Useful Information

For Emergencies

In an emergency, dial 113 for an English-speaking operator or 118 to call an ambulance.


Electric Devices

Outlets in Italy are 220 volts compared to America’s 110 volts.  Almost all current devices (phones, laptops, Kindles) will only require an outlet adapter.  If everything you need to charge operates on USB, I suggest getting a multi-usb travel adapter that works with US, UK and EU outlets. 

We use this one at home and abroad: https://www.amazon.com/Travel-Wall-Charger-USB-Plug/dp/B011KPRE1G/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1517667760&sr=8-4&keywords=european+usb+charger

Some hairdryers do not automatically convert from 110 to 220.  For this reason it’s usually best to have your hotel provide one for you instead of bringing your own.


Calls & Data

If you are traveling from America, the cheapest and most dependable plan is to unlock your phone and buy a pre-paid SIM card upon arrival in Italy.  Voice and data plans in Europe require no contract, are affordable (between 10-30 euros) and are easily topped-up on the go.  SIM cards bought in Europe can be used throughout Europe without additional roaming fees; a two week plan bought in Italy will still cover you in Spain or France.  The major Italian providers are Vodafone, TIM, and THREE.  (John and I use THREE both at home and while traveling)  Don’t be alarmed if you are asked for your passport, photo ID is required for any SIM purchase.  Ask the clerk to test the phone for you to ensure that everything is working properly before you leave the store.

 

Double check that your phone is unlocked well before your travel date as you will not be able to unlock it once you arrive.  Some carriers take several weeks or require an in-person visit to unlock your phone so it’s always best to plan far in advance!


Google Maps are a necessity when traveling in Europe.  Beyond directions and transportation advice, a dependable map is essential to being safe in an unfamiliar city.  Consulting a paper-map on a street or a subway is much more likely to draw unwanted attention than checking an app on your phone.  

A great feature of Google Maps is the ability to download a map for use offline.  By downloading an offline map you can be sure that even if you lose service, you will still be able to get directions to where you want to go.  It’s best not to depend on one phone, download maps on all phones in your traveling party so you won’t be in danger of losing charge in an emergency.  You can also add stars to important locations (like your hotel) or places you want to visit or remember.  These stars will be available offline and also be saved to your personal Google account.

 

Google Translate is another app that is super helpful when traveling.  You will need to download languages in order to use the app, so make sure this is something you do before you leave.  John and I rely on this app for reading menus (it translates “live” through your phone’s camera) and sometimes even for communicating with non-English speaking people. 

 

WhatsApp is a text messaging app widely used in Europe.  If you plan on contacting someone local to Europe, like a tour operator or a driver, there's a likelihood that this is the best way to communicate. 

Maps & Apps


Taxis, Trains & Buses

Rome is an easily walk-able city (walking from the Colosseum to the Vatican takes less than an hour) and you will be rewarded with amazing sights along the way.  If you group your daily sights together by distance, you may never have a need to take any public or private transportation outside of traveling to and from the airport.

Rome has two subway lines (red and blue) that criss-cross the city, centered at Termini.  The buses service the city well, but are often confusing and chaotic.  A lot of people who board the bus don’t pay, but if you get caught by a ticket inspector you will likely have to pay a fine on the spot.  Rome’s metros, trams and buses all use the same ticket type which can be purchased in a metro station or at a Tobacco shop (Tabbachi) for €1.50/ride or €7 and up for unlimited passes. 

Be aware that you cannot purchase a ticket directly on the bus or tram, you must buy them ahead of time.  Before you board the bus, train or tram, you must stamp your ticket.  Riding without a stamped ticket can incur a fine if caught.

Taxis are expensive for trips inside the city center, you will pay around 15 euros for what equals a 30 minute walk.  Uber’s prices are comparable to city taxis and are much more scarce than in other cities.  If you take a taxi you must agree on the price as you enter the vehicle.  It is very common all over Europe to arrive at a destination and be asked for a ridiculous amount of money.  If someone insists on something that you find unreasonable, leave and use a different taxi. 

The city is small and calling a car is sometimes as fast as catching a taxi.  We recommend Giancarlo, or his recommended colleagues, as drivers:

+39 347 139 4843

 


Italy's currency is the Euro.  Almost everywhere accepts credit and debit cards, but most banks charge a 3% fee on top of the exchange rate for foreign transactions.  Europe has moved to a chip and pin system for debit and credit cards (a system where you insert your card into a machine and enter your pin to pay for a transaction).  Swipe transactions are possible, but don't be surprised if there is some confusion when you ask as it's no longer common.  If you are using a credit or debit card anywhere in Europe, make sure all transactions are done clearly in front of you; this will minimize the possibility of credit card theft.  In a restaurant, your waiter will bring a device to the table to charge your card.   

ATMs (called bancomats) are widely available throughout Italy and unlike the US, ATMs associated with banks do not charge additional fees.  Avoid "private" ATMs like Travelex, Euronet and Forex that charge fees and unfavorable exchange rates.  If your ATM or store register suggests paying in the local rate, understand the conversion fees before you agree.  Sometimes you will get a better foreign transaction fee and exchange rate by your bank or credit card company.

Airport exchanges have notoriously bad exchange rates, Travelex being one of the worst.  Researching the exchange rate and comparing different companies can easily save you hundreds of dollars.  If you are unable to find a good exchange before you fly, consider only getting enough Euros to cover your first day in Italy.  Once in Italy, avoid using a money exchange as ATMs almost always give the best rates. 

Before you leave, let your bank know that you're traveling (so they don't shut down your card when they see an unfamiliar transaction in Italy) and make sure you know your daily ATM limit. 

Money