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First Time to Italy, Some Basic Questions

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Sep 20th, 2015, 04:07 PM
  #1
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First Time to Italy, Some Basic Questions

We are traveling from the USA, going in early October, 4 nights each in Rome, Tuscany & Florence. Some basic questions:

1. Will most restaurants & shops take our Visa or American Express credit cards or do we need cash a lot of the time?

2. We are staying in high end hotels. Will we need electric outlet adapters for shaver, phone chargers, etc?

3. We've heard a lot about pick-pockets & scams, but what about luggage while in the hands of the airlines in Rome & Florence? Any problems there worse than, let's say, Germany?

Any advice would be most appreciated. Thank you all.
Streamliner is offline  
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Sep 20th, 2015, 04:43 PM
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1. visa, yes. AmEx rarely.
2. Yes. Phones & computers will change voltage automatically. Shavers, hairdryers, curling irons will not. Most hotels have hairdryers. no need to pack one. Other appliances, it's best to take one that is changeable between voltages, or buy a European one when you land and keep it for future trips! The power converters never work well.
3. Use your common sense and stay alert on public transport. You should be fine. Haven't visited Germany so can't say.
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Sep 20th, 2015, 04:46 PM
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Don't pack anything valuable in your checked luggage, ever, regardless of destination. Camera, iPad should be in your carry on. Don't take any expensive jewelry or watches. No need.
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Sep 20th, 2015, 04:54 PM
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Have fun--here are some more tips for you!


TWENTY TERRIFIC TRAVEL TIPS!!

After enjoying 30 trips to Europe, most of them in the past 25 years, here are some tips that we have found helpful. We hope that you agree:

MONEY:
1. Use your CREDIT CARDS for most major expenses [hotels, car rentals, Ristorantes ] It will provide the best exchange rate and give you a good record after you get home.
2. There is no reason to get local currency until you arrive in Europe. Use the airport ATM for cash. ATMs are everywhere in Europe and work just like your hometown machine—even in English.
3. Bring 2 credit cards and both should have 4 digit PINS. Be sure to tell your CC companies that you are traveling in Europe—check your limits.
4. Forget TRAVELERS CHECKS—they were obsolete years ago.
5. Keep several 1E & 2E coins easily accessible---very convenient.

PACKING:
6. Pack lite and pack smart! It is too much luggage that signals a typical novice traveler. Your primary rolling bag should not exceed 24”—check it ! Take a smaller carry-on bag that should contain everything you will need to survive if your primary bag does not arrive for 48 HOURS.
7. Pack a canvas tote bag to hold the extra goodies you will buy in Europe. Also consider bringing a wash cloth, liquid soap, raincoat and a hat for bad hair days. Be sure your knife with corkscrew is in your checked luggage.
8. Do not dress to advertise that you are a tourist, although it will likely be evident. Plan your outfits using basic colors and do not be afraid to wear the same outfit 3 days in a row. Try to dress in layers—shirt, sweater, jacket.
9. If you need to save packing space, wear your bulkiest items on the plane [ sport coat, dress shoes, raincoat, sweater etc.]

SAFETY:
I feel safer in Rome or Munich than I do in Miami or Chicago. However, Americans do get targeted by pick pockets and purse snatchers, especially in crowded areas of major cities. Here are some tips that may help:
10. Keep purses/cameras around your neck—do not lay then down.
11. Wear a money belt for those items you cannot afford to have lost. This includes passports, credit cards, travel documents.
12. Stay alert and vigilant— thieves will use DISTRACTION as their tactic.
13. Always lock your rental car and keep nothing in view you want to keep.

WILD CARD TIP:
The best tip I can give to any novice traveler to Europe is to always smile, be respectful, and never forget you are a guest in their country !

TRAVEL TIPS CONTINUED:

CARS AND TRAINS:

Rental cars in Italy can be expensive due to the high mandatory insurance. However, often a car is the best way to see many parts of BELLA ITALIA.
Rail travel is often less costly but can be quite inconvenient in rural areas.

14. Avoid driving in major cities—it is often a real hassle.
15. When driving on the extensive AUTOSTRDA system, be sure to stay in the right lane except when passing. You will need to pay toll as you exit the system—look for the VIA lane to pay by credit card.
16. You will need a driver, a navigator, and a good map. The road signage is good on the major roads, but do not rely on road numbers on secondary roads—that will frustrate you. Do learn to trust the directional signage.
17. Study your daily maps in advance so you can ANTICIPATE decisions.

TRAVEL TID-BITS:

18. Take the time to learn a 50 word vocabulary to include basic courtesies.
19. Learn to use the 24 hour clock and the European way to list a date—both may save you a major blunder [ June 15 is really 15 June or 15/06]. It does make good sense---do we not call it the 15th of June?
20. Here are some TRAVEL TOOLS that you will want to have with you:

• Swiss Army knife with a decent corkscrew.
• Extra batteries for your camera—and/or a dual voltage charger.
• Copies of credit cards and travel documents—including passports.
• Extra reading glasses—I put 3 pairs in different locations.
• Adapter plugs—typically two prongs for round holes
• A flashlight or reading light---rooms are often too dark.

BUON VIAGGIO & BOUNA FORTUNA !!
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Sep 20th, 2015, 05:38 PM
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Two notes:

Be sure to use the local names of the places you will be going to avoid any confusion on trains. Roma is obvious but Firenze may not be.

(We were once stopped by an American couple driving in Austria because they were lost. Headed for Vienna and couldn't find it - although there was a huge sign right before the rest stop showing mileage to Wien. I guess they didn't realize that in German "v" and "w" are reversed from english.)

In terms of safety of your belonging NEVER let go of your purse of day pack - even in the public rooms of your hotel. (As a New Yorker this is obvious to me, but I have discovered that people from some other places will put a purse down on a table in a hotel breakfast room and just wander off to the buffet - just asking for it to be stolen.)
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Sep 20th, 2015, 05:47 PM
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Sorry, Visa and MC are very widely accepted in europe. AmEx less so and usually in moderate to upscale places. Discover is NOT supported any place in europe.

Small local places, and a few other more upscale restaurants, will accept cash only. I would double check for any restaurant you make reservations for.
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Sep 21st, 2015, 04:54 AM
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1. Yes, VISA is wiedly accepted. I come back from Italy week ago, and I didn't found any retaurant that hasnt a VISA acceptabel terminals.
2. You will need adapter for charging notebook for example. It isnt only matter of voltage but size of plug.But you can buy them in almost every supermarket for around 1 euro
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Sep 21st, 2015, 05:58 AM
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The only three issues for me in northern Italy compared with Germany are

1) The breakfasts are bigger in Germany
2) Coffee is a bigger drink in Germany
3) while the trains run on time in both countries, meetings always start and run late in Italy, but if you arrive late then they started on time

Opportunist and organised theft is always higher in tourist centres, you will be in some of those so do as the guys above say. For me the rules, are take nothing on holiday that you would miss, smile a lot, have a plan and get on with it. If you need to get a rest and re-orientate yourself sit in/outside a bar, get a water/beer/wine and contemplate. Don't drink what you do at home, leave coke, international brands and bottled water alone and drink the local stuff.
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Sep 21st, 2015, 07:26 AM
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You will need plug adapters for US to European outlets. Lggage shops, even Target carries them.
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Sep 21st, 2015, 08:56 AM
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Fodor's: Ask 3 simple intelligent travel questions and get a s***load of totally irrelevant responses to wade through, many of them an insult to anybody's intelligence (and basically just excuse for the posters to preen).

1. Yes, more so than in Germany.

2. Yes.

3. Checked luggage in Italian airports is subject to more sticky-fingered tampering than in Germany. As helpfully noted above, don't put anything valuble in checked and if you can, don't check luggage anyway because off-loading times in Italian airports are longer and you're more likely to be left cooling your heels at the baggage carousel.
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Sep 21st, 2015, 12:29 PM
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<
Fodor's: Ask 3 simple intelligent travel questions and get a s***load of totally irrelevant responses to wade through, many of them an insult to anybody's intelligence (and basically just excuse for the posters to preen).>>

Talk about a s***load of total irrelevancy.
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Sep 21st, 2015, 01:08 PM
  #12
 
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We have two credit cards that do not charge foreign transaction fees. Now, we only use them to pay for our car rental and hotels. Occasionally, we will use them to purchase other items such as a zippered fleece from the Museo Ferrari. Everything else, including restaurants, we pay in cash.

A tip: if paying by credit card and if the cashier asks if you want the charge to be in euros or dollars, always choose euros. You will receive a better rate and no foreign transaction feee.

Buon viaggio,
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