Italy Travel Information
GMT +1 (GMT +2, Apr - Oct)
Electrical current in Italy is 230 volts, 50Hz. A variety of plugs are in use, including the European-style two-pin plug.
The official language of Italy is Italian. English is understood in the larger cities but not in the more remote parts of the country.
There are no specific health risks associated with travel to Italy and visitors 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), with UK citizens using their Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). The GHIC replaced the EHIC for UK citizens and allows UK citizens access to state healthcare during visits to the EU. The GHIC is not valid in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, nor is it an alternative to travel insurance. Although it should be possible to get most medication in Italy, travel authorities always suggest taking any prescribed medication in its original packaging with a signed and dated letter from a doctor.
Tipping is customary in Italy and 10 to 15 percent of the bill is acceptable in restaurants, unless 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.
Tourists are vulnerable to pickpocketing in the bigger cities, particularly on public transport, in crowded areas and around tourist sites. It's advisable to be careful when carrying large amounts of cash and valuables. 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.
In Italy, it's 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.
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 stylish, and handshakes are the norm with first impressions counting a lot in Italy. Expect plenty of gesticulating, 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.
The international access code for Italy is +39. City/area codes are in use, e.g. 02 for Milan and 06 for Rome. 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.
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 €430 is also permitted (reduced to €175 for children under 15).
Travellers from EU countries travelling within the EU are limited to 110 litres of beer, 90 litres of wine, 10 litres of fortified wine, 10 litres of spirits and 1kg of tobacco, 800 cigarettes, 200 cigars or 400 cigarellos. Prohibited items include narcotic drugs, medicinal products, arms and weapons, explosives and protected animal and plant species.
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