Italy - will most places take dollars?

Mar 3rd, 2004, 06:40 AM
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Italy - will most places take dollars?

OK this is probably a stupid question but will most stores in Italy take US Dollars or do you need to convert all your money and also can someone explain the VAT tax and how and where you get the money back! Thank you
quetzal1958 is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2004, 06:46 AM
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As many places in Italy will accept dollars as there are places in your home town that will accept euro. In other words -- probably none.

There is no reason to "convert" all your money to euro. Instead, make sure you have enough in your checking account and with an ATM withdraw cash as you need it in local currency, without spending a lot of money or using a lot of extra money "converting" it.

I won't get into the VAT tax refund as it only applies to major purchases, something I rarely do in Europe. I'm sure someone else can help you there.
Patrick is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2004, 06:47 AM
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Do most stores in the US accept British Pounds, Euros, Japanese Yen?? I don't think so!
cailin is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2004, 06:48 AM
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the currency of italy is the euro, not the dollar.
VAT is value added tax; there are leaflets in airports in europe which indicate where/how to have it reimbursed, usually there is a spot in the airport or at frontiers where you can claim it back.
lotje is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2004, 06:58 AM
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If anyone did you a "favor" and accepted US currency, you can be assured of being totally screwed in the exchange rate.

Use an ATM, punch in the amount you want to withdraw in US dollars and get Euros.
Dick is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2004, 06:59 AM
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The dollar question has been fully answered.
As for the VAT refund, you must spend a minimum amount in one store at one time to quality. I'm not sure of the exact amount in Italy, but I believe it's somewhere around 175 euro. You will fill out a form in the store and then turn it in at the airport when you leave the country. You may be asked to show the item(s) purchased when turning in the form.
HowardR is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2004, 07:03 AM
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In defense of qetzal1958 the tax free airport shops accept US dollars. Also, this person may have been to Canada where many shops also have computers that convert and accept US dollars. It's easy to think that possibly other countries may do the same. Italy doesn't. We have always had VAT returned at a desk at the airport near the gates.
Ann1 is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2004, 07:04 AM
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While most stores in Italy accept only the Euro, in October I did some shopping at a high end children's clothing store near the Spanish Steps called "Pure." As I was standing in line to pay for my purchases (with a credit card) the woman ahead of me bought her things with dollars. Her husband pulled out a wad of dollars and peeled off two fifties. The clerk took them and didn't bat an eye. As for the VAT, you need to spend a certain amount (somewhere around $100.00 or more) at a store and they will give you a VAT form that has the store's information on it and a list of what you purchased. Keep all your purchases with you in your carry on (not checked luggage) at the airport where you will have to go to the customs office. You cannot use any of the purchases either while you are in Italy--they must be brand new when you present them to the customs agent. The agent will look over your purchases and match them up to the VAT forms. Then the agent will stamp the VAT forms and you can either take them to another office to recieve an immediate refund (sometimes not open for early flights) or put the stamped form in a box near the customs office and the refund will be mailed to you or credited to your credit card.
Grinisa is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2004, 07:15 AM
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Hi q,

As Patrick says, they use Euro in Italy, not Dollars.

The best way to travel in Europe is to have an ATM card for when you need cash and a credit card for all other purchases.

The Value Added Tax (VAT) is charged on all goods and many services. It is about 17% in Italy. If purchase about 200 E worth of goods *in one store* you can have the VAT refunded.

The store will give you the proper forms and receipts.
ira is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2004, 07:29 AM
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Even though I value everything Grinisa has to offer on this forum, I must say I've never had a VAT clerk at the airport check or ask to look at my purchases. It's possible I've been lucky but, considering I never come back to the U.S. without something of considerable value, it seems odd I've escaped this supposed requirement so many times for so many years.

All my glass purchases from Venice were expertly wrapped and I would have been horrified if someone asked me to unwrap them. It never happened. This last trip in January, I had four VAT forms, presented the forms at the VAT kiosk, the clerk stamped the forms and off I went. I carried all the items onto the plane.

Also, I always get my refund credited to my credit card. In Venice, the drop box is just before you go through x-ray/security with your carry-ons. To me, this seemed the most convenient method.
NYCFoodSnob is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2004, 07:58 AM
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Well thanks, NYFS. I was relating what happened to me in October. The full, sad story was in my trip report. Due to my overindulgence of my daughters and buying them way too much at Pure, I checked all those lovely clothes in my luggage. The customs office at FCO was closed when we departed Rome at 6:30 a.m. so after arrival in Milan, I stood in line at that customs office for about 45 minutes. It was "manned" by a woman who must have taken lessons from the gestapo. Person after person emerged from her office with dismayed looks on their faces and no stamp on their VAT forms. Why? because they didn't have all the items with them. One guy ahead of me in line said, "I think I have everything, and I'm wearing this new leather jacket." Sure enough, the one VAT form with no stamp he emerged with was for the leather jacket. "She told me I couldn't wear it!" he told all of us in line. After that, about five people started pulling off jewelery, sweaters etc. and packing them away. When my husband bought me a ring at Bulgari, the salesclerk warned us I shouldn't wear it until I got home. Sure enough, the agent at FCO (a later flight!) demanded to see the ring, which luckily was still pristine in the Bulgari box. And the VAT form does state that the items must not be used. So I guess you were very lucky or at least ran into some very lenient agents. All this reminds me of a time a few years ago, pre-Euro, in Florence. I was in Ferragamo and a Japanese woman bought about four pairs of shoes, with Yen. At the time it didn't strike me as odd that she would pay for the shoes in Yen, but that she would be carrying around all that cash in her purse.
Grinisa is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2004, 08:50 AM
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As noted it is really not a good idea to try to use Dollars to pay for things in any country except the US. The big issue when trying to pay with Dollars is that you will not get a good exchange rate from shops, etc. Your purchases will therefore cost you more than they would if you have exchanged Dollars for Euros yourself. The people in the shop where Grinisa was simply overpaid for the convenience of using Dollars. Shops keepers are generally not fools.

Credit cards give the very best exchange rates of all, IMO, so use cards whenever and wherever you can.
Cicerone is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2004, 08:50 AM
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Grinisa, it's always with great pleasure to read of your adventures. I'm sorry I missed your October trip report. I seem to have an aversion to "trip reports," even my own. I'll be sure to look for your report soon.

I haven't been to Milan since the early 80's so, maybe, different airports enforce different policies, same with agents.

Come to think of it, I usually try to go locally to get the VAT forms stamped just to get this procedure out of the way. If you do this, especially with jewelry and clothing purchases, what's to stop you from wearing them afterwards?

Since many of my purchases are porcelain (I'm a huge fan of Richard Ginori) or glassware (Pauly or Robe de Vero), maybe it matters that you can't wear these items.

However, I never leave Venice without a new pair (or two) of Renè Caovilla shoes and you can be sure I wear them while in Venice and don't carry them on the plane. But, since the VAT office is just a short walk away, I have a feeling I've never taken that form to the airport to get it stamped.

There always seems to be a way around these rules and, if there is, that's the path I usually follow. It's harder to do these things locally if your visit is short or you have children and a husband to look after. There are a few advantages to being free but nothing is worth the loss of such love.
NYCFoodSnob is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2004, 08:54 AM
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I absolutely have had to show the goods, and I believe that you are supposed to do this when you leave that country if it is not in the Euro zone. I did it at the border crossing between Czech Republic and Austria, and got cash on the spot, and it was for a hodgepodge of items purchased in various places, I think. It was a paltry sum, as I recall.

Best wishes,

rex is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2004, 09:24 AM
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Last trip to Italy, I loaded up on jewelry, wore it the rest of the trip, put it back in the box just before my flight home and The VAT Lady just did the Italian shrug and paid no attention and I got the refund.
Natalia is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2004, 10:06 AM
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I think it is a good assumption that you must show the VAT man/lady your goods if you want the refund, although our experience lies somewhere in the middle. Even though we had many items packed away in our suitcases (love those Prada and Tod's shoes), as a courtesy to the system we at least showed them a few of our carry-on packages, which was good enough for our VAT guy at the Venice airport. By the way, we opted for the credit card reimbursement method which took a couple of months to show up on our statement.
BelTib is offline  
Mar 4th, 2004, 06:03 AM
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Well - I never fail to ask a question that will get lots of replies but by the same token only having been to Central America, the Caribbean and Canada and lets not foget Mexico - veryone takes dollas!!! Live and learn.
quetzal1958 is offline  
Mar 4th, 2004, 06:17 AM
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Most European governments impose a value-added tax or VAT?a national sales tax of sorts?on goods and services. It's usually about 20 percent and is buried in the price. Although non Europeans often qualify for a partial refund of this tax, they leave roughly a half-billion dollars in refundable VAT unclaimed each year. Generally, travelers are entitled to refunds of the tax on merchandise only?in other words, on the kind of stuff that can be exported. Business travelers, on the other hand, can receive VAT refunds on their vehicle rentals, their gasoline and diesel fuel, and even on their lodging and meals. Austria, however, offers a similarly wide range of refunds to mere tourists.

Let's begin by noting what a VAT refund is not. A VAT refund is not the same as the "duty-free" or "tax-free" offers available at airports, on planes, or on ships: these involve a part or all of the customs duty or tax being waived on certain luxury and highly taxed items such as jewelry, liquor, and tobacco.

You can secure a true VAT refund in one of four ways. The first and easiest way is to buy from a merchant who has enrolled in the Europe Tax-free Shopping (ETS) plan. Over 60,000 merchants now participate in this plan. These businesses display in their windows the "Tax Free for Tourists" sticker depicted in Figure VAT.1. (In the Netherlands the sticker reads "Tax-Free Shopping Holland".) They'll issue a VAT refund check on the spot. Some businesses that don't display the sticker do participate; always ask. ETS is actually a corporation. It maintains desks at major exit points where you can cash your refund checks.

The second way to get a VAT refund is by mailing a refund application back to the store after originally paying the VAT. If you produce a foreign passport at the time of purchase from a non-ETS merchant, the merchant will write-up a VAT refund form and present you with a copy. (In a few areas, however, you may have to obtain the forms yourself from customs officials or tourist offices.) When you leave the country you simply show your form to customs officials who then validate it with a stamp. Finally, you mail the form back to the store. Of course it's best to mail the form before you leave the country; most exit points?airports, for example?provide a conspicuously placed mail box for such purposes. If you used a credit card to make your purchase?as you should (more on this in the Documents chapter) you'll receive your refund as a credit to your account. If you paid cash, you'll receive a check in the foreign currency. Expect to wait up to three months for a refund.

The third way to get a refund is by the exit method. Certain countries allow you to submit your refund forms to a customs official upon exiting the country. If this is the case, you'll get cash or a check on the spot. Yet qualifying exit points are few; if you leave through an infrequently used exit point, you may have to use the mailing procedure instead.

The fourth and final method is the direct export method. Some countries allow you to avoid paying VAT if the merchant directly sends the merchandise to your home by mail. This method can be expensive, however: the shipping and insurance will cost you, and the package may be subject to customs duty at home. Use this method for ungainly or heavy items only, items that you don't want to lug around.

Of course the tax rate varies considerably from country to country. What's more, the procedures and requirements necessary to obtain VAT refunds tend to vary from country to country, store to store, and purchase to purchase. Some countries disallow certain of the above methods. Some countries enforce a time window in which you can leave the country before a refund becomes invalid. And the refund might be subject to additional handling fees, fees which may amount to as much as 3 percent of the purchase price. Most countries, in order to avoid processing paperwork for small purchases, impose a minimum purchase value that you must meet to qualify for a refund; individual stores may impose higher thresholds or apply them to each item individually rather than to your total bill. In fact, some countries let individual stores decide if they'll grant any refund at all.
eurotravler is offline  
Mar 4th, 2004, 06:47 AM
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Eurotraveler's response would be nice as a separate post so it would come to the top as the definitive post whenever someone does a search for "Vat Refund".

How complete and detailed!
Patrick is offline  
Mar 4th, 2004, 08:46 AM
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ttt...testing a glitch.
NYCFoodSnob is offline  

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