The term “transfer” refers to the short segments of ground transportation…between airports and hotels, between train stations and hotels, and between ports and hotels. We also use the term transfer to refer to trips between certain towns and rural locations which are not served by trains.
Transfers are usually done by vehicle. But sometimes they’re by boat, as in the case of Venice transfers. There are also some transfers that are best done by train, as in the case of getting to or from the airport in Milan.
Transfers can be set up on the spot, when you are in Italy, using taxis or public transportation, including buses, boats or trains. However, the term “transfer” is most often used to describe a service that is prearranged — that is, booked, paid for, and scheduled in advance — so that a driver with vehicle or boat or bus, is expecting you to show up at a specified time at an airport, hotel, port, or train station.
Group transfers may be referred to as “shared” or “shuttle” or “public” transfers, and involve a bus. Generally, it is only for getting to or from an airport that you will have the option of a group transfer.
There is quite a difference in cost between group and private airport transfers, but we find that more often that not, people who want to book prearranged transfers also want them to be private. The reason is that convenience is usually the main appeal of a transfer, and you lose much of the convenience if you are part of a group. For example, if you land at the airport in Rome, it’s nice to have a driver waiting there for you outside the baggage claim, ready to guide you to the car and head straight to your hotel. A group (“shared”) transfer — which means finding a bus, waiting for the bus to leave, waiting for it to drop other people at their hotels — just isn’t the same. But if you have the patience for it, you can save money that way.
How will I meet my private transfer driver? At the airport or train station, your driver will be waiting for you with a sign with your name on it.
You can generally save money by working out your own transfers when you get to Italy. However, we recommend that you have at least the “key” transfers worked out and paid for in advance.
Key transfers are the ones that are more complicated than others or are more likely to be appreciated when they are prearranged and prepaid services. Arrival in Venice is at the top of our list as a key transfer, because the alternative of using the public transportation can be frustrating as well as physically exhausting for anyone with luggage. Just finding your hotel in Venice can be a big challenge. So having someone meet you, get you to a boat, and guide you to your hotel, can make a huge difference in your first impressions of Venice. See more about this below under Venice transfers.
Another example of a prearranged transfer we recommend is the arrival transfer from the airport to your hotel, when you first get to Italy. For most travelers to Italy, that is in Rome. And after your transatlantic flight, it’s very nice to have someone waiting for you at the airport, after you exit the baggage claim, ready to take you straight away to your hotel, the cost having been paid in advance, so that you don’t need to worry about having enough euros in your pocket.
But other transfers are pretty simple, such as the ones to take you between your hotels and the train stations in Rome and Florence. For a party of two people, having the hotel call for a taxi is usually an easy and inexpensive solution in those cities, much less costly than buying a private transfer. In contrast, when you have a party of four or more people, it makes a lot more sense to buy prearranged station transfers, instead of using taxis. But for a party of two people, we rarely recommend setting up a prearranged transfer between hotels and train stations (except in Venice).
Rome airport arrival. Like at any major airport, if you did not buy a prepaid arrival transfer, you can just walk out to the taxi queue and grab a ride to your hotel. To do that, be sure to have enough cash handy, in euros, to pay the driver. And be sure to establish in advance what is the cost.
Apart from using a taxi, and if you don’t have a prepaid arrival transfer, there is still the option of using the airport train to accomplish your transfer to the center of Rome. It works pretty well in Rome. You follow the signs down the escalator to the lowest level and buy a ticket, then wait for the next train. But bear in mind that if you do this, you will not be going to your hotel but to the main train station in Rome, where you will need to get a taxi from the station to your hotel, and that will necessarily be by taxi. We’ve used this train, but only when we wanted to go to the main Rome station to catch a train on to some other city, such as Florence. Otherwise, we fail to see much appeal to using the Rome airport train.
The alternative to using a taxi or the airport train is to buy a prepaid airport transfer. The main advantage over using a taxi is that you have it paid for in advance, so you don’t need to have money handy or worry about what the taxi ride will cost. But know that under most circumstances, a taxi would be cheaper. Note that while you will not need cash to pay a transfer, since it is prepaid, you will probably wish you had some euros to use for tipping the driver.
Rome airport departure. Going from your hotel to the airport, we normally recommend just using a taxi for a party of two people. But if you have four or more people traveling, we think a prearranged transfer is a good idea.
Rome from hotel to train station. For this, it’s the same as going to the airport. If there are two or three of you, we recommend using a taxi, and if there are four or more of you, we suggest you consider buying a prepaid transfer.
Rome from train station to hotel. This is a tougher call for us. There are times we would like to recommend buying a prepaid transfer for arrival at the Rome station, especially for a party of four or more people. BUT, what often happens is that the transfer driver cannot park right at the station entrance, and so the driver meets you at your train, then guides you out of the station, across streets, in front of traffic, to some inconvenient parking lot, which is highly unsatisfactory. Probably best to just use a taxi, which you can find by lining up at the big queue in front of the station. Caution: do not accept rides from the drivers who may approach you outside the official queue, even if they say they are licensed drivers. That is a common scam, because they can charge you more than the metered rate you would get from the same driver if you went through the queue instead.
Rome from port to hotel — or hotel to port. Yes, you can take a train or catch a bus into the city, which is a LONG way from Rome’s seaport at Civitavecchia. But here we just have to say, bite the bullet and buy the (expensive) transfer, unless you feel adventurous and energetic, or have a really tight budget.
Venice arrival — from airport OR train station to hotel. We have a strong opinion about this one. If you are a first-time visitor to Venice, BUY THE TRANSFER, if you can work it into your budget, and just call it the cost of visiting Venice. Unless you know your way around Venice, it simply will not be worth it trying to save money on this transfer. Finding a hotel in Venice, and getting to it with your bags, can be a huge frustration, enough to wreck your first impressions of Venice.
Venice departure, to either the station or the airport, can be quite a different matter. We still recommend a prepaid transfer, but it’s not nearly as critical as the arrival transfer. You’ll have experience by then with getting around Venice. So if you’re tempted to save money on a Venice transfer, you can postpone the decision about your departure transfer until you get there. Then you can choose to have your hotel call a water taxi, for a private boat ride, or if you feel adventurous, you can ride the water bus. It can be different matter if your departure from Venice is also your departure from Italy. That means you will have a long travel day ahead, and you may find that the prepaid transfer to the Venice airport is a good way to alleviate stress and start your day in a more gentle way.
Hotel to airport and airport to hotel. The Milan airport has a nice train system, more modern than the one in Rome. And because the Milan airport is so far out, compared to the Rome airport, the train is a more competitive option in Milan. You do have the issue that once you get into Milan, you must catch a taxi to your hotel. But for trips between a central Milan hotel and the Milan airport, the train is altogether a viable option and one that can save some money. Still, we like a prepaid airport transfer, just on the logic that whether you are entering or departing Italy, it will be a big travel day, and anything you can do to decrease the stress of that day is worth some cost.
Hotel to station and station to hotel. Our standard logic applies here. For a party of two or three people, we suggest using the taxis, and for a party of four or more, we suggest buying prepaid transfers.
Milan airport to Lake Como or Lake Maggiore, or vice versa. We will set up a transfer for you, in which case you will need to plan to pay the driver, in euros, when you get there. Hotels in that area are accustomed to setting up transfers, and the considerable advantage of having the hotel do that is that you have a price determined. You may even be able to pay for the transfer at your hotel and put it on a credit card. We don’t like using taxis for this service, just due to cost surprises. If you do arrive at the Milan Malpensa airport, need to get to one of the lakes, and do not have a transfer arranged somehow, at least be sure to have a price worked out with the taxi driver.
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