[BigMailChimp list=1]After my girlfriends and I had spent six perfect days roaming Rome on our post-grad vacation, we were ready to head to the next item in our itinerary – the Tuscan countryside. As the “travel expert” of the group, I was voted the planner… and you betta believe that I planned our route in the cheapest way possible. The thing with planning cheap trips is that the transportation method can be risky, uncomfortable, and most likely local, meaning that you have to know the basics of the language. Lucky for us, all three of these challenges slapped us right in the face costing us a hefty 40 euros each. I wanted to share my story to make sure all my fellow travelers out there don’t fall into the same crappy tourist trap.
The girls, Diana, Spozmi, Omnia, and I went to Rome’s main train station, Termini, to purchase our tickets for Florence two days in advance. Of course, when we got to the station there was a massive line to speak with a guest attendant, so instead we tried buying our tickets in the automated ticket booths. Three out of four of us succeeded in the transaction, but Diana wasn’t so lucky and had to wait in the crazy long line to speak to a real human being (why is that so hard these days?). After an hour of painfully waiting, all four of us were set to go to Florence.
Two days later, we slung our oversized backpacks onto our backs and headed back to Termini for our 8:00 AM train up North. The walk to Platform 2 Est. was so long that it basically felt like we were walking all the way to Florence. Moments like these make you question why you packed every article of clothing in your bag. With every step came a new drop of sweat, and a new drop of determination to finally get to the damn train and throw our bags on the ground.
Just as my legs were about to give out, we made it to the train and found four empty seats with tickets in hand and time to spare.
Out of nowhere, Spoz’s mouth drops as she makes eye contact with someone behind us. I thought, “Who the hell does she know in Rome?” Our good friend Laura from New York, who was coincidentally also backpacking with two friends in Italy at the time, happens to walk onto the same train car as us. Talk about serendipity.
The train started moving ten minutes later and the Trenitalia conductor came around shortly thereafter to collect our tickets.
“Therde is-ah a problem-eh with your-eh teecket.”
“Um, what do you mean?”
“You deedn’t-eh validate your-eh teecket.”
“We bought the ticket at the Termini station, what isn’t validated?”
“You must read-eh the back of the teecket, if you did-eh not, it eesn’t my-eh problem. Now you must pay 40 euros each”
The minute I heard that 40 euros, my heart flew down to my butt and I was instantly in shock. We tried to ask him why no other Trenitalia employee had mentioned that you needed to validate a ticket prior to boarding a train, but all the rude Italian man kept saying was that there was a note on the back of the ticket about validation as well as on the train car. This is when we lost our sh!t. How do you expect a flustered tourist to read the back of a ticket that they have already purchased? And why on earth is it ok to put a sign inside of the train car with important instructions of something you need to do before you even get inside of the train?
That was the day we learned that before you ride certain trains in Europe, you need to validate your ticket by punching it through a machine (that actually looks like a hand-sanitizer machine), or they accuse you of trying to cheat the system and fine you 40 euros. Pissed doesn’t describe how all seven of us felt. We caused such a scene in the train car that the conductor even threatened to call the police if we didn’t pay.
We caved and paid the awful man with the money we were budgeting for our hostel, but we were determined to cause another scene when we got to Florence until we got our money back. When we arrived, the situation got so out of hand that they actually did call the police. Like an angry mob, we stormed the customer service desk and argued our case for at least two hours until all seven of us were promised our money back in 15 business days.
(Laura and Diana ganging up with a group of fellow victims at the Florence station like bada$$es)
Will we get our 40 euros back? Probably not, but will you avoid making this mistake?
I hope so.
Photo Credits: http://bit.ly/1pJqEGF