Sign up for a Walking Tour
As I suggested for Paris, the same goes for Dublin and Vienna. Sign up for a free walking tour with a local to learn about the city and its history. We did walking tours at the start of our time in each city and it definitely helped from a navigation standpoint, as well as having ideas of what to do during our time there.
For Dublin, we booked through Sandeman and for Vienna Prime Tours. A reminder that the tour is technically free, but the guides aren’t paid and live for the tips, so bring euros. We tipped about 15 – 20 euros per person.
If you like taking buses, there are many in Dublin. We found it pretty easy to walk around the city, though we didn’t venture too far. A car would be absolutely nightmarish to drive – especially because they are on the opposite sides of the road and the streets are narrow and winding and often one way. To get from the airport to the city center, we took the AirCoach which picked us up immediately after we gathered our checked baggage and dropped us off near the hotel. Because our flight was so early out of Dublin, we opted to take a cab, which ran us 27 euros.
In Vienna, the metro system does not seem to align with Google – so if you use Google Maps for directions, keep this in mind. The stations are listed (it’s the blue square with the U) and when you click on one of the stations in Google Maps, the entire line is highlighted, which we found immensely helpful. The subway is fast, efficient and clean. It also runs on the honor system. The train from the airport to downtown was 4.60 euros for two tickets, and the 3-day subway pass was around 16 euros each. Not too shabby, and definitely allowed us to book an AirBnb that was slightly outside of the city.
Note if you buy a train ticket at the airport, there is a ticket desk right by the entrance that usually has a long line. There are self serve kiosks on the platform, and you can change the language to English. You are buying a ticket from OBB for the S7 line. When you change at a metro station (many of the lines meet with S7), you’ll need to buy a different ticket to continue on your journey.
Museums & Attractions
I highly recommend purchasing tickets to museums ahead of time. The Belvedere in Vienna has a flex ticket, and you can purchase it for use any day over a certain time period. Others, like Kilmain Gaol require an exact date and time commitment. But ultimately you’ll spend less time in lines and happier for it.
Furthermore, if you want to participate in activities like the Austrian Opera or Spanish Riding school, you will definitely need to secure tickets beforehand as these are often sold out day of, or have limited selection.
We flew Aer Lingus and they offer access to their Lounge when you check in online (pay $25 or whatever fee they set and receive access to the lounge). The Aer Lingus / Jet Blue lounge in Boston is modern, and definitely quieter than the rest of the airport, but unless you plan to drink heavily at their bar, you likely won’t get your moneys worth. I personally love to escape the hustle and bustle of the airport, so I never mind paying the fee. The lounge in Dublin (after you go through US Pre-clearance) is fabulous. We were upgraded to Business Class for the return trip, and so we received access to their new lounge, but you can also purchase a day pass (I believe it was around 40 euros). The food is fantastic, the views stunning and they had the best luxury shower available for guests.
Bidding for Business Class
Speaking of lounge access and Business Class, Aer Lingus allows you to bid for business class tickets. Traveling on a holiday, we were definitely fortunate to not compete with actual business travelers, and so our $400 upgrade bid was accepted. It was the best $400 I’ve spent in 2017 thus far. The seats recline completely flat, the food is fairly decent for an airplane and it is overall a far more comfortable experience. You will receive an email from Aer Lingus about a week prior to give you the opportunity to bid if your ticket is eligible.
Flying through Dublin
As you may have heard, US Customs is in Dublin, which means when you land in the US there is no need to go through Customs (which is great, but because I have Global Entry this doesn’t make too much of an impact). The boarding time on your ticket notifies you when you need to be through Customs, not the actual time you need to be by the gate (for example, ours was 2:35 pm and our flight left at 4:20). If you have Global Entry, there is a line to the left. Like home it is significantly quicker and far less people. Once you pass through though, there is no turning around. So if you want to buy Duty Free, do so on the other side of the airport and then follow the signs to US flights.
Dublin weather felt comparable to Boston. We were perfectly comfortable in our wool coats and sweaters. Vienna is cold – icy, biting wind cold. I wish we had packed long johns, heavier coats (like my ski parka!) and cozier socks. I wouldn’t have said no to hand/feet warmers either! If you are moving quickly from the train station to a museum or restaurant, you’ll likely be fine. But if you do a walking tour, or plan to be outside for a long period of time, and you want to be comfortable, forgo fashion.
Its customary to leave a small tip when eating in a restaurant in Austria. However, unlike America, you don’t have the check delivered to you and then the opportunity to ponder the waiter’s tip. Rather, when you receive the check, the waiter is standing by to immediately take your credit card. When you hand them the card, state the how much you’d like them to charge. So if your bill is 36 euros, say 40 euros and hand over your card. If you are paying in cash, same rules apply. Never leave money on the table.
There is not a huge push to tip in Ireland, but rule of thumb is if you want to leave a tip, it’s about 10%. Unlike Germany, there is no issue if you want to leave some money on the table, but if you’re paying by card you’ll need to ask them to include the tip (you’ll have the opportunity to punch it in yourself, rather than the waiter doing so). There isn’t any need to tip cab drivers either, but we did so as someone picked us up at 4:30 am, and that in of itself deserves a little extra money.
Cafes in Vienna
One of the most magical things to do in Vienna is sit in a Viennese cafe and order something warm and delicious. When you walk in, it’s likely a madhouse. No one will seat you, simply find an empty table or booth and sit down. A waiter will come by to take your order. Viennese coffee is very good, and they have a wide range of options. They will usually serve it on a silver platter with a small glass of water. Most menus list allergens too, so be sure to check out the last page for the list. (A = gluten) While the cafes do usually take cards, they prefer cash, and I even witnessed them refuse cards for those who didn’t have a “high enough bill.” What constitutes a “high enough bill” seems to be at the discretion of the server. The waiters we interacted with all spoke English and wanted us to just tell them what we were interested in vs. trying to point things out on the menu. When you’re ready for your bill, make sure you tell your waiter. They won’t be back to check on you until they clear away your plates.