Friday, April 27, 2012

Travel & Money Safety Tips in Italy


Traveling within Italy isn't as easy as you might have imagined. Italy is always crowded with tourists throughout 365 days in a year. It's even more stressful and hectic than traveling to Paris, France. It also can be even more stressful and exhausting as you have to be attentive with your personal belongings and the surroundings all the time. 

The pickpockets in Italy are professional and move very swiftly within a team which ranges from children, young adults, mothers and elderly people. They always move around those popular attraction sites and busy areas such as public markets, train stations and riding on crowded trains and public bus transportation. These pickpockets will watch your movement and immediately get into the action once they have identified the position of where you pull out your cash or wallet/purse. They steal your cash or wallet/purse without you realize it within split seconds. However, there are some of pickpockets use their acting skills and beg your sympathy and donation by showing their poor babies and children. DON'T FALL FOR THE SCAM. They are actually lure your attention to pull out your cash or wallet/purse and the other members of the group will immediately begin the operation and steal your belongings without you realize it.

Watch this video clip in order to give you an idea on how swiftly these pickpockets steal and move within their groups in Italy and Spain. Pickpockets don't generalized target at Americans only but anyone can be the victim of these pickpockets if you don't watch out for your belongings. 


(Source: ABC News)


So, how do you avoid from being the victim of the pickpockets? Here are some suggestions to prevent yourself from being the prey to pickpockets:-


  1. Don't carry all the credit cards, debit cards and other unnecessary cards with you to Italy. Carry those important cards which you will intend to use during the trip for instance, you might need two credit cards and one debit card or ATM card so, just bring these cards along while the remaining of unnecessary cards can be left at home. This is an idea to reduce the bulkiness of your wallet/purse.
  2. Get a light jacket which is designed with an inner zipped pocket, inside the jacket. Yes, you can find some latest design of light jackets where you can keep your cash in the wallet/purse inside the inner of the jacket instead of placing it on outer of the jacket.  
  3. Keep a copy of your Identity Card (ID), driving licenses, credit cards, ATM cards, debit cards, air ticket(s) and passport before you begin your trip to Italy. You also need to keep the contact numbers of Banks' toll-free numbers and your country's embassy numbers with you. In case you lose any of these important cards or passport, you can file a report immediately with the copy and particular of the cards or passport in hand.
  4. Keeping all the important cards in a wallet/purse in front of your pocket of your pants isn't necessarily to be safe at all. I suggest you to keep your passport and all the important cards such as Identity Card (ID), driving licenses, credit cards, debit cards or ATM cards and air ticket(s) in a NECK WALLET. Hang your neck wallet and hide it over your body chest and underneath your shirt. Make sure that the string of neck wallet isn't visible around your neck. Try to cover the string of the neck wallet with your outer jacket. Most of the time, you will be spending with cash more than using credit cards in Italy. Credit cards can only be used when you book hotel accommodation, purchasing expensive souvenirs or dining at expensive restaurants. Otherwise, most of the retailers and operators prefer to deal in cash.
  5. Plan your daily trip spending before you leave your hotel room. If you intend to spend €100 per day then, take out €100 cash and keep the remaining of the money in the wallet/purse. The small retailers and operators don't accept the big note so, try to get some loose notes change at your hotel. Keep small notes (€5 and €10) in one front pocket while big notes (€20 and €50) in another front pockets. Do make sure that all your front pockets are long and deep to keep your money without falling out while you are sitting or moving around. This is a smart idea to prevent you from keep taking your cash out from your wallet/purse each time. The pickpockets aim at "rich" victims who carry a lot of cash in wallets/purses. 
  6. If you carry a backpack, make sure that your backpack is zipped up and put a lock on it during your trip, all the time. Put your backpack in front of you so that you are attentive and able to be alert with the backpack.
  7. For female tourist who loves to carry a handbag. Please carry a small handbag a long handle. Do make sure the bag is zipped up and wear it across your body. Always keep the front handbag facing and against your body while the back of the handbag is facing outside. This is to prevent pickpockets from easily access to the inside compartment of your handbag at the crowded places without you have been realized.
  8. Make sure your handbag isn't facing on the street side (vehicle side) when you walk on the side walk. Always carry your handbag across your body and facing on the opposite side towards the inner of the side walk.
  9. Always clasp your handbag or backpack with your hands on your laps or lock the handbag or backpack with your legs while you are eating or sitting on the bench. Pickpockets love to take the opportunities to steal your handbag or backpack when you aren't full alert.
  10. You have to stay low profile without wearing and flashing your expensive and branded jewellery, watch, bag and clothing during your trip in Italy. KEEP IT SIMPLE and don't draw attention as a rich person, is the best to describe on your appearance and outfits throughout your journey in Italy. 
  11. Taking public transportation such as metro trains and buses is the highest risk to meet with pickpockets. Thus, it's strongly advisable to stay safe by taking the official and registered taxis (cabs) which run meter readings in Italy. Majority of these taxis (cabs) can be found at taxi stands nearby the tourist attraction sites and at hotels in the cities of Italy. Learn more about the registered taxis in Italy here



  12. Don't entertain when someone approaches and begs for money. Just ignore and walk away immediately.




St Peter's Basilica in Rome, Italy


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Budget Cruise along Lake Lucerne, Switzerland


Lake Lucerne is the 4th largest lake in Switzerland and has complicated shape that curves into the mountains and the city of Lucerne. The lake and shoreline have many stunning views, especially of Mount Rigi and Mount Pilatus. Lake Lucerne is a popular tourist destination, both for tourists and the locals along the total area of 114 square kilometers (44 square miles).

In my previous post, Mount Pilatus Tour at Lucerne, Switzerland, I shared some photographs of my trip to Mount Pilatus and also mentioned about my ferry cruise from Mount Pilatus to Lucerne town in Lucerne, Switzerland. 

Since I exited from Alpnachstad station, where I got off from Locher cogwheel train ride, at Mount Pilatus. I decided to try taking a cruise on the ferry transportation, which is very reliable and accessible to Lucerne town and every dock along the Lake Lucerne. Many of the locals are still preferably living along the Lake Lucerne, which is situated quite a distance from Lucerne downtown. 

It took about an hour to cruise from Mount Pilatus to Lucerne downtown but then, I really had a good time enjoying beautiful scenery along Lake Lucerne, which is covered by green and misty mountains with clean lake and blue sky. For the locals, it's convenient to cruise by ferry from the dock of a village to another dock of a village besides traveling all the way to Lucerne downtown.


Ferry schedule is available at every dock along Lake Lucerne. Tickets can be purchased upon getting onto the ferry. Don't panic if you don't have sufficient Swiss Franc (CHF) currency. The local retailers and ferry operator accept Euro currency but return your change in Swiss Franc. Language isn't the huge problem to tourists there as well. The Swiss people are very helpful and able to converse in simple English. Cafeteria is available on the ferry but, with limited food menu to choose. You might consider to order some hot coffee in order to increase your body heat while enjoying the breeze with a spectacular view of Lake Lucerne.



Ferry terminal at Alpnachstad station of Mount Pilatus along Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, Switzerland
Ferry terminal at Alpnachstad station of Mount Pilatus 


Ferry ride from Alpnachstad station at Mount Pilatus to the city of Lucerne along Lake Lucerne in Switzerland
Ferry ride from Alpnachstad station at Mount Pilatus to the city of Lucerne



Ferry ride along Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, Switzerland
Here we go on ferry ride along Lake Lucerne



Beautiful Lake Lucerne and greenery mountains in Lucerne, Switzerland





Beautiful greenery mountain along Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, Switzerland
Look at beautiful mountain which is surrounded by green grass as we sailed along



Beautiful Lake Lucerne, greenery mountains and a fortress in Lucerne, Switzerland




Greenery mountains and beautiful Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, Switzerland




Traditional Swiss Houses along the Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, Switzerland
Traditional Swiss Houses along the Lake Lucerne in Switzerland



Feeling fresh and cold while sailing along Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, Switzerland
Feeling fresh and cold while sailing along Lake Lucerne



Misty mountain along Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, Switzerland
Misty mountain along Lake Lucerne




Traditional Swiss Houses along Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, Switzerland
Traditional Swiss Houses can be seen while sailing on Lake Lucerne



The scenery is similar to the fairy tales in Lucerne, Switzerland




The ferry transportation is very reliable and friendly even the pets are allowed to ride along with their owners along Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, Switzerland
The ferry transportation is very friendly and reliable even the pets are allowed to ride along with their owners




The front view of the ferry which is heading to the city of Lucerne in Switzerland
The front view of the ferry which is heading to the city of Lucerne



Some hotels are situated along Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, Switzerland




Expensive hotels are situated along Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, Switzerland




Schweizerhof Hotel is one of the high class hotels along Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, Switzerland
The most high class Schweizerhof Hotel is located in front of Lake Lucerne



Jesuit Church and the high class National Hotel along Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, Switzerland
Jesuit Church and the high class National Hotel can be seen along Lake Lucerne



The city of Lucerne can be seen from the Lake Lucerne in Switzerland
We're about reaching the city of Lucerne




The Post Office in the city of Lucerne in Switzerland
Unique structure of Post Office in the city of Lucerne




Ferry terminal in the city of Lucerne in Switzerland
Dock at the ferry terminal in the city of Lucerne

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mount Pilatus Tour at Lucerne, Switzerland


Lucerne town is very well-known for its major attraction of Mount Titlis and Mount Pilatus in Switzerland. Mount Titlis is located at 10,000 feet in the Urner Alps of Switzerland. Mount Titlis is famous for the world's first revolving cable car with 360-degree panoramic views of the snow-covered valleys, glaciers, lakes, forests and mountains in Switzerland. On the other hand, Mount Pilatus is located at 7,000 feet which allows you to enjoy the stunning scenic views in a gondola, cable car and the world's steepest cogwheel train ride. 

Switzerland is famous for its advanced technology in building the world-class highway tunnels through  mountains and panoramic cable cars to take visitors to the top of mountains to enjoy the spectacular view of Switzerland. Thus, you should take this opportunity to ride on the panoramic cable car and Locher cogwheel train at the major tourist attraction sites in Switzerland. However, it's not advisable to ride on cable car and cogwheel train when the weather is not permitted such as raining and snowing. Moreover, Locher cogwheel train is closed throughout the winter season at Mount Pilatus thus, you need to plan this trip properly to avoid any disappointment.

Since I was staying in Lucerne town for a night thus, I took this opportunity to visit Mount Pilatus. The ticket booth at Mount Pilatus opens at 8:30am so, try to be there as early as possible since the big crowd of visitors and tour groups begin to form in a long line by 9:00am onwards. 

You can begin the trip by taking a ride in a panorama cable gondola from the ticket booth, which is known as Kriens section. The cable gondola will take you to Frakmuntegg station. You will be amazed with the stunning panoramic views during your 30 minutes cable gondola ride from Kriens to Frakmuntegg stations. Then, you need to change from cable gondola to the aerial cableway at Frakmuntegg station. The aerial cableway will take you to the top of Pilatus Kulm (Mount Pilatus) in a five minutes ride.

Do try to take a ride on the Locher cogwheel train to Alpnachstad station once you have finished enjoying the spectacular view at Pilatus Kulm. It's the world's steepest cogwheel train which runs between 9-12km/h and takes about 30 minutes per ride. The locher cogwheel train operates between May to November yearly and closes throughout the winter season. As the cogwheel train moves on the steepest mountain, all the seats are built on 45 degree angle in order to provide comfort and safety for the passengers while riding on the cogwheel train.

As you get off from the locher cogwheel train, you are actually exiting at Alpnachstad station, which is facing the Lake Lucerne. You can try to take a ferry ride and head back to Lucerne town. You can purchase the Golden Round Trip (combined tickets), which includes the ride on cable cars, cogwheel train and boat ride to Lucerne town at this official website of Mount Pilatus here.



*** I will share my photographs of my ferry ride from Mount Pilatus to Lucerne town in my next post. ***





The ticket booth entrance at Kriens section of Mount Pilatus in Lucerne, Switzerland
The ticket booth entrance at Kriens section of Mount Pilatus



The aerial cable gondola takes you from the ticket booth at Kriens section to the Frakmuntegg summit terminus at Mount Pilatus in Lucerne, Switzerland
Taking the aerial cable gondola from the ticket booth at Kriens section via the Krienseregg to the Fräkmüntegg summit terminus at Mount Pilatus



An aerial gondola in panoramic views at Mount Pilatus in Lucerne, Switzerland
Aerial Gondora in panoramic views at Mount Pilatus




Another panoramic view with cable gondola at Mount Pilatus in Lucerne, Switzerland
Another panoramic view with cable gondola at Mount Pilatus



Beautiful scenery at Frakmuntegg section while waiting for the aerial cableway to take you to the top of PIlatus Kulm at Mount Pilatus in Lucerne, Switzerland
Enjoying beautiful scenery at Fräkmüntegg section while waiting for the aerial cableway to take us to the top of Pilatus Kulm



The world's steepest Locher cogwheel railway train at Mount Pilatus in Lucerne, Switzerland
The world's steepest Locher cogwheel railway train operates between May to November each year



A 5-minute cableway ride with panoramic views before reaching to the top of Pilatus Kulm at Mount Pilatus in Lucerne, Switzerland
Another 5-minute cableway ride and enjoy pleasant views from 2132 metres above sea level before reaching the top of Pilatus Kulm



A warm Welcome in different languages at Pilatus Kulm (Mount Pilatus) in Lucerne, Switzerland
A warm Welcome in different languages at Pilatus Kulm (Mount Pilatus)




At the top of Pilatus Kulm (Mount PIlatus) in Lucerne, Switzerland
An early morning view on top of Mount Pilatus



It's cold and misty early in the morning at the top of Pilatus Kulm (Mount Pilatus) in Lucerne, Switzerland
Cold and misty early in the morning at the top of Mount Pilatus



It's cold and misty early in the morning with beautiful Alphine Horn (Swiss Horn) performance at Pilatus Kulm (Mount Pilatus) in Lucerne, Switzerland
It's cold and slightly misty early in the morning at Pilatus Kulm but I'm enjoying to listen this beautiful performance by Swiss Horn (traditional musical instrument in Switzerland)


 
walking up on the steps in order to see the overview of Pilatus Kulm (Mount Pilatus) in Lucerne, Switzerland
Walking up on the steps in order to see the overview of Pilatus Kulm



Almost reaching to the top hill to see the overview of Pilatus Kulm (Mount Pilatus) in Lucerne, Switzerland
Almost reaching to the top in order to see the overview of Pilatus Kulm




Stunning views from the top hill at Pilatus Kulm (Mount Pilatus) in Lucerne, Switzerland
Stunning views at Pilatus Kulm (Mount Pilatus)




Greenery mountain with blue sky at Pilatus Kulm (Mount Pilatus) in Lucerne, Switzerland
Greenery mountain at Pilatus Kulm



Misty mountain can be seen on top of Pilatus Kulm (Mount Pilatus) in Lucerne, Switzerland
Misty mountain can be seen on top of Pilatus Kulm




Goodby in various languages as you head to the cogwheel train terminal at Pilatus Kulm (Mount Pilatus) in Lucerne, Switzerland
Goodbye in various language as you head to the cogwheel train railway terminal at Pilatus Kulm



Riding in a Locher cogwheel train from Pilatus Kulm to Alpnachstad station at Mount Pilatus in Lucerne, Switzerland
Riding in a Locher cogwheel train system which moves very slow at 9-12km per hour from Pilatus Kulm to Alpnachstad section



All the seating are built at 45 degree angle to ensure the safety of passengers while going down the steepest mountain of Pilatus Kulm (Mount Pilatus) in Lucerne, Switzerland
All the seating are built at 45 degree angle to ensure passengers feel comfortable while going down the steepest mountain of Mount Pilatus



The scenery of Pilatus Kulm (Mount Pilatus) from the driver seat of the Locher cogwheel train in Lucerne, Switzerland
Sitting in front of the Locher cogwheel train and watching at the scenery from the driver's seat at Mount Pilatus



Panoramic views in the cogwheel train at Pilatus Kulm (Mount Pilatus) in Lucerne, Switzerland
Enjoying panoramic views in the cogwheel train from Pilatus Kulm to Alpnachstad and passing through lush meadows and sparkling mountain streams for about 30 minutes per ride



Locher cogwheel train ride is coming to the end at Alpnachstad section at Pilatus Kulm (Mount Pilatus) in Lucerne, Switzerland
Locher cogwheel train ride is coming to the end at Alpnachstad section



PIlatus Bahn or Mount Pilatus at Lucerne, Switzerland
Leaving the Locher cogwheel railway station at Alpnachstad of Mount Pilatus

Friday, April 6, 2012

Lucerne, Switzerland Travel Tour Highlights


As we traveled by road and crossed over from Paris, France to Switzerland, we could see a lot of greenery mountain from the highway as we passed the border of Switzerland. To me, the greenery mountain in the clear blue sky is really magnificent as I hadn't seen it so beautiful, other than seeing the similar beautiful nature from fairy tale story books.

We stopped over at Lucerne (Luzern in German). Lucerne is a beautiful small city in the heartland of Switzerland, which is located on the shore of Lake Lucerne and surrounded by Mount Pilatus and Mount Rigi in the Swiss Alps.

Although Lucerne is a small city but it is famous for its tourism industry. The locals and retailers are very friendly and are able to converse in simple English speaking. 

Switzerland doesn't accept Euro currency thus, you need to prepare some Swiss currency, which is also known as Swiss Franc (CHF). 

Switzerland is well-known for its branded products such as Swiss Army knife, Swatch watch and, Victorinox Swiss Army watch. Do take this opportunity to purchase these Swiss products while traveling in Switzerland. The retail pricing could still be the same even after the currency rate conversion. However, you might find some unique designs or unique models which you couldn't find them in your home country. Switzerland is well-known for manufacturing and assembling the internal electronic watch components for major brands in the world.  Other international branded watches are also available in big retail outlets in Switzerland. 

When you spend more than 300CHF in a single receipt in Switzerland, you can get 8% VAT refund. It's highly recommended to shop at big retail outlets if you intend to purchase more than 300CHF in Switzerland. These big retail outlets will ensure and minimise your problem with the process of VAT refund, by providing necessary documents and receipts as long as you provide your detailed particulars, passport and air ticket documents before purchasing the products in Switzerland. 

Switzerland requires travelers to submit the purchasing receipts and relevant documents, which have been purchased in Switzerland at the custom office in the airport, before leaving Switzerland. Normally, the queue at the custom office in an airport in Switzerland isn't as crowded as those custom offices in the busy airports in France, Italy and the UK. However, when you travel to Italy, France and Austria (for example), you can compile all the receipts and the relevant documents from these countries, which accept Euro currency, before submitting them to the custom office at an airport before leaving Europe. Unfortunately, you need to arrive at the airport as early as possible (about 5-6 hours) before departure in order to submit the documents at the custom office in the busiest airport like, in France, Italy and the UK. 

Every country in Europe sets minimum spending in a single receipt and different VAT rates refund for travelers. To learn more about VAT refund of every country in Europe region, please visit here:



The city of Lucerne in Lucerne, Switzerland
The characteristics of Lucerne town  (Double Click to enlarge the picture)




The city of Lucerne and reliable public transportation in Lucerne, Switzerland
Lucerne downtown and reliable public bus transportation 




A souvenir store nearby the Lion Monument in Lucerne, Switzerland
Souvenir shop nearby Lion Monument



An old Swiss House in Lucerne, Switzerland
Old Swiss House in Lucerne town




Swiss fridge magnets souvenir at Lucerne, Switzerland
Swiss fridge magnets souvenir




Swiss souvenirs at the city of Lucerne, Lucerne, Switzerland
Swiss souvenir in Lucerne town




Swiss wooden statue on display outside the souvenir store near to Lion Monument in Lucerne, Switzerland
Swiss wooden statue on display outside the souvenir shop




The head of Fish or Snake water fountain nearby Lion Monument in Lucerne, Switzerland
Unique water fountain nearby Lion Monument in Lucerne




Lowendenkmal (Lion Monument) in Lucerne, Switzerland
Löwendenkmal (Lion Monument), a sandstone relief of a dying lion that's an homage to Swiss soldiers who died during the French revolution




Colourful mural in the old city of Lucerne, Lucerne, Switzerland
Colourful mural in the old town of Lucerne (Luzern)




Another colourful mural in the old city of Lucerne, Lucerne, Switzerland
Another colourful mural with unique structure in the old town of Lucerne




Jesuit Church in Lucerne, Switzerland
Jesuit Church  (Double click to enlarge the picture)




Kapellbrucke (Chapel Bridge) is one of the European's oldest wooden bridges and the landmark of Lucerne in Lucerne, Switzerland
Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge) one of Europe’s oldest wooden bridges and landmark of Lucerne, faithfully restored to its original design after a serious fire along the famous Lake Lucerne.




Restored interior paintings on Chapel Bridge in Lucerne, Switzerland
Restored interior paintings at Chapel Bridge




Chapel Bridge with Jesuit Church on the background in Lucerne, Switzerland
Walking along the Chapel Bridge with Jesuit Church in the background





Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrucke) with Wasserturm (water tower) along Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, Switzerland
Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) with its Wasserturm (water tower) seen in the middle at the famous Lake Lucerne



Unique buildings structure along Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, Switzerland
Unique building structure along the Lake Lucerne




Restaurants are situated along Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, Switzerland
A bridge connects between restaurants and shop buildings which are separated by Lake Lucerne




Wooden Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrucke) brightly litted at night in Lucerne, Switzerland
Wooden Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) brightly litted at night




Wasserturm (water tower) litted by Chapel Bridge and its surroundings in Lucerne, Switzerland
Wasserturm (water tower) litted by Chapel Bridge and its surrounding in Lucerne town




Restaurants along Lake Lucerne and nearby Chapel Bridge in Lucerne, Switzerland
Brightly litted restaurants and shops nearby Chapel Bridge




It's safe to walk around and look at expensive products on the window display in the city of Lucerne, Lucerne, Switzerland
It's safe to walk around and look at the expensive products on the window display at the outlets in Lucerne town at night, even though all the shops are closed after 5pm.




Half dome open concert in a park at the city of Lucerne, Lucerne, Switzerland
Half dome open concert in a park in Lucerne town




A Chinese restaurant on a floating boat in Lucerne, Switzerland
A Chinese restaurant on a floating boat in Lucerne town




Unique building structure along the busy street in the city of Lucerne, Switzerland
Unique building structure in a busy street of Lucerne town




A high class Schweizerhof Hotel in the city of Lucerne, Switzerland
A High class Schweizerhof hotel in Lucerne town





Monopol Hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland
Monopol Hotel in Lucerne town





Quiet city early in the morning in Lucerne, Switzerland
Quiet Lucerne town early in the morning




Reliable public bus transportation around Lucerne, Switzerland
The public transportation in Lucerne  (Double click to enlarge the picture)





Unique building structure in the city of Lucerne, Switzerland
Unique building design in Lucerne town