Cheruto Lelei, a Law Student at University of Nairobi took a short trip to the culturally rich city of Rome. Here is her experience. 🙂
Why and when did you go to Rome, Italy?
I went to Rome on 4th March 2016 and stayed there until 10th. My main purpose was to attend the 2016 RomeMUN conference which as the name suggests, is a re-enactment of procedures carried out by organs of the United Nations. Second purpose was of course, tourism.
What was the duration of your stay?
One week! 🙂
The Visa acquisition process?
Italy is in the Schengen area. The VFS at One West Building in Parklands deals with the application of Schengen Visas. There are different types of Visa classes with different requirements so we were applying for the Invitation class. This one is relatively easy to get as long as you have all relevant documents. A brief list would include;
- Passport (valid for six months at the time of application).
- Inviation letter from the organization hosting you.
- Proof of accomodation.
- If you’re travelling as a student they may require proof i.e. a letter from your school.
- Your bank statement/ that of your parent if they are sponsoring you in which case they may require your birth certificate as proof.
- Travel insurance. If you do not already have it, you can get insurance for the particular period you will be travelling. I got very cheap insurance with UAP for that duration for Kshs 2800.
- Pre-filled application form downloaded from the website.
- Two passport photos. These photos have particular specifications so if you’re looking to take one have it done by professionals who understand the specifications. I took mine at Anniversary Towers ground floor.
Apart from those specifications, the Visa fees amounted to a little under Kshs. 10,000. They have options for the fees to be paid at Barclays Bank but I personally found it easier to pay at the VFS center for an extra Kshs. 200( within the 10,00 though).
After submitting the documents at VFS they forward it to the embassy and the embassy may or may not require you to attend a personal interview at the embassy. I was scheduled for an interview one week from the day of submission. It was brief and kind of informal and I received my visa two days later. The whole process took less than two weeks.
It would of course be wise to visit their website and read more on the process and requirements should one wish to apply for the visa.
Where were you staying during your visit?
The first place I stayed at was Hotelle delle Muse (accommodation provided by the organization). The Italians all spoke of the hotel as one of the good ones in a high end place but frankly, I thought it could do better. Their services were incredible, the location was good and the staff was very friendly not to mention their breakfast board always made us look forward to it but the hotel itself needs to be renovated.
The conference ended on 8th and so did our accommodation with the organization so we found the cutest, quirkiest, hippiest accommodation with The Yellow Roma. This place was the best thing I experienced there. They have a ‘hostel’ kind of accommodation with rooms accommodating anywhere between two to six people at €19- €24 per night. It would be ideal for anyone who wants to travel cheap. They also had this bar across the road from where we were staying which was just the bomb!! The music, drinks, crowd, the bar tenders were so cool!! The whole concept of The Yellow Roma is such a delight! Plus, its right at the center of the city so access to the Metro and other attractions is very simple. We literally walked to the colloseum from there. I would definitely recommend this place for anyone travelling to Rome.
What was your first impression of Rome?
My first impression was that it was very relatable. Weird to say that of a place but I had expected to be wildly struck by it. Instead, it was comfortably relatable. The environment was urban and nice but the buildings and graffiti all around gave me kind of a home feeling while leaving the airport. However, as we advanced into the city itself, the history of the town starts to show itself and the grandoise of their architecture takes your breath away. Kenyan architecture is honestly at best mediocre compared to the architecture in Rome. The attention to detail and carvings into even the most insignificant buildings is amazing!
How were the people?
Well, I’m not sure if its the particular area where we were but compared to other places I’ve been, I found the Italians to be very cold! I had a particularly displeasing encounter with one lady in a bus. We were catching a bus to the airport on our last day there(the buses are scheduled to leave on 30mins intervals) and my friend had a mishap with her suitcase and was a little behind so when I got to the bus with another friend we purchased tickets hoping she would not be too far behind. So while I was waiting for them to get to the bus, the other passengers were getting restless although we still had a few minutes until its departure time. I had to leave with the bus eventually, without my friends and the whole bus was very hostile. I tried to seat next to a certain lady who first muttered ‘stupid girls’ under her breath before proceeding to tell me to find somewhere else to seat but not next to her. That was a very horrible experience. Still, of course there are great friendly people in Rome who made the experience worthwhile. E.g the whole staff of the Yellow Roma.
How was the conference itself?
The conference was a lot of fun! I was part of the Committee on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. I generally got to interact with people from all over the world and really get to understand the situation in their countries. Apart from that, it was fun to experience different cultures and how different countries party! Africans were a particular favorite in this sector. Mostly because of the music and dance styles.
Ate any Italian food?
Yes, I had quite a bit of Italian food. I had so much pizza, I hated it by the third day! If you like cheese, you would love the pizza and their food generally. I had a beautiful Italian sandwich, I cannot remember the name but it was the best meal I had there. Other worthy mentions include the pasta. Otherwise, I mostly had normal sandwiches and fast food.
As a Kenyan, how would you compare the two countries?
Rome in some places and in a way shares the chaos in Kenya. There was a street that we joked was very similar to Moi Avenue here in Kenya, it is lined mostly with immigrant restaurants and shops selling all kinds of things there were even several open market thrift shops within the city. There is also a lot of graffiti throughout the town. All these create a bit of a homey feeling. The unrelatable part would be the level of organization in their transport system, both metro and bus. Very immaculate. It makes it very easy for a tourist to make their way around the city. There is also a very big smoking culture. It stood out so much so that i find it necessary to mention it! I think about 90% of the population are active smokers.The Public Display of Affection in Rome in particular is like nothing I have seen anywhere else (including Paris ironically). It would literally depress you to be there alone.
You also got the chance to head over to Paris, France. How was that experience?
Nothing in your imaginations prepares you for Paris, no matter how much you dream of it. Paris was amazing! The place is clean, historic, traditional, very picturesque. Every where you walk seems like staring at a photograph! We got there on 10th, we left the airport for our accommodation at an airbnb, a very cute and comfortable place, very close to many sites.
We didn’t have a lot of time so we set off visiting. We went to the Eiffel, mind blowing. We spent most of the evening around there just taking it in. We had some crepes and just lounged. The next day we took a tour bus and visited all the major sites in Paris! It was so much fun!
In terms of the country itself, I found the people more friendly and accommodating. The city is truly fashionable. The men and women dress enviably and very effortlessly. They all look like they stepped out of fashion magazines. Haha!
I also loved their stores and restaurants, they were all done so uniquely, with beautiful decor and such, I got a lot of Bohemian vibe.
I hope to visit France again, I just didn’t get enough of it.
What did you like most about your trip?
Its difficult to pick moments but I loved meeting and interacting with other people, forming global friendships and connections, very cool.
I loved the party experience in Rome, it was great and it was done right!! The clubs are beautiful and classy and watching the mixologists at work was just impressive, as was the result. We don’t do drinks right in our party scene. It helps that I had great company too.
Visiting all the beautiful historical sites, both in Rome and Paris. That was the best experience. They are even more grand in person. My favorite sites were the Colosseum and The Eiffel Tower.
What did you dislike most about your trip?
Wow, my worst experience during the trip was when we missed our flight from Rome to Paris, we were initially supposed to leave Rome on 9th but we missed our morning flight on that day and the whole process of rescheduling the flight was very tedious, frustrating and expensive. It threw off our plans, and budgeting. A very low moment during that trip. Never miss your flight guys.
The other thing I disliked greatly, as I’ve discussed, the fact that I felt the Italians were very cold and particularly the incident in the bus.
How much do you reckon a trip to Rome would cost? Inclusive of airfare, accommodation and leisure…from your experience.
I think with around €3,000 (Kshs. 340,000), one can make a comfortable trip to Rome. Although, it has great potential to reduce depending on how you organize yourself and the activities you participate in.
Any travel advice for anyone thinking about going to Rome?
Well, this is not necessarily particular to Rome but, to reduce costs, make payments early. As early as possible. Flights, accommodation and any other payments that fluctuate should be made as early as possible. The closer to your date, the more expensive it becomes.
Second, learn a little bit about the operations of the place you will be in to make getting around there easier. Maybe know in advance which buses or metros you should use, how their taxis operate and so on. Perhaps even learn some basic words in their language for when you want to ask directions and such, just the most basic of course.
I would also recommend Airbnbs for accommodation over hotels. Airbnbs are basically personal homes or houses that people rent out for a short amount of time to visitors. They are so diverse that they can accommodate any particular tastes and wants for a cheaper price than most hotels and best of all, for a more personalized feeling.
Lastly, even after you have developed a budget covering all the anticipated costs, it would be a good idea to have some extra emergency cash in case you run into unexpected circumstances that may be costly and just generally to be on the safer side.
Other than that, I would recommend having a hell of a blast! Walk as much as possible, see as much as possible and have new experiences!
Have a lovely week.