Budget Travel

How you can visit Rome on a tight budget: everything's primo except the price

Like any major European capital, Rome could be eye-wateringly expensive, there is however no need for the Eternal City to depart you eternally broke.

The city offers myriad methods to visit in style while saving money. Outside of summer, you should be capable of finding cheap flights, or better yet, make the most of Italy's cheap and comprehensive railways. Picking neighborhoods from the touristy core can yield savings, as well as expose you to a more interesting mix of residents, shops and street life.

Rome's public transportation is affordable and may get you any place you have to go. Making your way around on foot isn't just free but the best way to experience the city – you can't go wrong with strolling and people-watching. And when you need sustenance, consuming meals like a local means your savings will be as large as your enjoyment.

Finally, there's no entrance fee required for some of Rome's best attractions – all across town, you'll find churches, gorgeous gardens, world-class monuments and ancient sites which are admission-free. Here are our some tips for stretching your budget in Italy's capital.

Shop around for flights

Rome is with every airline of any size in Europe as well as international carriers from further afield, and that competition can yield big savings and plenty of seats if you purchase well ahead of time. Even last-minute travelers in Europe may find bargain airfares to Rome.

Almost all airlines use Leonardo da Vinci Airport, which is well-linked towards the city by frequent trains and buses. Rome's other airport is Ciampino, which is often used by budget carrier Ryanair. It's less-frequent bus links towards the city.

Flying to Rome from outside Europe offers no airfare surprises: winter fares are the lowest, summer the highest. And there is little hope of the bargain if it's already May and you're considering a summer trip.

Take the train

Italy's railways are extensive, offering some of the cheapest fares in Europe, and also the trains on the major line is fast – you can get from Milan to Rome in only over three hours. Ticket costs are so low that there are no requirement for train passes for Italian travel. Buy online and realize that on longer routes with fast trains, the same rules apply as those for airfares – shop early for the cheapest seats.

Travel in the off-season

Rome's residents might take some or all of August off and flee the town, but they're simply replaced by hordes of tourists coming in for a Roman holiday. In other words, August – like the remaining summer months – isn't cheap.

But given that Rome is really a major metropolis, it's already a year-round city, and there are few essential activities determined by summer weather. Actually, only during particularly cold spells is it too chilly to sit down outside in a cafe watching life amble past. And conversely, not trying to see the sights within the crowded, muggy heat of summer could be a delight.

That said, eating, drinking and admission costs are the same year-round. The largest seasonal savings you'll enjoy take presctiption tourist-oriented accommodation and on travel tickets towards the city. As elsewhere, many favor the shoulder seasons of March to May and September to October permanently weather and reduced crowds compared to the summer's peak.

Reserve accommodations early

The best budget hotels and Airbnb rentals book out early, so it is effective reserve as early as possible. Every extra effort you are making to shop around provides you with a better chance of securing a really great place to stay, which, based on your likes, can mean a lift building, a rooftop patio with views or perhaps a prime location close to your interests.

Stay from the Centro Storico

Rome's lovely – and touristy – heart, the Centro Storico, using the Pantheon, Piazza Navona and much more, is awash in accommodations, though a lot of it isn't especially inspiring due to the hordes constantly checking in. Adjoining neighborhoods can offer up savings along with a more interesting place to stay; and so they possess a higher percentage of full-time residents, so everyday life has more character.

Trastevere, Giancolo, Tridente, Ludovisi, Aventino, Testaccio and Borgo are among the neighborhoods worth checking. Rome's walkability and good public transit mean that none of these areas will place you too much from the core sights. Note, however, that despite a plethora of affordable options, no one ever said, “Gosh, I'm glad I stayed near Termini!” The streets around Rome's main train station are chaotic and charmless.

Walk everywhere…

Using the feet to get around combines practicality with one of life's great pleasures – exploring Rome by walking. Around every twist within the cobblestone streets is another ancient monument, ages-old church, beguiling cafe, flower-scented courtyard or other surprise.

…or ride public transport

Rome's metro, trams and buses get a bad rap for cleanliness and petty crime, but actually the machine is popular, convenient and economical. Just one ride costs only EUR1.50 ($1.70), and unlimited ride passes come in several flavors, including one-day (EUR7/$8) and three-day (EUR18/$20).

Eat on the streets

Rome has a few of the world's best street food. Those delicious-looking slices of pizza for sale for cheap from a little literal hole within the wall are delicious. Delis and food shops have manner of ready-to-eat snacks, and street financial markets are lined with vendors selling luscious vegetables and fruit in addition to cheeses, sandwich meats, bakery items and alluring prepared foods.

At night, wander the neighborhoods away from the Centro Storico where moderately priced trattorias abound. If you see a line-up of residents awaiting tables at a restaurant, don't think twice. Join the queue, and you'll be rewarded with a memorable – and affordable – meal.

Know that the table is yours

If you buy a drink or perhaps a coffee in a Roman café, you might sit so long as you like, reading, people-watching, writing postcards (or posting your latest pics to Instagram) and just generally setting up shop to savor Roman life.

On the other hand, if all you want is a quick espresso, realize that it'll cost less should you order and drink standing around the bar than whenever you take a seat. (Consider the surplus for sitting your rent!)

Have meals with your drink

For the cost of a drink (about EUR10/$11.30) inside a bar, you could also have a fabulous meal for no additional charge. Many cafes and bars serve apertivo, a buffet of house-made snacks that may include some rather elaborate dishes. Because the idea is to get you drinking after which keep you drinking, portions are unlimited and also the quality is usually superb.

Go to church

Rome has countless churches. Many are famous themselves and attract travelers who revel in their history and devotion to particular saint or religious order. Most have a priceless fresco or painting or five. All are free and just about all possess some combination of architectural merit, noteworthy heritage, famous artworks and masterpieces along with other features like serene cloisters.

With its trio of Caravaggio paintings, Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi is certainly one example among many. It certainly is worth ducking into any church that catches your eye as you explore the city. And often the best reward can come within a seemingly nondescript facade.

Buy a Roma Pass

If you're seeing several attractions, Rome's tourist pass could be a good option. It offers a mix of free admittance to a couple of major sights and significant discounts on others, in addition to unlimited public transit rides for the duration. A 48-hour pass costs EUR32 ($36); a 72-hour version costs EUR52 ($59).

Enjoy Rome's favorite pastime

Hanging out and people-watching on the piazzas is a signature Roman experience. Top spots include Piazza Navona, Campo de' Fiori, Piazza del Popolo and public squares across Trastevere.

Get monumental

The Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona are among a large number of world-class monuments that can be savored for free. In fact given its 2000-year-old background and extraordinary significance, the Pantheon is one of the world's most sensational free sights.

Archeological sites that would be municipal treasures elsewhere are almost lost among Rome's highlights. As you walk the city, be on the lookout for little digs here and there, marked by the odd column or two poking above street level.

Watch out for free days

Even popular and expensive museums like those in the Vatican have free days. You are able to gaze up at the ceiling from the Sistine Chapel for free on the last Sunday of every month, and on the first Sunday of the month, you can observe the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatino gratis. One caveat of the free days is that you will be joined by oodles of fellow budget-minded travelers.

In high season, look for popular museums offering night-time hours when crowds – and at times prices – are greatly reduced.

Daily Costs

Hostel room: EUR15 -45 ($17 -51)
Basic room for two: EUR60 -130 ($68 -147)
Self-catering apartment: EUR100 -300 or even more ($113 -340)
Public transport ticket: EUR1.50 ($1.70)
Coffee in a cafe: EUR2-4 ($2.25 -4.50)
Pizza slice: EUR2 -5 ($2.25 -5.70)
Dinner for two: EUR45 -150 or more ($51 -170)
Glass of vino at the bar: EUR5 -10 ($5.70 -11.30)

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