Euro

Puglia, Italy

Puglia is a region on the south-east side of Italy on the Adriatic Sea. It includes the heel of the boot. The population is about 4,000,000 people. It includes the city of Bari. Puglia is home to the Trulli homes (cone-shaped roofs). It has excellent wine and food and very interesting small cities. The cities are usually all white with beautiful flowers to add color.

Come walk with us around: Alberobello, Bari, Cisternino, Polignano a Mare (Cave Restaurant – Grotta Palazzese), Locorotondo and Ostuni. Watch the YouTube video below to see these wonderful cities.

– George Febish

Categories: Adriatic Sea, Alberobello, Bari, Cisternino, Eating Italian, Euro, Food, General Travel, Grotta Palazzese, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Locorotondo, Ostuni, Polignano a Mare, Puglia, Romance, sea, Towns, Tulli, VLOG, Walking, Wine, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Exchange Rates are getting Better

The dollar to Euro exchange rate is getting better. Today $1.086 for a Euro. When we bought our condo in Italy the rate was $1.34 for a Euro. Financial predictions are that it will get even better over the next year. By next summer we should see a 1 to 1 ratio or even less than a dollar for a Euro.

Euro

The exchange rate has so much to do with what you will really pay for your vacation. You need cash for cabs, food and some stores. You won’t get cash at the above rate. Banks here will charge a higher rate to buy Euros. Banks in Italy will do the same. The best is credit cards with no foreign fees. You will still pay a higher rate but it will probably be the best rate you can get. Go to an  ATM in Italy and get cash with your credit card or debit card.

Capital One Venture

Use your credit cards where possible at restaurants, museums, hotels, etc. We know we go back to Italy every year so we never exchange our Euros back to dollars. Just keep them with your passports in a safe place. Then when you take your next trip, you will have some Euros.

George & Jo Anne

 

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How to Plan a Trip to Italy – Part 14

All good things come to an end. It is your last day in Italy. Most large cities have several ways to get to the airport. Listed in order from least expensive to most:

  1. Hotel shuttle – Many hotels have a shuttle bus to the airport.
  2. Train – You can usually find a train to the airport. In Rome for example you can take a Metro (subway) or taxi from your hotel to the train station. Then there is a special train to the airport. In Rome it takes you right into the parking structure where the rental cars are. It is a short walk to the terminals.
  3. Driver and Car service – Hire a driver to take you from your hotel to the airport. In Rome there are several of these services.
  4. Taxi – Take a taxi from your hotel to the airport.

Trains Italy

We did not include a car since you really don’t want a car in most Italian large cities. The streets are crazy, you need a special permit to enter the old town areas and it is expensive to park.

At the airport you have time and look at all the stores. These are usually very expensive stores but fun to look at. Then you see Duty Free Shopping. I am amazed at how many people get duped into duty-free buying. Duty free doesn’t mean cheapest it just means no duty (tax). We find that wines and liquor at duty-free is 20-30% higher than our tax-free store, Total Wines, in Delaware. Duty on these products is nowhere near that high.

Airport

Buy your gifts in town at small inexpensive non tourist places and wait to buy your alcohol at home. The only exception is if you find something you can not get at home or if it is a local product and much cheaper than home. Never buy it at duty-free.

Remember if there is any possibility of a trip back to Europe, DO NOT EXCHANGE YOUR EUROS BACK TO DOLLARS! Save your money for the next trip.

Board your plane and relax. You are on your way home! Yes it is depressing to leave Italy but you will be back. Italy has a pull on us. It makes us want to return. It forces us to eat well and be romantic. It slows us down … If we allow it.

American Airlines

Tomorrow is the last in this series. We will talk about cultural shock of coming home!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Airplanes, Duty-Free, Euro, Europe, Italy, Metro Travel, Parking Garage, Taxi, Trains | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How to Plan a Trip to Italy – Part 8

Having money for your trip is important and you will need Euros. Exchanging dollars for Euros and then back to dollars at the end of your trip costs fees:

  1. World bank Exchange Rate – This is the exchange rate you see on the internet. Today it is $1.078 per Euro. This rate is basically impossible to get.
  2. Added Bank Fees – This is a higher rate added onto the World Bank Rate at your local bank. They usually pay a third-party to handle the Euros and this costs money. Today’s Wells Fargo exchange rate is $1.338 per Euro. That is $.26 per Euro higher or $260 per 1,000 euro higher fee.
  3. Airport Exchange Booths – Theses are the most expensive exchange places in the world. DO NOT USE THEM!
  4. Credit Card Cash Advances  at an ATM– These can be reasonable depending on your card. They are higher than the World Bank Rates but can be lower than bank rates. There is usually an additional fee over and above the inflated rate even on cards that have no foreign fees (the no fee applies to purchases only and not cash advances at an ATM).
  5. Credit Card Purchases – Most cards today have a No Fee foreign transaction policy.This doesn’t get you cash in your pocket but it will be the cheapest way to pay restaurants and purchases. There is a additional exchange fee associated over an above the World Bank Rate.

Euro

Euros come in paper in denominations between 5€ and 500€. Coins are in denominations between .01€ and 2€. The 1€ and 2€ coins are the biggest of the coins so they are easy to spot.

euro coin 1 euro coin 2

                     1 Euro Coin                                      2 Euro Coin

Paper notes are constant across Europe but coins change by country.

Exchange your money well so you have more to spend in Italy and enjoy! Tomorrow we will talk about last-minute planning.

If you plan to return to Europe in a year or even a few years, DO NOT EXCHANGE YOUR EUROs BACK TO DOLLARS! Save them in  a safe place and use them on your next trip to Europe.

George & Jo Anne

 

 

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Exchange Rates, The Good, Bad and Ugly

Self Portrait / Exchange Rates

Self Portrait / Exchange Rates (Photo credit: Dominic’s pics)

Exchange rates can be good or bad and are usually very ugly! A vacation can suddenly cost you much more because you exchanged money at the wrong place.

Most people are unaware of how expensive exchange rates can be. The World Bank sets rates each day. These are what we see on the Internet. Everyone charges higher rates than these so they can make money. The question is how much higher. Exchange booths at the airports are the worst. DO NOT USE THESE PLACES! You could pay as much as 25% higher than the World Bank Rate. That means a Euro rate of 1 Euro costing you $1.10 would really cost you $1.38 or $.28 cents more on every dollar you spend. A $3,000 vacation becomes $ 3,840. Could use have used that extra $840? Banks are the lowest but their rates vary a lot. Shop around. Banks that don’t stock foreign currency will charge their suppliers rate plus add their own on or charge a flat fee.

On top of that many credit cards charge a fee on top of their already inflated rates. Today many credit cards are offering no fee foreign purchases. This does not include getting cash at an ATM! The extra fee is dropped  but they still inflate the World Bank Rate. These cards however, are usually your best rate for foreign purchases. Shop around for the best card.

If you are moving very large amounts of money like to buy a home beware! 100,000 euro purchase would, at the above rates, cost you $138,00. That is $28,000 over the World Bank Rate. There are brokers in the UK and some in the US that will give you World Bank Rates for large amounts of exchange and NO fees. You send them dollars and they place Euros into your foreign bank account.

Every dollar you save can help pay for your trip. Exchange your left over Euros back to dollars is very ugly. You lose another 25% on the exchange or more. These Euros cost you an amazing 50%. We go to Italy so often we never change Euros back to dollars. We just hold on to them until the next vacation. If we need a few Euros so we would have some cash in Europe, we would order money at a local bank with favorable rates. Then charge most things in Europe on our no fee credit card.

George & Jo Anne

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Categories: Dollars, Euro, Europe, Exchange Rates, General Travel, Italy, World Bank Rates | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Euro Exchange rate

When we travel to Europe we get hurt by the current poor exchange rates. The dollar and Euro started out equal. 1 dollar got you 1 Euro. Today the exchange rate is the best it has been in a long time. $1.10 gets you 1 Euro. You are loosing 10% of your money in exchange rates. What makes it worse is those rates are published best rates. If you exchange at an airport, as many Americans do, the rate is much worse. If you go to Europe once a year or once every two years, don’t exchange your Euros back to dollars! Keep them in your pocket for the next trip. This will protect you from paying fees to get the Euros then more fees to get dollars back. Credit cards have hidden exchange rate fees! First they usually charge higher than the published rate but not too much. Then they hit you with a Foreign exchange fee. These combined fees mean you are paying very a high rate for all you spend in Europe. Get a Credit Card that does not charge fees. I use Bank of America’s Visa card.

Historically exchange rates look like the DOW Jones Market fluctuations. This link shows you historical values. Vacations can be expensive but paying 30% to 40% more to exchange money is a useless expense. Save your money and go to a nice restaurant in Europe.

George & Jo Anne

 

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Florence Continued …

Florence is a beautiful city but can be crowded. We went early in the season but there was still crowds at David and the Uffizi. You can buy a Florence pass but it is very expensive. It is worthwhile only if you will hit most places you can use it in the time frame designated. A better choice is to buy a reservation for 4 Euros. This gives you a half hour time slot that you get in a special line and basically walk in. David and the Uffizi had hour long lines but we went in with our reservations in a few minutes.

David is at the Accademia Gallery Museum in Florence. There are many things to see here besides David but David is magnificent. His skin looks like flesh not marble. In his left hand is a slingshot and a stone in his right. He is ready for Goliath. There is a small tree stump behind his right leg. This helps support the large statues weight. It keeps it from toppling over.

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David

He was originally in the piazza near the Uffizi but the weather would have destroyed him. They moved him into the museum and made a replica for the piazza.

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Replica

There are unfinished statues in the museum as well. Michelangelo felt they were done! They were breaking out of the stone and he could do no more to improve them.

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Unfinished Statue

Next stop was the Uffizi Museum near the Ponte Vecchio. This was the offices of the Medici and the government of Florence at the time. The museum is very large on both sides of a street. There are many great works of art here like:

  1. Primavera
  2. Venus of Urbino
  3. Adoration of the Magi (several)

IMG_2673 IMG_2676 IMG_2684

The church of Santa Croce is another large and beautiful church. It can also have lines but there is a peaceful feeling inside.

Crossing the Ponte Vecchio and turning right leads to an old area that was the artist area. There are still some along the main streets but high prices have moved most of them out of Florence.

The best views of Ponte Vecchio are from one of the bridges next to it. You can view the bridge in its entirety and get great photos. Florence has many different types of restaurants that serve meat, fish, pasta and pizza. The wine is good as well. The main wine regions of Italy are nearby and you can find Italy’s finest wines:

  1. Brunello
  2. Montepulciano
  3. Chianti

Enjoy your stay in Florence. Spend at least 3 nights (two full days). Buy reservations and enjoy what this great city has to offer.

Tomorrow we drive south on the Autostrada to our home in Velina (Campania).

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: City Passes, Euro, Europe, Florence, General Travel, Italy, Museums, Pizza, Romance, Tuscany, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Much Money to Take on a European Vacation?

Money is a very personal thing. How much you need is related to how you spend, what you buy and how often. If you are going buy Gucci products in Italy, you will need some money. We like to arrive with some Euros in our pocket. Maybe 200- 400 so we can buy tickets, take a taxi, etc. Most restaurants and stores take credit cards. There used to be a problem at some places because the European credit card machines require a computer chip on their credit cards. The US has finally caught up to the rest of the world and most banks are now issuing credit cards with both the old stripe and the new chip. Choose a credit card that does NOT charge an extra foreign transaction fee. There are many today to choose from.

You can get money from a European ATM easily. His is the easiest way to replenish your cash. Banks offer great exchange rates but can take a while to fill out paperwork and get your cash. When you are returning home, don’t exchange your Euros back to dollars if you plan another trip in the next few years. The double exchange is very costly. Hold on to your Euros with your passports and use them on the next trip.

Traveling is fun and money shouldn’t be the main concern. You are on vacation and you should relax and enjoy the trip.

George & Jo Anne

Categories: Cash, Dollars, Euro, Europe, Exchange Rates, Italy, Taxi | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Italian Hotels

OK, we have been talking about how to save money when going to Italy. Hotels are a big part of your vacation budget. There are hotels and there are hotels. If your budget is unlimited, then go to the big resorts and spend $500 to $1,000 a night. If you would rather save some money to buy a pair of Italian shoes or a Murano glass necklace then here are some tips:

  1. American chain hotels are typically more expensive. We avoid these at all costs except at the Rome airport for one night.
  2. Italian hotels can be cheaper. Make sure you have a private bath with your room or you will be sharing it with others. These rooms can be small and in Rome some are VERY small. You are only sleeping there! You should be out of your room seeing Italy for as many hours in the day as possible.
  3. Italian resort hotels in big cities or at the lakes are expensive. If this is what you want and your budget permits then by all means enjoy it. In Capri on our honeymoon we spent the big bucks (500 Euros/night) for a great hotel with a view.
  4. B&Bs are all over Italy now. Like in America they can be more expensive than a budget hotel but are usually run by a family. This can give you more of an Italian experience.
  5. Smaller cities usually have small Italian hotels at reasonable prices. Our Italian home is at a sea resort and rooms in season are about $100/night and only $50/night the rest of the year.
  6. Agriturismo  is a small B&B like establishment that means a combination of tourist and agriculture. These are farm-house hotels that are great for the whole family. They grow organic vegetables and provide organic farm raised meats and cheeses right off their farm. These are obviously outside of larger cities.

Where ever you choose to stay, have fun. We choose a hotel by location. We like to stay central to the things we want to see. You can always find a bar nearby for breakfast (if your hotel doesn’t provide one) and trattorias to eat at. Breakfasts at Italian hotels are buffet style with hard-boiled eggs (no omelets or over easy usually), cereals, juices, cheese and cold cuts and wonderful bread. There are also lots of fruit and yogurt. Enjoy it.

George & Jo Anne

 

 

Categories: Agriturismo, B&Bs, Bars, Bread, Eating Italian, Euro, Europe, General Travel, Hotels, Italy, Small Towns | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

US Dollar vs Euro

Yesterday we talked about can you afford Italy. Any discussion on cost in a foreign country has to take into consideration the conversion rates. Last year it cost $1.34 to buy 1 Euro. That was the World Bank Rate. Your actual costs were higher depending on where you buy the Euros. Banks add-on .10 to .15 cents and exchange booths at the airport add-on much more! The best conversions are often with credit cards. They add-on an amount but not as high usually as banks and exchanges places. Many credit card companies now offer no fee foreign purchases. They still tack on cents to the World Bank rate but do not then charge an addition fee for foreign purchases.

Today the rate is $1.08 per Euro. That is a savings of $.26 per Euro from last year. If you spend $3,000 that is a savings of $780. That will buy you something nice on your trip. Europe has not been as cheap in a long time. Now is the time to book a trip and enjoy romantic Italy. The lower exchange rate makes hotels, meals, gifts, purchases and tours bought in Italy cheaper by 25% from last year. Airfares are the same since you buy them with dollars. If you purchase a local airfare or train tickets while in Italy it also will be 25% cheaper.

Enjoy the savings while it lasts. Check off another item on your bucket list!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Air Fares, Euro, Europe, Exchange Rates, Hotels, Italy, Money, Trains | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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