ITALY TRAVEL BULLETIN- Basic Travel Etiquette and Facts for the Italy Bound Traveler
ITALY TRAVEL BULLETIN
Italy requires United States Citizens to have a passport valid for a minimum of six months beyond your return date. Visas are not required for United States Citizens.
No vaccines are required for entry into Italy.
Public Hospitals do not charge for emergency medical care, and practice standards vary. Travelers are encouraged to purchase insurance that would cover treatment in a private hospital or clinic.
Public hospitals do not provide an itemized bill for services. US insurance companies require an itemized bill.
Bring photocopies of your passport and other important documents and keep them separate from originals. If prescription medicine is important to you, you may also want to bring a copy of your prescription. Of course, always take prescription medicine with you on the plane and do not place it in you luggage.
The current in Italy is 220 volts, AC. You will need a converter to decrease the Voltage to 110 volts and a plug adapter with two round pins. If your appliance is equipped with a dual-voltage switch, you will still need a plug adapter.
Patience is a virtue when traveling in Italy. Long lines are common especially at the bank. Please remember to take a number to wait in line at the bank, and stay patient while waiting on line.
Italy has a history of centuries of civilization. It stands to reason that, a country that walks past stones placed millennia ago, would place a different value on time. It is not uncommon for a dinner experience to take up to three hours long. We must be patient when traveling in Italy as many experiences take longer than what we are used to.Italy is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
CURRENCY/CREDIT CARDS/ MONEY At the time of printing, the current exchange rate is EU 1= $1.29 to the US Dollar. You can check for the current rate on line at www.x-rates.com or www.oanda.comYou will need your passport when exchanging cash to Euro at the bank. There is no restriction to the amount of currency you can take into Italy.
ATM/BANCOMAT Most major banks provide ATM services known as a Bancomat in Italian. The rates of exchange are very favorable. You only need your pin to withdrawal cash; however, there are daily limits. Most of the time the limit is EU 250 per day. ATM withdrawals provide the easiest method of obtaining EURO with a minimal amount of commission. The worst place to obtain EURO is in the airport in the US.
BANK HOURSBanks are normally open 8:30-4 Monday –Friday. Banks normally close for lunch from 1:00-2:00. Many tours begin at times inconvenient to change money. It is therefore advisable for you to arrive with some EURO in your pocket prior to the start of your tour.
VISA/AMX/TRAVELERS CHECKS Most businesses prefer Visa to American Express. Often American Express is not accepted at all. Traveler’s checks are the least desirable method of taking funds to Italy.
HOTEL STARS-WHAT DO THEY MEAN?
1 star- reception manned 12 hours a day, room cleaning once a day, double room at least 14 sq meters, linens changed once a week.
2 stars- elevator and linens changed at least twice a week
3 stars- bar service, reception opened at least 16 hours a day, internet and all the rooms have private baths
4 stars- room cleaning and linens changed once a day. Laundry service provided by hotel. Parking, room size for a double room at least 15 square meters,
5 stars- reception opened 24 hours a day. Double room 16 square meters.
HOW MUCH MONEY WILL I NEED?It is best to calculate the meals not included on the trip, and calculate EU 50 per person for a luxurious meal, or EU25 per person for a trattoria meal. Also remember to add souvenir funds and funds for alcoholic beverages (not included with meals).
TIPPING A service charge of 15% is sometimes included in the dining bill; however, it is customary to leave another 5-7% if the service was good. But no more!!! Also included on your dining bill is a coperto which varies from 1.50 EU – 5EU. This is NOT a tip; this is for your chair and bread.
Taxis” Tipping is not necessary- but they can keep the change,
Driver’s 20-50 EU minimum for a four hour private tour.
Porters- 1 EU a bag
Housekeepers 1-2 EU per night or more for extra service.
Tour Guides: always welcome but not necessary Eu 5 -10 a couple
Tour Guides/driver/translator: 10-20 EU/day per person
TOUR GUIDE ETICHETTE A private licensed historic guide, or any guide for that matter, has a limited season that they are able to earn. If you reserve a guide, or if we have reserved a guide for you, we MUST give them ample notice if you are canceling the service so that they can rebook the time slot.
To call the US from Italy is very easy. dial 001 + area code+ phone number.
When calling to Italy 011+ 39+ phone number.
The least expensive way to phone from Italy is to purchase a carta telefonica at a Tabacchi or newsstand. They come in dominations of 5, 10 and 20 EU and will give you the best rate to phone home.
Remember you need to have a quad band for your phone to work in Italy. It is extremely expensive to use a US based phone abroad.
Or if you have an unlocked phone you can purchase an Italian SIM card which will be less expensive.
http://www.cellularabroad.com/ you might also try Cellulare Abroad for phone rentals.
COMMUNICATION: INTERNET In larger cities, at larger hotels, and on occasion in smaller paese (towns), one can find a cybercafé which has computers available on an hourly basis. Some hotels have computers for guests to use in the lobby area, for a small fee. You must register to use the computer in Italy. Wireless can be found in major cities at the grander hotels.
COMMUNICATION: MAIL Post offices are open 8:30-5:00 Monday-Friday and open on Saturdays until noon. A post card to the US will run EU.80.
DRIVING IN ITALY Americans visiting Italy as tourists and intending to drive should obtain an International Driving Permit before leaving the U.S.One by mail through the American Automobile Association (AAA), Worldwide Travel Dept., 1000 AAA Dr., Heathrow, FL 32746, tel. (407) 444-7000, fax (407) 444-7380.Tourists may also use their valid American driver's license if accompanied by an Italian translation issued by one of the following offices of the Italian Automobile Club (ACI):
- ACI (Rome office) - via Marsala 14a - Tel: 06-4998-2496
- ACI (Naples office) - piazzale Vincenzo Tecchio 49d - Tel: 081-725-3811
Unfortunately, there is no agreement for reciprocal recognition of drivers' licenses between the United States and Italy. The Italian Ministry of Transportation has determined that bearers of U.S. driver's licenses cannot obtain an Italian license directly in exchange for a domestic one. Interested individuals must comply with the usual requirements prescribed for obtaining an Italian license, (a written test, a driving test, a medical examination, and pertinent documents).
CAR SICK/SEA SICK/ROAD CONDITIONS Italy does have a wonderful road system, with autostrada, and strada statale being used frequently. One may also encounter other methods of transportation such as aliscafo (hydrofoil) when visiting islands. Many roads are quite curvy, (contrary to the perception that Romans built straight roads) especially in the Toscana, Liguria, Amalfi areas. If you are prone to car or sea sickness it is advisable to bring along a motion sickness aid.
TRAIN TICKETS Once you have purchased your train tickets, then do not forget to Stamp your ticket in the yellow box prior to boarding the train. AND if you purchased a round trip ticket you need to stamp the ticket twice, one in each direction. The yellow box can be found at the beginning of each binario (track).
LANGUAGEIn southern Italy it is less common to find an English speaking person, as it is in the northern cities. Younger people will speak some English, while older people may not. As a guest in Italy, all attempts made at speaking Italian will be appreciated. It is also deemed rude to enter a store and not acknowledge the store owner with a greeting of “Good Day” “Buon Giorno” or Good Afternoon “Buona Sera” upon your entry and departure of the store.
DUTY FREEUS citizens are permitted to bring back $800 worth of duty free goods. If you would like additional information, please consult the customs website at:www.customs.ustreas.gov/xp/cgov/travel or you may request a brochure by calling 202 354-1000.
STORE HOURSStores are normally opened from 9:30- 13:00 and reopen from 15:45- 19:30 Monday –Friday. Italy has changed her philosophy regarding Sunday hours and some stores (mostly tourist shops) may be open Sundays especially in the larger cities.
COFFEE BAR ETICHETTE An Italian bar will service both coffee and alcohol. Everyone goes to a bar for breakfast and eats standing up (it is cheaper that way). There is a process to paying for and obtaining your café. The first thing you need to know is that the price is different if you stand at the bar (cheaper) than if you sit down at a table. The first cultural taboo you can make is if you ask for a café` while standing at the counter and then take it to sit down. Either sit down and wait for table service, or stand up and drink it.!!
The process: if you want to stand and have an Italian breakfast, then go to the cassa, (cash register) pay for what ever you are having, get the scontrino (receipt), and take it to the barman. Now wave the receipt in front of the barman’, so he will notice you, and then order your café `and paste (literally means dough or pastry). In a perfect world, he should tear the receipt and give it back to you. By law, the consumer must hold onto the receipt for 50 feet from the store, so the Guardia di Financia (Mobile IRS in gray and yellow cars and uniforms) in case they stop you and fine you, because you did not keep the receipt. They can also fine the establishment because it is now obvious that they intended to keep the cash and not pay the tax.
ICE CREAM: Artigenale is the word to look for when selecting an ice cream shop.
“Let your memory be your travel bag.”
CLOTHING: How should I dress, what should I take?
Men: Shirts with collars, ( no collarless T-Shirts), dress pants, golf shirts, long sleeve shirts for evening. Jackets and ties are not necessary unless you are going to one of the top tables. Sneekers are very casual and a real shoe is better.
Women: Nice pants, or slacks, capri’s length in summer. Sweater sets, jackets, dresses. No shorts unless you are going to the islands or beaches in the summer. Shorts are not appropriate for city touring. Church visits: Sleeveless articles, bring a cover for your shoulders. Appropriate knee length skirts, no shorts or mini dresses. Shoes: flats, sandals and heels sneekers are to informal.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES Do not touch the fruit with your hands …ever. The shop keeper will pick the fruit and put it in a bag for you. Fruits and Vegetables will also name the location where they were grown ( usually in Italy) NON TOCCARE- means DO NOT TOUCH
SHOPPINGAny exportation of antiquity pre 1950 is prohibited. If you are bringing antiquities from Italy you must have proper documentation as their law is one of the strictest. Do not purchase red coral jewelry. Hard cheeses are allowed into the USA. Parma ham and other pork products can be imported if they are stamped and sealed for export into the USA. To see which pork products are allowed in USA consult the USDA website. Play it safe and DO NOT bring ANY meat products with you back to the US.
VAT REFUNDSAs a member of the European Union, Italy imposes a value-added tax (called IVA in Italy) on most goods and services. Non-EU citizens are entitled to a refund of the IVA if they spend more than EU155 before tax at any one store.
To claim you refund, request an invoice from the cashier at the store that you are making your purchase in and take it to customs (dogana) at the airport and have it stamped. Please note that in order to qualify for the tax free refund you must present a copy of your passport at the store that you are making your purchase.
NOTE: If you are going to another EU country before flying home, have it stamped at the airport Customs office of the LAST EU country you will be in. You may request a refund at any Tax-Free office and this refund may come in the form of cash (less commission, or a refund to your credit card).
GENERAL SAFETY COMMENT Though Italy is thought of as a safe destination, Italians (like New Yorkers) are not beyond theft. Please keep a watchful eye on your possessions. Do not take expensive jewelry, watches, cameras etc on your trip! Pick Pockets are problematic in many urban areas. Naples is particularly known for Muggings. Be Attentive at all times when in Naples.
As a rule we do not leave anything of value in vehicles unless the driver will stay in attendance. Valuables left in the van or coaches are left at the passenger’s responsibility and not a part of the responsibility of the tour operator.