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Guided Tours Vs. Luxury Travel Vacation Packages

So, you have decided to book a luxury vacation. It is time to call your travel agent. The first question most travel agents will ask you is “Are you interested in a cruise, a tour, or a travel package?” You know that cruises are not for you, but what about a tour? And what exactly is the difference between a tour and a travel package anyways? With different definitions and inclusions, it is important for any traveler to be informed enough to make the best decision for their unique needs.


When you are considering booking a tour for your luxury travel vacation, keep in mind that “tour” implies several things. First of all, a tour is usually guided, and consists of a group of other tourists. A vacation package is usually considered a combination of flights, transfers, hotels and car rentals. If you so desire, you may add on minor excursions that are usually with a group or guided.


A tour is usually a really good deal. You get to stay in the nicer hotels of the areas, and in most situations, it is usually more than one hotel. All your transportation is included, such as to and from the airport and transportation to all the local sites and tours. All the attraction tickets are calculated into the price, so you will not have to pay entry fees to art museums or shows. There are additional tours and excursions that can be purchased, but usually at a reasonable price. Most tour packages will also include some meals. With your luxury travel vacation package, all that is included is the cost, fees and taxes of your air, hotel and car rental. Sometimes there are special availability of free breakfasts of a city tour, but this is not the norm.

Destination Studies and Personal Preference

So when does it benefit you to book a tour verses a vacation package? That really depends on the destination and your personal preferences. If you are planning to vacation in a place like Rome or Paris, there is so much to see and do that travelers are better off being escorted to the sites and having most of the entry fees included in your price. But if you wish to visit these cities to simply bask in the incredible ambience, and you don’t have an interest in touring the “big attractions”, then a luxury travel vacation package is for you. You would not want a guided tour of Jamaica or Hawaii. Chances are you just want to bask in the sun and relax. Consider where you are going and what you want to do on your vacation. For more information on luxury travel vacations visit http://www.amtvacations.com.

Now that you know the facts, the time has come to make a decision. Looking at the definitions, a tour and a luxury travel vacation package each offer something different. They are each priced a bit differently, and have different inclusions. So it comes down to you and where you are going. Chances are your travel agent can steer towards the best choice for your travel needs, but now you know why and you can make the decision for yourself.

Top 5 Places to Visit Around Alicante by Hire Car

Alicante City is a treat for the senses it has so much going on that it would be impossible to see all of it. The city is a cosmopolitan, bustling place with every thing you would expect and more, giving you a great place to explore on holiday. However the surrounding area of Alicante is outstandingly beautiful with a few hidden gems thrown in as well, the best way to explore this area and have your own holiday adventure is to hire a car. To get you started here are a few ideas you may want to consider.

The Village of Guadalest in the province of Alicante is regarded as one of the best days out and most rewarding places you could visit. Surrounded on three sides by the Aitana, Serella and Xorta Mountains it’s a hidden oasis of outstanding natural beauty and heritage. The Village sits perched on the edge of a granite mountain with fantastic views down the river cut valley.

The drive to the village is part of the adventure, as the twisting road takes you around some tight hairpin bends over some narrow passes which give the best views of the surrounding mountains. Guadalest was built by the Moors and as soon as you reach the village it becomes obvious why they considered it such a valuable location. The castles and buildings look like they grasp the cliffs and the smallest breeze may cause them to fall. So steep are the cliffs and peaks on which they sit they are virtually unconquerable and they gave the Moors a fantastically hidden strategic strong hold.

Access to the old village is through a stone cut tunnel called the ‘Portal de San José the hole through the mountain was cut some 1,300 years ago and is still the only way in. once your eyes adjust you’ll feel as if you have been transported back through time to a long gone medieval era. Stone cut houses, churches and castle remains are all on offer to be explored and investigated.

If you can make sure you arrive early, you will avoid the crowds and catch the first castle tour at 10 am. It starts off with a walk through the dungeons, a great to keep the kids entertained, the tour explains the village’s history, takes in the look out points and winding paths and takes you to parts of the castle you might have otherwise missed.

A slightly more macabre museum is the Medieval Torture Exhibition, it’s not all gruesome methods of doing away with people it seems the Moors had ways of ridiculing their law breakers instead. For instance drunks who may have spoken badly about their king were made to stand in a barrel, where upon the locals filled it with all of their rubbish and bathroom waste!

For a refreshing stop on your way back escape the heat and take a dip at the bracing Les Fonts de l’Algar. (Algar Waterfalls), near to the village of Callosa d’en Sarria. The falls are a series of tumbling weirs and large water pools starting off quite shallow and slow running but they get deeper and faster as you work your way up the valley. Swimming is allowed all the way up but remember that the current in the narrower pools can be very strong, make sure you have a chuckle at the people struggling to swim against the flow before you jump in.

Helpfully a winding path has been added along the route making the entire series of crystal blue pools accessible to everyone, at the top there are even showers and restaurants or places to have a barbeque.

The Cuevas del Canelobre are a series of caves located only 24 kilometers from Alicante, The inner most cave boasts the highest vault ceiling of any cave in Spain. More like a cathedral than a cave it’s a beautiful place to observe some of the best examples of stalactites and stalagmites in Europe. The sheer scale and vastness of these natural caves simply can’t be imagined so jump in your hire car and experience this wonder for yourself.

The enormous rock formations are stunning and the caves have unique acoustic properties which can’t be re-produced. On certain dates concerts and music festivals are held within the caves. Because they maintain a very low temperature it’s the perfect place to see a beautifully eerie performance in complete comfort.

After all of this history and culture one of the best ways to keep the children entertained is to take them to the relatively new Terra Mitica theme park. Built in 2000 the park promises to take you back in time as you adventure through any one of their 5 areas. Divided into Ancient Egypt, Rome, Iberia, Greece and the Islands each has its own theme and rides based around these ancient cultures of the area. Think Alton towers with a cultural twist but definitely with out the bad weather.

Car Hire or Shared Ride? Which is Better?

A question I hear quite a lot is whether a shared ride shuttle is better than a hire car. The answer of course is that this is the wrong question – both have their place, and their own advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take an example country: Italy. Airport transfers or hire cars are both freely available, but which is more suitable? Let’s look at some comparisons – for convenience, I’ll be assuming your flight touches down in Rome, though Italy actually has many airports to choose from.


In terms of price, it’s no contest and the shared ride inevitably wins hands down. Rome airport shuttles are far cheaper than hiring a car, because you’re only paying for one or two journeys, and there’s no need to purchase petrol yourself. On the other hand, if you’re planning on doing a lot of driving, then the hire car works out quite cheaply – certainly more cost-effective than getting taxis, buses or trains everywhere! Overall though, if you’re looking to save money, then a hire care most certainly isn’t for you. Rome airport shuttles will take you to most of the major Italian destinations in the most cost-effective way possible.


Effort depends on the person to a degree. If you’re the kind of person who finds driving relaxing, then you may find an Italy airport transfer a little frustrating! On the other hand, I know plenty of people who will find the idiosyncrasies of driving in a foreign country anything but a relaxing process, and certainly not what they’d call a holiday! From the process of getting used to a temporary car’s feel, handling and foreign design to the confusion of dealing with another country’s Highway Code (and driving on the other side of the road!), and struggling to read the map, it certainly can be a lot to take in. With a Rome airport shuttle, you’re guaranteed a smooth ride from a professional who is used to the country, the vehicle and the map!


This one is actually quite close, and hard to call. On one hand, with an Italy airport transfer, you will need to hang around until the allotted departure time, and the set route means you may need to make a number of stops if you’re the last hotel on the list. On the other hand, getting your hire car from the airport – especially if you haven’t booked – isn’t always a quick process either, and there may be a lot of documents and waiting before you’re ready to drive off in your temporary set of wheels. There’s also the issue of directions here – while a shared ride’s driver will know the routes to the hotel like the back of their hands, the same cannot be said for tourists visiting a country for the first time! And trying to listen to directions in a foreign language isn’t something I’d wish on anyone!


All this is minor compared to the convenience of the whole thing – that’s what holiday transportation is all about when it comes down to it. If you’re planning to explore all over Italy – and especially the remote Italian countryside where public transport is hard to come by – then the chances are that you’ll need a hired car of some description. On the other hand if you’re planning a city break in Rome, airport shuttles provide the one bit of transport you need. Who really wants to be driving all the time when they’re just exploring one city?

Tomorrow – Small Vacation Rentals!

When we build an Internet business, we naturally wish to become a large-scale, global company. But, do you feel more comfortable in an overcrowded mall as one of hundreds of faceless customers– or as a valued guest in a cozy shop? Do you like your specific needs to be as important to a salesperson as his own?

The less business you have, the better are your chances of success. Sound unrealistic? Well, here are the facts:

The smaller your region, the better your customer service.

You probably remember surfing the net, looking at hundreds of vacation rental sites. Was destination important to you or, did it make no difference? Personally, I can’t imagine that someone would search for just some kind of property somewhere in the world.

I see a difference between Sydney and Rome and prefer sites dedicated to specific destinations. Why? That’s easy. It’s because I like the individual attention I get. If I have questions all of my questions (even about the color of the walls in the bathroom) will be answered with care and in detail. Plus, I can get information about which banks have the best exchange rates, where the best eats are and, well, about anything and everything a traveler wants to know about really.

The network does not replace live interaction.

Even the most informative web pages can not replace live interaction, when you get specific replies to your specific questions. You should read the web page to find the info you need. We all value our time and prefer to talk to a live person and get an immediate reply. Multi-user portals are simply unable to achieve that close interaction between a web site owner and web site visitors, whereas small web sites can.

As a web-site owner, you will gain negotiating skills. These will show you are trustworthy, and help you to succeed in the rental business.

Tenant details are invaluable.

If you have been in the business of leasing or renting real property for several years, you’ll have quite a database of tenant and owner contacts. Storing every detail about them can help you regain them as clients. Before the high season begins, send them a newsletter about a new option, discount or benefit for your website visitors and include a brief reference to their family. For instance, tell them how cute those twins, John and Jack, were, who ‘decorated’ your wallpaper with their creative paintings last year, or, ask about their little dog Sparky, who misused your flowerbeds and lawn.

Your tenants will appreciate your attentions and will make early reservations. You could hardly expect that at large vacation rental portals.

“Closer” money.

If you charge property owners for listing their properties on your small vacation rental website, it’s easier for you to collect payments from them. Local transactions are easier, faster and more secure than payments from all over the World at international vacation rental web portals.

Document your financial relationships.

Operators of large vacation rental websites have owners from different countries with different local laws, so it is hard to control all the agreements and negotiations between property owners and tenants, but a small vacation rental website dedicated to one specific country or region shows more professionalism and generates more trust if it offers rental agreements prepared on behalf of property owners and guests.

If you operate a website dedicated to one region, you can compose legal documents valid for your region and appropriate for your owners and guests. Such rental agreements should describe the most likely disputes that can arise between owner and guest: furniture and fixture damage, insurance, guest and owner responsibilities, abandonment, payment schedule, etc. People feel more comfortable when their financial arrangements are backed up by legal documentation.

The smaller your region, the more income opportunities you have.

Would you like having more happy clients, who naturally turn to positive testimonials and word-of-mouth advertising? The owners of small rental websites can cooperate with local service providers and get good commission from this cooperation. For instance, they can agree on discounts with souvenir shops and hand out discount coupons to their guests. Discount coupons issued specially for a specific villa or house work best. The same can be done with restaurants, car hire and yacht rental services, etc. This will no doubt contribute to generating interest and building trust on your vacation rental website.

VIP attitude is more important than VIP house.

Even if the house for rent is not the essence of luxury, you may win your client’s favor with your professional demeanor and attentive attitude. I have seen dozens of examples in which good attitude has compensated for the shortcomings of a property. Remember: you lease impressions, not properties.

Be Sincere.

Last but not least, the guiding principle for the owner of a vacation rental website is to really want to make people happy. Your main and sincere wish should be to make a guest’s stay as good as possible. Making a profit depends on this. You need to listen hard to what your guests are saying. Remember that when a guest rents house for his vacation, he wants a break from work and day-to-day worries. He does not want his vacation to be clouded by trivial inconveniences. Love your owners! Love your guests! Love properties!

Do’s and Don’ts when Traveling Alone! – Rome Excursions

Perhaps you’re one of the few who basically don’t like to be around people for too long, not to mention have them as your traveling companions. What else can you possibly do? For those who are taking Rome excursions entirely on their own, there are certain do’s and don’ts that you may want to follow:

1. Avoid driving as much as possible. Though Rome can be one of the most beautiful places you can ever been, it doesn’t mean they have the best traffic system. First of all, there are many erratic drivers. What’s more, you have to deal with a number of other elements including moped, trams, and pedestrians. Thus, during Rome excursions better leave your car in your hotel and simply walk. You can get a better feel of what it’s like to be walking along Roman path.

2. Know the taxi services. If you can’t basically handle Rome excursions by foot, or you simply don’t like taking the tour bus, at least rent a taxi. The driver knows the city too well, so he’s an expert in going around traffic jams. Take note, though, that you should only pick white and yellow taxis, for they’re the official ones. The meter also starts to run not on the moment of picking up but after you both placed down the receiver. There’s no need to give them any tip, unless you’re generous enough to do so.

3. Go for hotels with terminal transportation. Sometimes Rome excursions can start at some point, and your hotel may be located not quite near it. You can save a lot if you can reserve room accommodations in hotels with free terminal transportation.

4. Get rid of tourist traps. It’s not unlikely that the Romans are not only popular for their arts but also for their food as well. Ever tasted their pasta? Definitely, you’ll know what ambrosia is. However, there are also several pretentious cafes around. When you’re in Rome excursions, make sure you don’t bump into them. Usually, these are restaurants with huge American signs plastered all over their shops. Their cuisines are not original Italian, and their prices are high.

5. Plan your budget. No matter what tour you’re in, you’re still advised to create your own budget. Not all entrance fees are covered by tour prices. So before you can get any more surprised to learn that there’s no way of getting in than paying, then better bring a few bucks with you. If you’ve done any research, ensure that you’ve brought more than what’s stated in their website. Prices can rise so fast.

6. Be comfortable. Skip anything fashionable and go for something comfy. Remember, you’re going to do a lot of walking, and high heels can’t certainly give you your much-needed leg support. Rather, put on some rubber shoes or sandals and your well-loved jeans and shirts. It does pay, though, to make a research as to what clothes are fitting in a particular area. For example, majority of Rome excursions can include the Vatican. They’re very strict when it comes to dress code. It would usually mean no sexy dresses, shorts, and tank tops for the women, and no offensive shirts and tattered jeans for men.

In the end, the success of your Rome excursions will largely depend on your taste. If you’re a great lover of history, arts, and culture, then the best way to enjoy the Eternal City and get into its insights would be hiring a local Official Tour Guide which will lead you through its hidden magical treasures.
If not, then you can comfort yourself with numerous cafes and shopping districts found all over the area.

Holiday Freedom – Car Hire

When booking a holiday it’s easy to overlook the requirements needed to travel around once you arrive at your destination. Most package holidays now include a transfer by coach from the airport to the hotel, which means that it may not seem necessary to hire a car. However without access to a car tourists are restricted to public transport and places reachable on foot. Therefore hiring a car gives a greater freedom to visit more obscure places of interest.

Wherever you’re visiting there’s always something extra to see when you rent a car, here are some of the great sights from a variety of popular holiday hotspots.

Malaga, Spain – if you’re staying in the Costa Del Sol’s town of Malaga it’s worth making the short drive to the nearby castle known as Gibralfaro Castle. The name comes from the Moorish Jebel which translates as the hill and Faro meaning lighthouse. The road leading to the castle is long and winding, a difficult walk but easy to undertake in a car. Once you reach the top the caste offers some fantastic views over Malaga and the gardens are a great place to sit and relax.

Majorca, Spain – for those with access to a car there are many great places to visit on the island of Majorca including the Cathedral at Palma. From the outside the building looks fantastic as it sits by the seafront. The Cathedral is a traditional Gothic structure with sandstone walls, and is home to the famous Portal del Miradon, a 15th-century door by Guillem Sagrera featuring scenes from the Last Supper.

It is also worth visiting the Castell De Bellver a uniquely presented 14th Century Royal Fortress with an interesting museum and great views over Palma Bay.

Berlin, Germany – for visitors to the German capital there are plenty of fantastic places to visit, the Brandenburg Gate is arguably the city’s most famous landmark, standing as Berlin’s answer to the Eiffel Tower. Over 200-years-old, it’s managed to play a role in much of the city’s history, making it an essential place to visit for fans of local culture.

Rome, Italy – anyone staying within the region around Rome would be foolish to miss out on a visit to the Colosseum. The arena was built as a stadium to hold fifty thousand spectators who would watch anxiously as gladiators battled with animals. From the outside the Colosseum is a fantastic sight and inside there is even more to see as the original cells that were used to hold animals, criminals and gladiators are still in place and can be viewed by the public.

Lison, Portugal – Lisbon offers many popular tourist attractions including the Castle of St George. The castle was built during the 5th Century and offers fabulous views from its perch at the top of the city’s highest hill. Within the grounds of the castle there is a small restaurant that offers a good choice of food within a relaxing atmosphere.

These are just some of the places that you can visit with access to a car whilst you are on holiday. A simple search on the internet will give you some more ideas of tourist attractions. So next time you are away don’t just stick to the resort in which you are visiting – hire a car and visit the more obscure locations.

Your Holiday in Italy:venice, Rome, Turin


Venezia, La Serenissima, Queen of the Adriatic, the Most Serene Republic of Venice is the city of canals, churches and palaces that captures the hearts and minds of all who visit. Venice is home to wonderful tourist destinations famous the world over – St Mark’s Square, Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs – but the true joy of Venice is found just wandering around and finding architectural and artistic wonders around every corner.

Transport:getting there and getting away

Venice is served by two airport, Marco Polo and Trevino. Transport into the city is by bus or from the latter by water bus.

Trains terminate and depart from Santa Lucia train station on the west side of Venice. The station fronts the Grand Canal where water buses (vaporetti) or water taxis are available.

Cars and coaches arrive on the far western edge of Venice at Piazzale Roma. There are no roads in Venice so from here on it’s by boat or on foot. Venice is the World’s only truly pedestrian city and walking is a serendipitous adventure of discovering vistas in the magnificent urban landscape.

Ships arrive at the Stazione Marittima.

Water buses are best for longer trips and for visiting the islands. There are also the more expensive water taxis. Gondolas are really just for short romantic hops and having your photograph taken.


Summer is hot in Venice. Temperatures average 27°C but high humidity results in a close, uncomfortable atmosphere. Sometimes, hot sirocco winds sweep in from the south. January and February are the coldest months with temperatures ranging from 0-7 C. Snow is rare owing to the city’s lagoon location. Spring is fresh and clear though rainfall can be heavy. Mists are common in late autumn.

Accommodation:from cheap stays to luxury resorts

Check on the internet for the range, location and cost of Venice hotels

Events:what’s on and what’s hot

Venice has the character of a stage set so its many festivals are spectacular.

* The first event of the year is the Regata delle Befana held on 6 January.

* The next month sees the major event in the Venetian calendar namely Carnevale,

which is a masked and costumed extravaganza.

* May sees the Festa della Sensa (Feast of the Ascension) which celebrates the Sposalizio del Mar (Wedding with the Sea).

* The arts fest is held every odd-numbered year in June in the Giardini Pubblici.

* Festa del Redentore in July features a regatta and fireworks festival.

* The Venice International Film Festival is held from late August into September


Turin has been called the European capital of Baroque due to the style of many of its palaces and churches. In many ways Turin differs from the typical Italian city. It exudes a strong French influence with its broad boulevards with white buildings. With the Po River flowing through the city, and the Italian Alps standing in the distance, it’s a place of great charm.

Transport:getting there and getting away

By plane

Caselle Airport lies north of the city and is connected to the city by bus and taxi. Turin is also easily reached from Malpensa airport.

Turin has two main railway stations, Porta Nuova and Porta Susa. The former is for long and mid-range trips the latter mainly for local trains.

Turin has an efficient public transport system of buses and trams and an underground line was opened for the 2006 Winter Olympics.

The City of Turin has recently established a network of bicycle paths throughout the city.


Turin is gloomy with rain and fog in the winter temperatures tending to remain single digit. The summer months between May and September are milder though rain is still common.

Accommodation:from cheap stays to luxury resorts

Check on the internet for the range, location and cost of Turin hotels

Events:what’s on and what’s hot

* April sees the Festival Internazionale di Film con Tematiche Omosessuali is a five-day international gay and lesbian film festival.

*Cioccolatò in early March is a two-week celebration of cocoa. Turin see cocoa tastings, sculpture competitions and stalls around the city centre.

*Salone Internazionale del Gusto is a five-day festival of food and wine held biannually. The event is international in flavour with traditional producers from around the world showcasing and selling their wares in a giant street market.


Steeped in history and rich with monuments famous the world over – the Vatican, the Colosseum – Rome stands as a captivating symbol of history and culture.

Transport:getting there and getting away

Leonardo da Vinci (Fiumicino) airport is 16 miles southwest of the city with the Stazione Termini direct train running hourly into the city. The main bus station is located outside the Stazione Termini. Buses run from 6:00 a.m to midnight with some all-night services. The Rome Metro service has two lines, both of which go through Termini. It runs from 5:30 a.m to 11.30 p.m. and 0:30 on Saturdays.


The climate is mild with sunny skies and pleasant temperatures. However July and August can be oppressively hot, November is often rainy, and December to February can be chill.

Accommodation:from cheap stays to luxury resorts

Check on the internet for the range, location and cost of hotels in Rome.

Events:what’s on and what’s hot

*Holy Week (Easter) is time when Catholics from all over the world arrive on pilgrimages to visit the city’s churches and to hear the Pope at the Vatican. On Good Friday a procession of the Cross goes from the Colosseum to Capitoline Hill.

*The Estate Romana (Roman Summer), is at the heart of Roman social life from June to September. It’s a time when the city reverberates to free concerts, street theatre and outdoor cinema.

*In September museums, galleries and shops stay open all night from 20:00-08:00 on the occasion called Notte Bianca (white night). It’s also a time of free concerts and other happenings all over the city.

Vacation Rentals in Tuscany and Umbria

Visiting the Tuscany and Umbria border Region

South eastern Tuscany meets its smaller neighbour Umbria, on Umbria’s north eastern border. The border area of Tuscany and Umbria in Italy is a wonderful place to stay as the visitor is able to visit the many cities and towns of the two regions while staying in one of the most picturesque areas the world has to offer and enjoying one of its greatest cuisines. The area is largely rural, the main crops are sunflowers, maize, olives, vines and tobacco which is being phased out. Modernity has been slow to reach this area and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, many visitors feel as if they had stepped back in time 30 or 40 years. Staying in this area you are within 90% of UNESCOs world art treasures: Rome and Florence are within two hours drive and one must not forget the important art works of nearer towns such as Arezzo, Siena, Perugia and Assisi. Apart from their art treasures these towns are places everyone enjoys visiting. All have their own architectural delights and meandering lanes and interesting shops and restaurants. Also worth visiting are the Tuscan towns of ; Cortona and Sansepolcro and the Umbrian towns of Gubbio,Citta di Castello, Todi and Orvieto. Lovers of ceramics will also want to visit Deruta which produces some of the finest majolica.

Wine lovers are also in for a treat as many great wines are found in this area. Although Chianti is not strictly on the Tuscany Umbria border it is only a short drive. The brunellos of Montalcino and Vino Nobile of Montepulciano are found in this area.

There is a wide choice of accommodation available for those wishing to come to this area of Italy. “Agriturismi” offering either self-catering apartments or B&B type accommodation have sprung up everywhere. A popular choice for the visitor to this area of Tuscany and Umbria is to rent a self-catering villa, farmhouse or apartment through a rental agency. With a rental agency one can be sure that the house or apartment has been properly scrutinised and is priced fairly to reflect its quality, situation and accessibility. Farmhouses, villas and apartments with or without swimming pools are all available. If one wishes to stay in a country property in this area car hire is almost essential. Public transport in the rural areas of Tuscany and Umbria although reliable, is sparse. Most villages have a bus service once a day, relying upon this creates a lack of flexibility. Many of the farmhouses and villas for holiday rental are on hillsides a good walk from a main road. Often vacation rental houses in Tuscany and Umbria are reached along gravel roads or “strade bianche” . City inhabitants are often alarmed at these gravel roads but after the initial drive along them the nerves are soon overcome.
Please visit www.tuscanyumbria.com to find a rental property for your holiday in the Tuscany or Umbria regions of Italy.

Driving experiences while vacationing in Italy

There are agencies at every international airport, but it is best to arrange the rental with your travel agent at home. Some of the Italian rental agencies are affiliated with American agencies that you may be familiar with like Hertz, Budget, Thrifty, etc… The prices are similar to rentals in big cities in America. Make sure that the price quoted is ‘turnkey’. That Value Added Tax may come as a big surprise. Also, the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), that is optional in America where you have insurance, may not be optional in Italy. For those who intend to begin and end in different cities, there are drop-off charges Typically, there are no drop-off charges if you drop off your car at different offices in the same city, for example picking the car up at the airport and dropping it off in the center of the city. This is useful if you intend to end your trip with a few days in Rome. Finally, Europeans usually drive cars with manual transmissions, and you will pay a premium price for the few automatics they keep for Americans.

The cost difference between car and train narrows as you decrease the size of the car, and increase the number of days driven and the number of people in the car. The cross-over point where the car can be cheaper than Italrail and Eurorail is approximately a manual subcompact, with two people for two weeks. A larger car, only one person for just a few days can be pricey.

I can hear you saying, ‘Gasolio is so expensive over there.’ There are two problems with this statement:

The most severe problem with this statement is that ‘gasolio’ is what we refer to as diesel fuel. You will have a large problem if you pick the wrong fuel. You should use ‘benzina’.

You need to think of the cost between sites and the availability of sites without a car. Good price check would for gasoline between Rome and Florence along the Via Cassia: $4.40/gal (approx. 1850 lira/liter at 1600 lira/$) with a car that can go 30 mi./gal for 250 mi. Cost about $37.

If you intend on travelling on the Autostrade, you will have to pay toll. You can find the entrance and exit points as well as the cost from the Autostrade. It takes a little practice to get it right (e.g. “Sel.” means “Select”), but as with most web pages, you can probably stumble through it more easily than you can read its instruction page.

Leaving after your morning cappuccino and pastry, you can arrive in Florence in time for dinner while leisurely enjoying any of the three of the following

Hiring a Car in Northern Cyprus

To many people on holiday, hiring a car is the ideal way to get around. It is certainly true these days that here are many places in the world where this is no longer the case. Trying to drive (and more to the point, park) a hire car in the majority of large, European cities is no pleasure at all. Some cities, such as Paris, Rome and London, are a positive nightmare for drivers and trying to find somewhere to leave a car in these places takes up far too much time. However, in southern Europe and particularly the Mediterranean countries, public transport is patchy and renting a car offers the opportunity to enjoy the freedom to explore. Northern Cyprus definitely falls into the latter category and the experienced traveller here considers a hire car effectively an essential part of any holiday to north Cyprus. Northern Cyprus car hire is relatively straightforward and anyone with a standard European driving licence will have no problems. Best of all, as far as anyone from the UK is concerned, the rules of the road in north Cyprus are all but identical to the UK, traffic signs are more than a little familiar and thanks to the island’s British heritage, they drive on the left. As with any part of a holiday, a little forward planning will pay dividends. There is something of the standard Mediterranean mentality around the island, so although your car is almost certain to be properly prepared, it is vital to book in advance, especially during busy times of the year, and equally important to make sure your booking is properly confirmed. As yet, none of the major, international car hire companies have a presence in north Cyprus, so all the companies offering cars are smaller concerns, often family run or connected to a particular hotel or tour agent. From May through to October, local demand for cars is high and if you leave it until you arrive, you run the risk of not getting a car at all, never mind getting the type you had in mind. As far as traveller’s tips are concerned, firstly make sure you find a reasonably good map before you go on holiday. Maps of Northern Cyprus are few and far between and it is certainly not unusual for one not to be supplied with your car. Getting lost on holiday is fun and you will find the locals incredibly friendly, but directions may be difficult to follow and there are certain to be times when you want to actually get somewhere on time! Petrol is comparatively cheap and there are a reasonable number of garages in built-up areas. However, petrol stations in rural areas are infrequent. If you are planning a longer journey, or a day out touring, you should really fill up with petrol before you set out. In Northern Cyprus, self-service garages are effectively non-existent, so you will always find that someone comes out to serve you. Generally, their English is excellent and a small tip is an appreciated gesture. Roads in Northern Cyprus are fairly un-crowded, though the towns of Kyrenia and Nicosia can be quite busy during normal commuting times. Country roads are often all but deserted, but do watch out for wild donkeys and tractors. Driving manners are generally good, especially by Mediterranean standards, but you will come across some very slow driving, especially in the countryside. Just remember you are enjoying a holiday, so relax! Most roads are in surprisingly good condition and well-surfaced, even in isolated places. However, there are quite a lot of mountain tracks and unmade lanes around. Every type of hire car is more than capable of tackling virtually any road, but do please beware of sand and beaches. Every car hire company in north Cyprus will regale you with tales of having to retrieve cars from beaches – or worse, not being able to! Four-wheel-drive vehicles are no better in this respect and by far and away the best advice is to find somewhere solid to park and to walk down to the sea. And a final, vital tip. If you are travelling any time between April and October, air-conditioning is absolutely vital. Temperatures, especially in the inland plains of Cyprus, can reach extremely high in the peak months and a parked car acts like a mini oven in these conditions. For this reason, although they might be tempting, the good advice is to steer clear of convertible jeeps and the like. They might be pleasant when it’s warm, but parking one in the sun means you will come back to find seats that are too hot to sit on and controls that are too hot to handle! In Northern Cyprus in particular, public transport is very thin on the ground and taxis are relatively costly (though cheap by UK standards). With a little forethought and some careful planning, hiring a car in north Cyprus is a perfect way to travel and get to see the most of this beautiful country.