Alpentouristik Travel, LLC

Airport transfers and sightseeing excursions

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You will doubtless have numerous questions about Central Europe and what to expect on vacation, so this information is to give you a very brief insight into the countries of Austria, Switzerland, Germany and Italy in general and things you might want to know as a tourist.
  • Austria
    Austria is a Federal Republic State with a parliamentary democracy with 9 independent regions or provinces: Vorarlberg, Tyrol, Salzburg, Upper Austria, Lower Austria, Carinthia, Styria, Burgenland, Vienna.

    The Austrian economy is strong, with machinery, the metal industry and textiles being of particular importance. The country's most important industry, however is tourism, which generates approx. 10% of the country’s economic output.

    Austria's official language is German, although many Austrians can also speak English, especially people working in hotels or restaurants.

    Reservation information
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    Austria is located in a temperate climatic zone with a Central European climate influenced by the Atlantic climate. The four seasons (Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter) each have typical temperature and climatic characters. Temperatures range in summer up to 95°F, and on average 68°F and in winter up to - 4 °F and on average 32°F.

    Austria has a varied cultural scene encompassing concerts, theater and exhibitions, museums and dance productions, excellent restaurants serving good quality food and drink, traditional artists, architects and designers.
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    All the hotels we suggest are unique and many are family-run. There are, however, some general differences between hotels in the US and in Austria.

    Double
    beds in Austria usually consist of two separate mattresses inside a double bed frame. These beds are also known as Austrian twins. Please bear this in mind if you do not want to sleep next to the person sharing your room. Two single rooms may be an alternative in this case. Rooms are generally smaller in size than in America. You can usually occupy your room from 3 pm on the day you arrive and have to vacate it by 10 am when you leave, but there are occasional differences to this general rule of thumb. Bath tubs in hotels in Austria may not always be full-size.

    Due to the climate, it is not usual in Austria that hotels have
    air conditioning. You can, however, normally open the windows.

    Some hotels offer
    evening meals in their restaurants. Meals vary from 3 - 4 courses, with a choice of main course. Breakfast is often served as a buffet. Some hotels offer part of the evening meal as a buffet too, eg. a salad bar.

    It is quite usual in Austria for people not to wear bathing suits in
    saunas.

    Travel insurance is essential for any trip abroad. If you are a traveler from outside the EU, and have no travel insurance, you will need to pay the full cost of treatment up-front (with the exception of the emergency room). Medical bills can be very expensive, though still reasonable when compared to the US. Most credit card companies provide travel insurance, please check before you travel. You may find the following link useful: www.insuremytrip.com
    Please note that Alpentouristik Travel LLC does not endorse any insurance that may be sold through insuremytrip.com.

    If you would like information about how to prepare for your vacation "health-wise", please take a look at Passport Health. Specializing in all things immunization related, including on-site flu clinics, travel medicine and immigration medical exams, Passport Health of Sarasota-Bradenton is there to provide you with the knowledge healthcare you need.
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    When should I visit?
    There is never a wrong or right time to take a vacation in Austria. There is always something new to see or do at any time of the year, and, as the saying in Austria goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing!” There are, however, traditionally two distinctive travel periods.

    If you would like to go walking or hiking in Austria, the best time to go is
    May - September. The peak time for a summer vacation is July and August, when temperatures can be high, although the average temperature is 68°F. The weather in the mountain areas can change very rapidly, and you should inform yourself about weather conditions before setting off on a hike and take appropriate clothing, footwear and food and water with you. The locals usually give reliable weather information and their experience should not be ignored. Late May and June are the best times to see lush meadows full of wild flowers. Most houses in Austria are splendidly decorated with flowers on their balconies throughout the summer months. Late August until mid-September is the time when many villages celebrate harvest time.

    December - March is the best time to enjoy a winter vacation in Austria, when temperatures range between - 4°F and 32°F. You don’t have to be a downhill or cross-country skier to enjoy a winter holiday in Austria, but if you are, there are plenty of gentle and challenging slopes and trails for you to explore. Non-skiers can also enjoy winter in Austria, taking a horse-drawn sleigh ride, tobogganing, browsing through the stalls of the local and city Christmas Markets which are open from the end of November until Christmas time or enjoying the view of the snow-covered mountains while sipping a delicious hot chocolate or Gluehwein.

    Most hotels are only available from Saturday to Saturday, particularly in winter, but if you would like to arrive or depart on another day of the week, please ask us to check availability.
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    Shops are generally open from 8am - 6pm, Monday to Friday and from 8am - 5pm on Saturday. Most shops, except in tourist areas, are closed on Sundays.

    Austria is a member of the Economic and Currency Union - the common
    currency is the Euro. Prices displayed include sales tax.

    Any traveler living in a country outside the European Union VAT area is entitled to
    shop tax-free at participating shops in the EU. The traveler pays the VAT on goods in the shop in the usual way, and can request a refund when exporting the goods. To qualify, the traveler must:
    • have residency in a non-EU country
    • have a maximum stay of 6 months within the EU
    • make purchases no more than three months prior to export
    • obtain a form from the shop where he makes the purchase
    • present the form, and in certain cases the goods, to a customs officer when leaving the EU, where they will be stamped
    Only goods meant for personal use are eligible for the refund. The stamped forms and receipts can then be sent back to the retailers, or their agents, for a refund.
    In most cases, a minimum purchase applies to use the tax-free shopping scheme. The actual amount of VAT reclaimable depends on the VAT rate applicable in the particular country to the goods purchased, and may be subject to a deduction for administration fees.

    *Important Note*
    Travelers entering or leaving any EU member state carrying any sum equal to or exceeding €10,000 (or its equivalent in other currencies or easily convertible assets such as cheques drawn on a third party) must make a declaration to the customs authorities. Customs authorities are empowered under this regulation (signed by the European Parliament and Council on 26 October 2005 and entered into force on 15 December 2005) to undertake controls on natural persons, their baggage and their means of transport and detain cash that has not been declared.
    Austrian food is traditionally hearty and typically "meat and dumplings". You will often see "Wiener Schnitzel" (a bread-crumbed and fried veal escalope) on the menu, as well as "Knoedel", which are dumplings that can be sweet or savory. Austria is also known for its delicious pastries and desserts, including tasty Apfelstrudel. Most villages have their own bakery, where you will find a large selection of freshly baked breads, including rye bread and sweet and savory rolls.
    A service charge of 10-15 percent is included in hotel and restaurant bills. Many people add 5% for good service. Attendants get a Euro or so, and taxi drivers expect 10 percent.

    Public toilets must normally be paid for. Prices range between €0.20 and €1, which must either be handed to a toilet assistant or inserted into a slot.
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    Bank information
    In general: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday: 8am to 12:30pm & 1:30pm to 3pm , Thursday: 8am to 12:30pm & 1:30pm to 5:30pm.
    ATMs are widely used in Austria and are called "Bankomat". You will find outdoor venues at most branches of Austrian banks. Please check with your local bank if your bank card is equipped with the necessary codes.
    Credit cards, although accepted in hotels, major restaurants and stores, are less used for purchases in small shops, cafes, or grocery stores. We recommend you check before you get to the cash desk or check out.

    The international code for calling Austria is +43. To call the US from Austria, dial 001 followed by the area code and then the telephone number.

    US and Canadian passport holders do not require a visa in order to enter Austria.

    However if you have any questions please contact the Austrian Consulate General.

    Austrian Consulate General
    New York: (212) 737 6400
    Los Angeles: (310) 444 9310
    Chicago: (312) 222 1515
    Vancouver: (604) 687 3338
    Toronto: (416) 967 3348 x 23
    Montreal: (514) 845 8661

    Austrian Embassy
    Washington DC: (202) 895 6700
    Ottawa: (613) 789 1444
  • Switzerland
    Switzerland's full name is the Swiss Confederation. It is made up of 26 cantons, with Bern as it's capital, although Zurich is the largest city. Switzerland is a Federal Republic with a direct democracy. The cantons regulate local government. The basic unit of local government, which administers a village, town, or city, is the commune or municipality. Switzerland lies to the west of Austria and south of Germany.

    The Swiss economy is stable, with hi-tech industries, manufacturing and banking being of particular importance. The country is home to several large multinational corporations such as Nestle and Hoffmann-La Roche. Switzerland is ranked as having one of the most powerful economies in the world.

    In 2010, Switzerland ranked 16th among the main U.S. export destinations, and 21st as a source of imports. The United States is the second-largest importer (9.75%) of Swiss goods after Germany (19.55%). In addition, the United States is the largest foreign investor in Switzerland, and conversely, the largest single destination of Swiss foreign investment. It is estimated that 300,000 American jobs depend on approximately $190 billion in Swiss investments in the United States.

    Switzerland has officially 4 languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansch, but most signs, instructions and packaging are only written in the three main languages (German, French and Italian). Many Swiss can also speak some English, especially people working in hotels or restaurants.
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    The climate is moderate with no excessive heat, cold or humidity.
    From July to August the daytime temperature range is 18 to 28 °C (65° - 82° F) and from January to February the range is -2 to 7 °C (28° - 45° F). In spring and autumn, the daytime temperature range is 8 to 15 °C (46° - 59° F).
    Depending on the altitude the temperature range may vary. It is highly recommended to visitors to pack a sweater, good walking shoes, sunscreen, sunglasses, a compact umbrella and/or a light rain coat.

    Switzerland has a varied cultural scene encompassing concerts, theater and exhibitions, museums and dance productions, excellent restaurants serving good quality food and drink, traditional artists, architects and designers. Folk art is kept alive in organizations all over the country. In Switzerland it is mostly expressed in music, dance, poetry, wood carving and embroidery. The alphorn, a trumpet-like musical instrument made of wood, has become alongside yodeling and the accordion an epitome of traditional Swiss music.

    Reservation Information/ Terms and Conditions
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    All the hotels we suggest are unique and many are family-run. There are, however, some general differences between hotels in the US and in Europe.

    Double beds often consist of two separate mattresses inside a double bed frame. These beds are also known as twins. Please bear this in mind if you do not want to sleep next to the person sharing your room. Two single rooms may be an alternative in this case. Rooms are generally smaller in size than in America. You can usually occupy your room from 3 pm on the day you arrive and have to vacate it by 10 am when you leave, but there are occasional differences to this general rule of thumb. Bath tubs in hotels in may not always be full-size.

    Due to the climate, it is not usual in Europe that hotels have air conditioning. You can, however, normally open the windows.

    Some hotels offer evening meals in their restaurants. Meals vary from 3 - 4 courses, with a choice of main course. Breakfast is often served as a buffet. Some hotels offer part of the evening meal as a buffet too, eg. a salad bar.

    It is quite usual in Europe for people not to wear bathing suits in saunas.

    Travel insurance is essential for any trip abroad. If you are a traveler from outside Europe, and have no travel insurance, you will need to pay the full cost of treatment up-front (with the exception of the emergency room). Medical bills can be very expensive, though still reasonable when compared to the US. Most credit card companies provide travel insurance, please check before you travel. You may find the following link useful: www.insuremytrip.com

    Please note that Alpentouristik Travel LLC does not endorse any insurance that may be sold through insuremytrip.com.

    If you would like information about how to prepare for your vacation "health-wise", please take a look at Passport Health. Specializing in all things immunization related, including on-site flu clinics, travel medicine and immigration medical exams, Passport Health of Sarasota-Bradenton is there to provide you with the knowledge healthcare you need.
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    Banks are usually open Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Once a week they extend their hours. Please check locally. They are closed Saturdays, Sundays and on public holidays. However, money can also be changed at major train stations. Look for the "Change/Cambio" signs.
    Many banks have automated teller machines (ATMs) that accept overseas bank cards. please check with your local bank before leaving if your bank card is valid in Switzerland.

    The safest and easiest form of money is credit cards. The cards most used are Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Credit cards, are accepted in hotels, major restaurants and stores, and can also be used for purchases in small shops, cafes, or grocery stores.

    Post offices are usually open from 8 am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 5 pm on weekdays

    For information about using your cell phone in Europe, please click here.

    The international code for calling Switzerland is +41. To call the US from Switzerland, dial 001 followed by the area code and then the telephone number.

    As a rule, all hotels add a surcharge for phone calls. With the Swiss phone card (Taxcard©) you can make cashless domestic and international calls from public phone boxes in Switzerland. The Taxcard© can be purchased from Swisscom Shops, post offices, kiosks and petrol stations for CHF 5, CHF 10 and CHF 20.


    English is spoken in most shops and department stores. Many people consider buying a famous Swiss watch. Fine watches come in an infinite variety and are generally less expensive than in others countries. Swiss chocolates are delicious and come in a variety of sizes, shapes and flavors. Other excellent buys are: textiles, embroideries, fine handkerchiefs, linen, precision instruments, drafting sets, Swiss Army pocket knives, music boxes, woodcarvings, ceramics and other handmade items as well as antiques and art books.

    Switzerland is not a member of the Economic and Currency Union, and it's currency is the Swiss Franc (CHF). Prices displayed include sales tax. While Switzerland is not part of the European Union and thus is not obliged to convert to the Euro, many prices are nonetheless indicated in euros so that visitors may compare prices.
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    Any traveler living in a country outside the European Union or Switzerland VAT area is entitled to shop tax-free at participating shops. The traveler pays the VAT on goods in the shop in the usual way, and can request a refund when exporting the goods. To qualify, the traveler must:
    • have residency in a non-EU country
    • have a maximum stay of 6 months within the EU
    • make purchases no more than three months prior to export
    • obtain a form from the shop where he makes the purchase
    • present the form, and in certain cases the goods, to a customs officer when leaving the EU, where they will be stamped
    Only goods meant for personal use are eligible for the refund. The stamped forms and receipts can then be sent back to the retailers, or their agents, for a refund.
    In most cases, a minimum purchase applies to use the tax-free shopping scheme. The actual amount of VAT reclaimable depends on the VAT rate applicable in the particular country to the goods purchased, and may be subject to a deduction for administration fees. The VAT tax you pay on purchased goods in Switzerland is 8.0%. You may ask at the shops for your Global Blue Cheque and reclaim the VAT. Global Blue offers you a swift and save cash refund system at Zurich and Geneva airports as well as at all major airport in Europe and all major road exit points.

    *Important Note*
    Travelers entering or leaving any EU member state carrying any sum equal to or exceeding €10,000 (or its equivalent in other currencies or easily convertible assets such as cheques drawn on a third party) must make a declaration to the customs authorities. Customs authorities are empowered under this regulation (signed by the European Parliament and Council on 26 October 2005 and entered into force on 15 December 2005) to undertake controls on natural persons, their baggage and their means of transport and detain cash that has not been declared.
    US and Canadian passport holders do not require a visa in order to enter Switzerland. Every traveler must have a valid passport. Visa are required for a continuous stay of more than three months.

    However if you have any questions please contact the Swiss Embassy:

    Embassy of Switzerland
    2900 Cathedral Ave. NW
    Washington, DC 20008

    Phone: +1 (202) 745-7900
    Fax: +1 (202) 387-2564

    The U.S. Embassy in Switzerland is located at Sulgeneckstrasse 19, 3007 Bern, tel: (41) (31) 357-7011

    There is never a wrong or right time to take a vacation in Switzerland. There is always something new to see or do at any time of the year , but there are, traditionally two distinctive travel periods.

    If you would like to go walking or hiking in, the best time to go is May - September. The peak time for a summer vacation is July and August, when temperatures can be high, although the average temperature is 68°F. The weather in the mountain areas can change very rapidly, and you should inform yourself about weather conditions before setting off on a hike and take appropriate clothing, footwear and food and water with you. The locals usually give reliable weather information and their experience should not be ignored. Late May and June are the best times to see lush meadows full of wild flowers. Most houses in Switzerland are splendidly decorated with flowers on their balconies throughout the summer months. Late August until mid-September is the time when many villages celebrate harvest time.

    December - March is the best time to enjoy a winter vacation, when temperatures range between - 4°F and 32°F. You don’t have to be a downhill or cross-country skier to enjoy a winter holiday in Switzerland, but if you are, there are plenty of gentle and challenging slopes and trails for you to explore. Non-skiers can also enjoy winter in Switzerland with activities such as a horse-drawn sleigh ride, tobogganing and browsing through the varied shops or enjoying the view of the snow-covered mountains while sipping a delicious hot chocolate or Gluehwein.

    Most hotels are only available from Saturday to Saturday, particularly in winter, but if you would like to arrive or depart on another day of the week, please ask us to check availability.

    Take a look at the descriptions of the suggested destinations. We will be happy to assist you in your choice of the the right one for you.

    Swiss cuisine bears witness to many regional influences, including from Italian, French, and German cuisine, and also features many dishes specific to Switzerland. Switzerland was historically a country of farmers, so traditional Swiss dishes tend to be plain and made from simple ingredients, such as potatoes and cheese.

    Tipping is not expected, although it is common for a customer to round-up the bill to the nearest franc for a small amount, or to add a couple of francs (certainly not 10%) to a larger bill.
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    In most restaurants and pubs, "service" as it's called, is included on the bill. Anything left in addition is a compliment for great service, but not expected

    Public toilets must normally be paid for. Prices range between 1 - 2 CHF, which must either be handed to a toilet assistant or inserted into a slot.
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  • Germany
    Germany is officially the Federal Republic of Germany consisting of 16 states and its capital and largest city is Berlin. It is one of the major political powers of the European continent and a technological leader in many fields.

    In the international arena German companies have an excellent reputation. They represent “Made in Germany”, known as a seal of quality the world over. They represent innovation, quality and cutting-edge technology. Yet the world’s fourth largest economy does not consist solely of global players, but also of many world market leaders who are actually small and medium-sized enterprises, the powerhouse of the German economy. They all benefit from the sound economic conditions, not to mention the excellent qualifications of the workforce. Foreign investors also value this.
    Germany has a varied cultural scene encompassing concerts, theater and exhibitions, museums and dance productions, excellent restaurants serving good quality food and drink, traditional artists, architects and designers. Germany is one of the major book nations, with around 94,000 new books and re-editions each year. The 350 dailies and thousands of magazines go to show how lively the German media world is. Moreover, German films are once again a great success at home and abroad.

    Reservation Information/ Terms and Conditions
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    Germany's official language is German, although many Germans can also speak English, especially people working in hotels or restaurants.

    Germany's weather is changeable due to colliding maritime and continental air masses The four seasons (Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter) each have typical temperature and climatic characters. Summer generally has pleasant temperatures, although afternoon thunderstorms are quite common.
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    All the hotels we suggest are unique and many are family-run. There are, however, some general differences between hotels in the US and in Germany.

    Double beds in Europe usually consist of two separate mattresses inside a double bed frame. These beds are also known as twins. Please bear this in mind if you do not want to sleep next to the person sharing your room. Two single rooms may be an alternative in this case. Rooms are generally smaller in size than in America. You can usually occupy your room from 3 pm on the day you arrive and have to vacate it by 10 am when you leave, but there are occasional differences to this general rule of thumb. Bath tubs in hotels in Germany may not always be full-size.

    Due to the climate, it is not usual in Germany that hotels have air conditioning. You can, however, normally open the windows.

    Some hotels offer evening meals in their restaurants. Meals vary from 3 - 4 courses, with a choice of main course. Breakfast is often served as a buffet. Some hotels offer part of the evening meal as a buffet too, eg. a salad bar.

    It is quite usual in Europe for people not to wear bathing suits in saunas.

    Travel insurance is essential for any trip abroad. If you are a traveler from outside the EU, and have no travel insurance, you will need to pay the full cost of treatment up-front (with the exception of the emergency room). Medical bills can be very expensive, though still reasonable when compared to the US. Most credit card companies provide travel insurance, please check before you travel. You may find the following link useful: www.insuremytrip.com

    Please note that Alpentouristik Travel LLC does not endorse any insurance that may be sold through insuremytrip.com.

    If you would like information about how to prepare for your vacation "health-wise", please take a look at Passport Health. Specializing in all things immunization related, including on-site flu clinics, travel medicine and immigration medical exams, Passport Health of Sarasota-Bradenton is there to provide you with the knowledge healthcare you need.

    Banks
    In general: Mon - Fri 8:30 am - 4 pm Sat/Sun closed.

    ATMs are widely used in Germany and are called "Bankomat". You will find outdoor venues at most branches of German banks. Please check with your local bank if your bank card is equipped with the necessary codes.

    Credit cards, although accepted in hotels, major restaurants and stores, are less used for purchases in small shops, cafes, or grocery stores. We recommend you check before you get to the cash desk or check out.

    For information about using your cell phone in Europe, please click here.

    The international code for calling Germany is +49. To call the US from Germany, dial 001 followed by the area code and then the telephone number.

    US and Canadian passport holders do not require a visa in order to enter Germany.

    However if you have any questions please contact the German Consulate General.

    Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany
    100 N. Biscayne Blvd. Suite 2200
    Miami, Florida, 33132
    Phone (305) 358 0290
    Fax: (305) 358 0307

    Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany
    2300 M Street NW
    Washington, DC 20037
    Phone (202) 298-4000
    Visa questions (202) 298-4224
    Passport questions (202) 471-5529
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    Great cuisine and fine wines, relaxing in Mother Nature, festivals and celebrations, vacation, design and fashion, inspiring architecture. Germany has plenty of all to offer – and is far removed from all the clichés that might still abound about lederhosen and sauerkraut. But then the numerous visitors from abroad who are increasingly discovering that Germany is an interesting vacation destination already know this. Not just because of the wealth of German cultural and historical sights, but also because of the wide-ranging regional cuisine and the changing landscapes.

    German Department Stores are generally open Mon - Sat 10 am - 8 pm. They are closed on Sunday.

    German Supermarkets and Shops are generally open
    Mon-Fri 8 am - 8 pm.
    Sat 8 am - 8 pm. (smaller supermarkets close between 6 and 8 pm) They are closed on Sunday.
    Shops in smaller towns might shut down for a 1-hour lunch break (usually between noon and 1 pm).

    Germany is a member of the Economic and Currency Union - the common currency is the Euro. Prices displayed include sales tax.

    Any traveler living in a country outside the European Union VAT area is entitled to shop tax-free at participating shops in the EU. The traveler pays the VAT on goods in the shop in the usual way, and can request a refund when exporting the goods. To qualify, the traveler must:
    • have residency in a non-EU country
    • have a maximum stay of 6 months within the EU
    • make purchases no more than three months prior to export
    • obtain a form from the shop where he makes the purchase
    • present the form, and in certain cases the goods, to a customs officer when leaving the EU, where they will be stamped
    Only goods meant for personal use are eligible for the refund. The stamped forms and receipts can then be sent back to the retailers, or their agents, for a refund.
    In most cases, a minimum purchase applies to use the tax-free shopping scheme. The actual amount of VAT reclaimable depends on the VAT rate applicable in the particular country to the goods purchased, and may be subject to a deduction for administration fees.

    *Important Note*
    Travelers entering or leaving any EU member state carrying any sum equal to or exceeding €10,000 (or its equivalent in other currencies or easily convertible assets such as cheques drawn on a third party) must make a declaration to the customs authorities. Customs authorities are empowered under this regulation (signed by the European Parliament and Council on 26 October 2005 and entered into force on 15 December 2005) to undertake controls on natural persons, their baggage and their means of transport and detain cash that has not been declared.
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    There is never a wrong or right time to take a vacation in Germany. There is always something new to see or do at any time of the year, there are, however, traditionally two distinctive travel periods and most visitors travel in the summer months.

    If you would like to go walking or hiking in Germany, the best time to go is May - September. The peak time for a summer vacation is July and August, when temperatures can be high, although the average temperature is 68°F. The weather in the mountain areas can change very rapidly, and you should inform yourself about weather conditions before setting off on a hike and take appropriate clothing, footwear and food and water with you. The locals usually give reliable weather information and their experience should not be ignored. Late May and June are the best times to see lush meadows full of wild flowers.

    December - March is the best time to enjoy a winter vacation in Germany, when temperatures range between - 4°F and 32°F. Many German Cities have traditional Christmas Markets, which are open from the end of November until Christmas time. Here you can enjoy browsing at handmade Christmas decorations or homemade delicacies and indulge in a delicious hot chocolate or Gluehwein.

    Most hotels are only available from Saturday to Saturday, particularly in winter, but if you would like to arrive or depart on another day of the week, please ask us to check availability.

    Take a look at the descriptions of the suggested destinations. We will be happy to assist you in your choice of the the right one for you.

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    Service and VAT are included in the menu price in restaurants, bars, etc. all over Germany. Still, it is typical to "round up" the amount to some more-or-less round figure. A rule of thumb is to add 5-10%, generally ending with a full Euro amount.

    Public toilets must normally be paid for. Prices range between €0.20 and €1, which must either be handed to a toilet assistant or inserted into a slot.
  • Italy
    Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north, it borders France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia along the Alps. To the south, it consists of the entirety of the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, Sardinia–the two largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea–and many other smaller islands. The independent states of San Marino and the Vatican City are enclaves within Italy, while Campione d'Italia is an Italian exclave in Switzerland.

    After World War II, Italy was rapidly transformed from an agriculture based economy into one of the world's most industrialized nations and a leading country in world trade and exports. The country is well known for its influential and innovative business economic sector, an industrious and competitive agricultural sector (Italy is the world's largest wine producer), and for its creative and high-quality automobile, industrial, appliance and fashion design.

    Italy's official language is Italian, although many Italians can also speak English, especially people working in hotels or restaurants.
    Italy's climate is highly diverse due to the length of the peninsular. Conditions on peninsular coastal areas can be very different from the interior's higher ground and valleys, particularly during the winter months when the higher altitudes tend to be cold, wet, and often snowy. The coastal regions have mild winters and warm and generally dry summers, although lowland valleys can be quite hot in summer.

    Italy is home to the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (47) to date, and has rich collections of art, culture and literature from many different periods. The country has had a broad cultural influence worldwide, also because numerous Italians emigrated to other places throughout the world. Italy has, overall, an estimated 100,000 monuments of any sort (museums, palaces, buildings, statues, churches, art galleries, villas, fountains, historic houses and archaeological remains).


    Reservation Information/ Terms and Conditions
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    All the hotels we suggest are unique and many are family-run. There are, however, some general differences between hotels in the US and in Europe.

    Double beds in Italy may consist of two separate mattresses inside a double bed frame. These beds are also known as twins. Please bear this in mind if you do not want to sleep next to the person sharing your room. Two single rooms may be an alternative in this case. Rooms are generally smaller in size than in America. You can usually occupy your room from 3 pm on the day you arrive and have to vacate it by 10 am when you leave, but there are occasional differences to this general rule of thumb. Bath tubs in hotels in Italy may not always be full-size.

    Due to the climate, it is not usual in Italy that hotels have air conditioning. You can, however, normally open the windows.

    Some hotels offer evening meals in their restaurants. Meals vary from 3 - 4 courses, with a choice of main course. Breakfast is often served as a buffet. Some hotels offer part of the evening meal as a buffet too, eg. a salad bar.

    It is quite usual in Italy for people not to wear bathing suits in saunas.

    Travel insurance is essential for any trip abroad. If you are a traveler from outside the EU, and have no travel insurance, you will need to pay the full cost of treatment up-front (with the exception of the emergency room). Medical bills can be very expensive, though still reasonable when compared to the US. Most credit card companies provide travel insurance, please check before you travel. You may find the following link useful: www.insuremytrip.com

    Please note that Alpentouristik Travel LLC does not endorse any insurance that may be sold through insuremytrip.com.

    If you would like information about how to prepare for your vacation "health-wise", please take a look at Passport Health. Specializing in all things immunization related, including on-site flu clinics, travel medicine and immigration medical exams, Passport Health of Sarasota-Bradenton is there to provide you with the knowledge healthcare you need.
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    Bank opening hours are regulated by law, they open at 8.30am and close at 1.30pm for lunch. They open again in the afternoon at 3pm and close at 4pm from Monday to Friday. There are banks that open on Saturdays.

    ATMs are widely used in Italy and are called "Bankomat". You will find outdoor venues at most branches of Italian banks. Please check with your local bank if your bank card is equipped with the necessary codes.

    Credit cards, although accepted in hotels, major restaurants and stores, are less used for purchases in small shops, cafes, or grocery stores. We recommend you check before you get to the cash desk or check out.

    For information about using your cell phone in Europe, please click here.

    The international code for calling Italy is +39. To call the US from Italy, dial 001 followed by the area code and then the telephone number.

    Shops generally open at 09:00 in the morning and close at 13:00 hours, then after lunch Shops open again at 15:30 in the afternoon and close at 19:30 from Monday to Saturday.

    Most shops are closed on Sunday but you can find at least one shop open; shop opening hours are not rigorous in many cities in Italy, like in Tuscany where shops can be closed in the afternoon until around four, and then stay open for three or four hours and usually work only half-day on Wednesday.

    Many people decide to buy hand-crafted and unique items in Italy that are not available in the US. Italy's a great source for art, antiques, ceramics, glass, jewelry, lace, leather, religious objects, wine and high fashion.

    Italy is a member of the Economic and Currency Union - the common currency is the Euro. Prices displayed include sales tax.

    Any traveler living in a country outside the European Union VAT area is entitled to shop tax-free at participating shops in the EU. The traveler pays the VAT on goods in the shop in the usual way, and can request a refund when exporting the goods. To qualify, the traveler must:
    • have residency in a non-EU country
    • have a maximum stay of 6 months within the EU
    • make purchases no more than three months prior to export
    • obtain a form from the shop where he makes the purchase
    • present the form, and in certain cases the goods, to a customs officer when leaving the EU, where they will be stamped
    Only goods meant for personal use are eligible for the refund. The stamped forms and receipts can then be sent back to the retailers, or their agents, for a refund.
    In most cases, a minimum purchase applies to use the tax-free shopping scheme. The actual amount of VAT reclaimable depends on the VAT rate applicable in the particular country to the goods purchased, and may be subject to a deduction for administration fees.

    *Important Note*
    Travelers entering or leaving any EU member state carrying any sum equal to or exceeding €10,000 (or its equivalent in other currencies or easily convertible assets such as cheques drawn on a third party) must make a declaration to the customs authorities. Customs authorities are empowered under this regulation (signed by the European Parliament and Council on 26 October 2005 and entered into force on 15 December 2005) to undertake controls on natural persons, their baggage and their means of transport and detain cash that has not been declared.
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    When to travel
    There is never a wrong or right time to take a vacation in Italy. There is always something new to see or do at any time of the year, but like most of Western Europe, early spring and autumn are the times with less crowds and pleasant temperatures.

    Northern Italy looks totally stunning in spring, its winters are mild and occasionally very foggy, and its hot, dry and humid summers are tempered by sea breezes. In winter in Venice a mist often descends and hovers over the city creating an atmosphere of mystery and suspense.

    Summer is Italy's peak season when the country is at its busiest. Many shops and restaurants close in late August when their owners go on holiday.

    Most hotels are only available from Saturday to Saturday, particularly in winter, but if you would like to arrive or depart on another day of the week, please ask us to check availability.

    Take a look at the descriptions of the suggested destinations. We will be happy to assist you in your choice of the the right one for you.
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    US and Canadian passport holders do not require a visa in order to enter Italy.

    However if you have any questions please contact the Italian Consulate General.

    Italian Consulate General
    101 Cedar Point Lane
    Longwood
    Orlando, Florida 32779
    Phone: (407) 869-9702

    Italian Embassy
    3000 Whitehaven Street
    Washington, District of Columbia 20008
    Phone: (202) 612-4400
    Italians take food very seriously. Each region, and sometimes even a city, will have regional specialties that they are very proud of. Many dishes that were once regional have proliferated in different variations across the country. Cheese and wine are major parts of the cuisine, Coffee, and more specifically espresso, has become highly important to the cultural cuisine of Italy. Some famous dishes and items include pasta, pizza, lasagna, focaccia, and gelato.

    Restaurants generally open at 12 noon and close after lunch, at 2.30pm; most restaurants also open at night, from 7pm to 11pm.
    The waiter will almost never bring the bill until you ask for it. You may be the last people in the restaurant but the bill still doesn't come. When you are ready for the bill, simply ask for "il conto". The bill will include a small bread and cover charge but the prices listed on the menu include tax and service. You may leave a small tip (a few coins) if you want to. Not all restaurants accept credit cards so be prepared with cash.

    Public toilets must normally be paid for. Prices range between €0.20 and €1, which must either be handed to a toilet assistant or inserted into a slot.
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GENERAL INFORMATION

Passports
The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport information. Telephone: 1-877-4-USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778); TDD/TTY: 1-888-874-7793.
Passport information is available 24 hours, 7 days a week. You may speak with a representative Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.

Travel Health
If you would like information about how to prepare for your vacation "health-wise", please take a look at Passport Health. Specializing in all things immunization related, including on-site flu clinics, travel medicine and immigration medical exams, Passport Health of Sarasota-Bradenton is there to provide you with the knowledge healthcare you need.


Ship breakables home
It may cost a bit more, but the longer you keep your more fragile purchases with you bouncing down the road of your trip, the greater the chances that your Venetian glass souvenir will end up Venetian glass shards.

You can save yourself time and hassle should something go wrong with a purchase being shipped home if you snap a photo of your purchases before they're wrapped up.

This photo makes excellent proof of purchase when it comes to insurance claims. If you find that you're running out of room in your luggage, ship those fragile items home first, then mail home your personal stuff you don't need, like dirty laundry, rather than entrusting all your purchases to the postal system.
Metric size charts
I'm a size what? European clothing and shoe sizes are different to American. These charts show you how to convert American clothes sizes to European ones.

Metric sizes for women's clothing and shoes
Women's Coats and Dresses

United States 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18
Europe 34 36 38 40 42 44 46 48
Great Britain 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20

Women's Shoes
United States 5 6 7 8 9 10
Europe 36 37 38 39 40 41
Great Britain 4 5 6 7 8 9

Metric sizes for men's clothing and shoes
Men's Jackets

United States 34 36 38 40 42 44 46 48
Europe 44 46 48 50 52 54 56 58
Great Britain 34 36 38 40 42 44 46 48

Men's Shirts
United States 14 14-1/2 15 15-1/2 16 16-1/2 17 17-1/2
Europe 36 37 38 39 41 42 43 44
Great Britain 14 14-1/2 15 15-1/2 16 16-1/2 17 17-1/2

Men's Shoes
United States 7 8 9 10 11 12
Europe 39 41 43 44 45 46
Great Britain 6 7 8 9 10 11