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Italy - Train travel ripoff

Make sure to validate your train ticket BEFORE boarding a train in Italy. Failure to do so will earn you a 50 Euro fine! The fine is per ticket holder (in case you travel as group/family), it cannot be challenged, and will be enforced by the police if necessary.

Posted by
16869 posts

Good advice. That is the standard fine for traveling without a valid ticket. Here's a similar thread from last month.

Not many Italian [train] tickets still require validation, but a Regional ticket does, when purchased in the station. Tickets for faster trains already include a date, time, and also seat assignment, so they don't need the date-and-time stamp that validation provides.

Posted by
8293 posts

How is that a rip off? You either neglected to validate or did not inform yourself of the need to validate. So, where is the rip off?

Posted by
6750 posts

It's more like an incentive to follow the rules. There's no way they know that someone has not reused a ticket unless they validate it. A blank ticket looks the same every time you use it, whether once or ten times. Unfortunately, the consequences of not validating (or cancelling out the ticket) equal a high price...hence your Public Service Announcement encouraging people to play by the rules. When I get stung by a (traffic) ticket, I'm more careful next time.

Posted by
12601 posts

Not just regionale train tickets which require validation but often bus, tram and metro tickets as well.

It's unfortunate that you had to pay the fine but it's not a "ripoff": it's the way things are done in Italy to ensure people are not illegally re-using tickets. No, fines cannot be challenged, and the onus is on tourists to do the research in advance to understand the rules. Same goes with unfamiliar traffic protocols if driving a car in the country. It's not just tourists who get nailed, either.

Posted by
16165 posts

Oops. I guess you didn't spend enough time on the Forum and the almost constant reminders to validate tickets on Regionali, trams, buses, and Metros. This is not the case on Freccia and IC trains where you have a seat reservation and the ticket is valid on that train only.
I am always annoyed by those other travel ripoff artists with their black & white cars with the bubble gum machines on top. ;-)

Posted by
3841 posts

Good one, Sam!

Another good reason to buy a RS book for each country and read it thoroughly. Sounds like it could have saved you quite s bit of money. I will say, even with your experience, that the train systems in Europe are an excellent, convenient, and relatively inexpensive option to travel.

Posted by
11613 posts

Ripoff? There are now announcements made on most of the trains about the penalty for riding without a validated ticket. There are signs posted on the doors of buses reminding people to buy a ticket before boarding and to validate it on the bus.

The fine can go up to several hundred euro, depending on the normal price of the ticket (fine includes the full price of a new ticket).

For future travel, if you realize you did not validate your ticket, go find the conductor before they find you, they will validate it by hand for you. True story: a few weeks ago I was sitting across the aisle from a tourist when the conductor came into the car. Before he could check our tickets, a young man rushed up to him to explain that he forgot to validate his ticket. The conductor validated it for him. The tourist across the aisle was fined €17 for not having a validated ticket.

Posted by
12 posts

Actually folks in Europe I travel a lot by train between cities and use public transportation where it makes sense, like in Rome, and I purchase my tickets online. This unfortunate incident happened in Rome when I wanted to visit Villa Adriana in Tivoli. These hooligans must have watched as we boarded the train and did not stop to validate our tickets ( the fare was 2.5 Euros.) As we got off the train we met other people who got fined as we did. There was NO announcement on the platform in Rome or on the train to Tivoli, However there were several announcements at the station in Tivoli, and also on the train before departure. They cannot make money on their own people so they rob inexperienced travelers who support Italy.

Posted by
6857 posts

you kind of got a point; Several tourists and I got 50 euro fines in 2003 at the same time; so now I read everything but still have had lapses where I did not validate; it is like red light cameras in Chicago: a revenue generator;

but the same kind thing not only happens in Italy;
in New York on the bus from JFK to Manhattan the cops get on randomly at rush hour and check bus tickets;

Posted by
103 posts

to be fair, although it might be an innocent mistake, the fine is what it is. i would bet that the ticketers have a daily quota to fill for fines to ensure they are doing their jobs - i would say less that tourists are a target as much as they are just the most likely group of people innocently breaking the rules, and therefore the easiest to spot rule-breakers. it's not a ripoff because it's a clearly advised rule to prevent less scrupulous folks from ripping them off.

in NYC, cops are most likely to board the express buses to check tickets during rush hour on the busiest lines. again, it's easier to fill your quota with increased odds (in that case, a larger number of potential free-riders).

now, all that said, RS folks: when i google 'what to know about trains in italy', rick's page (https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains/italy-rail-passes) comes up first, and there is nothing on there about validating. might be good to add a bolded note in there for the folks who are looking for a quick and concise guide.

Posted by
31303 posts

This is not a "ripoff" and I'm surprised that you weren't aware of the requirement to validate tickets after all the rail trips you've reportedly made in Italy. There have been many, many warnings here on the forum about the requirement to validate tickets, so it's unfortunate you didn't check the forum. I normally refer to them as "potentially expensive caveats". Finally, there are [prominent signs on many of the trains] that clearly explain the rules!

One other point to note (in case you're not aware of it) is that fines are also charged for those that board the wrong express train (Freccia or Intercity). Tickets on those trains are specific to train, date and departure time, and can only be used on the one train listed on the ticket. Those travelling with Railpasses who fail to get a reservation may also be fined. In that case the fines are 50€ plus the cost of the reservation (approx. another 10€). As you noted, the fines are per person.

Posted by
256 posts

They do not target tourists, they pass through the whole train controlling everyone, and who doesn't have a ticket o didn't validate gets fined. I've seen waaay more residents than tourists get fined.
And by the way, the ticket has always written that it needs to be validated.

Posted by
12400 posts

That 50 Euro won't even pay a parking ticket in SF. Don't challenge it. There have been a couple of times I was going to risk the fine but with my luck I would get caught. "...rob inexperienced travelers. who support Italy." Simple, don't be inexperienced or don't go to Italy.

Posted by
8889 posts

Here in Switzerland the fine is CHF 100 for not having a ticket, so you got off lightly.
The inspectors get on and check every ticket on the train/tram/bus. No way they target any group.
The ticket checks are random, you do not get checked every time. You can "get away" with not having a ticket a few times, and then you get caught. The fine is set at a value so you cannot make a profit by not having (or stamping) your ticket.

It is somewhat irritating, and annoying, for something to be called a rip-off, it sounds like the person is asking for special treatment for tourists.

Posted by
12601 posts

Fines in my city for being caught on public transit without a valid ticket are $180.

Posted by
715 posts

I forgot to validate once. When the ticket person came to check my ticket I did not play dumb, I immediately apologized and owned up to it. He just wrote the current time on my ticket and moved on.

Posted by
53 posts

I failed to validate a ticket in France, once, and the conductor let me off. Maybe it was because I was genuinely surprised and apologetic. The need to validate did not occur to me, as I had used passes for so long...this was one of the first times I had used a point to point. Some years later, I bought a ticket from a person (not a machine), and she reminded me to validate. I chuckled and said, not to worry, I know enough to do that!

Posted by
631 posts

I knew what this was going to be just by the title!

An colleague of mine got "ripped off" by US authorities just for taking some tea with him from England into Florida, can you imagine that, expecting him to know local rules.......

Posted by
2237 posts

Would a mod change the thread's title? The OP admitted there are announcements. It's written on any guide, all over the internet and on the back of tickets. It's adult traveller's responsibility to learn and obey the rules.

Who gives the OP the right to name "hooligans" some workers that were just doing their job? Without any proof of misconduct, I may add.

And the racist rant about italians not paying... is it allowed on this forum? I've been censored days ago because I wrote what every train enthusiast thinks about raileurope, double standards?

Incidentally, fines quota to fill have been forbidden in the late 80s in Italy.

Posted by
12400 posts

On my trip to Vienna the latter part of May/June this year, I noticed that the trams and U-Bahn lines I was on were being checked more frequently, or it was just my luck , say on six rides I made, on four of them the controllers would appear. I thought, what again?

If one thinks he is special to be targeted for the "kontrollieren," then that guy lucked out, didn't he? Only certain people get checked?.. .Wrong! Everyone is checked, it is not random at all. I made sure I didn't leave the hotel without that hotel "Combi-Ticket" on me.

Posted by
6720 posts

Just to restate the obvious: it's not a ripoff. You didn't follow the rules, so you paid the penalty for not obeying the rules.

A ripoff is when you pay for something but don't get it (at all, or in quality).

Posted by
2916 posts

the racist rant about italians not paying

It may have been a rant, but it's not racist. You should know that Italians are not a race.

I wonder if the Italian authorities are not allowed to use any discretion in these matters. Many many years ago, long before I knew anything about validating tickets, my wife and I got on a train and France, and when someone came around checking tickets, we gave him ours and he pointed out that it hadn't been validated, and even told us about the machines. No fine or other penalty, just a statement that we should remember to validate in the future. And a few years ago on the Bordeaux tram, I saw the inspector going around checking tickets. When someone had a ticket but hadn't validated it, he just pointed to the machine and told them to do so. It was only when someone didn't have a ticket that they got fined.

Posted by
21249 posts

Why is it a ripoff when you get caught and fined for violating a rule? (This isn't the first posting - nor the last - about fines on Italian trains and buses.) We always have an obligation to know and to understand the various rules and regulations that apply when using public transportation. Ask if you are not sure. Or look around and see what the locals are doing.

Posted by
12320 posts

California - Car travel ripoff

Make sure to drive your car UNDER THE SPEED LIMIT in California. Failure to do so will earn you a $500+ fine! The fine is per car (in case you travel as group/family with more than one car), it cannot be challenged, and will be enforced by the police.

Telling the police officer that you were driving at only 95 mph between Santa Barbara and L.A. when all signs clearly state 101 will not help you.

Posted by
12400 posts

US 101 interpreted as the speed limit? Not bad!!

Posted by
1132 posts

Roberto_ for that stretch if your going 80 MPH you are just keeping up with traffic!

Posted by
3175 posts

It's more like an incentive to follow the rules. There's no way they
know that someone has not reused a ticket unless they validate it.

I disagree. When the conductor comes to your seat, he/she can punch a hole in the ticket. This isn't rocket science; hole punching is done by conductors on Amtrak, the Long Island Railroad, NJ Transit, and MetroNorth trains. Their hole punchers aren't round hole either. Conductors have different shaped hole punchers depending upon the day -- not talking about triangles, squares or trapezoids either! :-)

Then there are e-tickets that are scanned by conductors similar to the hand-held ticket scanners in stadiums, arenas and even ballet & opera houses. Once e-tickets are scanned, they can't be scanned again.

I see ticket validation as a scheme to make extra money off tourists who are unfamiliar with their validation process even with signage and annoucements.

Posted by
26058 posts

Many more Furbos are caught than tourists. Nope - not a scam.

Posted by
8889 posts

Continental, the whole point about these inspection is they cannot and do not check everybody on every train.
It would be impractical to check everybody between each station on regional train which make frequent stops, there is simply not enough time. They do not have a conductor on most regional trains, it would cost more to have a second person as well as the driver.
Instead they do checks on 1 in 5 or 1 in 10 trains, randomly, and set the fine high enough so it is not worth "playing the odds" and paying the fine when caught.

On long distance trains where the tickets cost more and there is a longer time between stations they do have a conductor who checks every ticket.

Posted by
12601 posts

Many more Furbos are caught than tourists.

Aha. I learned a new word today!
Had to look it up, Nigel.

As Chris said, Continental, they do not check every regionale ticket as it would be much too expensive to provide enough personnel to staff ALL those trains, and there wouldn't be enough time, on shorter runs. There are also carriages which are occasionally full to standing-room-only so there's no way for an attendant to even pass through them.

I believe it works the same in Belgium as our 10-journey, self filled-in rail card was randomly checked on some of their regional trains but not on others.

Posted by
2317 posts

Before our first trip to Italy, I read repeatedly that train tickets, unless for a specific train, MUST be validated in a machine before you get on the train or "something terrible would happen", or at least that's how I remember it. Of course I was obsessed with finding the yellow boxes where I could validate our tickets.

If you travel frequently by train in Europe, and I assume in Italy, how did you not know this?

Posted by
26058 posts

Plural of "furbo" is "furbi".

of course. But I've already been lectured about using correct names when apparently many want translations into American so I wasn't going to venture into endings. Note the absence of italics.

Posted by
5657 posts

Under the "Safety and Security" tab:
https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/italy.html

CRIME AND TRAVELERS’ RESPONSIBILITIES: U.S. citizens should be
aware of the following local circumstances:

Travelers must purchase train, bus or metro tickets and validate them by punching them in validating machines prior to boarding
(usually near the entrance of the train or metro or on the bus).
Tickets may be purchased at tobacco stores or kiosks. Failure to
follow this procedure may result in an on-the-spot fine by an
inspector on the train, bus or metro. If the violator does not pay the
fine on the spot, it will automatically double and be forwarded to the
violator’s home address.

Thieves impersonate police officers. If you are stopped by a
plainclothes policeman, ask for a uniformed officer or insist on
seeing an officer's identification card (documento). Do not hand over
your wallet and immediately report the incident to the actual police
at a police station or by dialing 112 from a local phone.

Posted by
3175 posts

Continental, the whole point about these inspection is they cannot and
do not check everybody on every train.

It would be impractical to check everybody between each station on
regional train which make frequent stops, there is simply not enough
time. They do not have a conductor on most regional trains, it would
cost more to have a second person as well as the driver. Instead they
do checks on 1 in 5 or 1 in 10 trains, randomly, and set the fine high
enough so it is not worth "playing the odds" and paying the fine when
caught.

On long distance trains where the tickets cost more and there is a
longer time between stations they do have a conductor who checks every
ticket.

Amtrak conductors check (and hole punch) tickets on their long-haul, long distance trains. Conductors on US regional trains like the ones I mentioned above (including Amtrak regional trains) check the tickets (paper and e-tickets). Sometimes conductors don't get to every car on very crowded trains on occasion but in my over 30 years of taking trains (we rarely drive), this system works and has been working for decades on long distance and regional trains in the US.

Posted by
16165 posts

They also check tickets on commuter trains, at least in Chicago and Philadelphia, but they always have at least 2 conductors on duty (probably for security reasons). So even if the late train only has 50 riders spread over 5 cars, that is a fair amount of extra expense. Europe goes on the honor, or trust, system. Or as Ronald Reagan used to say, "Trust, but verify."

Posted by
12601 posts

As in Italy, they only run random checks on our Minneapolis light rail lines.

Posted by
7718 posts

It doesn't matter what conductors do on Amtrak or US commuter trains. This is how it's done in Europe. And yes, it's to make it too expensive if you're caught, due to reduced amount if personnel on regional lines. Many young people, who don't have much money or decent jobs, ride for free. So the train companies have upped the fines.

We set ourselves up for a hefty fine in France last week by buying the wrong tickets out of a machine. At the last minute I wanted to change class. Luckily an office was open where an employee let us know our error would have led to a big fine. And we are both French speakers, one of us taking French trains since birth. It can be complicated.

Posted by
6720 posts

I see ticket validation as a scheme to make extra money off tourists who are unfamiliar with their validation process even with signage and annoucements.

This is just wrong. Ticket validation is a means of trying to ensure that people who ride the transport systems who don't have their own set of moral values will at least fear enough being stopped and checked that they will buy tickets for their transport as they're supposed to.

It's meant to make those who would avoid paying for their transportation think twice before doing so.

Posted by
256 posts

Great that it's like that on Amtrak... It's not like that in Italy, and comparing the system doesn't make any sense.

Way more residents get fined, and I don't understand why some tourists think a whole country's traffic system or train system is thought for tourists our to scam them... I don't know if they realize that people live in countries and use highways, trains etc way more than tourists do?

Posted by
12400 posts

"...as a scheme to make extra money off tourists who are unfamiliar with the validation process even with their signage and announcements." If you are convinced of that, as they sang in the "South Pacific" musical, "ain't that too damn bad!" for these luckless tourists. Traveling 45 years ago you would have seen hardly any signage (in English) or none at all, less so in France than in west Germany. You were expected to know how the ticket should be validated.

Posted by
6076 posts

If your job is to enforce the rules for having validated tickets, having the experience and the eye to ID likely suspects must be a valued skill. I think its the unsympathetic instant payment of fines that gets people upset.

Posted by
12601 posts

I think its the unsympathetic instant payment of fines that gets
people upset.

But if you let a few go, then I can just see the posts on travel forums:
"They checked our tickets and we just told them we were tourists who didn't know any better and they let us go. No problem."

So how many people won't do the research because they've been told they can just claim ignorance? Seriously, I've already seen this sort of behavior on some non-RS forums. I've seen people brag that they didn't even buy tickets for regionale trains because they believed that it's so easy to get away with.

Posted by
791 posts

I fail to see how this is some kind of scam or rip off. It's the law here. The fact that unknowing tourists may end up getting fined for their lack of knowledge is simply an unfortunate byproduct of a system meant to prevent fraud. If you'd traveled in Italy by train before then you knew you had to validate your ticket before boarding.

Posted by
269 posts

Better be careful in Hungary then. They check to see if you have a ticket as you are EXITING the train station also so hang on to them. We were also stopped on a crowded tram by an imposing man asking to see our tickets. We all make mistakes when traveling so it is best to live and learn.

Posted by
2237 posts

When the conductor comes to your seat, he/she can punch a hole in the ticket. This isn't rocket science

Neither the fact that the great part of the costs involved in running Regional trains are paid by Italian taxpayers and are not covered by tickets.
The all validation system has the goal of hiring less conductors, it's done to keep fixed costs as low as possible. Last but not least, conductors have always been heavily unionized... trenitalia loves the idea of not hiring more conductors.
You can't seriously think that an all labour system and its costs, industrial relations and the devolution to regions of public transit costs have been done to scam tourists. Seriously? The great part of italians never thinks about tourists!
I have bad news for you: different from the American Way doesn't mean wrong and leaving between two oceans doesn't make you the center of the world. You are just a bunch of people like all the others, get over it.

Incidentally, making you pay on the spot is the only way to make you pay "only" 50 euro. That's the discounted amount for those who "confess, renounce to appeal and pay".
Otherwise you'd pay the full fine, plus the administrative fees, the cost of an international money transfer and the mailing costs of the official fine. Costs that would be very low if you were italians (money transfers are free within EU countries), but that could easily double the fine if you live in the US.

Another thing you all seem to forget is that there is no fine if you realize you forgot to validate and look for the conductor instead than waiting for him/her at your seat.

Posted by
6750 posts

Neither the fact that the great part of the costs involved in running
Regional trains are paid by Italian taxpayers and are not covered by
tickets.

Same is true in US and all over the world. There is always a public subsidy involved because ticket revenue doesn't cover total operating (and capital) costs. Labor costs are the largest chunk of a railway's operation. When I see a conductor who walks around punching tickets with a rudimentary tool, I think "what century is this?" Ticket validation should not require a highly paid unionized worker when a machine can easily do it at a fraction of a cost...it's a low-skill, repetitive task.

Posted by
5657 posts

From ticket validation scofflaws to public financing/subsidies of trail travel and "highly paid" union conductors.... Sounds like we're morphing into the "Travel as a Political Act" topic.

Rick's Political Act book has a chapter on Denmark - "Highly Taxed and Highly Content." As a German who immigrated to Norway told me about Norwegian life, "the taxes are high but the benefits are good". Countries like Norway and Italy do not have statutory minimum wages but do have unions.

And back to the validation fine topic: It isn't against the Law to be an idiot. Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel

Posted by
12400 posts

"...they can claim ignorance." You are playing stupid or actually being stupid? This reminds me what I observed on the S-Bahn or regional train (can't recall exactly any more) in Aug 1989 in Frankfurt after I had cleared FRA and boarded. Three controllers, one a woman, soon came on, checked my ticket, and got to this one guy who obviously didn't have a ticket, They talked German to him, nothing, then English, nothing...playing dumb? This guy was white, if you want to be ethnic about it. Maybe he was not playing. Too bad, the controllers didn't buy it. The next stop they escorted him off the train.

I've seen two more examples, one on the night train Munich to Hannover Hbf in 2016 and one in France in 2011 where the guys w/o a ticket weren't fined but told to get off at the next stop and the conductors made sure they did get off. In both these incidents the guys were told to get off, ie w/o a validated ticket, get off.