USEFUL TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS
Passports/visa Requirements:A passport or valid entry document is necessary to enter Italy. A visa is not required for U.S., Canadian and Australian citizens holding a valid passport, unless you expect to stay in Italy more than 90 days and/or study or seek employment. It is suggested that non-American citizens check current visa requirements with the nearest Italian Consulate before departure.
Banks and money changingBanks are usually open from Monday to Friday, from 8:30 am to 1,30 pm. Afternoon opening hours are from 2:30 to 4:00 pm. On the outside of the bank agencies, you can find cash point machines, accessible 24 hours a day with a Bancomat card or a Credit Card (ATM).
In the centre of big cities (like Rome) and at the Fiumicino airport, some banks provide automatic Bureaux de Change machines. These generally work 24 hours a day.
The European common currency is the Euro, available in Italy and all other subscribed European countries: it is no longer necessary to change money when moving from one country to another. The available banknotes are of 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 euro, while coins are 2 and 1 euro, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 e 1 cents (2 and 1 cents are rarely used).
The actual exchange rate is about: 1 Euro = 1.42 USD, 1.61 AUD, 1.42 CAD Tourists from other countries can change their currencies to Euros:
- Via the banks. At the exterior of all bank agencies, there are cash changing machines accessible 24 hours a day.
- Via Post Offices. For a fixed commission, in major Post Offices ("Poste Italiane") you can change currency. Offices are open from 8:30 am to 1:50 pm Monday to Friday. Saturday from 8.30 am to 12.00 pm. Central offices are open until 18.30.
- Via the Bureaux de Change. Services offered other than money-changing are: changing Travellers Cheques, and money transfers.
Credit cardsAll major credit cards are accepted throughout Italy. Almost all shops accept them. Some however will not: little stores, small food and wine shops, bed & breakfast and market stalls. To get information on your credit card, you should refer directly to the issuing bank. Principal banks have agencies in Rome:
- Interbank Services (SI and VISA cards): Via 4 Fontane 22, Tel. 06.474951
- UBS: Piazza di Trinità dei Monti 18, Tel. 06.6976011
- American Express: Largo Caduti di El Alamein, Tel. 06.722821
- Diners Club Customer Service: Tel. 063575333
In case of loss or theft, the first thing to do is to call the issuing company or bank to ask for a block on the card:
- Interbank Services (SI and VISA cards): Numero Verde (free toll) 800.018548 / 800.819014
- UBS: Tel. 06.6976011
- American Express: Tel. 06.722821
- Diners Club: Tel. 800.864064
How to callMost machines use telephone cards, for sale in tobacconists and in news stands. Some telephone boxes by Telecom accept credit cards. Prepaid cards exist, for general sale in tobacconists, news stands etc, and available in different values. These cards allow you to phone in Italy and abroad, with tariffs that vary from operator to operator.
For calls within the city, you should add the city's prefix.
To call internationally you must use the international prefix (00) followed by the appropriate country and city prefixes, followed by your desired phone number. To call the USA: prefix is 001.
Direct phone calls to emergency services (medical guard, ambulance, firemen, police) are free:
- Medical Emergency (ambulance): 118
- Road Emergency (ACI): 803116
- Police: 113
- Carabinieri: 112
- Fire Services: 115
- Rest rooms
All airport and rail stations have rest rooms, often with attendants, who expect to be tipped. Bars, nightclubs, restaurants, cafes, gas stations, and all hotels have facilities as well. Usually they're designated as WC (water closet) or donne (women) or uomini (men). The most confusing designation is signori (gentlemen) and signore (ladies), so watch that final i and e! Many public toilets (especially on the highways, "autostrada") employ an attendant who expects a tip, so always keep a 10 or 20 Eurocents coins on hand.
SafetyItaly has a low rate of violent crime, little of which is directed at tourists. The most common menace, especially in large cities, is the plague of pickpockets and roving gangs of gypsy children who virtually surround you, distract you in all the confusion, and steal your purse or wallet. Abruzzo…is much safer!
TimeIn terms of standard time zones, Italy is 6 hours ahead of eastern standard time in the United States. Daylight saving time goes into effect in Italy each year from the last weekend of March to the last weekend of October.
Although normally shops are open from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 3:30/4:00 p.m. to 7:30/ 8:00 p.m., in large cities and tourist areas there is a tendency to stay open from 9.30 a.m to 7.30 p.m. with possible variations from town to town. Department stores such as La Rinascente, Coin, Upim are found in many Italian cities and towns and are open from 9.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m.
TippingThis custom is practiced with flair in Italy--many people depend on tips for their livelihoods. In hotels, the service charge of 15% to 19% is already added to a bill. In restaurants and cafes, 15% is usually added to your bill to cover most charges. An additional tip isn't expected, but it's nice to leave the equivalent of an extra couple of dollars if you've been pleased with the service. Taxis are readily available throughout the country and rates are comparable to those charged in the average U.S. and Canadian cities. Meters are provided and fares are displayed. It is recommended that only yellow, medallion metered cabs be used.
ElectricityThe electrical current in Italy is AC - the cycle is 50Hz 220 V. A tourist carrying electrical appliances to Italy should have a transformer, either obtained before leaving your country or bought at an electrical appliance shop in Italy. Plugs have round prongs, not flat, therefore an adapter plug is needed.
List of helpful hintsThis is just a little list that we have put together to help make traveling a little easier. We hope this list is of some help to all of you.
- Soap (your favorite)
- Wash Cloth (the hotel supplies towels)
- Antibacterial hand wipes (to carry while we are touring)
- Converter and adapter
- Good comfortable Walking Shoes
- Shoes for walking up ascents and narrow streets such as sneakers or spirit
- Backpack/big closed handbag to carry your things on excursions
- Sun Screen
- Portable umbrella (maybe will never use it)
- Copy of Passport and Picture in case the original is lost or misplaced
- Charge Card (it is better to charge items, you get a better exchange)
- ATM or check card (there are ATM machines available where you can withdraw money when needed)
- Money (minimum amount)
- Best not to carry travelers checks (some of the small towns will not accept them)
- Italian money in small denominations (useful in street markets in L'Aquila, Atri, Pescocostanzo, Castelli etc.) to make phone calls etc.
- Phone Card to call internationally (some use MCI)
- Jewelry - minimum (you can use the hotel safe in case - never leave money or valuable items in hotels)
- Pocketbook that zippers or snaps closed (just in case, but it's best to carry a purse that closes) - Money belt
- Prescription Drugs - always carry prescriptions in their original bottles. Make sure that you have a supply of your daily prescriptions.
- Camera or disposable camera
- Films (usually people stock up in the states when it is on sale)
- Batteries (extra for camera, flashes, video etc.)
- Italian Phrase Book
- Dress for the ladies (some churches have dress codes)
- Skirt if you prefer
- Men - pack a couple pair of long pants you might need them (some churches have dress codes) - Dress comfortable for the flight. We suggest that you wear long pants or skirt as the plane is air conditioned and usually cold. However, they do have blankets available.
- Large trash bag for dirty clothes
- If you have a connecting flight it would be a good idea to pack a few days worth of clothes in your carry on luggage. This is in case that your luggage does not make it to the connecting flight.
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