- British tourists charged $84 for four gelati in Rome
- Some travel related charges like visas are unavoidable
- It's the avoidable rip offs that sting travelers most
- What's your worst travel rip off?
Many moons ago, when backpacking around Europe, I decided to treat myself to a gelato in the Italian city of Florence.
It had been a few tough days of not really appreciating the art, architecture and history enough -- no matter how many hours I had devoted to museums. The feet were sore and the mind was well, over it. After all, at some point, ancient cathedrals all start to look the same.
"How many flavors?" I was asked.
The ice cream was beautifully presented in that Italian way that makes the gelati look soft, smooth and perplexingly weightless. In hindsight, the well-polished checkered tile floor and pristine, clear glass display cabinets should have alerted me that this was no ordinary gelati joint.
Being greedy and indecisive, but mostly greedy, I opted for three.
The attendant got her gelati scraper spoony thing and proceeded to lavish layer upon layer of lemon, strawberry and pistachio ice cream, to create the Monte Bianco of cones.
My eyes were huge.
They got bigger when she asked me to pay. The amount, it was lire back then, roughly translated to about $30 -- way out of budget for any tight-fisted backpacker, let alone an Australian.
The only thing greater than my outrage at the cost was the look of disdain on the attendant's face when I un-artfully negotiated the cost of the gelato down to around $10 (still way too high in my opinion, but it was a tricky situation and I wanted to pretend I had at least some pride).
She artfully negotiated her scraper spoony thing around the ice cream and shaved off way more than two thirds, leaving me with the undernourished, poor cousin of what was once a giant gelato cone.
Lesson learned. Don't order more than you can afford and avoid posh, well-positioned shops near tourist sites. And don't do pistachio. Among gelati royalty, lemon, or limone, remains king and queen.
British tourists stung
A similar lesson hit a group of British tourists this week in Rome, according to media reports.
They got stung 64 euros ($84) for four gelati. Chicken feed, I say when compared to my ice cream incident, at a smidgen over $20 per gelato.
According to one report, the Via della Vite managers confirmed the cost of the treats and defended the pricing, saying they were large ice creams.
"No one forced them to order big ice creams. We also serve small ones which only cost €2.50 ($3.30). But if you want a lot of ice cream then it is worth the price. And the prices are displayed everywhere," a manager told the UK's The Daily Telegraph.
According to the report, the tourists coughed up the money.
"And when we paid up, they didn't even say thank you," Mr Bannister, of Birmingham was quoted as saying.
You'd hope it was pretty tasty.
This leads to this question, what has been your biggest travel rip off?
Sure, we all moan about costs of visas (I am singling you out, Uncle Sam and your $160 non-refundable visa processing fee. Oh, and you too, Mr $250-a-day Bhutan), international phone roaming and hotel Wi-Fi but often those charges are simply unavoidable.
It is the ones we are not prepared for, such as a super dooper pricey ice cream cone, that often sting us most.
We've all had our own version of the Great Firenze Incident of 2000, so get out the gelati spatula and serve up your greatest, or worst, travel rip off in the comments box below.