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VATICAN CITY TRAVEL GUIDE
Hello, my name is Gwen, and here is my Vatican City travel guide for solo travel over 40, including budget, safety/female and eco-travel tips, photographs and interesting posts for your Vatican City travel planning.
BENVENUTI NELLA VITTÀ DEL VATICANO!
Vatican City – the smallest country in the world consisting of 100 acres within Rome’s historic center. It is the center of the Roman Catholic church and home to St. Peter’s Square, St. Peter’sBasilica – built in the 4th century and rebuilt in the 16th century– andthe Vatican Museum, which includes the Sistine Chapel.
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LANGUAGES IN VATICAN CITY
Although it used to be Latin, the official language is now Italian.
How's Your Italian?
Brush up on your Italian before your trip to Vatican City.
VATICAN CITY CULTURE
Vatican City is a monarchy ruled by the Pope who holds the seat of the Roman Catholic church. Naturally, Roman Catholicism is the official religion of Vatican City and is also its primary business.
The government is called the Holy See.The City is mostly populated by males, but nuns also live in the City. The only people allowed to live in the Vatican are the clergy and the Swiss Guard, which has been guarding the pope and the Vatican since the 16th century.
POPULAR VATICAN CITY ACTIVITIES
Vatican City comprise of the pope, clergy and theHoly See overseeing the operation of the sovereign state as well as its authority over Catholics throughout the world.Vatican City is a wonderful place for site seeing, especially for its history, iconic art, architecture and gardens.If you visit St. Peter’s Basilica or The Vatican Museum, you must have your knees and shoulders covered as a sign of respect. If you fail to prepare, you purchase plastic cloaks before entering.
VATICAN CITY CURRENCY
Like Italy, Vatican City uses the Euro (€). Exchange rates are usually favorable for Europeans but could fluctuate in the other direction. Unlike Italy, Vatican City is not a member of the European Union and its Euro is issued by the Philatelic and Numismatic Office of the Vatican City State.
TRAVELING VATICAN CITY
Vatican City and Italy has all modern forms of transportation, including Uber, although it could be quite expense. Research in advance if Uber is in your destination area. In short, getting around Italy, and booking transportation in advance, is no problem. Please also know that Vatican City is really walkable.
TIPPING IN VATICAN CITY
Traveling in a new country is easier when you know the country’s tipping etiquette in advance as each country has its own rules. That said, country rules and norms can shift, so here is an international tipping resource for over 70 countries to use as a general guideline that I have found is constantly updated. For Vatican City, refer to Italy for tipping guidelines.
What’s not on there is how to tip a concierge, beauty salons or spas, travel or tour guides, etc. For these extras, it is acceptable to tip 10% at minimum. Remember, tipping is for good service only.
Additionally, you should always tip in the local currency (if tipping in cash), and do not be offended if your tip is refused as it may not be the norm. I feel it’s always better to offer a tip for good service than not, unless I know it will be considered offensive, like in Japan.
VATICAN CITY HOLIDAYS
A key activity to do in your early planning stage is to know, at minimum, the national holidays. I so suggest also looking into the local holidays. It’s a complete bummer to spend time and money to take the holiday of your lifetime and when you show up at one of your key attractions, it’s closed due to a holiday. It’s also not fun trying to travel and have a hard time accessing travel or other essential resources when no one is around because, yes, it’s a local holiday. So, take just a few moments to look at Vatican City’s holidays.
VATICAN CITY ELECTRONIC ESSENTIALS
Besides money, required ID and your ticket, Vatican City, like Italy, voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz so bring at least one of each of Type C, F and L adapters (I recommend bringing 2!), just in case, for Italian sockets and research if your electronics require a voltage converter, if not already included in the adapter; or, you can bring electronics already adapted for Italian outlets or wait to purchase them there (I recommend just bringing the adapters with converter). Remember, most smart phones, tablets and laptops don’t require a converter, but double-check your device(s) before you leave home. If you are going to another country on your trip in addition to Vatican City, you can check to make sure you’re prepared. I have also provided suggested adapters below for your convenience!
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TRAVEL DOCUMENTS FOR VATICAN CITY
From the U.S., you will need a valid passport. No visa is required. Like Italy, make sure your passport expiration date is greater than 6 months from your return to the U.S. State Department (see Italy) always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to Vatican City. It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave. If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.
VACCINATIONS FOR VATICAN CITY
There are normally no vaccinations required for Vatican City. The U.S. State Department (see Italy) always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to Italy. It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave. If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.
SAFETY / FEMALE TRAVEL TIPS
VATICAN CITY TRAVEL SAFETY
The U.S. State Department has continually placed Italy (and Vatican City) on a Level 2 alert as “terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Italy”. However, these “terrorist” activities could simply be demonstrations. I’ve never felt unsafe traveling to Vatican City (or Italy).
Theft or pickpocketing, which could happen in most places to be honest, is typically the normal tourist concern. Please note: when you go to the Sistine Chapel, keep your belongings on you where you know they cannot be accessed (i.e., do not keep valuables in your pockets) because pickpocketers (even young as children) love to pick your pockets while you’re looking up! It almost happened to me. Just be careful.
Beyond that, there is nothing I can recall from Vatican City making it more of a “safety concern” than traveling in my own home country, so my standard tips for female and solo travelers are:
- always carry photo ID with you; if you don’t want your passport on you at all times, at least carry a copy of it.
- always be “street wise”.
- always be aware of your surroundings, especially if you feel the need to imbibe or feel the need to “let loose” – you’re on vacation so have fun!
- never leave your food or drink unattended.
- keep your belongs on your person, or at least in your view in close proximity, at all times.
- be open to meeting and talking with new people – that is where a lot of the travel experience lies – but be careful on how you divulge personal information.
- research places in advance, if possible, so you know what to expect (i.e., “have a familiar view” – I like to Google the street view of new addresses I’m going to first).
- if something, someone or someplace makes you feel uncomfortable, go with your gut – leave.
BUDGET TRAVEL TIPS
BEST TIME TO VISIT VATICAN CITY
Like other countries in Europe, Vatican City’s high, tourist season, and most expensive time, is the summer (June and July). Crowds are not as heavy in the spring (April and May) and Fall (September to October), and prices in these months are better than the summer season. The least expensive time to go to Vatican City would be November to March. If you want good weather and prices, try booking well in advance for Spring or Autumn, or you can try in August when most Italians take vacation and crowds tend to drop.
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SUSTAINABILITY / ECO TRAVEL TIPS
It is very easy to do your part for the planet and implement environmental sustainability into your travel. If you would like to learn more about how you can implement environmentally sustainable, or eco-friendly, travel measures into your travel, please see my 10 Easy Eco Travel Tips and suggested Eco Travel Resources.
Additionally, if you are flying to, or within, Italy to get to Vatican City, consider purchasing carbon offsets through your airline or through a third party, like MyClimate.org, Carbonfund.org, or terrapass. Carbon offsetting allows you to buy a certificate to reduce carbon emissions, a major contributor to climate change, which in turn contribute community projects across countries to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There are several ways to go about this to help reduce your impact to climate change through your travel. Check it out!
Vatican City is a big tourist draw. I’m thankful I had already toured St. Peter’s and the Vatican Museum / Sistine Chapel years ago so I could forego them again on my most recent trip to Rome. Lines have always been long but I think they may have gotten longer! With any major tourist draw, I recommend getting tickets in advance, if available, and showing up at least an hour before opening so you can have best possibility of getting through with as little people as possible and in time to go enjoy something else that day. That said, in Rome it is a must to see St. Peter’s Square, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Vatican Museum, including the Sistine Chapel. Definitely go to the top of St. Peter’s Duomo for an amazing view of Rome – it’s very worth it!
PICTURES OF VATICAN CITY
VATICAN CITY BLOG POSTS
You’re dying to go to Europe but are solo on a budget? It’s OK – you’re not alone. Budgets are important to a lot of us, but if planned wisely they don’t have to be something that holds