Posts Tagged ‘Money exchange’

Off to the Banca I Go!


Main Street – Spello, Umbria

One of the issues with travel, especially to foreign lands, is estimating how much cash to bring and being prepared to access it if and when you need more. When moving across borders like I have in the last six weeks, finding the best and cheapest way to exchange currency becomes a factor. And if there’s a twinge of gambler in you, you hope the exchange rate changes in your favor over time so you don’t exchange it all at once, you hedge your bet.

I require four different forms of money on this particular trip: US Dollars, Euros, Swiss Francs, and Croatian Kunas. Thanks to my membership with AAA, I was able to order much of the money beforehand with no processing fee. This is by far the cheapest way to go. The exchange booths at the airport and train stations are your worst bet. ATM or Bancomat here is a reasonable option, still fees, though. I tend to rely on the third option, walking into a bank that can do an exchange. There is a fee but sometimes cheaper than the ATM and I don’t run the risk of scammers rigging the card slot or theft. I just feel safer having a face to face with a bank teller.

Monday morning I left my apartment at 9 a.m. intent on picking up some groceries, shopping for souvenirs and exchanging some Dollars for Euros. Easy! How long could it take? And then I remembered I was in Italy. Everything happens on Italy time. With that acknowledgement, I reminded myself to look at it in a positive light – experiences are always far more charming and interesting when in a foreign country!

9:04 arrive at the Banca di Spello on the corner of the main piazza.

9:06 enter the bank. Now, you’re probably wondering why it took two minutes for me to actually get inside the bank. That’s because none of the banks here have normal doors. In fact, I hate going to the bank, it gives me great anxiety knowing I needed to exchange cash, because I don’t know how to work the darn doors. I can see people inside, I know they are open, but they obviously want you to be really sure you need to get in the bank ’cause you’ll need to maneuver the intercom and security locks that form an impermeable seal around the entrance. And in this particular case, I kept trying to pull the door open when I just needed to push. Stupido!

9:07 realize there is only one teller and I am fifth in line, after the woman currently being helped, an elder gentleman and two other women. They all seemed to nod in agreement once I figured out the door that I’m not from around these parts.

9:15 teller answers the phone, same woman still being helped.

9:17 I ponder why there is a painting hanging above the teller area depicting a night time scene of Venice’s Campo San Marco. Is there a connection between Spello and Venice? Does all the money from this bank go to a home bank in Venice? Are there no good paintings of Spello at night?

9:23 a man barrels in the door, walks to the front of the line and asks the teller for something. She goes to a side room, comes back, answers another phone call, finishes with the man’s transaction, and no one seems to be bothered that this has just occurred.

9:38 I’m next in line. Another man walks in, jumps in line, asks the teller to do something with a form he has. She deals with it and at this point, I’m starting to get a little ticked. There must be a system here that I’m unaware of.

9:42 my turn! The teller gives me a blank stare when I ask to do an exchange. “oh, non, this is impossibla.” What? You don’t want my dollars? It took me a few seconds but I realized she was saying the bank was too small, I would have to go to the big bank just outside of the old city center.

9:52 arrive at UniCredit di Umbria.

9:55 enter the bank. Now, this bank has a doozy of a door. In fact, it’s not a door. It’s a pod, with circular transparent panel doors. I pushed the green button to enter. The outer shell of the pod opened. I step in. The door closes behind me. Then, the shell facing the inside of the bank opens, and I can step through. I thought for sure I was going to be beamed up to the Enterprise or dropped down a shoot into a live Japanese game show. But alas, I was in! And fifth in line. And only one teller.

10:08 my turn! Yes, she could do an exchange.

10:16 after photocopying my passport and signing off on the not-so-great exchange rate, I walked out (beamed up) via the pod hatch/door thingy and made my way to the market.

I felt so empowered, I had maneuvered through not one, but two bank entrances and actually executed a financial transaction and it only took one hour and twenty minutes. Stay tuned, tomorrow I will share my adventures of going to the post office. I can’t wait to see what kind of door they have!

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