Italy Basics

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The Basics

Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2, Apr - Oct)

Electricity: Electrical current in Italy is 230 volts, 50Hz. A variety of plugs are in use, including the European-style two-pin plug.

Money: The Euro (EUR) is the official currency, which is divided into 100 cents. Those arriving in Italy with foreign currency can obtain Euros through any bank, ATM or bureau de change. ATMs are widespread. Credit cards are accepted in upmarket establishments and shops around the cities. Banks are closed on weekends, but tend to have better rates than foreign exchange houses.

Currency Exchange Rates

EUR1.00 = USD 1.10GBP 0.90CAD 1.46AUD 1.63ZAR 16.65EUR 1.00NZD 1.74
Note: These rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

Language: The official language of Italy is Italian. English is understood in the larger cities but not in the more remote parts of the country.

Entry requirements for Americans: US citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond their intended stay in Italy. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.

Entry requirements for UK nationals: Passports endorsed 'British Citizen', 'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), and 'British Overseas Territories Citizen' issued by Gibraltar, must be valid on arrival. British passports with other endorsements must be valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay in Italy. A visa is not required for British passports endorsed 'British Citizen' or 'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), nor for holders of identity cards issued by Gibraltar, and endorsed 'Validated for EU travel purposes under the authority of the United Kingdom'. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period for holders of British passports with other endorsements.

Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond their intended stay in Italy. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.

Entry requirements for Australians: Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond their intended stay in Italy. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.

Entry requirements for South Africans: South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond their intended stay, and a valid Schengen visa, to enter Italy.

Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealand citizens must have a passports valid for three months beyond period of intended stay in Italy. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.

Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Italy. No visa is required.

Passport/Visa Note: The borderless region known as the Schengen Area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option, and which allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all the aforementioned countries. Furthermore, all foreign passengers to Italy must hold visible proof of financial means to support themselves while in the country, return/onward tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. Note that visitors may be refused entry, either for public security, tranquillity, order or health reasons. Extensions of stay in Italy are possible, by applying to local authorities. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Travel Health: There are no specific health risks associated with travel to Italy and you should be able to travel without special vaccinations and medications. Medical facilities in Italy are good but travel insurance is still recommended for non-EU citizens as medical attention can be expensive. EU citizens can make use of Italy's health services provided they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Although it should be possible to get most medication in Italy, travel authorities always suggest that you take any prescribed medication that you require with you, in its original packaging, and with a signed and dated letter from your doctor explaining what it is and why you need it.

Tipping: Tipping is customary in Italy and 10 to 15 percent of the bill is acceptable in restaurants (unless, as is increasingly the case, a 15 percent service charge has already been added to the bill). Hotels add a service charge of 15 to 18 percent, but it is customary to tip the service staff extra. Italians rarely tip taxi drivers, but a 5 to 10 percent tip is always appreciated.

Safety Information: Tourists are vulnerable to pickpocketing in the bigger cities, particularly on public transport, in crowded areas and around tourist sites. It is advisable to be careful when carrying large amounts of cash and valuables. Make intelligent use of hotel safes and split valuables between people, bags and pockets to limit the damage of being pickpocketed. Be particularly careful around the main train station, Termini. Visitors should be wary of groups of children, some of whom will distract attention while the others try to steal what they can. Strikes by transport workers take place regularly throughout Italy and delays are possible. Anti-austerity strikes have also become common and travellers are advised to avoid these mass gatherings which can degenerate into violence.

Local Customs: In Italy, it is an offence to sit on steps and in courtyards near public buildings, including the main churches in Florence; eating and drinking in the vicinity should also be avoided. Shorts, vests or any other immodest clothing should not be worn inside churches.

Business: Italians can be very formal and old fashioned, but are also warm and welcoming. Face to face communication is best, and often a third party introduction can speed initial negotiations. Business attire is formal and very stylish, and handshakes are the norm. First impressions count for a lot in Italy. Expect plenty of gesticulating and interruptions, or people talking over each other. Business cards are used. Unfortunately the bureaucracy in Italy can slow down deal-making. Business hours are usually 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, but can vary according to season and region.

Communications: The international access code for Italy is +39. City/area codes are in use, e.g. 02 for Milan and 06 for Rome. There can be high surcharges on calls made from hotels. Public telephone boxes take phone cards for local and international calls, which can be bought from newsagents. Hotels, cafes and restaurants offering free wifi are widely available. As international roaming costs can be high, purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option.

Duty Free: Travellers over 17 years from non-EU countries do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco. As well as this, travellers do not have to pay duty on 4 litres of wine, 16 lires of beer or 1 litre of spirits over 22 percent volume, or 2 litres of alcoholic beverages less than 22 percent volume. Other goods up to the value of €300 is also permitted (reduced to €150 for children under 15). Travellers from EU countries travelling within the EU are limited to 110 litres of beer, 90 litres of wine (of which 60 litres may be sparkling), 20 litres of fortified wine, 10 litres of spirits, 1kg of tobacco, 800 cigarettes, 200 cigars, 1kg of tobacco and 400 cigarellos, perfume up to 50g or 250ml eau de toilette, and other goods for personal consumption to the value of €175 per adult or €90 for children under 15 years. EU citizens are also able to claim tax back if the VAT rates in Italy are higher than those in their country of residence. Prohibited items include narcotic drugs, medicinal products, arms and weapons, explosives and protected animal and plant species.