Living in Austria?
Housing and Health in Austria
Finding Your Dream Place
Most people in Austria live in rented accommodation —not only expats, but permanent residents and citizens too. Especially in cities, living in a rented apartment in the center is often regarded as more desirable than owning your own house somewhere in the suburbs. This means that there are generally a lot of rental properties available, especially in big cities. However, it also means that competition for good, central flats can be fierce.
Most people looking to rent an apartment start their search online, in the classified section of local and regional newspapers, or by contacting local estate agents. The rent depends on the overall size of the flat, its location, and often transportation connections. On average, you could expect to pay between 5.89 EUR/m² (Burgenland) and more than 13 EUR/m² (Salzburg) in 2016. However, prices of up to 22 EUR/m² are not unheard of for some of the top locations in Vienna.
Rental prices don’t usually include service charges (water, waste disposal, etc.), which can add an additional 25% to your monthly rent. On top of that, you’ll need to pay for electricity and heating.
Registration: Don’t Forget it!
Once you have moved into your flat, you need to register with your municipal administration or the Magistrate within three days. If you fail to comply with this rule, you will incur a fine of up to 726 EUR. You will need to bring the following documents, either in person or by post: a completed application form (residence registration form) with your landlord’s signature if you live in a rented flat and your passport or birth certificate showing your first and last name, nationality, time and place of birth.
It is recommended that you register in person to save yourself the money you’d otherwise spend on obtaining notarized copies of your documents. After you have successfully registered, you will receive a written residence registration certificate. Please note that you need to repeat this process if you change your address during your time in Austria. For more information, consult the HELP website of the Austrian Government.
Public Insurance and the E-Card
Nearly all employees in Austria pay into the social security system and are therefore covered by public health insurance. You are free to choose your public health insurance provider from one of the officially recognized health insurance funds. Once you are paying into the Austrian social security system and have registered with a health insurance provider, you will receive an e-card, which is your social insurance card. You should always take this card with you when visiting a doctor.
Public health insurance covers treatment by all doctors, dentists, and specialists who have a contract with your insurance fund; please contact your insurance provider for a detailed list. If you need hospital treatment, you are expected to pay a certain sum for every day you spend in the hospital. For a long-term illness, your employer will continue to pay your salary for up to 12 weeks upon receipt of a doctor’s certificate confirming that you are unable to work. After that period, your health insurance fund covers your sickness benefits, which are usually lower than your salary.
As a general rule, you cannot opt out of health insurance, but you can always opt in if you are not covered through automatic salary contributions. Alternatively, you may choose private insurance which will give you access to many private clinics and doctor’s practices, depending on your insurance plan.
Apotheke and Notrufe: Getting the Care You Need
Healthcare in Austria is generally of a very high standard. All hospitals have well-trained staff and state-of-the-art equipment, so your choice of hospital will usually depend on location and the nature of your illness. You can use the hospital finder to search for suitable hospitals by location, diagnosis, or specialization.
Prescription drugs are available in pharmacies. Under the public health insurance scheme, you usually pay a prescription fee of 5.85 EUR (in 2017) for each item. The drug itself is free.
In case of an emergency, dial 144. This is a central number for fire, police, and ambulance services. Your call will be re-directed depending on the nature of the emergency. Although operators should speak and understand some English, it might be a good idea to know some medical phrases in German, especially if you suffer from a chronic health condition.
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