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Living in Austria - A Guide for Students

by Dr Nathalie Mather-L’Huillier and Mark Bennett

Did you know Ferdinand Porsche, who started the eponymous car company and designed the first Volkswagen, was Austrian, as is Arnold Schwarzenegger?

In addition to being one the countries with the highest number of Nobel prizes per capita, Austria has been a bastion of cultural and intellectual excellence. This is reflected in its cities and universities.

Austria also boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe which is at odds with the fact that most Austrians work a 40-hour week or more! All in all, not so bad for a country yet to be fully discovered as a study abroad destination.

On this page you can find out what it's like to live abroad as an international Masters student in Austria - including advice on accommodation, student living costs and work permits.

For information on Austrian, universities, Masters degrees, application requirements and student visas, see our full guide to studying a Masters in Austria.

Or, if you'd like to get hunting for a specific Masters in Austria, you can use our course search.

Key facts for Masters students in Austria

  • The Austrian academic year usually runs from October to September.
  • A Masters at an Austrian University usually lasts for two years; programs at Universities of Applied Science (Fachhochschulen) may be shorter
  • Around 70,000 international students study at Austrian universities.
  • The official language of Austria is German.
  • The currency of Austria is the euro (€).
  • Austria has a population of around 8.5 million.
  • The Austrian capital city is Vienna.
  • Other important university cities in Austria include Graz, Innsbruck and Linz.
  • The oldest university in Austria is the University of Vienna
  • Austria is governed as a parliamentary republic, with a democratic election system.
  • Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion in Austria, but other faiths are freely practised.

Accommodation for Masters students in Austria

Finding a place to live from abroad can sometimes be difficult. You probably won’t be able to see the accommodation, you cannot be guaranteed of the standards of the accommodation, and you won’t be able to sign the lease in person (which is a requirement in some letting agencies).

One way to get around this is to make temporary accommodation arrangements for the first few weeks after your arrival in Austria. Alternatively, you can try contacting your university's international office in advance and asking for assistance. Even if they don't provide postgraduate student accommodation (as is likely to be the case) they may still be able to provide or recommend an approved list of local landlords.

In most cases your long-term options for accommodation in Austria will consist of dedicated student housing or a private rental.

The best option for you may actually depend on your course. If you are studying a one-year Masters at a Fachhochschule you may find that student accommodation is ideal (assuming your university offers it). If your program is longer you may find prospective flatmates for your second year during your first (much as undergraduate students often do in countries like the UK).

Student housing (halls of residence and dormitories)

Universities in Austria do not often have accommodation for students. Instead, non-Austrian students can apply for student accommodation in student residences managed by the OeAD Housing Office (a subsidiary of the Austrian agency for international mobility and cooperation in education, science and research).

Accommodation of this type is in short supply so you are advised to apply as soon as possible. You can do so online via the OeAD database.

Before your application for housing is considered you will have to pay a deposit of €750, so make sure you send enough funds to cover this. Banks may also charge a fee for transactions taking place outside of Austria.

The OeAD manages a range of properties with different kinds of accommodation which will range from €250-400 each month. Some universities have negotiated a quota of rooms for their own students so make sure you mention at which university you are going to study when applying.

Privately-managed student dormitories are also available. For a list of those in the city of your choice, check your institution’s website.

Private accommodation

Sharing accommodation is a popular option amongst students in Austria, partly because it provides a lower cost option than renting on your own.

The National Students' Union database provides a good overview of rooms available in shared accommodation (although the information is available in German only).

Other sources of information are also available online, such as Easy WG (also in German only).

Renting on your own

Solo renting as a student in Austria is generally an expensive option - fine if you value your privacy (and the ability to really get down to your Masters studies) but not so great if you're on a tight budget.

Few privately-owned properties are rented directly by the owner, which means that you should expect to pay an estate agent's fee. This is generally equivalent to two - three months' rent in addition to two – three months' rent as a deposit.

Most apartments are rented out unfurnished, but if you happen to find a furnished flat, you will probably have to pay an 'Ablöse' (a one-off premium payment).

The duration of a lease is usually between one and five years. You can find adverts for apartments in Austrian newspapers, on websites and on specialized portals (although again, most of these available in German only).

Settling in and student life in Austria

Universities will offer a range of services to international students to help them settle. Some universities provide new students with a 'buddy'.

These mentors are students who are in their final years of studying who can assist you in the early stages of your studies in Austria, for example on arrival, or if you have questions about living in your chosen city. This is generally managed by your university’s branch of the Austrian Students' Union.

Living costs for Masters students in Austria

With no tuition fees for EU and EEA students, Austria can seem like an ideal option for postgraduate study abroad on a budget. Remember though that - whatever you pay (or don't pay) for your Masters degree in Austria - you'll still need to cover basic accommodation and living costs to support yourself whilst you study.

Student living costs in Austria - official estimates

The Austrian government suggests international students have access to a total budget of between €481.75 per month (if under 24) and €872.31 per month (if older). These are the minimum amounts required to gain a visa or residence permit - and are therefore a good lower benchmark when estimating your cost of living whilst studying in Austria.

The official estimate of food costs is around €240 per month. You'll also need to budget for transport, study materials and any recreational or entertainment activities you take part in. The estimated monthly cost for these is around €290, but this is likely to vary considerably according to your lifestyle.

Typical student prices in Austria

The following tables give approximate prices for some of the common items and services you are likely to purchase whilst studying abroad in Austria:

Item Price (€)
Milk (1 litre) 1.04
Loaf of bread (500g) 1.55
Potatoes (1kg) 1.58
Chicken breasts (1kg) 8.61
Rice (1kg) 1.65
Item Price (€)
Cinema ticket 9.80
Mid-price bottle of wine 5.00
Cup of coffee 2.77
Draught beer (0.5 litre) 3.50
Inexpensive restaurant meal 9.00
Item Price (€)
Monthly travel pass 47.00
Broadband internet (10mbps, uncapped) 20.18
Domestic utilities (Electricity, Heating, Water and Waste) 151.85

Note Information in the above tables is based on crowd-sourced data collected by Numbeo. Figures are approximate and provided for comparative purposes only. They do not take account of student discounts and may vary over time or between cities.

Working whilst studying a Masters in Austria

All international students can work whilst studying abroad in Austria. However, the number of hours you can work and the permits required will depend on your nationality and visa status.

  • Students from the EU (excluding Croatia) the EEA and Switzerland can work freely in Austria without a permit. Note that your university may prefer you to control the number of hours you work - timely completion of degree units and academic programs is important within the Austrian higher education system.
  • Other students will be eligible to apply for a work permit, subject to holding a valid residence permit.
  • Students from Croatia also require a work permit despite being entitled to enter and live in Austria freely as EU students. This condition is part of Croatia's transition to EU membership and will apply until 2020.

Work permits for students in Austria

In most cases international students in Austria do not apply for a work permit themselves. Instead your prospective employer applies on your behalf. Provided you are enrolled at a recognised university (and hold any necessary visa and residence documents) this process should be simple.

Limitations apply to employment hours with a student work permit. As a Masters student you should be eligible to work for up to 20 hours per week.

Internships, placements and other unpaid work

Regardless of nationality, you will not require a permit for unpaid work you do for the purposes of training or education. This means that you can complete internships and placements as part of your Masters course without needing to apply for a work permit and without these hours counting against the maximum number of hours you are entitled to work.

You may need to demonstrate that this work is part of your course and contributes towards your training, but this should be a simple process - particularly for professional and vocational programs at Austrian Fachhochschulen.

Working after your studies

You can read more about working Austria after completing your Masters degree in our guide to studying abroad in Austria.

Other useful information for Masters students in Austria

By now you should have a good idea of what it might be like to live and study as a Masters student in Austria. You'll be able to work out your budget, get started looking for accommodation and, perhaps, think about brushing up your German.

There are a few other areas you should inform yourself about before heading to study a Masters in Austria, however.

Student banking in Austria

You don't need to have an Austrian bank account as an international student, but you'll probably find that life is a lot simpler if you open one. This is particularly true if you're working in the country, or receiving any kind of regular stipend as part of a scholarship or other maintenance package.

Of course, you may be able to do some of this with an existing account, if your bank maintains branches in Austria or works in partnership with an Austrian bank (you can check this with them before you leave).

Otherwise, you'll be better off opening a dedicated Austrian bank account to use whilst you study.

Several banks operate in Austria, but most will charge administrative fees on a quarterly basis. These are lower with a dedicated student account, but, as a postgraduate, you should be careful to check the age limit for such services (most student bank accounts in Austria have an upper age limit between 27 and 30).

Opening an account will usually involve visiting a local branch and bringing along basic documentation and identification. This should include:

  • Your passport - for identification purposes.
  • Proof of address - to register the account.
  • Proof of university enrolment - for student accounts.

Opening a local account will provide you with an Austrian debit card. These offer a quick and easy cashless payment system for smaller purchases (such as lunch at a university cafeteria, parking fees, etc.). All you have to do is transfer some funds on the card's quick chip, which you can do at ATMs and banks. Some universities have also adopted quick-chip compatible systems for payment at printers and copiers.

Remember to treat these funds as cash - you won't normally be able to reclaim them if your card is stolen.

Transport in Austria

Austria's central European location and proximity to other capitals mean that the country is well served by international transport links (and is a great base from which to travel more widely in Europe).

The transport network is well established and cities’ public transport options include trams, metro, trains and buses so it is easy to get around in Austria. What's more, as a student, you may be entitled to a discount on most metropolitan transit services.

You can read more about travel and transportation in Austria at the website of the official Austrian National Tourist Office.

Last updated - 20/10/2015

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