How to travel safely in Italy: 10 easy tips to avoid risks and inconveniences

Ten safe travel tips and rules to travel safely in Italy, to stay away from scams and to fully enjoy your memorable Italian trip

How safe is it to travel in Italy?

Italy is a wonderful country, and Italians are helpful and friendly people.

While Italy is generally one of the safest nations in the world, there are certain issues that travelers should be aware of at all times.

In order to travel safely in Italy, particular care should be taken when traveling from one place to another on public transports. The same is true when traveling in certain parts of the country where crime is known to be an issue, or when traveling at night.

So follow these 10 save travel easy rules and enjoy your Italian trip!

1 – Safest cities to visit in Italy and where to pay more attention

In general, Southern Italy big cities, like Naples or Palermo,  have a higher crime rate than cities like Milan or Verona in the northern part of the country. Small towns such as Lucca or Assisi are also very safe.

Even though you shouldn’t expect major risks for your personal safety, be aware that it is not uncommon to find locally organized groups of pickpockets that work in groups and may target multiple people at the same time. Knowing how to spot them and avoiding them  is key to travel safely in Italy.

Stations, buses and crowded touristic places are were you have to pay more attention. Scams are also be something to take care of (see tip # 10).

If you don’t feel comfortable visiting these destinations on your own, just join an escorted tour or hire a private guide, and you will be fine.  You can find a good range of escorted tours on Ticketbar.

2 – Safe places to purchase tickets for travel and transport

Buy all tickets for travel and transport from authorized vendors only.

Trains tickets can be purchased on line directly on train operators sites: Trenitalia and Italo. This will also avoid your hanging around with your money in train stations, one of the places pickpockets prefer.

In case you purchase tickets at the automated machines, gently refuse help from anyone, they wouldn’t do it for kindness…

3 – How to safely use taxi in Italy

One of the golden rules to travel safely in Italy is to ride in authorized taxis only, which are marked by official signs and identification (they are usually white). Ask for the driver’s cost estimate for your route in advance, read rules and regulations posted inside taxi, and maintain an eye on the cab’s meter from beginning to end of your journey. Insist to use it, it’s your right.

Driving safely in Italy - authorized taxi

Always ask for an official receipt for the price you pay, it should also indicate Taxi identification number in case you forget any belonging on board.

Most taxi are supposed to accept credit cards (look for the sign on the window). However, POS may not always be working, so better to ask the taxi driver if he accepts credit cards.

Remember that you are not supposed to tip taxi drivers in Italy, but just to pay what is displayed on the meter. Gently deny any request for tip, unless you are really willing to tip because of superior service.

Uber is unfortunately not allowed in Italy.

4 – Carefully select where to stay and where to walk around in Italy

Travel safely in Italy requires that you carefully select where to stay and where to walk around, especially at night.

Check and double-check map locations for your lodging and general area of touristic interest. Measure distances from airports/stations and chosen lodging.

When reserving your hotel, use reliable and traceable reservation portals such as Booking.com.

Seek out information points that offer maps, advice and other help in any city you visit. Know in advance the best way to move from one place to another and ask if there are city areas better to avoid. Information offices are available in all city centers. You hotel can be a source of useful information as well.

Anytime you have a bad sense of your surroundings or are confronted with danger – or your rights as a client/tourist/traveler are not respected, advise local authorities immediately

5 – Best way to pay for things and services in Italy

When possible, always pay with traceable instruments (debit, credit card, travelers’ checks and even smartphone).

Credit cards are widely accepted in Italy. Visa circuit is the most common one, with Mastercard. American Express are accepted in high end hotels and restaurants.

Be sure to have cash on hand for places that do not accept cards or electronic payments of any kind but only carry with you what you need for the day. If you can’t do it because you are travelling, use an undercover wallet for your money and passport.

Always exercise your right to ask for receipts upon payment,  pay attention to charges and look for official government signs on the receipt (vendors often attempt to pass off unofficial pieces of printed paper as receipts so as to avoid paying taxes).

It’s important to keep your receipts in case you find non authorized charging of your credit card.

6 – Safe purchase of museum and attractions tickets

Do not purchase tickets of entry to museums or archaeological sites from unauthorized sellers or persons without official tour guide accreditation, and do not trust promises to advance your place in line. Remember that access to public spaces is always free.

You can reserve most museums  and attraction tickets on line. This will limit the need for you to bring cash (and avoid you to queue for tickets and entrances). I personally recommend Ticketbar: it’s cheap, convenient and you don’t need to print your tickets (you can just show your smartphone)

7 – How to safely dress in Italy

Don’t wear expensive jewelry and dressing, especially when touring around. This also applies to expensive watches.

Don’t put wallets in pockets ever, especially the rear ones. If you must, stash money inside pockets.

Always look around, and if in a crowded area like a packed bus, hold your bag or purse in front of you tightly. In general, don’t leave any valuable stuff (wallet, mobile phones, passport) in your backpack.

A very valid option is to purchase an anti pickpocket backpack, such as the Bobby Compact.

8 – Keeping valuables safe in Italy

Keep all personal effects in a safe place (documents, telephones, computers and other devices), and do not entrust them to strangers. Most hotels have lockers in the room, if they don’t, ask to leave them at the reception.

Keeping valuables in your Italy hotel room is not advisable.

Make a digital copy of passport, air and train tickets, credit cards and store them in an online repository that you can access from any PC, such as Google drive or drop box.

9 – Paying fair prices and tipping in Italian restaurants

In restaurants, pizzerias, fast food and take-away establishments, always look at the menu with prices, remembering that table service usually costs more than counter service or take-away. Restaurateurs are obligated to exhibit all costs for both service and menu items.

However, don’t be annoyed if restaurants charge for “coperto”: this is a per-person fee due in all kinds of restaurants in Italy and it means cover charge. It should amount to 2-4 € per person, based on the level of the restaurant.

Drinking tap water is not common in Italy, restaurants will always bring mineral water, and charge it to your bill. You can ask for tap water (“acqua del rubinetto”), even though this is not common.

Remember that tips are not due in Italy (service is always included in your bill, unless stated otherwise on the menu – you will find that only in some very touristic restaurants). If you are pleased with the service you can round the bill and leave some coins on the table.

10 – How to avoid scams in Italy

Unfortunately, tourists attract scammers, and this a brought a bunch of them to the main tourists destinations and attractions. Italy is not an exception.

Most common scams include fake tour guides, roses and bracelet sellers, rings finders, fake gladiators and much more. Italian fantasy works well also on the dark side!

For additional information, I recommend reading this good article:  31 most common tourist scams in Italy.

Last (but not least) tip: write down and memorize in your phone emergency numbers in Italy

  • 12: Telephone Directory Assistance
  • 112: Carabinieri
  • 113: Emergency Police Help
  • 115: Fire Department
  • 116: A.C.I. (Italian Automobile Club) Road Assistance
  • 118: Medical Emergencies and Ambulance
  • 1515: Forest Fires

Enjoy your travel to Italy!

These rules are inspired by the official Italy tourism portal: www.italia.it


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