Monday, April 4, 2011

everything in its right place

As everything comes down to the wire for my departure, I have been super busy! That's probably obvious (and an understatement) but here's a brief recap of Italy-related preparations since my last update.

My flight is booked! Just when I start to become anxious about something- and believe me when I say I am the most patient person I know- that's when it turns out alright. Of course. It is hard to understand the pace at which Italy does things, being at a distance for the moment. I am excited for the more relaxed nature of doing things, as opposed to the American "always in a hurry" mentality, though. My original flight preferences skyrocketed in price by the time I was able to book so I ended up with an 8-hour layover on the way THERE in luxurious Newark, NJ. LOL! I have no idea how I will spend 8 hours in an airport on US soil. Most likely, I'll be doing things online (and checking out Dunkin Donuts- they have one!). The flight is obviously an overnighter and I'll arrive in Rome at 7:45am local time. This will seem like over 24 hours to me, what-with departing here at 6:03am our time. I do realize there's a 7-hour time difference so mathematically, 24 hours is not correct but we are figuring in jetlag here.

The return flight is a bit more "exciting," if that's the correct word I'm searching for. I fly from Rome into Munich for a couple hours, then over to Chicago, my least favorite airport I've ever visited. O'Hare is huge and they always seem to organize flights so that you are running from one end of the airport to the the complete opposite side on minimal time. I missed my flight the last time I was there. I was booked with a 45 minute layover going from concourse B on the right end (if you consult a map) to concourse L on the left end- no kidding. I am relieved to see the international arrivals are all in one terminal and my layover is something like 2 hours. Then I fly back here from Chicago, which is just over an hour flight.

Other than arranging and booking my flight, I have also obtained my International Driver's Permit!! This was super exciting, as I've never had one before. The process is as simple as getting a passport-sized photo taken, showing your current/valid license, signing some dotted lines and paying $15. Our local AAA has a travel store with this service so I was able to pick up a few items for my trip while I was there too. The Permit is actually a little paper book, like a mock-passport. This was a bit disappointing. I think I imagined more of an ID card but then again, $15 isn't going to produce anything fancy. I also waited in the wrong area for my #605 to be called (they were on #40 when I got there...) and when I was finally called up, I was informed I only needed to go to the travel store, where I had started out browsing while waiting for my #. Ha!!

I have also purchased some Euros here to get me started. Now I'm wondering if it's better to wait and exchange at a local bank in Rome for more or to do another exchange here. I'm also getting a Visa Travel Money card from a bank with some money on that for a backup form of currency. Italy is heavily-Euro-centric though and "cash is king." If anyone has knowledge of the Rome bank vs local exchange of Euros idea, let me know. They used travelers' checks and Lira the last time I was in Italy so long ago.

4.5 weeks to go...!


  1. Not long now!! :) Tourist sites in Italy accept dollars for larger purchases, but really, euros are the only way to go. No one really uses Traveller's cheques anymore. Most people simply use ATMS over there to get money out directly. You'll need to check that your checking account card has the right circuit, e.g. VISA debit or maestro and let them know you plan to use it abroad. You should also check that you have chip and pin, as that's really big in Europe too, so rather than signing for things when you use your card, you need your four-digit pin number. Finally, some cards allow free international withdraws (I'm with HSBC and they have this), which can save you a fortune in commission.

    Oooh how exciting!!

  2. Thanks, Pete! That's pretty much what I was gathering but the chip & pin notion is one I'll have to double check on. I did go into my bank to let them know I was going abroad but double-checking bank things is good in any situation LOL

  3. No travelers' checks at all, but if I were you I wouldn't change much money (you never know...). I bet that in a couple of days you'll be able to see if you can make it with credit card only, and maybe use the Euros only for grocery shops and little expenses.
    Pay attention to the pin number thing, as said above!
    If the ATM withdraw commisions are too expensive (and you plan to stay more than a couple of weeks), consider to locally purchase a debit card called "Postepay" made by Italian Postal service... it costs 5euros only, you can make it in a local office in a couple of minutes, and the ATM withdraw fee is 1eur only.