Most countries have laws in place which govern the amount of cash that travellers can bring in, and take out. They’re designed to stop cash from illegal activities being moved, or used to fund further crimes or terrorism, and to stop money laundering. That means that if you’re travelling with a large amount of money, you’ll probably find that you have to declare it, and complete a stack of paperwork, before you can cross the border.
In Italy, the restrictions on how much cash you can take in or out are enforced by Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli, the Italian Customs and Excise Board. Breaking the rules can result in a whole lot of hassle - and even heavy fines.
If you’re planning on travelling to Repubblica Italiana with a lot of cash, check out this guide to figure out how the laws might affect you.
In most of the EU, it’s OK to come and go with cash of any amount, so long as you're travelling exclusively between EU countries. You declare your cash only if you enter or leave the EU entirely. However, it’s really important to note that Italy has its own rules. Despite being a member of the EU, you have to declare large sums of money taken in or out - even if you’re only travelling within the European Union. The rules are set out in a travellers charter, available online.
What that means in practise is that, if you’re travelling to Italy, you can bring in up to €10,000 - or the equivalent in another currency - without needing to take any specific action. Carry in excess of that, no matter where you’re coming from, or going to, and you have to complete a declaration - more on that later.
There are penalties if you bring too much money into Italy, and do not declare it - or if you provide false information on your declaration. You’ll be fined from a minimum of €300 up to a maximum of 40% of the amount of cash you’re carrying. Your money can be seized, and there are hefty fines, and even prison sentences if you deliberately falsify the declaration forms.
It’s certainly not worth taking any risks. Under EU law, any natural person entering with cash above the acceptable limit has to declare it. That includes people just passing through the country, and children, for example. The rules are strict, and the penalties harsh, so ask at the border if you have any doubts about what you should do.
Under EU regulations, which are applied in Italy, cash is defined for this purpose as:
- notes and coins which are in circulation currently
- bankers’ drafts or money orders
- cheques of any kind (including travellers’ cheques)
Things like gold and precious metals aren’t included in this legislation, but are probably covered under customs rules. If you’re carrying other items of value across country borders, make sure you check out all the relevant rules before you go.
If you’re travelling to Italy carrying more than the equivalent of €10,000, you’ll have to complete a declaration upon arrival. You’ll be asked to specify what cash - or equivalents - you’re carrying, where it came from and where it’s ultimately being moved to. So you’ll have to explain the source of funds, for example, and give contact details for the recipient if you’re taking the money to give to someone else.
You can get a copy at the port or airport when you arrive in Italy, or download a declaration from here. It’s worth carrying a couple of copies so you can give one to border officials and keep one for yourself.
If you’re taking more than the equivalent of €10,000 out of Italy, you’ll have to fill in a declaration. Depending on where you’re going, you might also find that there’s further paperwork to complete once you arrive at your destination, too.
In most cases you can take an unlimited amount of money into other European countries from Italy. However, because individual member states can set their own rules, even if you’re only travelling within Europe it’s important to check the details for the EU country you’re going to, before you set off.
The rules regarding moving cash across borders are pretty strict. Luckily, though, they don’t often affect travellers, as carrying large amounts of cash when you travel usually isn’t necessary. You can get the cash you need for most trips, if you use ATMs to withdraw money when you need it in Italy.
There are a couple of very sound reasons to avoid carrying cash - and use an ATM instead. Firstly, exchanging cash once you arrive in Italy is a hassle, and you might struggle to find a good deal. The most convenient options for changing your cash - the airport or your hotel, for example - will most likely rip you off with a bad exchange rate. You can get a better deal of course, if you really search for it - but then you’re stuck wasting your valuable holiday time, visiting exchange offices and banks.
Secondly, you have to think about safety. Although Italy is usually a very safe place to visit, you might make yourself a target for thieves if you’re obviously a visitor, and carrying plenty of cash. Getting robbed is a sure way to ruin your trip.
If you plan on using ATMs for your cash while you’re in Italy, and you, or someone you know, has a local euro bank account, you could use Wise to get your hands on your euros at a fair rate. Transfer your cash with Wise to a bank account based in Italy, and you’ll get the same exchange rate that banks use among themselves. Unsurprisingly, this means you get the best available exchange rate, no matter what currency you’re planning on exchanging. Then you simply withdraw your euros from ATMs when you need to, and avoid the fees charged by exchange offices.
Another great tool if you travel often, is the Wise borderless multi-currency account, which lets you hold your cash in multiple different currencies all at once, and view your account balance at a glance. You can see what you have in each different currency, and move money between currencies using a transparent, low fee transfer from Wise. And of course, you get the best available exchange rate, every time.
Consumer debit cards will be available for borderless accounts from early 2018, too. If you’re someone with an international outlook on life, then the borderless multi-currency account could match your lifestyle perfectly.
The golden rule when travelling, is to know the rules before you go - and never more so than if you’re planning on taking a large amount of cash with you. Break the law, and you could find your cash confiscated, and face hefty fines, as well. In most cases, you don’t need to carry a lot of cash when you travel. Using local ATMs, or a multi-currency borderless account from Wise could be simpler, less stressful, and leave you better off. So all you have to do is enjoy your trip to Italy.
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