The literal meaning of the popular phrase that ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do,’ rings true for any visitor hoping to have a pleasant time in Vatican City. It is necessary to blend in- not just for your safety, but for your convenience as well. In this article, we share some of the key aspects you need to know for safe travel in the city, and how they impact your safety, finances and overall experience of the city.
Vatican City has 24-hour buses that ferry passengers throughout the city. However, one important thing to remember when planning your bus ride is that tickets must be purchased in advance, as the bus crew does not sell them onboard. Also, make sure you allocate enough time for the bus trip because these buses sometimes run late. You will, therefore, save yourself a lot of hassle if you are liberal and generous on the time you allocate each of your bus rides.
Aside from buses, the city’s metro/ tram system can also be used for your short trips within the city. The system even has an express train that can take you all the way to the beach. If trains and buses are not your things, then you can utilize the many cabs and Ubers that roam the city.
Beware of Pickpockets
The Vatican is safe and does not present much danger in terms of serious or violent crime. However, petty crime is quite rampant. Most of it is in the form of pickpockets whose nimble fingers will swiftly relieve you of any waywardly placed valuables. It is thus advisable to always keep an eye on your purses and wallets and not to leave your phones and other valuables on counters.
It is especially important to be vigilant whilst on public transportation and other areas frequented by tourists. Pickpockets and petty thieves especially love to target these areas due to the hordes of unsuspecting visitors who make for easy targets.
Save for items you intend to use, consider leaving most of your valuables with the hotel for safekeeping. Also, it is not a bad idea to procure theft insurance for some of your valuables. For important documents, always have photocopies as they will serve you well in the unfortunate event that your bag or wallet is stolen.
Always stay vigilant even as you make your purchases. It has been reported that some of the shop owners may seek to unduly take advantage of their unsuspecting clients by demanding money for services not rendered. Some unscrupulous photographers may also take unsolicited photographs of you then demand payment.
Aside from bearing this information in mind, it will also serve you well to avoid attracting unwanted attention to yourself. For example, by avoiding wearing flashy or expensive jewelry and watches or carrying a lot of cash around you.
Always carry just what you need and carry it discreetly. Do not carry your cash in a fanny pack. It is much more advisable to carry your money underneath your clothes.
Another known trick that thieves use to con tourists is that of someone approaching you and engages you in conversation while their partner in crime steals your valuables. It is thus advisable to avoid engaging with suspicious-looking people particularly if you hardly understand what they want from you.
Cash or Card?
According to wantedinrome.com, and unlike the case with most European cities, most tourist places in Vatican City prefer to deal in cash rather than card or cashless payments. Therefore, always have sufficient cash at hand for your bills and payments.
It is also important to use ATMs that are in close proximity to the bank concerned, as opposed to lone standing machines. This enables you to sort it out with the bank concerned in the event that your ATM card is withheld by their machine for whatever reason.
The most important thing to remember is that you will suffer less inconvenience if you exchange your currency in advance and carry it along just in case. Do not ride on the expectation that cashless payments will always be accepted. Prior planning also insulates you against the inconvenience caused should you encounter an ATM machine that does not work.
Avoid crowded spaces in the Vatican to avoid pickpockets and petty thieves. In order to do this, consider visiting most attractions early in the morning when other tourists are yet to show up or in the evening when the numbers have thinned out. It is amazing how much you can still access even during these off-peak times. So much so, that it makes you wonder why most tourists insist on visiting at midday!
Another handy tip is to consider booking your trip during the off-season months not just in the summer when everyone is visiting.
Also, bear in mind that most people visit the city for its rich history in art and architecture. As one such visitor, always remember that you can check out art and history in places other than museums. This not only saves you money but also widens your scope of exposure, all whilst avoiding crowds! Alternative places where you can learn about Roman culture, art and history include churches, some of which boast of masterpieces from renowned artists such as Caravaggio.
If you really wish to avoid crowds, the Southside of Trastevere is a good starting point as it carries authentic crafts workshops with a wealth of souvenirs. It allows you to enjoy an intimate feel of Italy’s cultural heritage without the drama and insecurity associated with crowded spaces.