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apr 16 2007

Rome, Italy--New rules at the Vatican Museums

If you've ever braved the lengthy lines to enter the Vatican Museums, you will be disappointed to hear that thanks to newly reduced hours, the wait to get to the ticket booth has grown even longer.

Until last month, the ticket booth for the Vatican Museums opened at 8:45 A.M., meaning early-birds were often in line well before 7 A.M. Those who were part of an organized tour or with reservations could skirt the line and waltz in through a separate entrance.

Now, those who are not part of a group or who do not hold a reservation have to wait until 10 A.M. And, to make matters worse, the ticket booth now closes at 12:30 A.M. in low-season and 3:30 P.M. in high-season--over an hour earlier than in the past. By compressing the time to get in and visit via the stand-and-wait method, the Vatican Museums hope to "train the tourists" to use its newly revamped reservation system, which requires an advance purchase that's at least one business-day in advance and a written request that's faxed directly to the Vatican Museums. (For instructions, see the Vatican Museums website by clicking here.) Less patient travelers can try one of Rome's many booking agents, who slap on hefty fees for the booking service.

It's all part of a play by museum officials to phase in reservation-only entrance by January 2008. This reservations-system will be good for budget-conscious travelers in the long run, however, because it will also serve to control the flow within the museum, meaning visitors will get to view the artworks and chapels in a less-chaotic manner. Unfortunately, to make up for lost revenue due to the reduced number of visitors, the entrance ticket has increased to $18 (or 13 euro).

--Barbie Latza Nadeau, a Rome-based reporter for Newsweek for the past decade as well as a contributor to BudgetTravel.com.

CORRECTION 3/10/2007, 3pm ET: This post initially linked to stories by Barbie Nadeau, which are no longer available on the Newsweek website. We regret the confusion.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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