Category Archives: Newcomers

All things “hairy” – where to go for your next haircut!

One of the many  challenges in moving to a new city/country (aside from figuring out how to grocery shop and drive!) is finding a good person to cut your hair! Here are a few recommendations of fellow expats in Vienna who searched high and low for their favorite haircutters and stylists!

If your fabulous stylist isn’t on our list, leave us a comment!

1st District:

  • Bundy & Bundy – multiple locations; Marietta in the 1st district speaks perfect English; she does excellent up-do’s as well as cuts.

4th District:

  • Hair Affair – By Karin.  I love my hairdresser Claudia at Hair Affair. She’s great with color, does nice cuts, does beautiful up-dos for balls, speaks great English, is very friendly, and is not expensive. The shop is on tram line 1 by the stop for Johan Strauss Gasse in the 4th district – just about a 10-12 minute ride from Schottentor. Today I had a color, cut, and conditioner for 65 euros. She gets that I want color that is natural. She gets that I don’t want to spend 25 extra euros to dry/style my hair on a warm sunny day. I would love for her to get some new clients – she’s a very hard worker and someone I will truly miss.

9th District:

  • Hair Wolf – many of the staff speak English, stylist Jacky is especially recommended (also speaks Turkish), store carries Redken and Bumble and Bumble products.

18th district:

  • Salon Tampier (no website; English spoken, Tel: 4799920), Bastiengasse 16, 1180 Vienna

19th district:

  • Sandra Fischer’s salon (limited English spoken; bring a picture! Reasonable prices e.g. wash, cut, blow around 50 Euros)
  • Hairbusters – multiple stores but the location in the 19th comes recommended, particularly the hairstylist Oxana (no English; reasonable prices – wash, cut, and blow dry about 40 Euros; she also cuts kids’ hair)

Multiple locations:

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Eat, Drink Glühwein, and Be Merry: Holiday Season in Austria

American Thanksgiving may be two weeks away, but the holiday season officially began on St. Martin’s Day, November 11th. You may have noticed street decorations out way before what you would expect them to be set up in the United States.  The Viennese Christmas Markets begin opening this weekend. Here is a guide for all your holiday merrymaking.  

Photo Credit to stadtbekannt.at

Karlsplatz Christmas Market with photo credit to stadtbekannt.at

Christmas Markets

There are about 15 markets this year scattered throughout Vienna.  Some are classic, like the one at the Rathaus or Karlsplatz.  Others are known as “green” markets and are found in parks.  A complete listing of the Vienna markets can be found here.  In addition, several Austrian states hold their own in their capital city.  These include Salzburg (at Schloss Hellbrunn and Cathedral Square below HohenSalzburg), Linz, Graz, Innsbruck and Tirol. There are many others, but these are the big ones.

Innsbruck Christmas Market with photo credit to www.christkindlmarkt.cc

Innsbruck Christmas Market with photo credit to http://www.christkindlmarkt.cc

Then, there are the “weekend only” markets.  Schloss Grafenegg’s Advent Market runs from December 5th through December 8th this year.  It is unique in that the market is held both outside of and inside the castle.  The Rattenberger Market is a a medieval market taking place on weekends only beginning November 28th.

Finally, if you are in the final stretch of your time in Austria and have visited these already, you can take in the markets in Prague, Bratislava, Budapest , Munich and greater Bavaria, or the ones in northern Italy near Tirol.

All the markets offer their own unique theme as well as unique items, but at all of them you will likely find ornament stands, glühwein (each market has a souvenir mug – you pay a deposit on the mug and you either get it back if you return it or you keep the mug), sausages, soup in a bread bowl, and sweets.  

Bring cash, maybe some patience, and beware of pickpockets or women offering you a rose and then claiming its yours so that you have to pay her.  It’s their most profitable time of year too.

Nikolo and Krampus

Nikolo makes an appearance on the night of December 5th  in Vienna. Typically, children leave their shoes out for Nikolo to leave candy coins or small gifts in them and awake to these surprises on December 6th, St. Nicholas Day.  Schools usually stage a “Nikolo has been here” event and may even rent a Nikolo for their students. This may be the only opportunity for Austrian children to get pictures with Nikolo.  There are no Nikolo picture stations at the local malls although Nikolo may make an appearance at the malls on December 6th if the mall is hosting an event for St. Nicholas Day.

Austrian children also have the anti-St. Nick, the Krampus.  As seen in this video, this is a pretty scary concept for young children who fear being taken from their homes by the Krampus if they do not behave.

Every year, St. Nick and the Krampus (many of them actually) make an appearance at Obikirchergasse in the 19th District on December 6th as well as other districts and Christmas markets in Vienna and elsewhere in Austria.  The shopping street is blocked off in what is called Perchtenlauf. Perchten means “mask” so Perchtenlauf is a parade of masks. Perchtenlauf participants run around frightening children.  It’s like Halloween.  Older children may enjoy this while younger children may not.

Obikirchergasse has yet to announce whether they will be participating this year. But, if you would like to witness Perchtenlauf, the Prater will be hosting Perchtenlauf on November 30th from 17:00 – 18:30.

The Big Day (December 24th)

Austrian Christmas celebrations take place on December 24th.  For many, the Christmas tree does not go up until December 24th.  Typically, in families with young children, grandparents or relatives take the children for the day while their parents decorate the tree and children arrive home for Christmas Eve dinner to a decorated tree and gifts around the tree.  Some parents buy a tree before the 24th and keep it in a locked room away from prying eyes.

The ChristKind (Christ child) brings gifts to children unlike the more secular Santa Claus in the US. The ChristKind is also the figure present at the Christmas Markets. Families open gifts on the 24th and typically attend Mass on Christmas eve or Christmas day.

Sylvester (New Year’s Eve)

New Year’s Eve is an all day affair with events around the ring.  When the clock strikes midnight, the fireworks ensue lasting into the wee hours of the morning. For some of us lucky folks with housing high above the city, it is a spectacular sight to see all the different areas of Vienna light up.  If you have pets, be forewarned.

Three Kings Day/Epiphany (January 6th)

The season draws to a close on January 6th.  On this day, you will find children dressed up like the Three Kings walking around the city and knocking on doors collecting money for different charities.  In exchange for your donation, they write in chalk above the door C.M.B 2015 (or whatever year it is).  This stands for Casper, Melchior and Balthazar (the Three Kings) or as this writer describes “”Christus Mansionem Benedictat” (Christ bless this home).  I can only liken this to Trick or Treating for UNICEF only with a blessing in exchange for the donation.

Have a wonderful Holiday season!

Prepaid SIM Cards

One of the main concerns many of us have immediately upon arriving at post is how to set up mobile phone service. This post gives a great overview of setting up a traditional monthly plan. However, monthly plans don’t always work well for everyone. I don’t like dealing with the hassle of having to cancel a phone contract in the midst of packout chaos and since I already had an unlocked iPhone, a prepaid SIM is the perfect solution for me. They’re also great for visitors who want a means of communication to feel more secure wandering off on their own as well as for those who ultimately want a contract but need a phone as they wait for the documentation necessary to set up a monthly contract plan.

So how do you get a prepaid SIM?

Fortunately it’s very easy. All three of the major carriers, A1, T-Mobile, and Drei (formally Orange), offer prepaid plans. You can choose either a traditional prepaid service where your prepaid balance is deducted for each call/text/MB of data used or you can set up a non-binding monthly service where you get a set amount of calls/texts/data on a monthly basis.

The monthly option is different than a contract plan in that it is on a month-to-month basis. You are not billed nor is your bank account debited each month. It is your responsibility to remember to refill your account balance each month if you want to continue service. Unlike the contract plans, documentation (residency permits, address, etc.) is not required to purchase a prepaid SIM card, making one easy to obtain immediately upon arrival.

Where can I get a prepaid SIM?

All three major carriers have their own stores throughout the city and at many malls if you want to buy directly from the carrier. There are also numerous independent cellular stores selling SIM cards for all the carriers. One is even located in the arrivals area of the airport which I have used successfully for myself and guests (and so far the staff has always spoken English). Post offices and larger supermarket/department store chains often sell SIMs as well.

How do I add money to a prepaid account?

Fortunately, they make this easy too and there are a number of options:

  • You can create an account with your carrier and add credit online using a credit or debit card.
  • You can add credit through an ATM.
  • There is a link within Bank Austria’s online banking portal to add credit.
  • You can purchase credit vouchers at many Tabak stores, grocery stores, post offices, and gas stations.

Do I need an unlocked phone?

You do not need an unlocked phone and can purchase one with your SIM card if necessary.

My father-in-law wanted a phone while he was visiting and got a very basic no-frills phone with a SIM and enough credit for his two week stay for around 20 Euros (in January 2014).

Can I use any unlocked phone?

If you already have an unlocked phone, or plan on purchasing one in the US before arrival, you’ll want to make sure it is GSM compatible, supporting quad-band frequencies, so that it will work on the European network.

What if I travel outside of Austria or want to call outside of Austria?

You’ll need to check with the service carrier to determine the charges as it varies by country/region. If you plan on using your phone a lot while travelling or frequently call a specific country, there are add on packages available for these situations similar to those offered for contract plans.

This is my experience with prepaid SIM cards as of May 2014. If you have any additional information to share or if policies have changed, please let TriVienna know so we can update this post.

Submitted by Kerry

Navigating Vienna’s Public Transport with a Stroller

There is no doubt that Vienna’s Public Transportation is nothing short of amazing. No matter where you are, you are bound to be close to a bus/tram/train stop and it generally is efficient and on schedule. This previous post gives a great overview of the system.

However, now that I cruise around town with two toddlers in a double stroller I have realized that I often need to do a bit more advance planning. After speaking with some parents, I know that I’m not the only one who was initially overwhelmed with how to get from A to B while pushing a stroller/Kinderwagen. If you’re traveling with one child in a small, easily collapsible stroller, this may not be a big challenge for you. But, if you have multiple small children, a sleeping child, or a stroller full of groceries and shopping bags then things become a little trickier.

Here’s what I  have learned in my travels around town:

U-Bahn

For the most part, the U-Bahn is a piece of cake. All of the stations are said to have at least one elevator or ramp and all of the U-Bahn trains have been updated to be disability (thus stroller) friendly. There are stroller designated areas on all trains just inside the doors indicated by round blue and white stickers depicting a stroller. The only challenge can be that the elevators seem to be serviced and repaired with regular frequency. If having access to an elevator is essential, you may want to check ahead to make sure they are not out of service. The Quando app for smartphones from Wiener Linien lists all elevator outages.

Buses

Buses are also very stroller friendly. Wiener Linien has updated all buses to low-floor models providing easy access. Each bus has one designated area for strollers on the second entrance from the front indicated on the door by the blue and white stroller sticker. This area tends to fill up with passengers, especially during morning rush-hour, but I’ve found that people are generally very good about making space for strollers.

One rule to note is that technically only two strollers are allowed in this area at any given time. I am on the bus all the time with three, four, occasionally even five, strollers crammed into this area and no one cares. However, I was kicked off one morning for being the third stroller to board, so there are some drivers who do follow this rule.

Trams

The tram system contains a mixture of old and new trams. The new trams are a low-floor style making for easy entrance and every car has a stroller designated area (indicated again by the blue and white stroller sticker). Large side-by-side strollers don’t fit well on these trams but it can still work. Just be prepared for some dirty looks from other passengers trying to squeeze by.

It is the older style, non-low-floor, trams that cause many of us stroller-pushing parents stress because of several steps required to enter the tram.

There is a stroller designated area in the front car just behind the driver and supposedly you can ask the driver to help you carry the stroller up the steps. I have not found this to be realistic as my German is very basic and I have two kids and a stroller to load. I do what many others do and wait around for the next low-floor tram. Stops with an electronic departure board show the time of the next low-floor tram indicated by a flashing handicap sign. This information can also be found in the monitor section of Quando as well as the actual Wiener Linien website.

S-Bahn

The S-Bahn system is similar to the tram system with a mixture of old trains requiring steps to enter and newer low-floor trains that are easy to roll a stroller onto. Unfortunately, the monitors in the S-Bahn stations do not indicate when the next handicap accessible/low-floor train is coming and I have not found a source for this information online. As a result, I tend to avoid the S-Bahn when I’m traveling solo with my kids. The few times I have had to do so, I have found the other passengers to be very understanding and helpful. In general, the S-Bahns spend a little more time at each stop than the trams do giving you a bit more time to haul you kid(s), stroller, and gear up those steps when necessary.

Hope this assists fellow parents in planning their trips.

Contributed by Kerry

Parents’ Survival Guide for Vienna – Top 8 Reasons to be an Expat with Kids here

*note: this post was originally published at expatsblog.com for its annual writing contest*

Although you may have heard that Austria is not a great place to live with kids because Austrians tend to be “kinder to their dogs than to their own children,” I am here to tell it’s not true. Not true at all. Ok, so maybe some Austrians are a little too lovey-dovey with their dogs and may not absolutely love children (there is always that one grumpy person to give your child a reprimand or that look) but rest assured, Vienna is one of the best places to live with kids! You don’t believe me? Well, read on for the top eight reasons why expat families will thrive here!

1. Online resources: Everything you need to know is at your fingertips – literally. There are a number of fabulous websites dedicated to helping parents navigate fun discoveries. Some of my favorite sites include wienextramamiladequax, and sunny (German only) as well as the following English sites: wien.infoviennababiesclubtrivienna, and citykids. Note that you can sign up for email alerts or RSS feed for many of these.

2. Public transportation – the “Öffi’s” (Austrian abbreviation for “öffentliche Verkehrsmittel”): Vienna is not only a beautiful city but also extremely safe and easy to get around. The public transport system is simply wonderful and quickly gets you where you need to go and as an extra bonus, kids six years and under ride for free. Older kids receive big discounts when using public transport and if you are worried how to get your big stroller onto a tram, rest assured knowing that tram drivers are required to step out and help parents get their strollers and cargo inside (and it’s not uncommon for other passengers to help out).

3. Childcare: While there is some difficulty in finding subsidized childcare for the very young ones, there is an abundance of affordable childcare for “Kindergarten” (preschool/daycare) options for kids aged three to five. The city agency MA 10 governs the public providers and offers subsidies for expats showing proof of residency in Austria. Check out these (German) sites to learn more: kinderdrehscheibekindergarten. Instruction at most of the preschools is in German but there are a few private providers that offer bilingual (German/English) options as well (see the Vienna Babies Club website for more information.

4. Parks, playgrounds, and pools galore! Vienna does not just tease your eyes with its stunning architecture but also has beautiful and fun green spaces for little ones to enjoy. Some of my family’s favorite parks include Türkenschanzpark, Stadtpark, Währingerpark, and Rathauspark. Viennese parks usually offer multiple playgrounds and often a duck pond. A word of caution: be prepared for your hearts to stand still as you watch your little ones navigate the high rope courses on these “adventure playgrounds.” Also, you will need to anticipate (and embrace) the joyful mess that ensues when your kids discover water fountains that pump water directly into the sandpits.

While you will most likely always find kids playing outside, no matter the season or temperature, there are also a number of fun indoor play options scattered around Vienna.  Even though there is generally an entrance fee, these venues help break up those grey, rainy or snowy fall and winter days when you are stuck at home with activity-craving little people! Some of my kids’ favorites include Monki Park, Lollipop, and Family Fun.

And if you want to hit the water, then Vienna is certainly the right place for you! The Danube offers plenty of beach space to allow splishing and splashing during the hot summer days and there are also a number of “family swimming pools” that only allow entry to people with children. And then there’s Dianabad, a real “Erlebnisbad” (experience/adventure pool) in every sense of the word that guarantees a fabulous time for kids of all ages with its many slides, wave pool, floating rivers, and playgrounds in the water!

5. Things to see: Sure you can spend your days here simply wandering the city admiring the beautiful architecture, gazing up at the many church towers, and stepping back to give a horse-drawn carriage the right of way. Or you can do all that in addition to visiting the many interesting museums this city has to offer. Best of all, nearly all encourage young visitors by providing free admission or offering greatly reduced prices. Many museums offer special tours and events for kids and most offer excellent deals for yearly tickets (valid from the date of purchase) so don’t be surprised if you soon find your wallet bulging from all those annual passes.

Some of my favorite kid-friendly museums include the Natural History Museum (with the moving dinosaur), Schönbrunn Zoo (an all-time favorite literally in the backyard of the Schönbrunn Summer Palace), the Technical Museum (aside from trains, planes, and automobiles, there is a big indoor playroom and the exhibits are very hands-on), ZOOM children museum (an interactive museum with changing exhibits and shows), “Haus des Meeres” (the aquarium housed inside an anti-aircraft tower from World War Two), and the interactive “Haus der Musik” (sound museum) that allows visitors to compose their own music and conduct the Philharmonic Orchestra.

If you don’t feel like going to a museum, the kids will love visiting the beautiful Lipizzaner horses in their stables next to the Hofburg/Imperial Palace or spending some time at the Prater amusement park. Yes, there is a year-round amusement park in the heart of Vienna, containing the still operating “Wiener Riesenrad” (ferris wheel) dating back to 1897. Make sure you have some Euros on hand before you arrive, though, as it’s a pay per ride kind of a deal and it’s not cheap!

6. Winter wonderland: I am not going to lie. The Vienna winter days can be long, grey, dark, and very cold. But sometime around the middle of November right up until Christmas, something magical happens. The entire city turns into a Winter Wonderland. Streets, squares, and parks are filled with countless “Weihnachtsmärkte” (Christmas markets) consisting of stands selling anything from beautiful handicrafts and holiday decorations to sweets to food and, very importantly,“ Glühwein” (mulled wine) and punch to help warm up parents’ cold hands. For younger visitors, there are plenty of non-alcoholic warm punches as well as easy kid food (i.e. sausage in a bun or another Austrian favorite, “Langos” – fried bread) and many holiday lights to gaze at. Some markets (check out the one by the old AKH Hospital, Belvedere, and Türkenschanzpark) also offer carousel rides and the market by Karlsplatz has a petting zoo guaranteeing a fun-filled family outing.

And after the holidays, get ready to teach your kids how to ice skate on the “Eistraum” (ice dream) skating rink in front of City Hall from late January through early March. There is even a special rink for little ones and non-skaters that provide plastic penguins for new skaters to hold onto. And of course, if you don’t want to deal with ice skates, just head to your favorite park to build snowmen and sled to your (little ones’) hearts’ desire.

7. Coffee house culture: You can’t live in Vienna without visiting the beautiful traditional coffee houses (daily?). “Wiener Kaffeehäuser” were founded in the late 17th century and increased rapidly during the next 200 years. These Viennese institutions are spread around the city so if your kids are in need of a quick sugar-fix or you need to negotiate to keep them walking, not fighting, or happy for a little while longer, you can safely promise a slice of Viennese pastry heaven. It’s truly amazing the miracles a (huge) piece of “Sachertorte” (famous Viennese chocolate cake) or “Apfelstrudel mit Schlag” (apple strudel with whipped cream) can bring.

8. Beer gardens & Heurigers: Hands down, one of my favorite things about living in Vienna with kids is the abundance of Beer gardens and “Heurigers” (local wineries with restaurants). Did you know that Vienna is the only capital in the world that has vineyards within its city limits? I bet that just won you over to move here in case my top seven reasons haven’t yet!

Even better is that parents can visit these eateries at complete ease – during the warmer months, these places are quite busy and loud and kids can run and play outside among the many benches and tables to their little hearts’ content. And then there are those Beer gardens and Heurigers that provide a playground. You read that correctly; in Vienna we have restaurants that serve (excellent) beer and wine to parents while providing a fun and entertaining playground for little guests. Some of our favorites are Bamkraxler, Heuriger Sirbu, Feuerwehr Wagner Heuriger, and Buschenschank Nierscher just outside the Vienna city limits.

So, when can Vienna expect your family to move here?