During my latest trip to Italy, I managed to blow my travel budget so badly, it still hurts. A lot of things went wrong, from most basic to some really unexpected ones. I learned a lot and made a list of top lessons to share with other travelers (so you won’t have to repeat my mistakes).
Here is my top travel budget advice and lessons learned.
Lesson Nr. 1 – Always bring passport!
Although EU citizens are allowed to travel within European Union with national ID card, this time it was different. Upon arrival in Helsinki airport, we had to find out that due to G7 summit in Sicily, whole May 2017 visitors are allowed to enter Italy with valid passports only. For us it meant – no flight that day, re-booking our tickets for the next day, going back home to get the passports, loosing the payment for first night in Rome and 24 hours less for Rome sightseeing. For our wallet – 230€/person.
Good thing we had 3 nights in Rome and first day was simply to hang out and relax after flight. Although we lost valuable time, the rest of the trip could go on as planned.
Lesson Nr. 2 – Don’t book trains unless you are sure about your plans!
Changing of plans frequently can be costly. I had to find out about that the hard way. Italian train system is great and can be cheap if booked well in advance, but what happens when you realize you’d like to stay longer in one place.
During our stay in Florence we loved it so much and had so little time to visit museums, that it occurred to me – why not change our tickets and depart later same day (14:00 instead of 07:30 AM). The idea was brilliant – we could sleep in, visit the museum and arrive in Milan just in time for check in. All good, except the fact that train ticket prices have gone up and we had to pay the difference. Luckily it was not so much – just around 15€/person.
Lesson Nr. 3 – Choose your destinations carefully
Originally we planned to spend last day and night in Como – on a lake in the Alps. It looked so romantic and cute on the pictures. So, I got us tickets from Florence to Como and back to Bergamo on the next day. The hotel was booked as well.
About one week before departure it started to rain heavily in the area. Of course, its mountains and spring time can be very unpredictable. So I decided to just go to Milan instead and see what the city has to offer. Total loss – around 30€/person.
Sadly, we didn’t enjoy Milan that much – should have stayed in Florence or Rome instead.
Lesson Nr. 4 – Beware of city tax
All hotels in Italian cities we stayed at, charged us with city tax. Apparently, this is collected separately and goes to the state. Make sure to familiarize yourself with he amount. Usually these are between 3€ and 5€ per person per night. If you think about it – it does increase your hotel bill significantly in the end.
Lesson Nr. 5 – Tips, restaurant service fees and coffee
You are generally not required to leave tips in Italian restaurants. When you get the bill, service fee is already included. Keep that in mind when you order, so you won’t be surprised by the total amount.One small tip – if all you need is a quick shot of espresso, don’t sit down at the bar or cafe. All you need to do is proceed to the bar and tell them you’ll have it on the go. It’s very common in Italy to drink coffee while standing up. As soon as you sit down, the price would most probably be twice as high. Most places we went to we paid just 1€ for the coffee. It’s very small amount of coffee, but it’s also very strong and insanely delicious!
Don’t forget to have fun!
All of those things didn’t make my holiday worse in any way. Learning is fun and you just need to be prepared for such situations and have a backup plan. I would suggest having a small back up budget in case something goes wrong. In the end – it’s up to you make the most out of your holiday and have a great time, no matter what happens.