The Ultimate Vienna Expat Survival Guide: 13 tips for internationals

The English speaking magazine. Making the most out of Vienna and life.

The comprehensive Vienna Expat survival guide: 13 ultimate tips for internationals moving to, or living in Vienna

1. Deciding on where to live: The districts of Vienna

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Vienna is a city of neighbourhoods. The Bezirke (districts) of the city are numbered and named, and are often defined by their small pockets that the Viennese call Grätzl. The city gets its multi-faceted personality from its districts that wrap around the 1st district like a snail’s shell, and choosing your district as an expat can often define your lifestyle in the city. Check out the fancy map above (click to enlarge) describing the districts in adjectives, and the descriptions below, to help you decide on where you fit in, in Vienna.

Notable districts described in a few words:

The hip, the happening, the bobo Bezirke belt

Where: 6th (Mariahilf, 1060), 7th (Neubau, 1070), 8th (Josefstadt, 1080)
Live here if you want… to walk home after a night out, to have a vast selection of Sunday brunch options at your doorstep, to spend most of your income on dining out, to spend more money on haircuts than most people do on their yearly holiday, to be single and looking, to enjoy afterwork drinks, absolutely loving your district, your neighbour to be a funky elegantly-dressed old lady or gentleman (1080), live on a cobblestone street
Rent price range: medium to high

The laid-back neighbourhoods with soul

Where: 3rd (Landstraße, 1030), 4th (Wieden, 1040)
Live here if you want… to know your neighbour, be greeted warmly when you get your regular coffee or breakfast from your local bakery or café, live close to the city’s largest green space and great running paths (1030), live in the less hyped hip district where the young artists live (1040), have a comfortable space for your young family (1030), good vibes in the neighbourhood
Rent price range: both of these districts are still relatively well-priced, but both are becoming increasingly popular, meaning rent prices are being pushed up

The underestimated neighbourhoods with character

Where: 20th (Brigittenau, 1200), 15th (Fünfhaus, 1150), 16th (Ottakring, 1160), 5th (Margareten, 1050), 10th (Favoriten, 1100)
Live here if you want… to pay some of the lowest rent in the city, live in a multicultural neighbourhood, live in a area less manicured and more lived in, shop for cheap, escape to green areas on a regular basis, discover hidden treasures in your neighbourhood, be a student on a budget, be close to the city’s canal (1200).
Rent price range: low

The suburbs of the wealthy

Where: 13th (Hietzing, 1130), 19th (Döbling, 1190), 18th (Währing, 1180)
Live here if you want… escape the hustle and bustle after work, live in the suburbs, live in a villa, be surrounded by green areas and vineyards, park your Mercedes out front, have a garden, live the good life
Rent price: high

The one-of-a-kind districts

Where: 2nd (Leopoldstadt, 1020), 1st (Innere Stadt, 1010)
Live here if you want… to have the best of both worlds (the green parks and the bars, cafes and markets in 1020), live in a historic building (1010), live in a penthouse (1010), live in the center of it all (1010), have tourists taking photos of your building (1010), weave in and out of charming narrow streets on your way home (1010), live near the city’s largest park (1020), live in a cool district that still escapes high rent prices (1020)
Rent price range: low to medium (depending on the area of 1020), high (1010)


2. How to find a Wohnung as an expat

© Vienna Würstelstand | David Schneider

Be prepared to dedicate some serious time to this task. With over 50% of the city dedicated to state-housing, the private rent market is small and competitive. Finding a Wohnung (apartment) in Vienna in the area you want requires patience and charm (directed at the real estate agent).

Oh, and you’ll also need a bit of cash behind you, because in Vienna, the renter pays the real estate agent’s commission (typically 2 months rent). However, this law is going to the terminated by Juli 2023!

Shared apartment (WG / Wohngemeinschaft) living is common and a great alternative for students and young professionals wanting to get to know people in the city.

Useful vocabulary for apartment hunting in Vienna
Provision = real estate agent’s commission
Kaution = Security deposit
Altbau = a classy old building built before the war
Neubau = modern apartment complexes
Kalt = without gas and water costs in the rent price
Warm = with everything except electricity included in the rent price
Miete = rent
‘Befristeter’ or ‘unbefristeter’ Mietvertrag = a Befristeter Mietvertrag is a limited or short term rental contract. A standard one of these is limited typically to 3 years. Unbefristeter Mietvertrag means you can stay in the apartment for as long as you like. Rent will often be cheaper when the contract is befristet.

The top websites to look for an apartment
+ Willhaben
+ Der Standard
+ Immobilienscout24


3. First things first, get the holy Meldezettel

The holy document known as the Meldezettel is your proof of existence in this city. Without it, an expat like you doesn’t exist in the eyes of the state. You need it to apply for everything, from a library card to getting your social security number, and ordering takeaway from your local Indian eatery (ok, maybe we made that last one up). It’s simple to get, and you’ll find more info. about how, here.


4. Vienna’s marketplace for everything

© Willhaben

London has Loot, America has Craigslist, and Vienna’s go-to classifieds website for everything is Here, second-hand furniture and other stuff is bought and sold, and apartments, housemates, and jobs are found. Another useful online fleamarket is Shpock.


5. Getting connected as an expat: meeting people in Vienna


Moving to a new city can be like the first day of school all over again. The best way to deal with the ‘settling in’ stage in Vienna as an expat is to throw yourself into the mass of other people also experiencing the initial adjustment stage. Vienna is full of internationals, and locals alike, wanting to connect.

Otherwise, here’s a list of communities where you can find them
+ Internations Vienna (a professional expat networking group hosting regular events)
+ Vienna Expats (a mixed group of expats meeting on a regular basis in a casual setting)
+ Vienna Würstelstand(that’s right – that’s us! Sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date on the events we host)
+ Women of Vienna
+ Vienna Business Agency Expat club (A good club for expats in business)
+ AWA (A international group of Expat women helping and connecting women in Vienna.
+ Vienna Family Network (an expat network of international families)

Expat Facebook groups
+ British in Vienna
+ The Vienna Würstelstand Group – Questions & Quirks about living in Vienna

6. Take a verdammten German course: learning the language

Orient Express | Facebook

While most speak fluent English in this city, they say (whoever ‘they’ are) that you live a new life for every new language you speak. Well, we suggest you get started with your new Vienna life with ze’ language of its soul – German. Ok, well, the Viennese’s wild and wonderful version of German – Wienerisch. However, Viennese you’ll learn on the street, but first you need to sign yourself up for a German course.

Don’t lock yourself away in an expat bubble. Doors open in this city when you learn to sweet talk in ze’ German. Denglish (German with English words scattered throughout) is also accepted as a charming alternative, as well. Here’s a few places to learn your German that we recommend:

+ Deutschakademie (cheap intensive courses)
+ Universität Wien Deutschkurs (this one comes highly recommended, intensive semester courses at the University for very low prices)
+ i-diom: Professionelles Sprachtraining (for a professional German course)

7. Live like a local: dive into Austrian culture

© Vienna Würstelstand | Christopher Hanschitz

Don’t be an expat spending their whole time comparing home with here – news flash: you’re living in a different country! While after the honeymoon period of first moving to Vienna wears off, many expats are tempted to indulge in a bit of ‘verbal-Austrian-bashing’ for the rude service, their inflexible ways, their rigid mentality, their sleepy lock-down Sundays, amongst other things.

We recommend refraining from such verbal farts. This will only take your eye off the place you’re living in – an eccentric, individual kind of city that has a bundle of charming characteristics. Spend your time getting to know Vienna’s wine and wandering culture on the fringe of the city, the ‘Schau ma mal’ work-life balance, the pleasure of coffeehouse procrastination, the culture and classical music on tap, and the many creative stuff happening in the city.

8. Where to shop for stuff from home as an expat

© Vienna Würstelstand |  Tina Capellari

Check out our guide for internationals looking for a taste of home in Vienna when you’re feeling  homesick and craving your beloved goodies.

9. Understand: you’re not alone with your love-hate relationship with Vienna

© Vienna Würstelstand

Like any city, Vienna has its good and bad sides. In our – not so humble – opinion, the good far outweighs the bad. Nevertheless, there are times that you’ll curse the city’s name – for example, when you have to deal with its slow funhouse of bureaucracy, or when you’re feeling alone and isolated on a sleepy Sunday.

Know that you are not alone in your frustration with the city. However, the reasons that make this city a great setting for your life to play out – are going to make you want to wrap your arms around the city tight.

Think of us telling you this when you’re in one of the many Heuriger in the wine hills around the city on a sunny day, sipping amazing wine and enjoying the greenery surrounding you; or when your U-Bahn, or tram is running on time, or when you’re sitting in a coffeehouse and involuntarily have a sigh come on, as you feel the warmth within the old dark-wooded walls protecting you from whatever worries the rest of the world has outside.

10. Buy a bike, or embrace one of the best public transport systems in the world

© Vienna Würstelstand

Vienna is a relatively flat city that displays a love for the bicycle with its spider web of bike lanes weaving throughout the city. Buying a bike to get around is highly recommended. Meanwhile, for 1€ a day (with a Jahreskarte aka. year ticket), you can zoom around the city on the well-connected circuit of buses, trams, and subways as much as you want.

11. Make your smartphone Vienna-ready

© Pexels | Lisa Fotios

The following are some helpful apps for when you’re living in Vienna.

Qando: getting around the transport system

Mytaxi: the easy way to summon a taxi

Uber: the cheap taxi alternative (use the Würstelstand promocode when you sign up to get your first ride free)

Handy Parken an app for parking

12. Learn how to cope with quiet Sundays and prep’ for them accordingly

© Pexels | Tim Mossholder

Vienna shuts down on Sundays and if you’re outside of the touristy city center, don’t be surprised if you spot some tumbleweed making its way across the street (warning: levels of exaggeration may be present). That’s right, even the stores are closed.

While this may annoy many, we see this 7th day of solace as an opportunity. We hereby declare Sunday to be the day of exploration in Vienna, when man, woman, child, and the strange guy who stares at us on the bus every morning, unite in a common pursuit to venture out into parts of the city they never normally would if the shops were open.

Check out our guide for you on how to best survive (and enjoy) Sundays in Vienna, here. 

13. Become a Würstel and make the most out of the city with Vienna Würstelstand (that’s us)

It is our mission (which drives us to little sleep) to help you make the most out of Vienna… and life. You’ll never feel alone, or bored, in Vienna when reading Vienna Würstelstand. Quite the opposite, we promise to keep you inspired and to also make you feel like you’re part of the movement of people making the most out of Vienna… and life.


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