Or what You need to Know about currency conversion (and your bank might not tell you)
Your clothes are almost packed into your new suitcase, you’ve read the travel books, paid for the holiday but have you forgotten something? Have you really given thought to how to access your money when on holiday? This could make or break your well earned travel plans.
Traveller’s cheques were the way to go in the past, but waiting in line at the bank is not fun at home and definitely not fun in a foreign country. There are much better ways.
I really dislike paying exorbitant fees to banks for the privilege of using my own money overseas, and that is why I think I might have come up with a couple of options that could cut down these charges, but first:
The Starting Point – Dreaded Foreign Exchange Rate
The first thing you need to know is that the bank or organisation you decide to deal with to exchange your money for foreign currency will build a margin into the exchange rate they offer you relative to the official exchange rate.
The official exchange rate: As of today, using the official exchange rate, you will receive is 0 .72 euro cents for every $1.00. But the organisation you deal with will definitely not give you the official exchange rate. For example the ANZ will give you .69 euro cents for $1.00 and other banks will vary around this figure – the bank then keeps the 3 cent margin. This is an unavoidable cost for all foreign exchange transactions but we are mentioning it here so that you are aware. The real point of difference between the banks are the other charges in addition to the currency conversion.
‘The Path of the Gods’ – how could a simple walk deserve such an elaborate and romantic title, even by Italian standards, wouldn’t that be just a little exaggerated? Well, after just completing this particular walk, which is one of the many stunning paths of the Amalfi coast, I must admit I totally agree. The scenery from this walk, which starts in Bomerano and finishes in Positano, is nothing short of spectacular and awe-inspiring, photographs really don’t match the beauty of the coastline.
So your trusty sneakers are nearly worn out after treading the narrow streets and alleys, how else will you discover Venice? If you are like the many visitors to Venice you will probably take the cheapest public transport option – the water buses, or vaporetti. Venice’s ‘vaporetto’ system is not too difficult to master – the most confusing part of the process is trying to fathom the route map which can definitely bring your IQ into question – well, it does look like pieces of coloured spaghetti thrown onto a map.
These vaporetti give a wonderful perspective to the city that walking just can’t render – to see the impressive palaces which line the Grand Canal, with the gorgeous and elaborate facades is a wonderful experience.
If you haven’t yet picked up the book My Amalfi Coast by Amanda Tabberer (the daughter of a well know Australian television personality Maggie Tabberer) and you are toying with the idea of visiting the Amalfi coast – a word of advice – go straight to the bookshop to buy it, or at least have a flick through. This colourful coffee table book is a treasure trove of information on the Amalfi coast with the most brilliant photographs which showcase the attraction of this most stunning area. The book really should be a bible for anyone wanting to visit this splendid part of Italy and will encourage visitors to step out to the other lesser known villages along the coast instead of sticking to the better known towns, and tourist haunts, such as Amalfi, Sorrento and Positano.
Always on the look out for some new eating experiences, I flicked through the book and found Da Adolfo, and of course also listened to recommendations from others who had stayed in Positano and visited Da Adolfo more than once (what a great recommendation!). It seems as though Amanda had a bit of a vested interest in recommending this Positano institution – she was married to Sergio the son of the original owner and lived in Positano for 18 years, which explains her intense knowledge of the area – but her recommendation was spot on!
If you have travelled around the mainland of Italy but want to experience something a little different, then you might want to consider a side trip to Sardinia, or Sardegna, the correct Italian name. Ryanair, one of Europe’s budget airlines, flies from Rome Ciampino to Cagliari which is the south of the island and although there are many different ways to discover the island – this is the route we decided to take.
Cagliari – Oristano – Alghero
Cagliari is the capital of Sardinia and has a delightful old town around an old port area. The main attraction of the area is the Castello (castle) neighbourhood which is still partially enclosed by the walls. The place to be seen is the main piazza where the locals gather at night to eat on the street, weather permitting, and catch up on the daily news. There are some wonderful inexpensive restaurants in this area so definitely worth visiting. We did notice on nearly every menu that ’cavallo’ or horse was on offer – so be careful when ordering and take a good phrase book if this is not what you would like to try.
Our base: Sa Domu Cheta – a great small hotel, more of a bed and breakfast really, it consists of two buildings next to each other. Walking distance to the main piazza, comfortable beds, newly renovated, delicious and healthy breakfast, and free internet. http://www.sadomucheta.it
Poppies, poppies everywhere – Red poppies (papavero) sprout up in May and seem to blanket every nook and cranny. Covering the rail tracks on approach into Rome central station, which at other times looks rather barren and ugly, the poppies are just a peak preview of the spectacular display which awaits us on our discovery of the Tuscan hills.
Even my friends will agree, as I tell them often enough, that I love my iphone. But what I definitely don’t love is the shock of opening the bill when arriving home from Italy. I should know better – as I am aware that roaming charges are outrageous at around $7.00 a minute – and that is even if someone is calling you! But…there are always times when I have forgotten to turn my phone off and receive a call in the middle of the night, you know those calls…the local charity wanting to sell more raffle tickets. Even when I try to get them off the phone quickly, but politely, the call might have cost me $20 – ouch!
In addition to this, the iphone (and others) has a ‘fetch data’ function, which is great at home as all of your emails etc., are ‘pushed’ to your phone enabling you to check your mail in the coffee shop. This function overseas is a recipe for disaster – data charges can be huge. Here are some great tips for avoiding a heart attack when opening your post holiday phone bill…… Continue reading →