My guide on how to save money in Rome
Rome is outrageously expensive. Yes, I said it. I mean they charge for everything: in addition to entrance fees visitors have to pay for audioguides about 5-6 EUR and online bookings from 2 to 4 EUR. I am not joking: if you want to book an online ticket for Vatican Museums to avoid the queues, you will have to pay extra for the pleasure. For example, the entrance fee to Vatican Museums is 17 EUR, with audioguide – 24 EUR, and if you want to book the ticket online, it will be 28 EUR. Thankfully, Sistine Chapel is included in the price.
So below you can find some of my tips on how to minimize costs and save money in Rome.
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1. Travel off season
I know how trite this sounds, but it does not make it less true. Now, it does not mean that entrance fees to museums are lower or food is cheaper in restaurants, but flight and accommodation will definitely cost less.
I went to Rome in the second week of December which is considered to be a low season: it is more than 2 weeks till Christmas, may be rainy, and tourists prefer to come a couple of days before Christmas if they want to celebrate it in Rome. I was lucky that the weather was nice and sunny, it rained heavily one day only. January, February and March are low season as well. May, summer and September with October are popular among tourists.
Our local air company offers discounts for exactly this off season period, so it helps to save some money on tickets. When it comes to accommodation, you can save 20-30 EUR per night, if you travel off season. For example, I stayed at Ottaviano Guest House which is really close to the Vatican. I had a room with a huge bed and private bathroom and paid 43 EUR per night. Just out of curiosity, I checked the prices per night for May and a room is 68 EUR.
2. Opt for bus or regional train from the airport
When travelling from Fiumicino airport to Rome, there are many options, but the Leonardo Express seems to be more convenient and appealing. This train takes passengers to Termini station in 32 minutes and costs 14 EUR one way, or 28 both ways. My hotel was 500 meters away from the Vatican, which meant I would have to pay 3 EUR for metro tickets (for my way from/to Termini station, 1 ticket is 1,50 EUR). This meant that I would have to spend 31 EUR to get to my hotel from the airport and back. I admit I wanted to take the Leonardo Express despite its price, but digging further I found a bus service that runs from the airport to a stop in Via Crescenzio that is in the Vatican area behind Castel Sant’Angelo. One way ticket costs 6 EUR, but I booked my tickets online and paid 11 EUR for both ways. I saved 20 EUR just by taking the bus :). It took about 40 minutes to get from the airport to the Vatican, but this time depends greatly on traffic, which was almost non-existent on Sunday afternoon. And I did not have to pay for metro.
My advice is to search for buses that are much cheaper than Leonardo Express. Usually all of them will go to Termini, my bus just had a stop at the Vatican and then continued to Termini. Here is more info on buses.
If you prefer trains, opt for regional ones that are much cheaper than Leonardo Express. Yes, they will have stops along the route, but I think it’s worth it if it helps to save 16 or more EUR. Here is some info on trains.
3. Don’t hurry to buy local transportation passes
I was going to spend a week in Rome, so I thought buying a local transport pass is a good idea. Conveniently, there are passes for 1, 3 and 7 days. I changed my mind when I saw the price: a week pass costs 24 EUR. Now, you might say that there is nothing wrong with it, but in my understanding passes should be cheaper than buying a stack of tickets for the same period.
Assuming I would use metro twice a day – to get to a place and back to the hotel, it makes 21 EUR for 7 days (1 ticket is 1,50 EUR). And I used the metro twice a day only because I plan my day around one area and walk it on foot. My seventh day in Rome is when I left the city, and, as the bus to the airport was nearby, I did not need another ticket to get there. One day I reserved for the Vatican and Castel Sant’Angelo that are nearby, which left me with only 5 days to buy tickets for. So I bought a stack of 10 tickets, paid 15 EUR instead of 24, and somehow managed to use only 7 out of those 10 tickets 🙂
4. Use the days with free entrances
Despite the expensive entrance fees, many museums have days when admission is free. For example, Vatican Museums are open for free every last Sunday of the month if it doesn’t coincide with important holidays. I understand that admission to Castel Sant’Angelo is free every first Sunday of the month from October to March. Colosseum is free every first Sunday from January to March and from October to December. Just check the respective website for info, but make sure to read it till the end as some places like Borghese Gallery require mandatory reservations by phone.
5. Pay attention to discounts
Many tourist attractions in Rome offer discounts to children and young people. For example, EU citizens between 18 and 25 years old pay 9 EUR at Borghese Gallery instead of 20 EUR which is the full admission fee. Children under 6 enter for free to Capitoline Museums, and non-resident visitors between 6 and 25 years old get a discount. Colosseum can be visited for free by teenagers under 18. If you have a museum in mind, check the website for discounts and make sure you have your ID with you to prove your age.
6. Roman Forum and Baths of Caracalla for free
If you don’t fall under the categories that are eligible for free or reduced admission fees, you still can see the Roman Forum for free. This way is far from being perfect, but if you are short of money, consider it.
If you look at the map you will see that the streets Via dei Fori Imperiali and Via di S. Pietro in Carcere run alongside the Roman Forum and, frankly, allow a nice view of the forum. This is especially true for Via di S. Pietro in Carcere as it goes up and offers a view from the top.
The same principle applies to the Baths of Caracalla: the street Viale Guido Baccelli offers a nice panoramic view of the baths.
Of course, it’s not the same as walking between the ruins, but still an idea 🙂
7. Saving money in Rome on food
If you go to a restaurant, you will end up with a 15 EUR bill per person or, most likely, even higher. I am sure you are not going to travel far from tourist places just because it is cheaper there. In many restaurants mains start with 8-9 EUR, side dishes are 5-6 EUR, then add drinks to it and tips, and voila, you will need around 20 EUR per person. So, instead of proper restaurants go to smaller places. I don’t know how these places are called: usually they are small, with no tables but stools and wooden counters along the walls. I am not sure, but I think employees in places like these do not expect tips, but I might be mistaken. They are frequented by locals more than by tourists which says a lot 🙂
For example, a pizza will cost 9-11 EUR in a restaurant, but instead I went to Pinsa ‘mpò, a bar-like place close to the Vatican. Their pizzas or pinsas (how they call it in Rome) are smaller than the traditional round ones but still too big for me. And the cost of a pinsa is 5-6 EUR. Pasta Chef Monti relatively not far from Colosseum offers really good pasta for 7-8,5 EUR.
I noticed that places serving sandwiches are quite popular in Rome, at least, in the Vatican area. Sandwiches are huge, come with different filling and cost from 5 up to 8 EUR per piece.
And, well, supermarkets are still there 🙂 There is a Carrefour not far from the hotel I stayed at and they have a selection of fresh salads every day much cheaper than in restaurants.
8. Buy pastries and desserts in bakeries and pastry shops
Same principle applies to desserts. Italy is famous for its tiramisu and ice cream, and they are much cheaper in bakeries and ice cream stalls than in restaurants. Desserts in restaurants cost about 5-7 EUR, but in bakeries and pastry shops you can find a wider selection with lower prices.
I have a pastry shop to recommend: Parenti close to the Vatican. I loved their cannoli and, strangely, tiramisu as well. Why strangely? Because I don’t like coffee, but their tiramisu was really good!
9. Don’t buy Italian goods in tourist shops
I am sure there are many shops in Rome selling Italian goods and intended primarily for tourists. Many products in these shops have fancier packages which make them look more desirable. And they are more expensive.
What do travellers usually bring home from Italy? Cheese, olive oil, panettoni, tuna and torrone, nougat confection. I don’t think there is a big difference in quality between a bottle of olive oil in a tourist shop or a supermarket, and if there is no difference, why pay more? I went in one of these tourist shops and checked the prices of torrone and compared them to the price of torrone in Carrefour: the supermarket ones were 2-3 EUR cheaper per bar. For me it was an easy decision 🙂
So far, these are all my ideas on how to save money in Rome. if you have anything to add, you are more than welcome to do that in comments 🙂
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