Why don't you need a passport into the Vatican?

If this isn’t in the right category, please move it to the appropriate one. Thank you.

Went to visit the Vatican last year. Definitely a MUST SEE! In order to enter the Vatican, though, you had to wait in a long, long, LONG line, go through a metal detector, and pay to get in. At the end of the day, you had to leave the city if you aren’t a resident (even if you are a resident of Rome). I was told that’s because the Vatican is it’s own independent sovereign country separate from Italy. If that’s the case, then why don’t tourists from Rome & other parts of Italy, Europe, and other parts of the world who visit there need a passport to enter Rome, since it’s their own independent sovereign country? Just curious. :innocent:

Vatican City has an open border with Italy and thus is considered a de facto part of the Schengen Area because Italy is a signatory of the agreement. There is no passport control when crossing borders between Schengen Area countries.

All visitors enter and leave Vatican City via Italy, so at no point would one need to produce a passport to do either. Those entering Italy from outside the Schengen Area would have their passports checked at their entry point. After that, they can move around the entire Schengen Area at will. I’m not a citizen of any Schengen Treaty signatory, but I live in the Schengen Area so I don’t need to use my passport to go to Vatican City because it was checked when I last entered the Area.


So, in a way, the Schengen Area (whatever that encompasses) is sort of like it’s own “European Union” where a passport is not needed. But if a person doesn’t live within these boundaries, a passport is still required to enter the Vatican City, correct?

As UpUp explained, you need a passport to enter Italy from outside the Schengen Area. The Schengen Area is basically a whole bunch of European countries that have done away with border controls between themselves.

The UK and the USA are both outside of the Schengen Area. So when I, as a US citizen, decide to take a trip to Rome, I have to show my passport at the airport. The officer stamps it and I am allowed into the country. Once I am in there I do not have to show my passport again to get into Vatican City because it’s surrounded by Italy, so they figure I already showed a passport to get into Italy. I could also cross the Italian border into France without having to show my passport again.

It’s sort of like how in the USA, if you are visiting from a foreign country and your plane lands in NYC, you show your passport there in NYC and then from there you can travel to New Jersey or Pennsylvania without needing to show your passport again at the state line.


Note that the Schengen Agreement predates the European Union by seven years and not all members of the latter are signatories of the former (and vice versa).

As a non-Schengen resident of a Schengen Agreement signatory, once I enter the Area via any signatory nation I’m good to go for travel throughout the entire Area until the next time I leave it. Getting to the Vatican from my home via ground transportation requires crossing 3-6 international borders, depending upon the route chosen. My passport wouldn’t be checked at any of them because they all involve Schengen Agreement signatories or de facto participants.

This is interesting to me because on two previous threads on CAF I was told something very different about entering the Vatican by at least three different posters.

I have never been to the Vatican. Never been to Europe at all actually. I had heard various accounts of people’s experiences of visiting the Vatican and have seen pictures of very long lines waiting to enter. I was told that the wall and the long lines are actually people waiting to enter a museum and not Vatican City. They said Vatican City has no wall, it is open and free for anyone at anytime. They said that only the museums have operating hours and people paying fees and waiting in lines. The City itself has no fees, no guards, no fees and no restrictions on who can enter or when they can be there.

I know a few people in real life have told me over several years when they went to Vatican City, there were people that were denied entry for one reason or another, and they also talked about having to throw away some items that were restricted. On CAF however I was told this is untrue. Posters said that there are no restrictions, no fees, and that anyone can enter at anytime. When I posted a picture of the wall and long lines they repeated that is only for museums.

Could you clarify that for me? What is the fee for entering Vatican City? Is there a guard with a metal detector at a gate? What time do you need to leave? Are the long lines wrapped around the wall I’ve seen in pictures waiting to enter Vatican City or simply some museum? Did you notice anyone not allowed to enter? Were there items not allowed?

Thank you

There are long lines and security checks (similar to airport security) to go into St Peters, but no entry fee.

There are long lines and a fee to go into Vatican Museums. It’s a separate line.

For best answers to your questions, you should be reading tourist information pages for the day you plan to go. Obviously when the Pope is going to be having an audience in the square, it’s different from just a normal day. If you’re on a guided tour, the guide will tell you all the stuff you need to know and make sure you’re there at the right time.

I have been in the Vatican Museum, gone to St Peters Square for papal audience with guide, and gone to St. Peters on another day with a small group and a priest to have Mass in St Peters very early in the morning. Yes the lines are very long for everything (Though a bit better if you show up at sunrise for Mass like we did). Yes there are guards and checkpoints at some places. Yes some people are not allowed to enter if they aren’t properly dressed. Yes there are items not allowed.

Ok this is interesting. It can change depending on the day you go? Am I understanding that correctly?

ETA: I would love to go someday but most likely will never be able to make the trip. I will keep this in mind just in case the opportunity ever comes

Security is always variable. If there is some sort of threat, you’ll see more security. If the Pope is appearing then security will be on high alert, whereas if he’s not there maybe a little more relaxed although there will still be security. It’s similar to Washington DC.

Also, the security is to get into St. Peter’s and the Vatican, it is not so much to get into Vatican City. You can just walk in and out of Vatican City, you might see a few police around. I suppose if you are there very late at night you might be told to get out because they probably don’t want people hanging around vandalizing the place or causing a threat. There’s probably not much to do in there after St. Peter’s and the Vatican Museums close down for the day. It’s a small area.

This is helpful. Thank you!

My oldest daughter travels all the time. She has a much higher chance of going than I do. Thankfully she shared her travels with me with lots of pictures and videos. That’s about the closest I’m probably ever going to get to actually going myself.

Parishes often sponsor priest-led pilgrimage trips to places like Rome, Lourdes, Fatima etc.
For Rome especially, if you’ve never been it is best to go with a priest who has. They know all the little interesting places to go. There are many places “off the beaten path” that the big tours don’t stop at, that are really neat and relatively uncrowded.

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I’ve been on some pilgrimages in this hemisphere. I’ll have to look into going on farther away ones as the two babies are a little older. I’m no longer tied to a job so it may be possible to work something out. I’ll keep that in mind about having a priest that has previously been.

My daughter has been to Lourdes and Fatima. She’s been living abroad for a couple of years and comes home every so often. I hope all my kids grow up with the same spirit of adventure. So far it seems all the grown ones have.

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That is crazy.

I have been to the Vatican many times. It is a wide open palazzo, no line, no passports and you can go in 24 7 365, have walked in many late nights.

There is never a fee to enter.

Now, there are some museum tours that have a fee and lines, but, that is no different than visiting the Getty or MOMA or any other museum.

This is the very best resource for Vatican travel information:


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Thank you! I will explore that site more when I get a chance.

Yes, it does depend on when you are there and what is going on. On a regular day, you can walk into St. Peter’s Square without going through any security checkpoints. If there is a papal Mass in the square, then you go through security to sit in certain sections. If you’re in the overflow down the street, that wouldn’t apply.

You don’t have to pay to get into St. Peter’s. You do pay a small fee if you want to climb to the top of the dome IIRC. At least, I know you have to pay extra to take the elevator to the roof of St. Peter’s (there’s no elevator to the top of the dome from the roof). I remember because I wanted to save 2 Euro by taking the stairs. In hindsight, it would have been worth it to take the elevator. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

There are other ways into Vatican City, some with more and less security. There’s a street going in where all the employees drive in. I believe there was some security there. There are also some smaller side alleys. There was some security guard there, but all you had to do is tell him you were going to look at fotos and he let you through. :grin: There’s a little office back there where people can go to sift through pictures from papal events and order pictures.

The Vatican Museum does tend to have a line and a fee to get in.

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Thanks for the response!

All these replies help me to understand why so many people have such different experiences when traveling there.


I’d still like for @raisedCatholic to come back and clear up the questions.

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Going back to your original question, the answer is very simple. Every country is free to set its own rules, and the Vatican City State freely chose to operate an open borders policy. Its rulers decided long ago that that policy was in the state’s own best interest.

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Perhaps it was because I went into the Vatican Museums that I had to pay to get in, and that is where I saw the long line wrapped around the 40 foot wall around Vatican City. But our guide didn’t say anything about being able to just walk in, or once you were in that you could simply stay there indefinitely. Thanks everyone about the cleanup about not needing a passport even though it’s it’s own separate sovereign city-nation from Italy. The Schengen Area explanation was helpful. Thanks! :grinning:

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