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As in most countries, prices vary from region to region and are a bit lower in the countryside than in cities. Umbria and the Marches offer good value for the money. Admission to the Galleria degli Uffizi is €9.50 (surcharges for reservations and special exhibits may increase the ticket price). A movie ticket is €7.50. A daily English-language newspaper is €2.50. A taxi ride (1 1/3 km [1 mi]) costs around €9.
Banks never have every foreign currency on hand, and it may take as long as a week to order. If you're planning to exchange funds before leaving home, don't wait until the last minute.
ATMs and Banks
Your own bank may charge a fee for using ATMs abroad or charge for the cost of conversion from euros to dollars. Nevertheless, you'll usually get a better rate of exchange at an ATM than you will at a currency-exchange office or even when changing money inside a bank with a teller. Extracting funds as you need them is also a safer option than carrying around a large amount of cash.
PIN numbers with more than four digits are not recognized at ATMs in many countries. If yours has five or more, remember to change it before you leave. PIN numbers beginning with a 0 (zero) tend to be rejected in Italy.
Fairly common in banks in large and small towns, as well as in airports and train stations, ATMs are the easiest way to get euros in Italy. All major banks are members of Cirrus and/or Plus. You won't find an ATM (bancomat in Italian) in hotels or grocery stores, however. Before you leave home, memorize your PIN in numbers, not letters, because ATM keypads in Italy frequently don't show letters. Check with your bank to confirm that you have an international PIN (codice segreto), to find out your maximum daily withdrawal allowance, and to learn what the bank fee is for withdrawing money.
In Italy, Visa and MasterCard are preferred over American Express, but in tourist areas American Express is usually accepted. While increasingly common, credit cards aren't accepted at all establishments, and some places require a minimum expenditure. If you want to pay with a card in a small hotel, store, or restaurant, it's a good idea to make your intentions known early on. Notify your credit-card companies of your travel plans before you leave home; the recent fraud prevention programs frequently suspend a cardholder's credit when foreign activity is detected on the card.
Currency and Exchange
The euro is the main unit of currency in Italy, as well as in 16 other European countries. Under the euro system, there are eight coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 centesimi (cents, at 100 centesimi to the euro), and 1 and 2 euros. There are seven notes: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euros.
At this writing, the exchange rate is about 67 European cents to US$1.
Even if a currency-exchange booth has a sign promising no commission, rest assured that there's some kind of huge, hidden fee. (Oh … that's right. The sign didn't say no fee). And as for rates, you're almost always better off getting foreign currency at an ATM or exchanging money at a bank.
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