Your visa application has finally been approved. Congratulations!
All you need to do now is to buy your flight tickets and pack off your bags.
Try to find flight offers with convenient baggage weight. I booked my tickets via the Rostamani travel agency inside my university to avoid wasting time on searching for flight offers and deals. However, travel agencies are limited to certain airlines only. You can find better deals with more flight options online. Buying tickets with the round trip option is always a budget-friendly option, unless you are planning to visit another country after Italy.
In my case, I had booked a flight to Pisa with a transit flight from Rome. Depending on the flight duration, book an appropriate date to avoid any late arrival problems. Make sure that you take the flight on any day except Sunday. On Sundays, literally, everything is closed in Italy. If you reach the institute on Sunday, you’ll have to camp outside until the guardian arrives the next morning to give you your room keys. You will also need to make sure that you reach the institute before 9 pm, since the guardian leaves after that time.
Once you have purchased your tickets, you can check in online and print your boarding pass with your seat number written.
You are now one more step away from beautiful memories, unforgettable friends, learnt life lessons and a better you.
Take a deep breath and take out a pen and paper. Time to make a packing list.
What to wear:
It gets real hot in summer in Italy around mid-June. In order to keep your cool, literally, pack lots of cotton made T-shirts. Try to buy more of those basic tees. If you wear a head-scarf, make sure you pack those light-weight cotton shawls sold at your local store. If you are not bounded by any religious restriction, then pack tons of shorts for summer. Everyone, in Italy wear shorts and they look gorgeous!
One thing I regret is not taking a summer hat with me. You would really need that during day time to avoid the strong heat on your head.
Despite the usual cool breeze, the sun’s glare is concentrated on you which can burn your skin. Save that one place in your bag for lots of sun screen and make sure you put it on before going out. The amount of times I forgot to put on my sunscreen was equivalent to the level of tan I underwent. Lastly, pack some cool sunglasses to avoid squinting too much in the sun and give you a permanent RBF. (Resting Bitch Face).
Don’t get too carried away with the summer packing though. It can sometimes get really cold at nights because, let’s face it: the summer of Italy is approximately equivalent to the winter of Abu Dhabi.
If you visit Italy around May, it’s still quite cold. Or maybe I find it cold because I have never lived in temperatures approximately below 18 degrees. At night time around May, it can get as cold as 11 degrees! So make sure that you have enough warm clothes with you for those exciting after-dinner walks.
Sometimes, without any apparent reason, it’ll start raining cats and dogs and suddenly a warm sunny day could turn into a thunderous wrath of the heavens. Be prepared!
Also, get yourself a good pair of running shoes. I regretted so much for only taking summer slippers and loafers which, by the end of my stay, looked like a dog’s chewing toy. You will have a lot of walking to do.
Once you’re done making a list of your Italian wardrobe, it is time to pack for maintaining your basic hygiene.
Here’s a small checklist that you can use to make sure that you do not forget anything.
- Tooth brush
- Hand Soap
- Shower Gel
- Bathing Brush
- Hair Brush
- Hair pins
- Hair bands
- Hair clips
- Hair-removal products
- Menstrual Pads
- Tissue boxes
- Body lotion
- Washing powder for clothes
Apart from your bathroom accessories, you should make a basic first-aid kit in case of any emergencies. You can use the checklist below:
- Calamine Lotion (you really need this!)
- Lots of mosquito repellant
- Bandages in several sizes
- Antiseptic Wipes
- safety pins
- List of emergency phone numbers of Italy.
This kit should be in your shoulder bag at all times. Therefore, try to make it as light weight as possible.
- Lightweight Iron
- Phone charger
- Laptop charger
- Adapter for two hole socket
- Shoulder Bag
- Locks: Buy locks for each compartment of your luggage and keep the keys safe with you at all times.
Kitchenware and food:
When you can just eat at the local restaurants everyday, then why bother to take kitchen utensils and food with you? Because, this blog is meant to teach you to live on a tight budget while travelling. I will talk about the amount of budget needed for a two months stay in the next section.
This section is really important if you want to avoid wasting money on food and do not want to starve yourself either. However, I do not at all mean to discourage you from buying meals occasionally at Italian restaurants. Heck no! I’ve got one full article on the type of Italian food you should be ordering.
Since I was allowed a 46 kg baggage weight (23kg/piece), one of my bags carried only kitchen ware and food. However, I took a hell lot of unnecessary kitchen accessories including the dish-washing soap! You only need a few basic utensils that the kitchen does not have.
I’m assuming that you’d live in the guest house of the Biorobotics institute and hence, the list below is based on that sort of living. If you plan to live elsewhere though, I would advise you to contact that house owner and ask him about the house conditions. You might want to ask him or her whether they have enough kitchen utensils for you to be able to cook easily. Below are the items that I would advise you to take with you.
My check list for Kitchen stuff:
- Electric boiler (really important)
- Insulated water bottle
- Medium sized cooking pot
- One fork, knife and spoon (personal)
- Cup noodles (20 would do)
- Doritos chips (How I missed them)
- Home-made cookies
- Tea (for tea addicts).
- Corn Flakes
- Milk Powder (big size)
- Cream cheese (to put on bread)
- 1Kg long grained rice
Don’t bother buying coffee because if you live in Italy, you only drink Italian coffee.
If you don’t have enough weight but you will be staying with your room mate in the guest house, you both can divide the checklist items.
Also, if you are a Muslim and adhere strictly to your religious duties, then you are obviously restricted from eating the non-halal meat. Don’t worry! I’ll be also discussing with you the shops that sell Halal meat.
I generally eat food with lots of spices that come from my country. It is very hard to find such spices in Italy and so it is better to take all those from your home country, provided of course, that you are a big fan of spicy food. But then, travelling is all about adapting to a new culture.
So, just carry a little of your home food with you in case you start feeling homesick. Once you get used to living in Italy, you’ll be buying a lot of food from the local store and cooking your own invented recipes.
Living on a budget comes with lots of difficulties and emergency situations but it is the best part of life. You sort of learn the way your early ancestors lived and it brings you closer to understanding the strongest weapon that you have developed in the evolutionary process: your mind.
With limited resources, you learn to create novel recipes that are actually really good for health and taste delicious. You’ll learn to deal with emergency situations that bring out new habits in you. Most importantly, you learn to value the unlimited resources you have back at home.
I was amazed at the list of ideas my brain threw at me during emergency situations. Before my travel, I sucked at cooking and I had zero ideas about combining appropriate food ingredients. Limited resources however, forced me and my friends to make our own food combinations.
After my trip, I’ve learnt to spend money only on things that I NEED and this have made a huge difference in my savings. Limited resources also makes you think more about useful investments.
For example, I managed to save enough money during my trip to be able to apply for a driving license in Abu Dhabi!
And this is exactly the sort of savings I want you to do during your stay in Italy.
To calculate your budget for the trip, you need to consider the following:
- Rent for two months
The institute will have emailed you the amount of rent you would be paying for your room. This also includes a percentage of VAT (Value Added Tax). My advice for you is to get a room-mate to share the rent with.
- Transport Costs
This includes your flight ticket costs and train ticket from Pisa to Pontedera and back.
If you have heavy luggage, it is better to take a cab from the airport.
The one way train ticket costs around 2.6 euros while the cab costs around 60 euros.
- Buying groceries
There is no fixed cost for grocery shopping and it obviously depends on your spending and managing. However, I considered spending 5 euros per day for food and hence took 300 euros separately for living. This, however, is an exaggeration. There were days that I spent 0 euros and there were days that I spent up to 20 euros.
- Travelling on weekends
I did not consider this part in my trip. I still managed to explore different cities in Italy by saving up my food money. I suggest, however, that if you can afford, have a separate travel budget as well.
Overall, I carried approximately 2380 euros with me apart from the flight cost and I managed to save around 1000 euros while coming back to Abu Dhabi. Just in case, though, I suggest you take no less than 2000 euros with you. This covered my living costs, rent and leisure travelling.
To be on the safe side, get a go-cash card and carry all your money in that. In case you lose it, you can block it and no one will be able to steal your money. You can buy train tickets and groceries with that card. However, you have to pay your rent in cash and will have to go to the ATM to withdraw your cash. Upon withdrawal, they charge you 3 euros.
On last note, keep track of your spending in a journal. I carried a small journal where I kept track of my weekly spending. This is important in the beginning weeks so you don’t run out of money. Although, I got a bit slack in the end over my journal keeping which I really regret.
Even if you have a lot of money left in the end, it is still crucial that you are aware of the amount you spend every day.
Managing your money depends on your priorities. I gave a higher priority to exploring different places and the least priority to eating food. Most of the times, I’d skip either breakfast or lunch and just have a proper dinner. By the end of the week, I’d use my saved food money on train tickets, museum tickets, gelato and Pizza!
It all depends on you!