EuroVis 2012 is only about six weeks away, so if you haven’t booked your travel or hotel, now is the time. Here are a few pointers on where to stay, transportation options in Vienna, etc.
Just to avoid misunderstandings: I am Austrian and I lived in Vienna for 10 years before coming to the U.S. This is important context for any criticism and making fun of Vienna, Austria, the Viennese, etc. in this part and the planned sequel (which will go into more detail on local customs, etc.).
Unlike conferences in the U.S., European conferences are typically held at universities or in other venues that are not giant, faceless hotels. The result is that finding a place to stay nearby can be a challenge. That is especially true for the TechGate, which is in a part of Vienna with practically no accommodations close by. There are other amenities there, however, like the unique Donauinsel, which you will appreciate once you’re there.
The closest hotels are in the Second District, Leopoldstadt, though by now most of those are probably booked. Some of them are weirdly old-fashioned, in particular the ones the EuroVis organizers have picked as recommended hotels with special rates. Making a reservation involves calling them or sending a fax, in particular if you want the conference rate (the deadline for that has technically passed, but I was able to sweet-talk my way to the conference rate at Hotel Stephanie late last week, so it’s worth a try). The usual online booking places like hotels.com do have a reasonable selection, however, and make booking a bit easier.
Especially if you’re used to traveling in the U.S., you should know that there is a distinction in most European hotels between a single and a double room. Single really means one person, and they will make sure that the room is only set up for exactly you and nobody else. If you want to share or you’re bringing your significant other, you will have to go for the (more expensive) double room. Room prices always include taxes and usually also breakfast. Many of these hotels are fairly old and kind of quaint, but even most modern ones do not have air conditioning. Early June should not be very hot in Vienna, and it cools off at night, but if you absolutely insist on A/C, make sure that your hotel has it before you book.
Public transportation in Vienna works well. In particular, the subway system is quick and reliable. The EuroVis venue can be reached via the U1 line, which has trains about every 3-5 minutes. Other lines, like U2, U3, and U4 connect to U1 directly, so when looking for a hotel, look for proximity to a stop on one of those lines. Don’t even think of renting a car, parking is a nightmare in Vienna and they will charge you through the nose for parking at the hotel. If you’re planning any trips outside of Vienna, get the car on the weekend, but not for the entire week.
Vienna is also a very walkable city and quite safe. You can walk from the EuroVis venue to most hotels in the Second District within 30 minutes or so. There are also places where you can grab a bicycle, but I don’t know if there are any close to the TechGate.
Like any major city, Vienna has an international airport. If flying from the U.S., you will most likely connect in Frankfurt, Munich, London, or Amsterdam. There are direct flights from some American cities to Vienna, but they’re much less common than connections to the big hubs. Once at the Vienna Airport, look for the City Airport Train that takes you to a convenient central location in Vienna. Taking a taxi from there is cheaper and usually faster than getting a taxi at the airport. Taxi drivers in Vienna tend to be grumpy and annoying, so you want to minimize your exposure to them. Having said that, they know their way around and you can typically find a taxi within a few minutes in most places.
As an alternative to flying, at least for the last leg of your journey, also consider trains. There are fast connections from Munich and Frankfurt with trains every hour or two. They are comfortable and reliable, and I tend to find traveling by rail much more relaxing than flying. Prices are typically similar, so you won’t save a lot of money by taking the train. You will get a much better view of the scenery, though.
If you are a citizen of an E.U. country, the U.S., or Canada, you do not need a visa to travel to Austria. If you are from elsewhere, you might. Find out if you need one now, so you can apply in time. Austria is famous for its bureaucracy, so make sure you have all your i’s dotted and your t’s crossed. You don’t want to have your conference trip cut short by visa troubles.
Feel free to ask questions in the comments you want me to address in the second part.