for souvenirs as well, and the “mozart men” that walk around the district trying to sell overpriced concert tickets.

Don’t: Smile at strangers. I’m from the midwest where you just smile at everyone in passing no matter if you know them or not. Here though, it can be seen as a romantic attraction to someone. So if you catch someone staring at you (as Austrians tend to do—they don't call it the Austrian Stare for nothing) don’t smile at them unless you’re ready to strike up a conversation!

Do: Visit the historical sites as much as possible. This city is full of beautiful things, new and old and it would be a shame to not visit them when you have the chance. Some, like a walk through the old winter castle grounds are free, others do come at a cost, but for the most part these costs are reasonable. And for students they often offer discounts if shown a Student ID. From the classic art in The Albertina to the crown jewels to the museum of natural history to the Imperial Crypt where the Hapsburgs were buried, there is a piece of history in this expansive city for everyone to enjoy.

It’s safe to say that I still have a lot to learn about Vienna. I thought I knew quite a bit after the first time I visited the city 6 years ago, but my first few days with IES Abroad has shown me that there is will always be something new for me to learn and I’m excited to keep it going!

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Hailey Neumann

Hi guys! I'm a Junior at St Thomas(MN) and a dual citizen of the US and Luxembourg! I love to travel and learn the history of the places I go, and if I'm not outside with my dogs, you'll probably find me in a corner with a rom-com book or movie.

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