Money

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Money

Rome's prices are comparable to those in other major capitals, such as Paris and London. Unless you dine in the swankiest places, you'll still find Rome one of the cheapest European capitals in which to eat. Clothes and leather goods are also generally less expensive than in northern Europe. Public transport is relatively cheap.

A Rome 2-km (1-mile) taxi ride costs €6. An inexpensive hotel room for two, including breakfast, is about €100; an inexpensive dinner for two is €45. A simple pasta item on the menu is about €8, and a ½-liter carafe of house wine €3.50. A McDonald's Big Mac is about €4. A pint of beer in a pub is around €4.

Admission to the Musei Vaticani is €15. The cheapest seat at Rome's Opera House runs €17; a movie ticket is €7.50. A daily English-language newspaper is €2.50.

Though more and more places are starting to accept credit cards as method of payment, cash is still king in Rome. This holds especially true for street markets and small mom-and-pop stores and restaurants.

Prices throughout this guide are given for adults. Substantially reduced fees are almost always available for children, students, and senior citizens when it comes to entrances to monuments and museums.

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 will probably charge a fee for using ATMs abroad; the foreign bank you use may also charge a fee. Some banks, such as Citibank, which has a branch in Rome (near Via Veneto), don't charge extra fees to customers who use the Citibank ATM. Other banks may have similar agreements with Italian or foreign banks in Rome where customers won't get charged a transaction fee. Check with your bank to see if they have any agreements before your trip. 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 in a bank. And extracting funds as you need them is 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.

ATMs are common in Rome and are the easiest way to get euros. The word for ATM in Italian is bancomat, for PIN, codice segreto. Four-digit PINs are the standard, though in some machines longer numbers will work. When using an ATM or bancomat, always use extra caution when punching in your PIN and collecting your money.

Credit Cards

Always make your credit card company and bank aware that you'll be traveling or spending some time abroad, especially if don't travel internationally very often. Otherwise, the credit-card company or even your bank might put a hold on your card owing to unusual activity—not a good thing halfway through your trip. Record all your credit-card numbers—as well as the phone numbers to call if your cards are lost or stolen—in a safe place, so you're prepared should something go wrong. Both MasterCard and Visa have general numbers you can call (collect if you're abroad) if your card is lost, but you're better off calling the number of your issuing bank, since MasterCard and Visa usually just transfer you to your bank; your bank's number is usually printed on your card.

If you plan to use your credit card for cash advances, you'll need to apply for a PIN at least two weeks before your trip. Although it's usually cheaper (and safer) to use a credit card abroad for large purchases (so you can cancel payments or be reimbursed if there's a problem), note that some credit-card companies and the banks that issue them add substantial percentages to all foreign transactions, whether they're in a foreign currency or not. Check on these fees before leaving home, so there won't be any surprises when you get the bill.

Although increasingly common, credit cards aren't accepted at all establishments, and some 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 ask before conducting your business. Visa and MasterCard are preferred to American Express, but in tourist areas American Express is usually accepted. Acceptance of Diners Club is rare.

Some credit card companies require that you obtain a police report if your credit card was lost or stolen. In this case, you should go to the police station at Termini train station or at Rome's central police station on Via San Vitale 15.

Reporting Lost Cards

American Express (800/874-333 toll free; 06/72282 within Italy. www.americanexpress.com.)

Diners Club (800/393939 toll-free in Italy. www.dinersclub.com.)

MasterCard (914/249-2000 collect from abroad; 800/870866 toll-free in Italy. www.mastercard.com.)

Visa (800/581-9994 in U.S.; 303/967–1096 collect from abroad; 800/877-232 toll-free in Italy. www.visaeu.com.)

Currency and Exchange

The euro is the main unit of currency in Italy, as well as in 12 other European countries. Under the euro system, there are eight coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 centesimi (at 100 centesimi to the euro), and 1 and 2 euros. Note: The 1 and 2 euro coins look very similar. Therefore, pay close attention when using these so that you don't overpay. There are seven notes: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euros.

At this writing, the exchange rate was about €0.76 to the U.S. dollar; €0.76 to the Canadian dollar; €.83 to the pound sterling; €.80 to the Australian dollar; and €.62 to the New Zealand dollar.

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.

Currency Conversion

Google. Google does currency conversion. Just type in the amount you want to convert and an explanation of how you want it converted (e.g., "14 Euro") and then voila. www.google.com.

Oanda.com. Oanda.com also allows you to print out a handy table with the current day's conversion rates. www.oanda.com.

XE.com. XE.com is a good currency conversion website. www.xe.com.

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