Whether you’re there for the food, history, or the cheap vino, there’s plenty to explore in this rich land!
1. Don’t visit in the summer
It is usually peak season, and the place will be teeming with tourists. Closer to autumn is a safer bet, but the place will still be crowded, as long as temperatures are warm. Winter is said to be the time when most shops are closed, and that is to be expected during off-peak season. However, you won’t be missing much. In fact, winter might be a better season to visit with its cooler and drier temperatures, and there will be less people around – which makes it easier for you to snap Insta-worthy shots.
2. Get a good data roaming service
Unlike nearby countries within the region where it’s cheaper to get a local SIM card or a wifi dongle, it may make more sense to purchase the data roaming service you have from your existing mobile provider. Do your sums and compare them though. Personally, 3GB is more than enough for a 11 day trip.
3. Head straight for the automated clearance system at the airport
Skip the queues and head straight for the machines, where you get to scan your passport, instead of waiting for the long lines where other nationalities go.
4. Keep your bags close
Keeping an eye out for pickpockets is a common warning when you’re headed to Italy, especially when you are going to touristy spots. Be a smart traveller and carry an anti-theft bag or purse, or a money belt. However, try not to look like a complete tourist at the same time. Simply use your common sense as much as you can (i.e. no unzipped bags, and no backpacks where would-be thieves can access your valuables easily).
5. Use your student card!
Get a ton of discounts when you apply for an International Student Identity Card, at countries including France, Spain, and Italy! The card will help you save on accommodation, travel, insurance, shopping, dining, and tickets to tourist attractions.
6. Don’t ask for pineapples on your pizza!
If it’s your first visit to Italy, don’t expect Italian food you’re used to. Chances are, the food you know may have been altered to fit the taste buds in your country. Keep an open mind and try what the locals have to offer. You may be surprised, especially since dishes like pizza and pasta did originate from them.
7. Ask for small change from your money changer
Most shops may not accept Euro notes above 100, and you may find some shopkeepers having to ask others for smaller change. See if you can ask your money changer for notes in denominations of 50 Euros and below.
8. Time your visits
Make the most out of your visits to many of Italy’s museums by doing your research! Art aficionados and history buffs can now visit places like the Pitti Palace in Florence, and the ruins in Pompeii for free if you know when to visit. And if you’re hoping for more time with the exquisite pieces in the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel, time your visits to coincide with the Pope’s weekly Papal Audiences which happens every Wednesday morning.
9. Utilise the city tours and passes
Simple words like If it’s your first time to the major cities like Rome and Florence, there are several tours ranging from a day or two that’ll take you around the major tourist attractions. The Milan Pass, for a fixed rate, offers free entry to the rooftop of the famed Duomo and provides a map and guidebook for easy access.
10. Go cashless if you can
Options include Alipay and the YouTrip card – a multi-currency travel wallet and app that lets you make payments seamlessly.
11. Try staying in an Airbnb
Decent hotel rooms can get expensive per night. Look to amazing Airbnbs that are affordable too if you’re going free and easy!
12. Don’t forget your tax refunds
Home to notable brands such as Prada, Gucci, and Versace, it’s no secret that we usually look forward to the slightly more affordable rates we can get from their bags and wallets. While you’re busy shopping – whether at the boutiques or at the outlet malls, don’t forget to file your tax refunds. You are eligible to tax refunds when you spend 175 Euros and above in a single receipt.
13. Prepare some money for your stop over
Chances are, your flight will have at least one stop over. Common stopovers include Dubai and Doha when you fly on Emirates or Qatar Airways. If this is your first trip and you don’t intend to visit countries that’ll stop by this area again, use your credit card, even if the returns aren’t as good. You don’t want change given to you in currency you may never use again. Or, if you intend to come back, it’s a good idea to save your change for your next trip.
14. Look out for restaurant cover charges
It’s not enough to just look at the menu when you’re decided on where to have your lunch or dinner. Inquire about the restaurant’s cover charge – some can go up to 5 Euros per person.
15. Have a camera at the ready!
Italy is full of scenic sights that you’ll probably find yourself scrambling for your camera (phone or otherwise) at every corner. Think grand buildings with Corinthian pillars or medieval structures, or even the lush rolling countryside filled with olive trees or vineyards that offers picture-perfect opportunities every time.
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