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The Principality of Liechtenstein (German: Fürstentum Liechtenstein) is a tiny, alpine, German-speaking country landlocked by Switzerland and Austria . It is the last remnant of the Holy Roman Empire and is an independent state with very close ties to Switzerland. It enjoys a very high standard of living and is home to some incredibly beautiful mountain scenery. The principality's capital, Vaduz , is a major centre of commerce and international banking and mainly a modern city. It has never been declared a city and thus is still a village.
What is now the Principality of Liechtenstein were for a long time minor holdings of a powerful noble family that held most of their territory elsewhere. It was part of the Holy Roman Empire until its dissolution in 1806 and later became part of the German Confederation until Prussia managed to exclude Austria in 1866 upon which Liechtenstein became a de facto sovereign state in close alliance with Austria. The House of Liechtenstein however, did not decide to take up residence inside Liechtenstein until much later, when their holdings outside of Liechtenstein proper were lost to Czechoslovak communists and the misfortunes of war. Until the end of World War I , it was closely tied to Austria , but the economic devastation caused by that conflict forced Liechtenstein to conclude a customs and monetary union with Switzerland. Since World War II (in which Liechtenstein remained neutral), the country's reputation as a "tax haven" have spurred outstanding economic growth. Outside of banking, Liechtenstein's main economic activities are the production of false teeth and tourism.
Shortcomings in banking regulatory oversight have resulted in concerns about the use of the financial institutions for money laundering and tax evasion. However, the days of bringing suitcases of money into banks for deposit without questions asked is over. Liechtensteiners are also very proud of the fact that their nation has never been involved in a battle or military confrontation with an enemy state and see their flag as a banner of peace.
For a European country, the aristocratic element in the constitution is rather strong and the prince/regent has a lot of powers both in theory and in reality (unlike say the British monarch who does not use most of their theoretical and ceremonial powers). However, unlike almost all monarchies in the world there is a provision in the constitution that the prince has to resign and the monarchy has to be abandoned if a majority of the people so desire.
Despite its small size and limited natural resources, Liechtenstein has developed into a prosperous, highly industrialized, free-enterprise economy with a vital financial service sector and living standards on a par with the urban areas of its large European neighbours. The Liechtenstein economy is widely diversified with a large number of small businesses. Low business taxes--the maximum tax rate is 20%--and easy incorporation rules have induced a large number of holding or so-called letter box companies to establish nominal offices in Liechtenstein, providing 30% of state revenues.
Liechtenstein participates in a customs union with Switzerland and uses Swiss francs as its national currency interchangeably with the Liechtenstein frank. It imports more than 90% of its energy requirements. Liechtenstein has been, since May 1995, a member of the European Economic Area, an organization serving as a bridge between the EFTA and the EU. The government is working to harmonize its economic policies with those of an integrated Europe. Liechtenstein has one of the highest personal income rates (GDP per capita) in the world, with the base rate of income tax standing at just 1.2%.
Liechtenstein is the world's leading producer of false teeth.
Liechtenstein is very mountainous and one of the world's two doubly-landlocked countries - it is landlocked by landlocked countries. The other is Uzbekistan . Most of the country's population lives in the long and wide Rhine Valley in the western third. Roads are mainly laid out in a north-south pattern following the valley as well. To the north the main roads lead to the border with Austria, to the south they enter Switzerland, and to the west across the river the bridges also cross into Switzerland. Most of the eastern border with Austria is not passable and is only accessible by foot as it is very mountainous, though the north of the country is well connected by road to Feldkirch in Austria . The country's highest point is the Grauspitz, which stretches to 2,599 m. Liechtenstein is 2.5 times bigger than San Marino and 81 times bigger than Monaco .
Liechtenstein has a continental climate featuring cold, cloudy winters with frequent snow or rain, making the country a moderately popular ski destination. Summers are cool to moderately warm, also often cloudy and humid.
- Vaduz - capital of Liechtenstein and the seat of government - despite never officially having been granted city status
- Balzers - this town is home to a very beautiful church and castle
- Malbun - an area for skiing and snowboarding
- Schaan - the largest populated area in the country
- Triesen - a small town south of Vaduz
- Triesenberg - an alpine town high in Liechtenstein's mountains
- Ruggell - a town in northern Liechtenstein where there is a nature reserve of rare plants and animals
- Bendern - where Liechtenstein was born in 1699
- Nendeln - where there are a ceramics works and Roman ruins
- Schellenberg - a town with a museum of rural homes
Liechtenstein is not a member of the EU. Therefore, travellers entering Liechtenstein from Austria (and vice versa) are subject to non-systematic customs controls. There have been no immigration controls since Liechtenstein joined the Schengen Area on 19 December 2011.
Liechtenstein maintains a complete customs union with Switzerland and is represented by Switzerland in embassies internationally. Since 1923 there have been no border formalities needed for crossing between the two countries. In essence there is nothing more than a sign announcing your arrival in Switzerland or Liechtenstein (when you cross the Rhine or the land border), similar to the situation at smaller border crossings in many EU nations (e.g., Austria, Germany, France, Italy). Stamp hunters can, however, get an authentic Liechtenstein entry stamp in their passport at Vaduz 's tourist office for Fr. 3 or €2.00. The stamp is not available at the Liechtensteinisches Landesmuseum; the tourist office is the only place that you can purchase the stamp.
Liechtenstein has no airports. You can take a flight to Zürich Airport (115 km from Liechtenstein). Although this is the only major airport near Liechtenstein, there are some limited services from Vienna to St. Gallen -Altenrhein Airport (53 km) by Austrian Arrows. There is also a private airport in Bad Ragaz, very close to the border. Another popular point of entry is through Friedrichshafen in Germany , which is served by low-cost airlines.
Liechtenstein's prince has a heliport in the Southern low lands.
By train or bus
ÖBB, the Austrian federal railway company, runs a limited service from Buchs SG station in Switzerland , via Schaan - Vaduz station (near Schaan) to Feldkirch in Austria . Trains only run a few times a day, which makes buses generally more convenient.
Buses run every 15 minutes from the train station at Buchs (the main Swiss town on the Liechtenstein border) to Schaan and Vaduz. Tickets can be purchased on the bus for Fr. 3.40 and it only takes about 10 minutes to Schaan and another 5 to Vaduz.
If coming by rail from Switzerland, it may be quicker and cheaper to take the train as far as Sargans , from where it's possible to catch a bus (see below) straight to Vaduz . Consult the SBB timetable to find out what'll be quickest when you're travelling. There are lockers at the Sargans station so you can leave your luggage there.
The Liechtenstein Buses Route 12 runs from Sargans railway station to Buchs railway station via central Vaduz and Schaan railway station. It leaves from outside each station approximately every 20 minutes. The buses are yellow-green in colour. A fare to Vaduz is Fr. 5.80 from Sargens and Fr. 3.40 from Buchs. There are student prices as well (be sure to show your student ID). Consider getting a whole network day pass (Fr. 12) or week pass (Fr. 24) if you are making many journeys, though two single fares (e.g., from Sargans or Buchs to Vaduz and Vaduz onward to Feldkirch) cost less than a day pass.
From Feldkirch railway station in Austria , look for the distinctive off-yellow Liechtenstein Buses. Numbers 11 and 14 head straight to Vaduz and number 13 goes to Buchs railway station, by-passing Vaduz, so you'll have to change at the Schaan interchange.
The Swiss Autobahn A13/E34 runs along the Swiss side of the Rhine River, the border between Switzerland and Liechtenstein. There are several access points that cross the Rhine into Liechtenstein, the two that are most commonly used are the bridge crossing into the southern town of Balzers and the crossing into Vaduz. Parking in Vaduz is easy, with a large parking garage located below the Kunstmuseum. Driving in Liechtenstein is relatively safe, but extra care should be taken on narrow and winding mountain roads. Speed traps are everywhere!
Very easy indeed from Feldkirch in Austria. In rush hour, lots of commuters head into the capital. A simple sign as you stand by the main road in Feldkirch should get you a lift within minutes.
Public transport in Liechtenstein is amazingly efficient and commonly used. The country's sole bus operator is LBA. LBA fares are reasonable, a 7-day unlimited use card costs Fr. 24. Another cheap way to travel, weather permitting, is by bike. The roads in Liechtenstein are in excellent condition and many (in the Balzers-Schaan corridor) even offer bike lanes. Biking through the whole country (entering from Austria going all the way south through to Switzerland) takes only a few hours, but is worth every minute of the wonderful alpine scenery!
The national language is German, but the main language in everyday use is an Alemannic German dialect, which Liechtenstein shares with German-speaking Eastern Switzerland, Baden-Württemberg (south of Stuttgart, Germany), and Vorarlberg, Austria. Almost everyone can speak standard German when necessary, and English is also prevalent. French and Latin are also widely taught in the secondary public school system.
Liechtenstein boasts a number of attractions that are of interest to visitors.
Balzers - Home to a beautiful church and a spectacular gothic castle.
Vaduz - The capital is the main shopping area in the country, with many souvenir stores and assorted restaurants. The city is also home to a modest cathedral and the decade-old Liechtenstein Kunstmuseum. A ski museum is north of downtown.
Schloss Vaduz - This imposing and historic castle, home to the royal family, overlooks the city of Vaduz and is approachable on the main Vaduz-Triesenberg road (bus route 21). It is not open to the public, but it is possible to view it from quite close up.
It is entirely possible to encounter the royal family at the Kunstmuseum, coming in and out of Schloss Vaduz or skiing during winter time. This is one benefit of such a small country. They are recognizable in their cars, which use their birth year for their licence plate number.
Liechtenstein offers great hiking , road biking , and mountain biking terrain. Skiing and snowboarding are also offered at a reasonable price at the country's small resort, Malbun , in comparison to the expensive lift prices in neighbouring Switzerland or Austria.
Get up early one morning and drive up the mountains on the east side of the river. From here you have an incredible view over Vaduz & Switzerland that you can stand and admire.
Liechtenstein uses the Liechtenstein frank at par with, and freely interchangeable with the Swiss franc (CHF) as its currency. Many shops will also accept euros, but the exchange rate may not be very advantageous.
Costs in Liechtenstein are roughly equivalent to those in Switzerland and are therefore somewhat more expensive than other European countries.
You will find a few restaurants in the larger cities of Liechtenstein. There is also a McDonald's restaurant (opened in 1996; serves wine), which is very popular and is widely publicised by road signs throughout the country.
The many small bakeries are a great place to get a warm, fresh roll or pastry.
Internet access is available with one station at Telecom Liechtenstein immediate south of Vaduz's downtown on the main road, but this is only open during business hours. Most hotels and some bars/restaurants will have net access such as in Schaan . The last real Internet café disappeared, because every one in the country has net access in their homes, so the local market completely disappeared and only visitors need access.
There is a small amount of wine that is produced in Liechtenstein that is available in supermarkets and tourist shops throughout the country. Expect to pay around Fr. 25 for an average bottle. The Prince owns his own vineyard in Vaduz, off the main road. Beer is also available for purchase that is made with malt from Liechtenstein, although most of the beer is brewed in Switzerland. A variety of other European wines, beers, and soft drinks are also available. There is now a brewery in Liechtenstein that produces a variety of beers; lagers including Helles (blonde) and Hefe Weizen (unfiltered wheat) styles are brewed.
There is also a one-man distillery in Triesen who makes liquors and schnapps from fruits. Tours on Saturdays.
There are a few hotels in Liechtenstein, but they tend to run on the expensive side. There is one youth hostel 1 located in Schaan, but it closes for the winter. You will probably be able to find cheaper accommodation in neighboring Feldkirch , Austria.
Camping Mittagspitz is the only full-service campsite in the Principality. It offers excellent facilities, a friendly reception and a fabulous reasonably priced restaurant. There are three other campgrounds in Liechtenstein. One in Bendern, one in Vaduz, and one in Triesen. All are pretty much full year round.
Liechtenstein's university offers courses only in technical sciences. Without either Liechtenstein, Swiss or EU citizenship, a large bank balance and a fluency in German, it is unlikely to interest visitors.
Finding work in Liechtenstein is difficult. A majority of non-nationals working in the Principality are Swiss, with a smaller number of Austrians and Germans. Liechtenstein is not a member of the European Union, so the government has no obligation to let nationals of EU member states work and live in the country.
Liechtenstein is easily one of the safest countries in the world, though it is not without its problems. The most common crime in Liechtenstein is of a non-violent nature, though the principality maintains a well-equipped police force which maintains a presence on the streets. In the late 1990s, the Liechtenstein Landespolizei launched a crackdown on prostitution in Vaduz. Considering the largest cities nearby are Innsbruck and Zürich, outside of Schaan and Vaduz, the whole place can seem very rural. Drunk drivers and winter road conditions may be your only "realistic" concern. Speed limits are strictly enforced by speed cameras which will be very pricey. Don't speed, enjoy the scenery instead!
The country's beautiful scenery is also very dangerous. Cases of hikers finding themselves in difficulty are very common, and extreme care should be taken when leaving the well-marked trails. Follow local advice, read local weather forecasts (newspapers in the principality print individual forecasts for the different cities in Liechtenstein, which is beneficial because the difference in altitude often cause different weather conditions), and ensure that you have the correct equipment before setting out.
There are excellent medical facilities in Liechtenstein, but it is more likely that you would be transferred to a hospital in Switzerland should you require medical attention. If you are an Austrian or EU citizen you may want to seek medical attention in next-door Feldkirch, Austria.
The Principality of Liechtenstein has existed for centuries as an independent state and this should be remembered. Liechtenstein is not part of Switzerland or Austria, and its citizens will not hesitate in reminding you.
Remember that this is a traditional Catholic country. On Sundays, the streets are almost dead except for the tourists and the tourist shops.
Liechtensteiners are very proud of their national identity and would take offence at being wrongly labelled "German", "Austrian" or "Swiss". Those who may feel inclined to denounce the monarchy as a system of government should be advised: the prince is well loved and very popular, and he is certainly held in high esteem when discussing national politics.
Feldkirch , Austria and Lake Constance make for wonderful destinations.
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