Money

Prices in Venice are high, but no higher than in Milan or in other European cities and resorts. Within Venice, there is a substantial difference between prices in the Piazza San Marco area and those in residential districts such as Cannaregio, Santa Croce, or in the working-class neighborhood of Castello. Bars and cafés must, by law, post their charges, both for consumption standing at the bar and for consumption at a table (regardless if there is table service or not). If you are in a bar or café patronized largely by tourists, you may want to consult the price list before you order or sit down. The cafés in the Piazza San Marco put on a hefty supplementary charge for music.

ATMs and Banks

An ATM (bancomat in Italian) is the easiest way to get euros in Italy. There are numerous ATMs around Venice, and since there are ATMs at Marco Polo Airport, there is no need to buy euros before you depart the U.S. Be sure to memorize your PIN in numbers, as ATM keypads in Italy won't always display letters. Check with your bank to confirm that you have an international PIN (codice segreto) that will be recognized in the countries you're visiting; to raise your maximum daily withdrawal allowance; and to learn what your bank's fee is for withdrawing money (Italian banks don't charge withdrawal fees). Be aware that PINs beginning with a 0 (zero) tend to be rejected in Italy.

Your own bank may charge a fee for using ATMs abroad and/or for the cost of conversion from euros to dollars. Nevertheless, you can 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, the next-best option. Whatever the method, extracting funds as you need them is safer than carrying around a large amount of cash. Finally, it's advisable to carry more than one card that can be used for cash withdrawal, in case something happens to your main one.

Credit Cards

It's a good idea to inform your credit-card company before you travel, especially if you're going abroad and don't travel internationally often. Otherwise, the credit-card company might put a hold on your card owing to unusual activity—not a welcome occurrence 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. Keep these in a safe place, so you're prepared should something go wrong. American Express, MasterCard, and Visa have general numbers you can call (collect if you're abroad) if your card is lost.

North American toll-free numbers aren’t available from abroad, so be sure to obtain a local number with area code for any business you may need to contact.

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. Because of these fees, avoid using your credit card for ATM withdrawals or cash advances (use a debit or cash card instead).

Venetian merchants prefer MasterCard and Visa, but American Express is usually accepted in popular tourist destinations. Credit cards aren't accepted everywhere, though; if you want to pay with a credit card in a small shop, hotel, or restaurant, it's a good idea to make your intentions known early on.

Reporting Lost Cards

American Express. 800/528–4800; 905/474–0870; www.americanexpress.com.

Diners Club. 800/234–6377; 514/877–1577; 800/393939; www.dinersclub.com.

MasterCard. 800/307–7309; 636/722–7111; 800/870866; www.mastercard.us.

Visa. 800/847–2911; 303/967–1096; 800/819014; usa.visa.com.

Currency and Exchange

The euro is the main unit of currency in Italy. Under the euro system there are 100 centesimi (cents) to the euro. There are coins valued at 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 centesimi as well as 1 and 2 euros. There are seven notes: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euros. At this writing, 1 euro was worth about 1.35 U.S. dollars.

Post offices exchange currency at good rates, but employees speak limited English, so be prepared. (Writing your request can help in these cases.)

Even if a currency-exchange booth has a sign promising no commission, rest assured that there's some kind of huge, hidden fee. You're almost always better off getting foreign currency at an ATM or exchanging money at a bank or post office.

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