Save Money While Traveling in Rome, Italy

A perfect moment of beautiful cloudy twilight over Ponte Sant Angelo in Rome, Italy.

­Ask someone who’s been to Rome to describe the city, and you’ll often hear adjectives such as “romantic”, “fascinating”, and “magical”. Rome is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in the world, carved out of centuries of history and art that remain for modern day visitors to behold.

The capital of Italy played an important role in history, once being home to a vast Roman empire. Today, Rome’s historical landmarks are still up, testament to the colorful history of this magnificent city. Rome resembles the blending of old and new, with modern structures that are built around iconic structures such as its aqueducts, theaters, churches, and gardens.

Because of Rome’s numerous attractions, it could be slightly overwhelming especially for the first time visitor who wants to soak it all in. If you aren’t careful, a trip to the city could also be quite costly. But don’t panic, we’ve done the research to give you a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know to enjoy Rome on a budget. From planning and preparation down to eating, we’ve got all the tips down pat.

  1. The best time to travel to Rome is between the months of April to June, and September to October. During these times the weather is usually pleasurable, and there aren’t as many crowds. From mid-June to August, Rome is teeming with visitors from all around the world that it may even be difficult to get around without experiencing swarms of people. Italians take month-long vacations starting August 15, which means that most of the attractions, bars, restaurants, and services will be closed. On the other hand, shops have shorter hours or undergo renovation from October to Easter, while the months of November and February are usually too cold.
  2. Once you’ve locked down a time for you to visit Rome, it is recommended to book your plane ticket months in advance. As soon as you know when you would like to visit, start scanning the internet for great deals on airfare. Planning ahead of time will save you money, as airlines usually come out with advanced-booking promo deals.
  3. You can also save additional money if you take a low budget flight from your hometown to another major European city nearby such as London, Frankfurt, or Paris then take a connecting low-cost airline into Ciampino Airport. Doing so may mean that you would have to sacrifice another 2 or 3 days of travel but this would save you a significant amount of money that you can use for food instead.
  4. Keep in mind that traveling by taxi is the most expensive option in Rome. Whether you land in Fiumicino or Ciampino airport, there are airport shuttles as well as public buses available that can take you right to your destination. If you are staying near the Termini station you can opt for a shuttle bus, but if you are staying in another district it is equally easy to find public transportation from the Termini station.
  5. Invest in good walking shoes before your trip, because you may be doing a lot of walking when you are in Rome. The city’s public transportation system is well developed, but the distances between stations are quite far. It is also best to plan your days according to the proximity of one attraction to the other, many of Rome’s attractions are within walking distance to the other so you can save money on trains or bus passes.
  6. Rome’s popularity as a tourist destination has resulted in the city having an extremely wide range of hotels and hostels to choose from. Unfortunately, many of these hotels are already old and run down but with some careful research you can still easily book an affordable yet comfortable stay in Rome. Depending on how much time you have, you may want to opt for a hostel that is closer to the city center. If you have more time to spare, you can opt for an affordable self-catering apartment, many of which are available on AirBnB and similar sites. Before you book, it is best to research on customer testimonials to reduce your chances of staying in a place that will result in a bad experience.
  7. Rome can be brutally hot, it is always recommended to bring a bottle of water and a small umbrella in your bag. Water is relatively inexpensive but it’s crucial to stay hydrated at all times. The cost of water can easily add up, but if you bring a bottle of water these can be refilled at many of the public fountains. Watch out for signs that say “aqua non-potabile” though, which means that the water is not potable.
  8. There are numerous free entertainment options available in this art-filled city. You don’t always have to shell out cash to enjoy art. Most of the city’s churches are free of charge, and house spectacular works of art inside.
  9. It is best to book ahead online for popular tourist attractions such as the Vatican museums and the Borghese gallery. A Roma Pass will also come in handy, with 48-hour and 3-day pass options available. Both cards offer free passes to numerous museums and attractions as well as public transportation (http://www.romapass.it). The Roma Pass is also highly recommended purchasing even if you are visiting Rome during peak periods when hotels and attractions raise their prices. Throughout the year, the pass comes with 2 free entrances, and to maximize your pass it is recommended to use these free passes to the most expensive attractions on your list. Usually, the priciest attractions are the Colosseum as well as the Villa Borghese. It is also important to keep in mind the Roma Pass’s expiry, so to maximize the pass, it is recommended to start using it during the early morning. Its validity begins as soon as you first use it, not on the day it is purchased.
  10. For travelers who have a serious interest in learning about Ancient Rome, it is recommended to invest in the Archaeologica Card (http://www.pierreci.it) . This card costs just 23 euros and will provide free entrance to all the notable attractions of ancient Rome including the Colosseum, Palatine, Baths of Carcalla, 2 Appian Way monuments, all Museo Nazionale Romano museums, the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella, and the Villa dei Quintili.
  11. On every last Sunday of the month, entrance to the famous Vatican museums as well as the Sistine Chapel is free. You can expect large crowds during these days but it will still save you a few euros on entrance fees.
  12. It is recommended to always bring a valid work or school ID when visiting Rome, as you can get discounts or free entrances to museums and various attractions especially if you are:
    1. A European citizen under the age of 18, under 25, or over 65 years old
    2. Non-European who teaches or studies architecture, art, conservation, literature
    3. A student from anywhere in the world (remember to bring your university ID)
  13. Visiting Rome is similar to visiting a live art museum. While it appeals to many art and history buffs, there are actually many free attractions you can enjoy if you are taking your kids along. Here are some of the city’s free attractions for children:
    1. Children will always love fountains, and in Rome there are 280 fountains you can visit with them. Of course, the most famous is the Trevi fountain, which is a delight no matter how old you are. Take the whole family here to toss coins in, which they say will ensure your return to Rome.
    2. The Villa Borghese Gardens encompass a large public park, which features an artificial lake, amphitheater, temples, fountains, botanical gardens, sculptures, and museums. Some of its museums require visitors to pay fees, but it’s a great place to spend an afternoon sightseeing, relaxing, or enjoying a picnic with the children in tow.
    3. Rome’s piazzas, or city squares, are a must-see during your trip. These piazzas are home to many restaurants, cafes, fountains, and stores. The piazzas also tell quite a bit of history, and are a great place to take the kids to soak up some culture too. The piazzas are bustling with activity during the day, but become more relaxed during the nighttime.
    4. Kids will love visiting Rome’s many ancient ruins, especially the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Colosseum. These serve not only as fantastic backdrops for family photos, but useful learning tools for history and architecture. The Colosseum is not to be missed if you are with children, they will enjoy seeing the gladiators interesting and entertaining!
  14. You will find encounter many persistent street salesmen in Rome, whom are quite knowledgeable scammers. If you aren’t careful you can end up being a victim of one of their scams which include selling knock off bags, scarves, umbrellas, and many more. In order to avoid being tricked, avoid eye contact and talking to them.
  15. It is almost unavoidable to shop in Rome, as this city offers many excellent bargains if you know where to look. The city’s big sales happen during January and July, so if you are here to shop these are the best times to book your trip. More tips for shopping in Rome:
    1. Always try to have the exact change when you go shopping, it will make it easier for you to haggle when shopping at flea markets and street shops.
    2. Leather is much more affordable in Rome, it is made locally at top notch quality, and much cheaper than buying it abroad.
    3. The Flaminia flea market, open during Sundays from 10am to 7pm, has some excellent finds.
    4. Throughout the city there are many outdoor shops that have great bargains on locally produced clothing and souvenirs.
    5. Rome is a haven for designer shopping, but not everyone can afford brand-name goods. Fortunately, there are still many areas where you can buy designer goods for a fraction of the price. For discount designer shopping, check out Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, and Via del Governo Vecchio. The suburbs also have quite a few outlet shopping options, including Castel Romano where you’ll find 110 boutique outlets.
  16. When it comes to drinking, wine is almost always the more affordable option when in Rome. You might want to skip the beers if you are visiting a country that is known for their wines. Opt for the house wine option rather than two beers and you’ll save much more money. Here are some recommendations for drinking on the cheap while in Rome:
    1. Bar San Calisto ( Piazza San Calisto): The Bar San Calisto is filled with décor from the 70’s and seems a little edgier than your usual bar in Rome. It’s retro feel is enjoyed by tourists and locals alike, who come for the cheap drinks ranging from 2 euros up.
    2. Enoteca Cavour (Via Cavour 313): If you’re after wine, and lots of it, don’t miss Enoteca Cavour which features an extensive wine selection. Glasses start at just 3 euros while you can get a whole bottle for 13 euros up.
    3. La Vineria (Campo de’ Fiori. 15 Campo de’ Fiori): La Vineria is a charming bar that overlooks Campo de’Fiori, and features a wide range of great wines. Cocktails start at 1.50 euros and wines are available by the glass at affordable rates.
  1. Dining out can be pricey when in Rome, but here’s an insider tip: areas that are frequented by office workers usually offer lunch sets for the working crowd which are filling and affordable. If you are thinking of snacking to save money, make it a dinner picnic rather than lunch so you can maximize special lunch menus offered from 10 to 20 euros. These same lunch dishes usually double in price for dinner.
  2. There are many inexpensive ways to enjoy Rome’s food while on the cheap. If you are staying in a self-catering apartment, the city has many markets that sell fresh produce, fruits, cheese, vegetables, and many other ingredients for making local dishes. While on the go, pizza, pasta, and paninis or sandwiches are relatively inexpensive (around 4 to 5 euro) and will give you enough fuel for sightseeing. Remember that eating out will always be much cheaper than dining in. A pasta will set you back around 8 euro, while larger 12 inch pizzas will cost about the same. For recommendations on cheap eats while in Rome, here are some starters:
    1. Campo de’ Fiori (Campo de’ Fiori 22 / Vicolo del Gallo, 14): Known for their pizza which can be enjoyed alone without any toppings, or served like a sandwich with your choice of fillings including cheese, vegetables, and cured meats. Slices are usually served for around 6 euros, and pizzas are sold by weight.
    2. Pastificio (Via della Croce 8): This restaurant has some excellent lunchtime deals, but is known for freshly made and delicious pasta dishes. For around 4 euros you can enjoy a large serving of pasta with water or the house wine. Because it is located at the beautiful Piazza de Spagna, you can alternatively have your pasta for take out and enjoyed outdoors.
    3. Barnum Café (Via del Pellegrino, 87): Home to classic Italian favorites including pizza, pasta, wine, cocktails, and comfort food, Barnum Café is not to be missed. They have daily blackboard specials and free WIFI, and the ambiance is homey and inviting. Barnum also has an excellent selection of cheese, meats, and salads that are great for a picnic.
    4. Dar Filettaro (Largo dei Librari, 88): The only dish on the menu here is a delicious fried cod fillet, just 5 euros. Enjoy it with various antipasti, including mushrooms, salami, and zucchini.
    5. Hamburgeseria (Via Del Teatro Pace 35/3): Burgers for craving while in Rome, satisfied at the Hamburgeseria! This nondescript burger bar offers excellent burgers at 7 euros, with fries on the side for additional 3 euros. They also offer chicken wings, quesadillas, and salad for less than 7 euros.
    6. Gelaterias are common in Rome, but don’t spend more than 2 or 3 euros per serving.
  1. It is common for restaurants to offer bread and water to you while waiting for your main dish. Since you are traveling on a budget it is wise to first ask if these are free, take note that not all of them are. You can politely decline the bread and water (if you already have your own).
  2. When visiting Rome’s bars and cafes, the locals know that standing at the bar is cheaper than asking for table service. If you are in need of a quick coffee or a croissant in between tours, you can save money by consuming these on your feet.
  3. Unlike in other countries, the usual tip fare in Rome is much smaller. Unless you truly appreciate exceptional service in a few establishments, Rome’s waiters don’t expect a tip that is more than 5 euros.

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