Last month my husband and I enjoyed a 3 day trip to Rome. It was the best trip we had ever been on. It surprised many of our friends to learn that we had a small budget for the trip. They had no idea how inexpensive such a trip could be. I’ve shared all of my tips and trips for exploring Rome on a budget with my friends, and now I want to share these with my readers too. If you want to know how to save money on booking your trip to Rome, see my previous post, Booking a Trip to Rome on a Budget.
EXPLORING ROME ON A BUDGET
Prior to our visit to Rome, I had expected the city to be similar to London, where everything is more expensive than in other parts of the county. However, we found this not be the case. I did some research before our departure date to ensure we got the most out of our money.
You can save huge amounts of money if you consider how you are going to get around Rome. The flat rate for a taxi from Ciampino airport to the city of Rome is €30 (around £26.00). However, if you’re not in such a hurry, you can catch the shuttle bus for as little as €6. The journey takes around 45 minutes.
Once you reach the city of Rome, you will find public transport to be reliable and frequent. Many Italians use either the metro or buses to travel around the city, as do the tourists. A standard ticket for one metro ride or 100 minutes on buses around the city will cost only €1.50. A ticket, valid for 24 hours on the metro, all buses and trains in the city is a mere €7. We used the metro to get from the Coliseum to our hotel (near the Trevi Fountain). The trams were frequent and it was relatively easy to navigate our way around the station (especially considering we don’t use public transport at home).
All tickets must be purchased before embarking on public transport. These tickets can be purchased from metro stations, bus stations, tobacconists and newsstands.
If you’re planning a trip to Rome on a budget, you need to give some serious consideration to food and drink. The food in Rome is amazing, but it can be a little pricey. If you eat near some of the tourist hotspots, you can expect to pay substantially more than on some of the side streets away from the main buzz. Mobile canteens surround the tourist centres and can be extortionate. The cafes and restaurants in busy locations are expensive as well as busy. However, with just a 5-minute walk away from the main hub, you will find ample reasonably priced eateries.
When we visited the Coliseum, we bought our lunch from the supermarket. We enjoyed a picnic of sandwiches, crisps and biscuits in the Roman Forum. The total cost was around €10 and made for a memorable meal. Having lunch in a cafe or restaurant, it would have cost at least €30.
Drinks can be more expensive than food in Rome. We had dinner one night in the restaurant in our hotel. We both had pizza which cost €10 each. I couldn’t understand why the bill was €32. I discovered that the mini bottles of diet coke we had cost €6 each! From then on, we asked for a bottle of water with our meals.
In some, but not all restaurants and cafes, a service charge is automatically added to the bill. The norm is 10%, however, it is worth asking the amount before you order your food. A friend of mine ate at a restaurant in Rome and when she was presented with the bill, found a service charge had been added per person! The service charge cost more than the meal.
In cafes and restaurants, the service charge will be waived if you stand at the bar to drink rather than sit at a table.
As we walked up the streets towards the Vatican and popped into the odd shop and looked at the souvenirs of the street traders, we could see the price for the same gifts increase. The closer we were to the Vatican, the more expensive the same items were. For instance, I bought my daughters rosary beads from a shop about half a mile away from St Peter’s Square. They cost €1 each. The very same items were being sold 200 yards up for €3. Directly outside St Peter’s Square, I saw the beads on sale for €12 from a street seller!
When in Rome, it is well worth shopping around before making any purchases.
You might be exploring Rome on a budget, but you will still want to see all the major tourist attractions. If you are working to a tight budget, you might want to be selective. Are there any particular sites you really want to see? It might be worth considering sites you could skip to keep the cost down. For instance, we really wanted to enter the Coliseum, but I know others who have been satisfied enough to enjoy the Coliseum from the outside without paying the entrance fee.
We also opted not to enter the Vatican to keep the cost down. Instead, we walked through St Peter’s Square (free to do so) and admired the building from the outside.
Many people pay to visit the Vatican to admire the works of art. If you’re visiting Rome on a budget, a cost-free alternative would be to visit the multitude of churches throughout Rome. All are filled with beautiful pieces of art and are free to enter!
Not all landmarks in Rome charge an entrance fee. If you’re exploring Rome on a budget, consider visiting some of these free sites, such as:
- The Trevi Fountain
- The Spanish Steps
- The Villa Borghese Gardens
- Appian Way
- The Pantheon
The above are just a few examples of tourist attractions which are currently free of charge. You can also walk through the streets to get a real sense of Rome. Or watch the entertainers perform in the Piazza Navona.
If you’re planning a visit to Rome on a budget, there is no reason why you can’t fully experience this wonderful city.