World Travel Guide > Guides > Europe > Vatican City

Vatican City travel guide

About Vatican City

The Vatican City is the world's smallest sovereign state and is situated entirely within the city of Rome. Many visitors come for religious reasons, but you don’t have to be a Catholic to appreciate this extraordinary destination.

Famed sights include the colossal monument to Catholicism that is St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Palace, where the Pope resides. Inside his lavish abode lies the legendary Sistine Chapel, which lays claim to the most famous ceiling in the world. Crane your head to marvel at Michelangelo’s magnum opus, The Last Judgement.

Crowds can make a visit to Vatican City a bit of a trial – it’s busy throughout the year and at most times of day – but putting up with swathes of tourists seems like a small price to pay to bask in the state’s assorted treasures. Join the queues and follow the masses through the Vatican Museums to see an astonishing collection of paintings by the likes of Raphael and Giotto in the Pinacoteca Vaticana. You’ll also find extraordinary artefacts from classical antiquity, as well as museums dedicated to older finds from the Etruscans and Egyptians.

As leader of the Papal States for more than 1,000 years until Italian Unification in the 19th century, the Vatican has a long and uneven history. But the new Argentinian pope, formerly known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, has breathed new life into the old office since his appointment in 2013. As a result, visitors from far and wide have been flocking in ever-greater numbers to catch a glimpse of the new Roman Catholic leader and the city he lives in.

Pope Francis is known to give a general audience on Wednesdays, either in Audience Hall or St Peter’s Square. On Sundays, he usually gives a midday blessing from the window of his office, which overlooks the square.

Key facts


0.44 sq km (0.17 sq miles).


801 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

1,818.2 per sq km.


The State of the Vatican City came into existence in 1929.

Head of state:

Pope Francis since 2013.

Head of government:

Pope Francis since 2013.

Travel Advice

This travel advice also covers Vatican City.

Volcanic activity

Due to volcanic activity, local authorities have increased the alert levels for both Etna and Stromboli in the south of Italy. In the event of a volcanic eruption, follow the advice of local authorities. See more information on volcanoes.

Airspace can be affected during eruptions. If you are travelling to or from Catania, during this period of heightened activity, check with your travel provider or with Catania airport.

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:  

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

About FCDO travel advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice

Follow FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

This information is for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK. It is based on the UK government’s understanding of the current rules for the most common types of travel. 

The authorities in Italy set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Italian Embassy in the UK.

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Italy.

Passport validity requirements

Italy follows Schengen area rules. Your passport must:

  • have a ‘date of issue’ less than 10 years before the date you arrive – if you renewed your passport before 1 October 2018, it may have a date of issue that is more than 10 years ago
  • have an ‘expiry date’ at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave the Schengen area

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.

Visa requirements

You can travel without a visa to the Schengen area, which includes Italy, for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. This applies if you travel:

  • as a tourist
  • to visit family or friends
  • to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events
  • for short-term studies or training

The requirements for working in Italy are different. 

If you’re travelling to other Schengen countries as well, make sure your whole visit is within the 90-day visa-free limit. Visits to Schengen countries within the previous 180 days before you travel count towards your 90 days.

If you cannot return to the UK before your visa-free limit expires, contact the nearest local immigration office (‘questura’) (in Italian).

Make sure you get your passport stamped on entry and exit.

If you’re a visitor, border guards will look at your entry and exit stamps to check you have not overstayed the 90-day visa-free limit for the Schengen area. 

If your passport is missing a stamp, show evidence of when and where you entered or left the Schengen area (for example, boarding passes or tickets) and ask the border guards to add the date and location in your passport. 

At Italian border control, you may need to:

  • show proof of your accommodation, for example, a hotel booking confirmation or proof of address for your own property 
  • show proof of your travel insurance
  • show a return or onward ticket 
  • prove that you have enough money for your stay – the amount varies depending on your accommodation

Staying longer than 90 days in a 180-day period 

To stay longer, you must meet the Italian government’s entry requirements. Check which type of visa or work permit you need with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. You’ll need to apply and then book an appointment.

If you’re in Italy with a residence permit or long-stay visa, this does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit.

Read about passport stamping if you live in Italy.

Italy-Slovenia land border

There are temporary border checks at Italy’s border with Slovenia. Allow extra time for crossing the land border. Be ready to show your passport or residency card if you are asked by the border police.

Registering with the authorities

You must declare your presence (‘dichiarazione di presenza’) to the local immigration authority (‘questura’) within 8 days of arriving if you’ve come from another Schengen-area country and are not staying in a hotel or bed and breakfast. The ‘questura’ will give you a form to complete.

You can get more information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Italian police force.

Accommodation for people aged 17 and under

If you’re aged 17 or under, you cannot check into hotels or holiday accommodation without an accompanying adult.

Vaccine requirements

For details about medical entry requirements and recommended vaccinations, see TravelHealthPro’s Italy guide.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into and out of Italy. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.

Taking food into Italy

You cannot take meat, milk or products containing them into EU countries. There are some exceptions such as powdered baby milk, baby food and special food or pet feed required for medical reasons.

Taking money into Italy 

Declare cash or travellers cheques if the value is 10,000 euros or more. You will get a certified declaration to show you brought it in with you. If you do not, your money could be seized when you leave.


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Italy

Terrorist attacks in Italy cannot be ruled out.

Events in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Italian authorities have increased security around some Jewish community sites due to events in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Stay aware of your surroundings, stay away from demonstrations and follow the advice of local authorities. 

Political demonstrations

Demonstrations can happen with little or no warning in cities. Avoid any protests, political gatherings or marches. 

Lost or stolen passports

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must renew your passport or apply for an emergency travel document. You cannot use a police report to leave Italy.


Crime levels are generally low but there are higher levels of petty crime, particularly bag-snatching and pickpocketing, in city centres and at major tourist attractions.  

To reduce your personal risk:

  • keep sight of your belongings at all times
  • beware of thieves using distraction techniques
  • avoid carrying all your valuables together in handbags or pockets
  • leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place such as a hotel safe

Public transport

Take care on public transport, in crowded areas and in city centres, including main stations – particularly in and around Termini station in Rome.   

Be particularly careful with your belongings:

  • on trains to and from airports
  • at cruise ship ports
  • on the ‘Circumvesuviana’ train between Naples and Sorrento
  • when unloading your baggage from trains and coaches

Theft from cars

Thefts from parked cars happen in Rome, particularly in the Colosseum area, Ostia, Milan and Pisa. Thieves also target coastal areas and towns, and motorway service stations. Avoid leaving luggage in your vehicle – even out of sight in the boot – for any length of time.   

Thieves may use a variety of methods to distract you or encourage you to stop your car, including asking for help or directions or pointing out a fictional fault with your car. 

Drink spiking and alcohol

Do not take drinks from strangers or leave your drinks unattended. Victims of spiked drinks have been robbed and sometimes assaulted. Alcohol and drugs can reduce your vigilance, making you less in control. If you drink, know your limit. Drinks served in bars in Italy are often stronger than those in the UK.

Laws and cultural differences

Personal ID

You must always be able to show some form of ID. In most cases a copy of the photo page of your passport should be enough, but you may also be asked for a second form of photo ID. The police will normally ask for your full passport if you are stopped while driving.

Public transport regulations

You must validate your tickets on public transport before you start your journey. Officials patrol public transport and will issue an on-the-spot fine of 100 to 500 euros (reduced to 50 euros if paid immediately) if you do not have a validated ticket.

Tourist tax

Many major cities in Italy impose a small tax on tourists. You must usually pay this tax at your hotel as it is unlikely to be included in your holiday booking. The rate of tax varies from city to city and can depend on the star rating of the hotel. Hotels often ask for payment in cash. Make sure you get a receipt. For more information, check with the local tourist information office.

Venice access fee

If you are visiting Venice, you may need to pay an access fee. See when access fees apply, exemptions and how to make a payment.

Public offences

Some Italian towns and cities have specific laws, and you could be fined for breaking them. For example, there may be laws against:

  • dropping litter
  • sitting on monument steps
  • eating and drinking next to main churches, historic monuments and public buildings
  • defacing historic monuments

It’s also an offence to enter or bathe in public fountains in many towns and cities, including Florence and Rome. You could face a fine of up to 10,000 euros for urinating in a public place.

On the island of Capri, you must not use or bring on to the island any disposable plastic objects such as bags, cutlery, plates, cups, food packaging, trays and straws. If you do, you could be fined up to 500 euros.

Illegal traders operate on the streets of all major Italian cities. It is illegal to buy items from unlicensed street traders. If you do, you could be stopped by the local police and fined.

It’s illegal to remove sand, shells or pebbles from coastal areas in Italy. You could face a large fine for doing so. It’s also illegal to collect various species of flowers, plants and herbs from mountain and wooded areas. For more information, check with the regional authorities of the area you’re visiting.

Winter sports

Get advice on weather and avalanche conditions before you travel and familiarise yourself with local skiing laws and regulations.

You can contact the Italian State Tourist Board for advice on safety and weather conditions before you travel.

Regulations for the ski season include:

  • third-party liability insurance is a legal requirement and can be purchased locally with a ski pass
  • you must wear a helmet if you are under 18
  • you must not eat or drink on ski lifts or boarding areas
  • you must not climb a slope with snowshoes except in an emergency
  • you must not ski under the influence of alcohol or drugs

Off-piste skiing is very dangerous, with the danger of avalanches in some areas. Follow all safety instructions and go with a qualified guide. For more information about the avalanche risk, visit the European Avalanche Warning Service website.

Make sure your insurance covers off-piste activity. It is a legal requirement for skiers and snowboarders to carry tracking equipment, a snow probe and a shovel if they go off-piste.

See advice on preparing for winter sports.

Outdoor activities and adventure tourism

Hiking, mountaineering and other adventure sports have specific risks.

Check the company is well-established in the industry and make sure your insurance covers these activities.

For sports activities like skiing, potholing and mountaineering, and for sports classed as particularly dangerous, such as off-piste skiing, mountain biking, climbing, paragliding or BASE jumping, your insurance should include:

  • mountain rescue services
  • helicopter costs
  • repatriation to your country of residence or transfer to neighbouring countries for treatment

Check weather forecasts and conditions and make sure you’re properly equipped for the worst-case scenario with items such as a map, compass, GPS and telecommunication equipment.

Risks are greater if you undertake any activity alone. You may want to hire a guide for expert advice. Always leave copies of your itinerary with someone.

If you are planning on hiking in the Trentino region, read what to do if  you see a brown bear.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Italy, see information on driving abroad and check the rules of the road in the RAC’s Italy guide. The guide lists driving regulations and other legal requirements you need to be aware of.

The Italian Police guide on driving in Italy gives further safety advice.

You can use a UK photocard driving licence to drive in Italy. If you still have a paper driving licence, you may need to update it to a photocard licence or get the correct version of the international driving permit (IDP) as well.

Hire car companies often have stricter requirements for their customers, such as a year of driving experience, a higher minimum age and holding an IDP

Check if you need a UK sticker to drive your car outside the UK.

If you’re living in Italy, or planning to live there, see the driving requirements for residents.


Only use officially licensed taxis, which have a taxi sign on the roof and a company name and number written on the side. Call a taxi, order one from an app or pick one up from an official rank.         

Transport strikes

Transport strikes are often called at short notice. You can find information on the Ministry of Transport website (in Italian).

Pedestrian safety

Traffic can be busy, fast and chaotic, especially in the larger cities. Take care when crossing roads. Pedestrians should cross roads at a crossing. You can be fined for crossing the road if you are within 100 metres of a pedestrian crossing but do not use it. Drivers do not always stop, even though they are required to. The green pedestrian crossing signal also allows cars to turn right on to the crossing, so cross with caution.

Traffic restrictions

You need a pass to drive into the historic centre of many Italian cities in a private or hire car. You can buy a pass from most car hire companies. The boundaries are usually marked with the letters ZTL in black on a yellow background. If you pass this sign, your registration number is likely to be caught on camera and you will be fined if you do not have a pass.

There is a congestion charge for Milan city centre.

In Rome, city authorities sometimes restrict traffic to reduce pollution. This means certain vehicles are not allowed on the roads in the green band (‘fascia verde’) area, which covers most of Rome. The Rome Municipality has more information.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

Find out what you can do to prepare for and respond to extreme weather and natural hazards. For severe weather warnings, visit the European Meteorological Services website.


Wildfires are a risk during the extended summer months. They are highly dangerous and unpredictable. Check the latest alerts and weather forecast and follow advice of local authorities if you’re considering travelling to affected areas. Take care when visiting or driving through woodland areas and report fires to the emergency services.

For information on what to do in the event of a wildfire, visit the Civil Protection Department.


Heavy rainfall is common throughout Italy in winter, which can cause local flooding. Monitor local media, weather reports and follow the advice of local authorities in affected areas.

High waters are a common occurrence in Venice and can cause flooding in parts of the city.


Many parts of Italy lie on a major seismic fault line, which means that minor tremors and earthquakes happen regularly. Learn more about what to do before, during, and after an earthquake.


There are several active volcanoes in southern Italy. National emergency planning has been updated for Vesuvius as well as the Phlegraean fields, an area that remains active and which has experienced tremors in 2024.

Read what to do in the event of a volcanic eruption and follow the instructions of the local authorities.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Dial 118 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccine recommendations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip:

See what health risks you’ll face in Italy, including:

  • dengue
  • biting insects and ticks

Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of Italy, including the Alps and the Dolomites. Read more about altitude sickness on TravelHealthPro.

Healthcare in Italy

FCDO has a list of medical providers in Italy where some staff will speak English.

Health insurance cards

To get medically necessary state healthcare in Italy, you need a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

The NHS’s getting healthcare abroad has details about:

  • how to apply for a GHIC
  • how to get temporary cover if you lose your card or it does not arrive in time
  • who qualifies for a new EHIC instead of a GHIC
  • what treatment counts as medically necessary

A GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. You may have costs your GHIC or EHIC does not cover, including: 

  • changes to travel and accommodation bookings
  • additional standard costs for treatment
  • medical repatriation to the UK
  • treatment that is ruled non-urgent
  • private healthcare
  • private clinics

See guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Italy.


The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.


You will need to go to a pharmacy to get most over-the-counter medicines. Pharmacies are widely available and are usually identified by a green cross. UK prescriptions are not accepted, though you may be able to buy an equivalent medication from the pharmacy.

Alternatively, you can visit an Italian GP to obtain a local prescription. Prescription medicines are not free in Italy, but with an EHIC or GHIC, and an Italian prescription, you will pay a reduced rate.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Italy

Ambulance: 118

Fire: 115

Police: 112

European emergency app

You can also download the 112 Where Are U app, the official European emergency number app. It is only available in some parts of Italy.

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you’re in Italy and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Rome or the Consulate General in Milan

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Risk information for British companies

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating in Italy on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

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