Exchange Rates

Why I love Italy

This is a different VLOG for me. In this one I talk about the reasons I love Italy and give tips to both first time travelers to Italy well as experienced Italian travelers.

The video covers several sections:

  • Why I love Italy
  • Top Reasons I love Italy
  • Museums
  • What to do in Italy
  • Finding Places to Eat
  • The Metro (Subway)
  • Time to go
  • Hotels
  • Currency (Euros)
  • Airfares
  • Hopper App
  • Driving in Italy
  • Put Italy on your Bucket List

If Italy is not on your bucket list, it should be. Watch the video below and see why so many people love and go to Italy.

– George

Categories: Air Fares, Autostrada, Beach Resorts, Beaches, BLOG, Church, Cooking, Dolce, Dolce far niente, Driving in Italy, Duomo, Eating, Eating Italian, Espresso, Europe, Exchange Rates, Ferries, Flights, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italian Facts, Italian language, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Metro Travel, Money, Museums, Parking Garage, Parking Meters, Passegiata, Pasta, Pastry, Pizza, Planning a vacation, Romance, Shopping, Small Towns, Towns, Trains, Travel Guides, Traveling without a tour, VLOG, Walking, Weather in Europe, Wine, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

 

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

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

How can I survive without a Tour?

English: icon for smartphone (smart phone) rel...

English: icon for smartphone (smart phone) related content (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

YES, YES, YES!!!! You really can survive very well without a large formal tour. Huge bus tours stop at restaurants that make food for a large number of people quickly. This is not the Italian way. They also can not get you into small mountain towns. The roads are to steep and narrow.

We are firm believers of not taking tours in Europe. Many people say to me that they need a tour for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. Hard to plan and I am not a planner – Planning today with the internet and smart phones is easy. GPS will prevent you from getting lost.
  2. I might miss something important – There are great guide books and Apps that will tell you about the top 10-20 things in a city. You can not miss anything important. They will also guide you through museums, castles and churches.
  3. I don’t speak the language – Large modern cities have many people that cater to tourists and can speak some English. When you speak, speak slowly and use basic English like you where talking to a child. Learn the basics like Hello, Good morning, please, thank you and how much is it.
  4. I might get lost – As we said use a GPS App on your smart phone to get you around. If you don’t have one, rent one.
  5. I am afraid to find my way around – This is pure fear … FIGHT IT! You can get around and you will find great things to see, great restaurants to eat at and meet very friendly people.

We help plan trips abroad without tours. There are so many forms of information on the internet today about travel. You have to be aware some are peoples opinions that are not the same as yours. This is true of formal tours as well. They may go to places you don’t care about. They most certainly will go to tourist places to eat (and get kick backs from these places) which are NOT the best food in these countries. Our rules are:

  1. Don’t eat at tourist restaurants or near tourist attractions. The food is for tourists not locals. Get out with the locals and go to their restaurants. You will be amazed at how good the food is.
  2. Number 1 & 2 above – trips are not hard to plan. Buy a tour book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. These books show top attractions and top things inside these attractions. You really can not miss anything important. With a map or a smart phone, you can layout where all of the attractions you want to see are. How far apart they are. You can plan what you can do each day. Next decide if you will walk, take a taxi or public transportation. Taxi drivers speak enough english to get by. Buses and Metros are easy to find and travel on. In big cities there usually is a metro stop near every major attraction. There are smart phone apps that determine where you are (GPS) and tell you where nearest metro stop is. They even guide you as you walk. Once at the metro they tell you what train to get on, which direction to go, how many stops to yours and the name of your stop. Once off the train they once again guide your walk to your attraction.
  3. Number 3 above – English is the universal language, French speak english in Italy, Japanese speak English throughout Europe. Most big cities have people who know enough English to help you. Attractions hire people who speak english as well. We like to learn some words in the country’s language we am visiting. They feel good when we try to speak their language.
  4. Number 4 & 5 above – You really can’t get lost with a good map or better yet a smart phone. Smart phones are getting cheaper each year. Plans for foreign use are cheaper than ever and at least one company is offering free foreign usage. You really need a data plan so you can use the internet. Many apps require communication with a server on the net. Map apps show you where you are and how to get to another destination like your hotel or the next attraction you want to visit. You never have to be afraid of getting around again.
  5. Be polite and kind to other people you encounter. You are their guests. They are NOT your servants. If you are friendly and nice most people will return the same to you.
  6. Exchange your money at banks not airports! Check rates they vary a lot. Use credit cards to get cash or purchase items. They charge a slightly higher exchange rate and most today do not charge extra foreign fees.

Most important is just relax and enjoy your adventure. Eat and enjoy the food, drink the wine, speak to the local people and see the sights. Take plenty of pictures and you will create a memory you will never forget. Most important be romantic, live like a European and enjoy yourself. You can do it!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Cash, Europe, Exchange Rates, Food, General Travel, GPS, Money, Mountain Towns, Museums, Phones, Romance, Small Towns, Smart Phones, Tour Groups | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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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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

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

Euros and Europe

Tis the season to travel to Europe! The dollar is down compared to the Euro which is great for us. Not long ago we were paying $1.40 to buy a Euro. Today it’s $1.24. That is about 13% better! Imagine a 13% discount on your travel expenses. This time of year is crowded with Americans and airfares can be up. You still can find a good fare if you shop. Many Americans like to travel over Thanksgiving week or the week after because they get 2 extra days. If you go Thanksgiving week you only take off 3 days and get 9 days of vacation. If you go the week after you take 5 days of vacation and get 11 days of vacation.

Christmas is also a great time in Europe. You can feel the holiday spirit in the lights and stores around Europe. In northern Europe you have an excellent chance of a white Christmas. Join the Europeans in a bar, pub or restaurant. Warm yourself by the fire and enjoy your food and drink slowly. Look around you and observe the European way of life.

Europe is romantic! Go and rekindle your relationship. Don’t travel to 21 cities in 21 days. Don’t hop country to country. Pick your favorite spot and enjoy a relaxing time with the person you love. Hold hands and stroll the streets slowly. This will make memories you will never forget.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Air Fares, Bars, Euro, Europe, Exchange Rates, Money, Romance, snow, The holidays in Europe | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Euros

Euro to dollar conversion rates are always changing. When the euro was about $1.40 everything in Europe was expensive. As it drops closer to $1.00, where it started, everything looks cheaper. It is currently at $1.27 which is a great rate. This is a good time to visit Europe. You will save on everything you buy in Europe including meals and hotels. If we look at $1.40 vs. $1.27 that is almost a 10% drop in rate. That means if your hotel, meals and spending for two weeks cost $4,000, you will save about $400.

Rates are on the down swing and may even get lower. You still have to be careful of where you convert your dollars to euros. The banks and currency exchange places can charge a lot on top of the $1.27. If you are careful you can plan a nice vacation and enjoy a savings.

Europe awaits you. If it is on your bucket list, now is a good time to go.

George & Jo Anne

 

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