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SoulStorm Mar 16th, 2006 03:14 PM

Few Questions about Travel, Money, Security, Average meal price
My husband and I are going to Italy at the end of April for our honeymoon. Having never been, we would like to be well prepared so that we keep the stress out of the trip. If anyone can answer the following questions, it would be GREATLY appreciated.

1) How easy is it to buy train tickets, and bus tickets, when in Rome? Do most people that work these counters speak English (we don't want to end up buying a ticket to the wrong destination)?

2) What's the average price for a meal in Italy? We will be traveling with a tour bus group, and wanted to be prepared for our food costs. Do most restaurants accept American Credit Cards such as Visa?

3) Should I be worried about theft? I hear that in big crowded areas like Airports and tourist attractions, thieves will actually cut open your bags and steal stuff out of them.

4) Do most places accept American Credit cards? I would like to travel with as little cash as possible.

5) Any other tips for our trip would be greatly appreciated, I am a bit nervous that I will not be prepared, so I'm hoping if you have experience in traveling there, you could offer suggestions. Thanks!!!

walkinaround Mar 16th, 2006 03:27 PM

1. yes, you will get by fine with english.
2. in rome €15-20 for a meal in a cheap but adequate restaurant. however if you are with a tour group and eating with them, you must check with them. if meals are not included, they certainly should tell you the approximate cost of restaurants to which they herd you.
3. don't worry but be cautious. no valuables in bags.
4. visa and mastercard are accepted whereever cards are. country of origin does not matter. italy is more cash oriented than the US but many places do take cards. amex is not as good and diners even less. forget the discover card

suze Mar 16th, 2006 03:30 PM

As above, it doesn't matter what country your credit card comes from. Visa or Master Card are more commonly accepted than American Express.

Some smaller places might not accept charge cards though. And you'll need at least some amount of cash for small expenditures (bottle of water, bus ride, etc.)

bsawg Mar 16th, 2006 03:30 PM

As for #3 - you should be aware of your surroundings as in any other big city. And as in many other European cities, there are people who may try to trick you into taking off your bag, etc. Be aware of anyone who spills something on you and tries to help or anyone looking for you to hold their baby. But do know that this is RARE - I lived in Italy and never had it happen. I have known others who have experienced this, though, so just thought I'd give a heads-up in case you hadn't heard it before.

Credit cards will be fine. I did find that it was good, if you have an American Express to have a Visa or Mastercard as well, just in case. But you won't have any trouble.

KT Mar 16th, 2006 03:32 PM

Italian train stations also usually have ticket machines that have an English option (and take credit cards).

Edward2005 Mar 16th, 2006 03:33 PM

1. In a big town like Rome, a fair portion of the natives speak reasonably good English. Just in case, though, bring a basic phrase book. Instead of crucifying the language when you want to buy a ticket, write out your request in Italian beforehand and give the counterperson the note.

2. Restaurants in Italy cost no different than in the USA for comparable quality. If you want quicky food, you'll spend $10-15. If you want really good stuff, $50.

3. Don't WORRY about theft, but take sensible precautions and then forget about and enjoy the trip. For me, a sensible precaution is wearing a money belt around my waist. I keep my credit cards, passport, and big currency there. This way, if my wallet is stolen and my room looted, I still have all the resources I need to so the trip can go forward.

4. 99% of hotels, 90% of restaurants, 80% of shops accept major credit cards.

5. Wear comfortable shoes; study your guidebooks so you have some idea of what you want to do in each place; don't be a slave to the so-called "must sees." For example, the Colosseum is not a big deal. Skip it and spend the time wandering around Trastevere.

grsing Mar 16th, 2006 03:36 PM

1. Even if the people don't speak English, the machines do; you'll be fine.

2. What kind of meal do you want? Street food, decent restauraunts? Like any big city, food can be had for anything from a couple euro (picnic from a supermarket), to a couple hundred euro. W/o booze, 10 euro would be plenty per person per meal, for cheap, decent restaurants (decent by my definitions, yours may vary).

3. Don't be a target, and if you're unlucky enough to somehow still get victimized, don't let them get to anything really important (ie passport, ticket home, at least 1 means of getting money), that should be in a very secure spot, like a money belt or something (not in a backpack/fanny pack, wallet, etc.). When in big crowds, be aware, keep your hand on your valuables, bag in front of you, etc. The slitting open does happen, but be aware and don't have anything in a big bag worth stealing.

4. Yes, as long as the American credit card is Visa or Mastercard (and not counting small stores and such, because the fees make it a PITA for them to do so). American Express is somewhat accepted, Discover, good luck. Cash is handy, and universally accepted.

5. Relax and have fun. People live in these cities, don't act like a vulnerable tourist, try to learn a little bit of the language (pleasantries and the like), and just roll with the inevitable punches.

jules4je7 Mar 16th, 2006 03:40 PM

You're going on a tour group for your honeymoon? Please tell me it's not the whole time. I can't imagine trying to have alone, romantic time, while being told that I have 3 hours to see one thing or the other and being herded from place to place.

Unless you like it or met that way, of course...each to his own, but it just seems an odd way to spend a honeymoon with a pack of other tourists.


suze Mar 16th, 2006 04:11 PM

Jules, That's so unkind. Obviously these people are new to traveling and doing what feels right to them. You are imposing your own views which they clearly don't share.

grsing Mar 16th, 2006 04:14 PM

Agreed that it's not exactly the way I'd plan to spend my honeymoon, but who knows? Maybe it's a package honeymoon tour (I'm sure someone has to offer them; champagne in your hotel rooms by night, sitting on a bus by day, seeing the romantic highlights of Europe in ever-so-brief flashes).

Mimar Mar 16th, 2006 04:34 PM

Also use your ATM card to get cash in Europe. There are lots of ATMs and we use them frequently. It's the cheapest way to exchange dollars. Depending on your bank, credit cards will charge a minimum of 1%. (And, before you leave, tell your bank you will be using your credit/ATM card in Europe, so they don't block your account.)

jules4je7 Mar 16th, 2006 04:51 PM

Suze, there's no intent to be unkind. Some people just don't know that there are other options, and just get sold a tour because they feel intimidated by solo travel. The fact is, going around on a bus with a bunch of other Americans is not the way I'd spend my honeymoon, and I just wanted to make sure that the OP had considered what tour buses are like before they are "married" to taking the trip that way.

It may not be good news, but I think it's good advice to consider.


nytraveler Mar 16th, 2006 05:26 PM

Suze may be pointing out that the OP is not famililar with some of the detriments of tours - which are anithetical to the sort of relaxed, romantic honeymoon most people want:

Lots of 6 am wake-up calls

Enforced group meals (you CAN eat somewhere else - depending on how far from town your hotel is and what transport is available and how adventurous you are)

Lots of opportunities/time for "optional" shopping

Hours and hours of sitting on buses listening to other people conversations (or arguments)

Very few opportunities for cafe sitting, relaxed exploring or late dinners and midnight walks or (gasp!) nightlife

If the couple really just want a trip to europe - and are beyond the real honeymoon stage (have been living together a couple of years) they may not mind this.

But IMHO - for real honeymooners a tremendous disappointment in the romance department.

Myer Mar 16th, 2006 05:33 PM

No need to go to the train station to buy train tickets.

At the Spanish Steps.
Facing the Steps.
Turn right and walk about 100 yards to the American Express office. They sell train tickets.

alison Mar 16th, 2006 10:40 PM

always carry some dollars, especially singles. you never know when they will come in handy. be sure to have photocopies of passport, insurance card and your credit card numbers and the phone number to call to cancel if stolen. leave copies at home with trusted friend/family member you can call in a pinch, and each of you have copies of the other's. also, be sure your ATM PIN number is 4-digits.

Intrepid1 Mar 17th, 2006 12:39 AM

First and absolutely essential, always bear in mind that this is YOUR trip and nobody else's. I love it when some people here talk about "all those tourists" as if THEY weren't one also when they travel.

If you do go to a train station to buy tickets (and, by the way, most any travel agency in Italy can sell these to you so no need to stick to AMEX) it is sometimes helpful to have the destination written down on a piece of paper (and if you know it, the time the train departs and even the train number) to present to the clerk. The ticket machines usually work in stations and generally take less time to use. In some stations you may have to get a ticket from a separate machine to wait in line for the clerk.

Have small local coins available for paying to use the WC in some stations (Milan comes greatly to mind!!!)

I agree with the others that taking "reasonable" precautions will prevent theft...reasonable meaning a moneybelt in many cases. Do not even THINK that if on the rare occasion you are targeted that you are going to "know" it is happening because by the time you realize it they will be long gone. Crowded places are, as you have read, the primary locations and these folks generally work in teams. Be very careful in busy train stations such as Termini in Rome.

You already ARE prepared. One reason a lot of us post about "how easy it is" to do whatever it is comes from already having done it once or more. Believe me, many, MANY posters here were once just as "nervous" as you are(n't going to be once you get there) but seem to have forgotten all about that when it comes to advising others.

Enjoy your honeymoon as I am certain it will be wonderully memorable.

Nlingenfel Mar 17th, 2006 03:41 AM

Enjoy Italy. I went the first time on a tour and fell in love with Europe. Have been back 30+ times since then. If it's your first time, tour groups are not so bad. Look around on your own, see how things are done, then the next time you will be able to plan on your own. But, consider yourself lucky that you are able to go. Italy is a wonderful, beautiful country.

caroline_edinburgh Mar 17th, 2006 03:41 AM

Another vote for using the ticket machines in train stations - they have an English option.

For the buses, go to a news kiosk & buy a day ticket. I forget exactly what they call them but "due biglietti per un giorno" (two tickets for one day) would do it. Get them stamped in the yellow machine on the bus, the first time you get on a bus, & that's you set for the rest of the day. The bus stops have quite clear destination diagrams.

As in any big city, keep your handbag safe at all times.

You'll have a lovely time !

Naysayers about group tours : lay off, it is their first time and *they have already booked it*.

Kate Mar 17th, 2006 04:15 AM

"always carry some dollars, especially singles. you never know when they will come in handy."
No no no no no no NO!

Italy is NOT a third world country, and the Euro is at least as powerful as the 'mighty dollar'. PLEASE PLEASE don't attempt to foist dollar bills on people. Use ATMs to draw Euros. It would also be useful to know your PIN number for any credit cards you want to use - it's becoming increasingly expected, particularly in shops, for you to key in your PIN number rather than signing for your purchases. Make sure it's a 4-digit PIN.

As to your other questions:
1) All stations have self-service ticket machines thyat have an english option and usually take cards. Bus tickets are not bought onboard buses, but rather at small tobacconist shops. You will nrecognise these by a black sign with a letter 'T' on it outside the shop. Most vendors in the places you're going will speak enough english to help you, but just in case, learn the italoian phrase you need.

Also, Italians are very polite people, so make sure you learn the basic greeting phrases: buonjourno (good day), buonasera (good evening), bounanotte (goodnight), per favore (please), grazie (thank you). Use these when you enter or leave a shop, restaurant, hotel.

2) Meal prices vary, but you can get a decent meal for about $15-20 euros.

3) As in any large city, watch your bags. Don't wear a backpack that people can easily open in crowded places. Theft is not nearly the problem it's made to sound, but it doesn't hurt to be aware. I always leave my passport in the hotel room safe, as much because I'm worried about losing my passport when I'm being dozy as it being stolen. But have a photocopy of it with you.

4) Use Visa and Mastercard, forget the rest. Not all small shops and restaurants will take them, so always have a cash alternative.

5) Other tips: Don't panic when your hotel takes your passport off you. By law, they have to register your details with the local Police, and will usually take your passport off you for a couple of hours or overnight to give them chance to fill in the paperwork - particularly if you arrive with a big tour party. They're not trying to steal your identity.

Tip2: don't leave Italy without trying an ice cream (buy it from a kiosk after dinner instead of ordering a dessert, and wander through the evening streets eating it, as the Italians do).

Tip3: Make sure your shoulders and knees are covered if you're visiting churches (so no shorts and strappy tops - the Italians will think you're barmy wearing that get-up in April anyway, they'll still have their puffa jackets on).

Tip4: try a hot chocolate (ciocolate calda). It's like no hot chocolate you've ever tasted.

Tip5: Don't be shocked if your main meat/fish course (called 'secondo') comes as just that - a plate with a bit of meat on it. Order your vegetables or salad (contorni) separately.

Tip6: Italians generally divide their meal courses into 5. Don't feel obliged to order all 5 courses - order whatever you want. As pasta is seen as a starter, it'll usually be smaller tha what you might be used to. The courses are:
1. Antipasti (eg cold meats and cheeses or bruschetta)
2. Primi (pasta or risotto)
3. Secondi (meat/fish)
4. Contorni (vegetables/salad - often served AFTER your meat course as a palate cleanser)
5. Dolci (dessert)

ENJOY! You'll LOVE Italy, everyone always does.

peppermintpatti Mar 17th, 2006 04:17 AM

Just gotta add my two-cents. My first trip to Europe was with a tour. Granted, I knew quite a few of the people, but alot I met for the first time. I really enjoyed the camraderie with new aquaintances. The angst of trying to manage transfers from one city to the next was totally removed. There was plenty of time for solo exploration. And there is something to be said for the time-saving of having someone else do all the planning. I think a tour is a great way for a first-timer. You have the rest of your life to travel on your own. Plus I found a side benefit to be very little waiting in lines. Our tour group whizzed pass the line and got right in to many museums etc. It takes a lot of research beforehand to plan a vacation so that time is not wasted getting to places to find that they are closed, arriving at an attraction to find it is a bad time of day to go, etc. I am sure there is enough to do planning the wedding, and I think relaxing, and letting someone else take care of the details is a good idea for a honeymoon.

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