Once I had determined that this trip to Rome was going to be a reality I went overboard with the pre-travel planning. I thought about stretching my one week holiday into 10 days (weekends inclusive) and going to Paris or Amsterdam for part of it. After I convinced myself to tackle one foreign country at a time, I thought about splitting my time in various Italian cities including Venice, Florence, and Rome.
I soon came to my senses and decided to relax in one city – Rome. My travel planning begun in July. I checked out travel guides from the public library including the popular Rick Steve’s guide to Rome but settled on the Eyewitness travel guide as the one I would buy. I loved the pictures, glossy pages, maps and details however it was slightly heavy. I checked out Dr. Blair’s Italian in no time from the library to familiarize myself with the language. I found it to be a strange but effective enough way to learn a new language. It certainly was captivating. If I had more time, I would have used a second guide as well, but this sufficed for my basic needs.
Obtaining a Schengen visa from the Italian consulate was not difficult. After collecting proof of employment, health insurance, and finances, it took three days to get the visa. I did have to buy the airfare and at least one hotel night beforehand and this got me worried as to whether the Italian consulate would reimburse me if they decided for whatever reason not to grant me a visa. But that was a scenario I did not have to deal with.
Since I already had a four digit PIN for my debit card I decided to use ATMS to get cash (Euros) in Italy. This actually has the best exchange rate. I did get a couple hundred Euros from my bank here before leaving for if I couldn’t get money out of the ATM immediately after arrival. I notified my bank about my travel plans so they wouldn’t put a freeze on my account for “fraudulent activity”. I should have taken a second credit card for when my debit card did not work, but I had forgotten my PIN for it rendering it useless.
Luckily, I did not need a backup. However, despite this planning Bank of America did put a freeze on my account after two withdrawals (all that I had planned to do anyway). They only recorded the day my trip begun and since they did not have a return date any other activity was fraudulent in their eyes. I didn’t realize this until after I returned though. Thank goodness that my plan all along was to withdraw the largest amount I could each time I went to the ATM to limit the number of fees – the Italian bank fees, the exchange rate fees, and Bank of America’s fees. Alas Bank of America does not have a partner in Italy so that their fees would be waived. Apparently, the Vatican ATM does not charge a conversion fee, but I didn’t have the opportunity to try it.
As a young woman travelling alone in a foreign country, safety is a concern. I actually couldn’t believe my mother did not give me grief about my plans to go to Rome which I shared with her only the week before travel. Anyway I need not be told to travel smart.
- Luggage that I can carry on my own: I settled on a backpack carry-on with limited change of clothing.
- Shoes I can comfortably walk in (and run in if necessary!): very important for Rome given the cobblestone roads
- Sunglasses to
hide my pretty eyesnot make eye contact with strangers and to hide my confusion as I wander the strange streets lost
- A well zippered handbag that can be worn across the chest: apparently Rome is pickpocket heaven although I was not victimized and didn’t witness any theft.
- Photocopy of my passport and credit cards for when a loss occured: I carried the photocopy around leaving the passport at the bed & breakfast I was staying at.
- Common sense: which meant forgoing the chance to hop onto a Vespa with a handsome (or not) Roman man – who knows where he would have zipped me off to?!
- A cell phone: instead of relying on T-mobile’s astronomical international roaming rates, I used ekit’s global passport which I bought on eBay for cheap.