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Renting in Catania, Sicily

Things to know when dealing overseas (specifically in Italy):
1. Always keep your receipts: Many vendors print your complete credit card information on receipts and they may later try to charge you for things you already paid for.

2. There is no better business bureau: Not that the BBB is super effective but it does carry a certain amount of weight. If you rent from an international chain you are at least guaranteed to have local options when making complaints.

3. The mentality is snatch and grabs: In most tourist spots (especially in Italy) the mentality is that people are going to only come once so you may as well screw them as much as you can when they do come. They don’t think of repeat customers.

4. They will steal your car: This one may seem confusing. Here’s what happens, you rent a car, they steal it back at night and then charge you the insurance deductible. Use a club or something. Make sure your stuff is locked up tight.

Read more about some specific experiences:

  • Problems at Hollywood (part one)

  • Hollywood Rent-a-car will scam you(part two).

  • Posted Sunday, July 15, 2007

    Europe Day 23 – Get us out of here

    Don’t let my title be misleading. Europe has been awesome. It’s been such a wonderful trip despite our snags and problems. But now, I just want to get home. I was to change the dressing on my knee, I want to lay in a bed that doesn’t belong to someone else. I want my mommy.

    We’re getting there

    Ryanair took us to within an hour of Barcelona and we had to then buy a 14 euro bus ticket to get actually get into town. We met a nice girl on the plane that had also been booted from the same flight as us because she went to the bathroom or something equally ridiculous.

    We were going to get a kebab together and then I yelled at Gary for some dumb argument. He was actually right but I animated and I think it scared the girl away. Whoops. We found the central train station in Barcelona and had to buy 1st class overnight train tickets to get us to Madrid in time for our flight home. That was like 30 euros. I actually chalk all these costs up to Ryanair screwing us.

    The train ride was agreeable and when we got to Madrid we had like 6 hours before check-in but I was in no condition to do anything and we sure as hell weren’t going to miss our flight. We were beaten, out of money and sick of moving so we camped out in the airport.

    Robynn came through for us and showed up at the airport bearing pastries and that spanish milk drink that they’re so crazy about. She hung out with us for a while before she had to go to class. Thanks Robynn, you’re a life saver

    When we checked in with Continental they immediately had a wheelchair brought in for me and treated me so well. It was in such contrast to the bad customer service that Ryanair had given us.

    Everyone was so polite and they arranged good seats for me so that I would be able to stretch out and lay down on a bench. I love them.

    After a layover and flight delay in NY we finally arrived in Denver and went home. It felt so good to be able to shower and get a few days of stink off me…well…mostly off of me.

    Now enjoy pictures of my battle wounds

    Hole in knee bad ankle

    Posted Monday, June 11, 2007

    Don’t Ever Fly Ryanair

    For those of your who don’t know Ryanair is an airline that operates out of Ireland and hates everyone. Just look at their website. It looks like a Spam site. When I went to order tickets there I accidentally navigated away from the page like 3 times because I thought I must have mistyped the url.

    My reason for disliking Ryanair is much more personal.

    When tried to goto the airport in Rome we had directions from the internet. We were going to follow them when a person in the subway told us that we needed to take a train from the train station. So we ran up there and got told that we couldn’t take a train there. After wasting more time, we finally got back on the subway and followed the directions that we found on the Internet. They took us to the exact opposite side of Rome than we needed to be at.

    Ryanair’s policy is that you must be checked in 40 minutes before your flight. We found ourselves on the wrong side of rome with only 35 minutes to get to our check in. Taking a subway was out of the question. We had to get a taxi.

    Let me draw a picture for you. Imagine me:

    Don't pass out

    Imagine me, bloody, arm in a sling, running on very little sleep, limping and in an considerable amount of pain running around trying to get someone to tell us how to get to the airport.

    We tried to hail a taxi unsuccessfully for 10 minutes. Finally we got one and he took us to the airport. It cost 60 euros and we ran into the airport and to our checkin station. There was no one there and we were 5 minutes late.

    We tried to talk to another rep from Ryanair who told us that she wouldn’t help us and that we had to go rebook a flight. Nevermind that the flight was late, nevermind that I was bleeding everywhere. It didn’t matter.

    We went to the information station that she told us to go there and there was a line with no one working the counter.

    We went to security and showed them our flight confirmation but they wouldn’t let us through without a boarding pass. Not really their fault. We went back to the Ryanair and waited. There was a girl there but she told everyone that her shift was over and that she wouldn’t help anyone.

    Now we were 10 minutes late for check-in and the plane was still late. Boarding was no where near to starting and it would have been easy to get us on the plane, but no. Ryanair doesn’t care about it’s customers.

    Finally someone showed up to help customers after another 10 minutes. The other customers in line saw our predicament and sent us ahead of them. We started trying to explain our situation to the Ryanair reps and they shh’d us.

    Dejected we waited. We tried asking questions but the Ryanair employees seemed not to speak english. In utter exasperation I told Gary that I hated Italy. You have to give me a break, we’d been robbed twice (Gary got pickpocketed that morning), we’d been attacked by Italian footballers, we’d been threatened by a mobster rental place and people gave us bad directions to the airport. Oh, and we’d been ripped off just about everywhere we went.

    The ryanair employee thought that this was worth commenting on and finally snapped at me in perfect english. She told me that hating Italy didn’t even make sense because she wasn’t Italian and Ryanair wasn’t an Italian company. I told her that it had nothing to do with her (not true) and that it was just the system. I was trying to be nice and take any personal offense away from my statement but she just got mad and offended anyway.

    She told us we had to buy all new tickets, even though the plane hadn’t started boarding. She didn’t care that I’d been in an accident.

    We finally got a flight to Barcelona, which meant we’d need to take an all night train ride to get to Madrid in time for our flight. Our tickets were 80 euros each and we didnt’ get a refund for the tickets we’d already bought.

    Getting on the flight was a joke, everyone rusehed to find seats, pushing and shoving their way past me. No one thought I might need special consideration givin that I was limping horribly, arm in sling, bleeding. It was horrible.

    Ryanair, from everything that I can gather does not care about their customers, they don’t care about your needs, they don’t care about you. Don’t fly ryanair.

    Posted Friday, June 8, 2007

    Europe Day 22 – A Morning in Rome

    When we tell people about our trip, how we’re doing it, sending just hours in some cities they think we’re crazy. They’re probably right. Rome is, in my mind the most extreme example of what I like to call “Extreme X-Treme Traveling.”

    Because of my accident we had to stay in Sicily an extra night. This meant that we would only have a few hours in Rome before we needed to catch our flight. Our train got into Rome around 5 AM and we went straight to the Colosseum.

    Colosseum Rome

    The metros in Rome don’t seem to be super common. More like intercity trains, like the Cercanais in Spain or the RER in France. We just walked from there to St Peters (Thats the Vatican) stopping to take pictures of some random ruins.

    Random Ruins

    Once arrived at the Vatican I sat down by the fence while Lewis and Gary talked with the nuns that were waiting to get into the Vatican. I was really tired because of how hard it was to sleep on the train. Something about most of my joints feeling like they were melting. I must have looked like a bum because people gave me money.

    Nah, I’m just playing, but that would have been awesome.

    Since it was a Wednesday the Pope was going to come talk to everyone. We just wanted to get to the Museums. We asked all the Nuns, in three different languages if we were in the right line to go to the Museum. We asked the guards. We asked native Romans that happened to be going into the Vatican that day. They all told us that we were in the right line to get to the museums.

    We went through the gates and the guards wanted to search us. We told them that we weren’t going to see the Pope, we just wanted to go to the museums. The guards let us right through without searching because we weren’t going to see the pope.

    We started walking around the edge of St Peter’s.

    St Peters Square

    A guard ran up to us and told us that we needed to leave and go around to the other side of the Vatican because we couldn’t get to the Museums that way. Thanks for helping all 30 people that we asked hours earlier! We went around to find a line that was about a mile long…nah, more like a kilometer.

    So we went to the Parthenon.

    Parthenon Bleeding at the Parthenon

    To me the Parthenon was the most impressive thing that I saw in Rome. It’s amazing. The dome is so massive and so old that the logistics are nigh unfathomable.

    The coolest part is that up in the very middle of the dome is a giant hole that lets light into the church. The circle is open, there is no glass, there is no shade. When it rains, it rains it he Parthenon. It’s incredible.

    Posted Tuesday, June 5, 2007

    Europe Day 21 – Never goto Hollywood in Sicily

    That’s right, never goto Hollywood in Sicily. There’s a place that rents motorcycles and cars about 100 meters from the train station called “Hollywood.” Let me tell you why I spurn them so.

    When they rented the scooters to us they accidentally mixed up the keys to the scooters. Now, this shouldn’t be a big deal right? Wrong. Because I was driving (and subsequently crashed), not the scooter I rented but, the scooter that Lewis rented we ran into problems.

    I knew that I would have to pay the insurance deductible, which was like 250 euros (336 US). I was happy to pay that, I mean the accident was my fault and all; it was only right. But when the guy at Hollywood added up Lewis’s bill it was 290 euros (40 euro extra for being late). We realized what had happened and I went to pay for Lewis.

    This is when Hollywood rentals earned my hate.

    Rather than simply taking my credit card to pay for “Lewis’ Bike” they said that he had to pay with his card, or in cash. We told them that that was just silly because it was really my accident and it wasn’t our fault that the person helping us mixed up the keys. They refused. They told Lewis to just pay and have me reimburse him later.

    We passed, and I’m not exaggerating 3 hours there trying to get them to just let us pay for the bikes that each of us were driving and they refused. It was ridiculous. I finally, bleeding, limping and very tired walked to three different ATMs. All of these ATMs had been blown up, or smashed in (thanks Italy). I went back to Hollywood where they were holding Gary and Lewis hostage and one of their guys “escorted me” to a working ATM farther away.

    We got an overnight train to Rome and tried to sleep the anger off.

    Posted Friday, June 1, 2007

    Europe Day 20 – Stick Shifts and Saftey Belts

    Vespas in hand we hit the road. Lilly agreed to come with us and we set off to shred Sicily. We had a big day planned, lots of ruins, lots of driving. To be honest we saw tons of stuff and I don’t want to write everything about it. So uhh…eat pictures.

    Lilly directions Moto-cruising Piazza-Armerina-steps Piazza-Armerina Moto cruising Checking stuff out Arches Roman stuffRoman bath house

    Great, so we drove around to a bunch of places, Piazza Armeria (or something like that) and this old Roman Bath house. It was rad, then I ate @#$! on my Vespa.

    Moto CrashItalian Medics

    All looked bleak, would I survive? Yes.

    Still alive Dislocated shoulder The bright side of tragedy

    Ok, so here’s what happened. I was riding second around a corner going too fast. I went wide and hit a strip of sand and glass. I slipped out and laid my bike down. Gary stopped behind me and watched me stumble around in shock. He was totally stoic “you ok?”

    I fell back down on the ground and laid down. “Every part of my body hurts, actually to be honest none of this feels good” was my reply.

    Lilly was there pretty quick and started cleaning out all of my new orifices. She noticed that my shoulder was dislocated but apted to let the ambulance workers put it back. She really took care of me.

    A really nice Sicilian guy stopped and called for an ambulance. He was making jokes and when the medical pros showed up they sprayed iodine everywhere. Which…guess what, hurts like hell. I was yelling things like “oh yeah, more, just keep doing that, that’s great! Awesome!”

    The sicilian guy figured out what I was saying and grabbed a bottle of iodine to join in the fun. Whoo! Gary made friends with the guy and while they carted me off he offered to let everyone stay at his place while I was recovering.

    Lillian and her family were nice enough to let us stay an extra day while I recovered a bit. We might have made it back that night but I was a little hopped up on morphine. Plus…hey, why leave when Lillian was perfectly willing to clean all my wounds and stuff. Thanks again. I owe ya one.

    Yeah so…tomorrow we’d better leave or we won’t make our flight in Rome.


    Curious to know how much my medical visit was? Me too, they didn’t give me a bill. I think it was free. Thanks Italy.

    Posted Monday, May 28, 2007

    Europe Day 19 – Sunday in Sicily

    The fact that the temperature dropped about 20 degrees in the morning made us wake up early. Plus I was afraid that guards were going to show up at some point.

    We had breakfast at a little cafe right on the coast, it was really good and the service was great, a first for Europe

    Europe Day 19 – Sunday in Sicily

    Posted Friday, May 25, 2007

    Train Ride to Hell

    A lot of people seemed to have a hard time finding the train ride to hell story that was referenced to a few posts ago. Here is a fail safe link to the post. Train Ride to hell.


    Europe Day 18 – Sicily!

    Getting back on the train for Sicily was basically the best idea any of us had ever had in our entire lives. The ride was beautiful though we spent most of it passed out. We were still tired but we took the train all the way to Catania on the eastern coast of Sicily. The train actually went directly into the boat at the shore

    Europe Day 18 – Sicily!


    Europe Day 18 – Never go to Napoli

    We stepped out of the train station and figured we could pick up some food and go to the beach. On our way to the kebab shop we walked through a bunch of people selling stuff. One guy was even offering a laptop. Lewis wanted to see how much it was. Just 200 bucks! Wow, it was probably stolen or broken right? Wrong.

    I checked it out and it was a good computer. It was probably brand new

    Europe Day 18 – Never go to Napoli

    Posted Thursday, May 24, 2007