7 Best Travel Money Tips If You're Heading to Italy in 2023
If you’ve planned a trip to Italy, our travel money tips can make life easier - and help you make your money go further - when you’re there. We’ll show you smart ways to convert your pounds to euros with good exchange rates and no hidden fees, safe ways to manage your holiday cash, and convenient options to make sure you’ve always got a way to pay no matter what you’re up to.
Tip 1: Take a prepaid travel card
Your number one priority should be having convenient and secure ways to pay for things in euros while you’re in Italy. Using your bank debit card could mean paying foreign transaction fees - and relying on your credit cards can add in extra costs like cash advance fees when you get cash. As an alternative, you could choose a prepaid travel card which lets you top up in pounds, to spend and withdraw in euros easily and with low overall costs.
Let’s look at a couple of good prepaid travel card options you might want to consider: Wise and Revolut.
Wise accounts are opened and managed online or through the Wise app, making them easy to use while you’re away. You can top up in pounds and hold, send, spend and exchange 40+ currencies including EUR. There’s a small fee to get your Wise card, but then no ongoing costs, and you can use your card in 150+ countries globally.
There’s no foreign transaction fee to pay, and when you convert currencies in the Wise app, or spend with your Wise card you’ll get the mid-market exchange rate and low fees from 0.43%.
Accounts are free to open, and can be managed with just your phone
Currency conversion uses the mid-market rate, fees can be as low as 0.43%
Order your card for home delivery, and start using your virtual card instantly
Convert in advance or let the card automatically switch to euros when you pay
Get some fee free ATM withdrawals every month
You’ll need to pay a one time fee to get your card in the first place
Some transaction fees apply, including ATM fees once you’ve exhausted your fee free allowance
Revolut has 5 different types of account to suit different customer needs and preferences. You could start off with the Standard plan which has no monthly fee, or upgrade to an account with more features and a monthly charge from 2.99 GBP to 45 GBP.
You can hold and exchange EUR alongside 25+ other currencies, and get both a physical and virtual card for easy spending and withdrawals. The features you get with your Revolut account depend on the account type you pick - but all plans have some currency conversion which uses the mid-market rate, and some no-fee ATM withdrawals, too.
Varied account plans that suit different customer needs and spending habits
Hold and exchange 29 currencies including pounds and euros
All accounts have some currency conversion which uses the mid-market exchange rate with no extra fee
Physical and virtual card options available
Higher account tiers have lots of extras and perks including cash back and airport lounge access
Fees apply for some account tiers
Out of hours and fair usage fees may apply depending on how you use your account
No branch network for face to face service
Tip 2: Be careful when exchanging money at the airport
If you’ve left it to the last minute to arrange your holiday money it’s tempting to just pick up your euros at the airport as you leave. This is certainly convenient, but it’s often a pricey choice.
Airport money changing services have a captive market and little competition - which can mean higher overall costs thanks to extra fees rolled up in the exchange rates available. If you’re determined to get your money at the airport, see if you can order in advance for airport collection or check this guide on the best 10 places to exchange currency in London.
A better alternative for many people is to simply hold on, and make an ATM withdrawal at the airport as soon as you land. You’ll have cash in your hand by the time you need to jump in a taxi, and you might get a better rate too.
Tip 3: Have different payment methods with you
The last thing you want is to be stuck on holiday with no way of paying for anything. Avoid this nightmare scenario by having several different methods of payment with you. That’ll mean if your card is lost, stolen, or declined - or if you misplace cash - you've got a plan B.
Depending on your personal preferences you might choose from a combination of:
Your bank debit or credit card
Some cash in pounds you can exchange if you need to
A small amount of euros
If you’re carrying cash, use your hotel’s safe for security - and if you’re mainly using cards, it can pay to have cards on different networks for increased coverage. So if your normal card is Amex, get a Visa or Mastercard prepaid travel card, for example, just in case American Express isn’t accepted by the store or restaurant you need to pay.
Tip 4: Pay in local currency when using your card
You might find you’re asked by a merchant - or when making an ATM withdrawal - if you’d rather pay in pounds instead of euros. This might sound convenient, but it’ll actually usually mean higher overall costs, thanks to something called dynamic currency conversion (DCC).
DCC is sold as a service to make it easier to see what you’re spending in your home currency - but it means the exchange rate and any fees are set by the merchant or ATM operator instead of your own bank or card issuer. While your bank needs to keep you happy, that merchant or ATM in Italy really doesn’t care too much - leading to poor exchange rates, and - sometimes - high or hidden fees.
It's easy to avoid DCC with a Wise prepaid travel card. You can add money to your digital Wise account in pounds and either convert to euros at the touch of a button, or just let the card’s autoconvert technology make the conversion for you. That way you’ll always know you’re paying in the local currency, wherever you are.
Tip 5: Beware when making ATM withdrawals
Getting your euro cash at an ATM as and when you need it is a convenient option. It can also be safe and cost effective, as long as you look out for a few things.
Firstly check if any extra fees apply to make an overseas ATM withdrawal. This will vary depending on your card - look out for foreign transaction fees and cash advance fees, as well as international ATM charges from your bank or card issuer.
Next, avoid DCC - which we covered above - and always pay in the local currency when making a withdrawal. That should mean you get the best available rate set by your bank or card network.
Finally, be mindful of security. Carrying too much money in cash is a risk, as distracted tourists make easy prey for pickpockets. Get a card with low fees that allows you to take out money as and when you need it.
Tip 6: Avoid taking too much cash with you
Having some cash in euros is reassuring - and there are times, like when shopping in a market or tipping, when cash is the obvious choice. However, carrying all your travel money in cash is not a smart idea from the perspective of security.
Carry a small amount of cash, have a backup payment method, and use the hotel's safe box for cash and valuables when you can.
Tip 7: Book luggage when you buy your flight tickets
Each airline sets its own rules about how large and how heavy your bags can be. However there’s one thing that’s almost always true: hold luggage prices at the airport are usually much higher than when your luggage is booked in advance online.
If you’re not sure you can manage all your baggage in hand luggage, or if the hold allowance on your airline’s standard ticket isn't enough, it’s well worth planning in advance to avoid unpleasant surprises and unnecessary costs.
Best place to get Italian currency from?
The best place for you to get your euros for Italy will depend on your personal preferences. You’ll have the option of buying euros in cash before you travel, or taking some cash in pounds with you to convert on arrival if you’d prefer. Or you could simply use your normal credit or debit card to make ATM withdrawals and pay for things once you’re there.
Weigh up all your options to pick those which suit you best. Carrying cash in euros or pounds is convenient but not necessarily all that safe. Holding only a little cash at any one time may be the best solution. Using your normal bank card is also flexible, but you’ll need to watch out for any extra fees such as a foreign transaction fee when you spend, international ATM charges and cash advance costs.
As well as cash and your bank card, it’s well worth looking into a travel card from a provider such as Wise and Revolut for an easy to use payment method for Italy which offers convenience, security and flexibility. You can order your card before you leave, add money in pounds and either convert in advance or at the point of payment, to make cash withdrawals and pay for things in Italy as easily as you would at home.
Other travel money tips when heading to Italy?
Let’s take a look at a few more sensible steps to take to make sure your holiday in Italy goes to plan - and stays below your budget.
Get travel insurance
Travel insurance is essential both in case of baggage, documents and valuables being lost, and in case of medical problems while you’re away.
If you’re entitled to a GHIC - the Global Health Insurance Card - or still have a valid EHIC from prior to Brexit, you’ll get some limited medical support in Italy. However this isn’t designed to cover all eventualities, so taking a private travel insurance policy is a smart move. Not only could this extend the medical services you can access, policies also typically include coverage for your belongings.
Many different travel insurance companies exist, with a broad range of packages including single trip cover and annual cover, at different price points and with different features. Compare a few to select the right one for you.
Agree on a price before a service starts
If you’re taking a taxi, getting a massage or joining a tour, you’ll want to make sure exactly what you’ve agreed to before it begins.
In Italy an obvious one to look out for is touts selling tickets or tours at major tourist attractions. Not only are these tours likely to be more expensive than setting something up through a reputable organisation, they may also overstate the tour’s benefits. As the touts are unlikely to be with you during the experience, you’ve got no recourse if you don’t get what you think you paid for.
Do your research online, ask your hotel for help making reservations and booking tickets, and double check the final price of any service you agree to.
Beware of pickpocketing
Italy has some wonderful tourist attractions, which rightly attract huge crowds. But crowds of distracted tourists also bring in opportunistic thieves and pickpockets.
Stay aware of your surroundings and beware of pickpockets who work in groups or pairs. If someone appears to be trying to keep you occupied or is being overly friendly, they may be keeping you busy while someone else relieves you of your valuables.
Generally Italy is a safe place so there’s no need to be too concerned - just exercise the same common sense precautions you would in a large city in the UK and you should be fine.
Italy is a large and varied place. If you’re heading to the major cities, and intend to visit mainly tourist areas, you’ll find costs overall are fairly high. However, you don’t need to step too far off the beaten track to get some great bargains and a fantastic Italian experience. Wherever you are, invest some time in research before you book anything. Many tourists visit Italy every year, and as such, there’s a good range of accommodation and activities to suit all budgets.
How much does a trip to Italy cost from the UK?
Flight prices do vary based on the time of year, the carrier and exactly where you’re heading to. However, flights from London to Rome booked at the time of research (September 2023), for departure in October 2023 come in at under 40 GBP. If instead you’re travelling to Milan, it could be even cheaper - under 25 GBP per person return. Carriers to look out for include Wizz Air, Ryanair and Easyjet, which all have low cost routes from and to various locations in Italy.
Accommodation costs in Italy are very varied. From a hostel in the big cities, to top tier luxury, and with options for coastal and countryside places too, there’s plenty to pick.
For the trip we mentioned above (flying in October, booking in September 2023), you could get hotel accommodation in Rome from around 60 GBP a night. However, this won’t be in a very central location - and as soon as you start to look in popular tourist areas, prices can shoot up quickly. Book in advance for the best deals.
Restaurant prices in Italy
Let’s stick with our trip to Rome for this example. In Rome, you’ll find that the average cost of a 3 course meal for 2 in a mid-range restaurant is just over 60 GBP. However, if you’re somewhere more rural you’ll find better deals - and in super touristy areas, the costs can be far higher.
Compare the costs with the specific location in Italy you’re planning visiting, with Numbeo.com.
FAQ - travel money tips for Italy
What is the safest way to take money to Italy?
There’s no single best or safest way to take money to Italy. However, carrying too much cash is an obvious risk and should be avoided. Using a low cost travel card to make ATM withdrawals as and when you need to is a good way to balance safety and convenience when you travel to Italy.
Should I exchange money before I travel to Italy?
There’s no need to exchange money before you go to Italy if you don’t want to. You can make an ATM withdrawal at the airport on arrival - which can be a good deal if you get a travel card from a provider like Wise or Revolut, which can offer good exchange rates and low overall costs.
Is it better to use cash or card in Italy?
You’ll often be able to use your card in Italy, but having some cash on hand is handy for things like shopping in markets and tipping. Generally having one or two cards including a prepaid travel card, and a little cash is a sensible move as you’ll always have a back up if one payment method isn’t possible.