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Trip Report: Sicily Sept 2019 - Focus on Logistics

Trip Report: Sicily Sept 2019 - Focus on Logistics

Oct 4th, 2019, 02:23 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 16
Trip Report: Sicily Sept 2019 - Focus on Logistics

Thank you for all the useful information found on this forum prior to my Sicily vacation. I want to share some experiences from my trip, mostly from a logistics perspective, hoping you can learn from my mistakes. They are the sort of things one forgets about after the trip ends, but it can be useful information for future travelers. None of what I mention below takes away from the fact that we had one of the best trips of our lives!

  • We had a 1-Ĺ hour connection in Munich for our Palermo flight. Turns out this was plenty of time. Passport control had no lines and walking to the gate not that long.
  • We waited and waited for our luggage. Almost everybody else had retrieved theirs. After no more bags came out, we asked and it turns out international luggage is on a different carousel in a different room.
  • We booked a taxi using a feature on booking.com. On the page with our B&B was an option to book a taxi to bring to your hotel. When we entered the arrivals hall, no one had a card with our name on it. Luckily I noted the name of the company from the confirmation email and found other drivers from the same company holding name cards for their customers. One of them helped me locate my driver who was held up in traffic making him 20 minutes late. If I hadnít encountered the other drivers, not sure what I would have done. I didnít have a SIM card yet so I couldnít call the taxi company. I guess I would have gone to the information desk at the airport and asked them to call for me.
  • Being jet-lagged on arrival, we did not want to wander around looking for a dinner place. We saw Locanda del Gusto near our B&B and thought we would go there in the evening. I was hungry so booked us for 6:30PM on TripAdvisor/Fork. When we arrived at 6:30PM, they told us they didnít open until 7:30PM. So much for accurate information on Fork.
  • When we asked our B&B how to do a daytrip to Segesta, she googled it and said Segesta Autolinee went there and had frequent departures. That turned out to be wrong. They are called Segesta but they donít go to Segesta. Luckily, I googled it and learned the truth.
  • I bought a WIND SIM card for Ä25. This gave me 100 local minutes, 100 international minutes, and 20GB of data. I thought this was a great deal. Iíve since learned that WIND does not have the best coverage and indeed sometimes I got H instead of LTE, once in a while 3G, but for my purposes (Google Maps and Googling and Google Translate), it worked fine. It didnít include SMS and I read on the internet how a guyís phone stopped working after 6 texts.
  • I went to the ATM at BNL Paribus. What a ripoff. I wasnít used to Sicily ATMs and saw a screen where they put the exchange rate (which didnít register with me) and you had to accept it. I was nervous and said ok instead of cancel. When I got back to my room, I realized they charged me at a very poor exchange rate costing me an extra $17 for Ä300. I thought I was well-prepared with my Capital One ATM card that does not charge any flat fees or foreign transaction fees. Since Italy does not charge flat fees either, I figured I could get money as I needed instead of worrying about incurring flat fees. Oh well. My other two ATM transactions went well at BCC PACHINO SOC.COOP and B.CA SAN FRANCESCO.
  • To get to Monreale, we took a special hop-on-hop-off bus that went nonstop to Monreale. It then took you back 1-Ĺ hours later. It costs Ä10 each but it was worth it. There is one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
  • I wanted to tour Teatro Massimo, but the website said the tours were sold out for the next few days. I visited it anyway and inquired about the tour.. I was able to get on a tour that started in a few minutes, so the website isnít always accurate.
  • Departing the B&B to the airport to pick up the rental car, the owner arranged a fixed price with a taxi for Ä45. He picked us up but when it came time to pay, he insisted on Ä50.
  • We waited a good half-hour before being served at Avis. They have a take-a-check system so that makes it fair for everyone. However, I saw people going up to one counter without taking a number. Is this for Avis Preferred? This was our first time using Avis as a member and we saw our name up on their board as Avis Preferred but I didnít know what advantage that gave me so I waited on the line with many others. We paid for the zero deductible which doubled the bill but it was worth the peace of mind especially when they gave us a so-called upgrade we didnít want. It was a bigger car (Fiat 500L) sort of like a small SUV but my husband was ok with it. They asked us if we wanted to pay in euros or $$ and we said euros. However, on the contract in tiny print (which I read after returning to the US) it said we agreed to pay in $$. That cost us around $30. You canít read the contract thoroughly when there are people on line breathing down your neck.
  • I had downloaded Sicily on Google Maps and that worked very well. I had read on the internet how the GPS failed tourists. Perhaps traditional Garmins/TomToms donít fare well, but Google Maps did great.
  • At the Valley of the Temples, you have to go through security (like at an airport) before buying tickets. The combo tickets are good for 3 days. The signs donít tell you this, only the ticket itself. We didnít find this out until the second day so we paid twice.
  • Getting out of Agrigento, I got lost because my phoneís GPS takes a few minutes to kick in (I need to get a newer phone). We stopped at a gas station to get directions. Sometimes these places looked closed, but they really arenít. When we stopped a guy came out to help us.
  • Since we are fans of the Detective Montalbano TV show which takes place in Sicily, we paid for a tour, an expensive tour of Ä320 which would go to filming locations in Scicli, Modica, Punta Secca, etc. The driving was great and the driver had a lot of information about Sicily and Sicilian culture but knew nothing about Montalbano. That was disappointing. He would drop us off and we would have to find the locations ourselves. Tripadvisor reviews raved about the Montalbano knowledge the driver had - I guess we didnít get this person.
  • Nightmare at Talete parking garage. We parked our car there for 3 nights. We knew that you pay at the end. A photo would be taken of your license plate when you entered. When you left, you enter the license plate and pay your bill. First, we were using a machine that was all in Italian and hard to decipher. Then someone suggested better machines near the exit. There was always a crowd of 10 confused people, all with their own issues. I entered the plate number and the machine asked me to confirm the number, except the number it gave me was not what I typed in. That number owed Ä15 but I knew we owed Ä45. I also got the impression that the machine checked the license plate on the way out so I didnít want to take the chance of using someone elseís plate number. I saw a number to call and called it. I said ďparla ingleseĒ and the guy said no. He proceeded to speak a lot of Italian or Sicilian (not sure which) and hung up on me. How was I going to get out of this unmanned garage??? I ended up calling the hotel and mercifully the English-speaking lady was on duty. After much ado, she said she would call the garage and I should call her back in 5 minutes. During the second call, she instructed me to bring the car up to the bar, then press the SOS button, then immediately dial the hotel with only one ring and hang up. This would be her signal to tell the garage to raise the bar. Well, it worked! The good news is: I didnít pay anything, but I would have gladly paid to have avoided that stress. As we were driving away, it dawned on me that some of the tourists paid as soon as they got there and went off on the hop-on-hop-off bus. I wonder what happened when they got back and tried to get outÖ.
  • We stayed here on our last night to be close to the airport. This worked out very well. There was a gas station nearby so we could fill up before returning the car.
  • We parked our car in an AVIS ďreturnĒ spot. There was no employees around. So we went to the little office and they told us to wait by our car. We did so and 10 minutes later someone came by to process the car. When he saw that we had bought the zero deductible, he didnít even bother to look over the car. The total bill was Ä458 for 11 days with zero deductible and windscreen protection. Not cheap but not bad given the extra insurance and peace of mind. Would have been better if they hadnít ripped me off with the ďpaying with $$Ē scam.
  • We only had an hour layover on this one but again it worked out well. We went through passport control but not security plus no buses or skytrains involved. The plane was boarding when we got to the gate but it worked out fine. As advised, just follow the signs to the gate.
gensuki is offline  
Oct 4th, 2019, 02:56 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 25,284
Thanks for the details. Did you enjoy Sicily?

Surprised you took a HoHo to Monreale. Do the regular buses no longer go there?
thursdaysd is offline  
Oct 4th, 2019, 03:34 PM
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Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 16
Yes, but Rick Steves said the public bus to Monreale was a pickpocket's dream bus. This way, I didn't need to know where the bus stop was or what the frequency was, how to pay, etc. Just one less thing to have to figure out.
gensuki is offline  
Oct 5th, 2019, 03:51 AM
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Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 16
Originally Posted by thursdaysd View Post
Thanks for the details. Did you enjoy Sicily?

This was one of the best vacations of our lives!

Forgot to mention: we were not familiar with Sicily toll system. Going from Siracusa to Taormina on the E45, we encountered a toll station. A young woman punched a button and gave us a ticket and charged us 5 euros. As we drove off I suspected it was a scam. Sure enough, at Taormina we were charged 1.70 EUR so she fooled us. Learn from our mistake.
gensuki is offline  
Oct 5th, 2019, 07:39 AM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 22,820
Bookmarking this for later. 14 years ago, we experienced the same thing with the international luggage in another room!
TDudette is offline  
Oct 7th, 2019, 05:51 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 13,993
I find Rick Steves arouses dear in travelers, constant talk of pickpockets, always needing to wear money belts, etc. Yes, be alert and aware but don’t travel in a state of fear.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Oct 8th, 2019, 05:25 AM
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Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 16
Originally Posted by HappyTrvlr View Post
I find Rick Steves arouses fear in travelers, constant talk of pickpockets, always needing to wear money belts, etc. Yes, be alert and aware but donít travel in a state of fear.
I didn't. Rick Steves' warning was not the primary reason just a contributing factor. The primary factor was that this was our first full day and I was still very jet-lagged and didn't want to think too much about where was the bus stop for the public bus, how long would we have to wait for it, how crowded would it be. I was too tired. BTW, Rick Steves recently got pickpocketed in Paris.
gensuki is offline  
Oct 8th, 2019, 05:41 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,806
Thanks for the report and the detail, gensuki. It's good to hear how others handle situations that don't always go according to plan.

As for the comment about traveling in a "state of fear," that's clearly an overreaction to what you did, which was simply heed a security alert. Which any traveler should pay attention to. Whatever.
Holly_uncasdewar is offline  

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