*The prices listed in this post are accurate as of July 2014. Prices may change in the future*
I’m going to be 100% honest with you, right up front. This trip to Europe was not a budget trip by any extent of the imagination. The Boy and I each took 100 Euro per day to cover food, transportation, excursions, site entrance fees and souvenirs. That’s about $150 a day per person.
Could we have spent more money? Obviously. We didn’t want to feel restricted in any way on this trip though. How much would it suck to get to Rome just to find out you didn’t budget enough money for entry to the Vatican? Or the Colosseum? For some reason I had some difficulty finding current entry prices before leaving Canada , so we gave ourselves lots of wiggle room.
Fortunately we didn’t spend all of it. Not counting loose change, which we didn’t bother to keep separated, we both brought back exactly 270 Euro. How’s that for matching spending rates? We’re just going to set that aside for a future trip.
That being said, we did save money in some areas, most notably this one:
It’s a rather unassuming fountain. You’ll find fountains like this on street corners all over Rome. The water is safe to drink. While the same can’t be said in a lot of major cities, Rome is one of the ones where it’s safe to drink from public drinking fountains. A lot of places were selling bottled drinks for anywhere from 2-4 Euro ($3-$6), so we’d periodically buy an iced tea or something and then refill the bottle with water. It was good stuff.
That being said, don’t drink from this type of fountain:
That would be like drinking out of a birdbath.
Given the sheer scale of the aquaducts built during the Roman Empire, it should come as no surprise the sheer number of fountains in and around the city, many of which are still fed by these ancient aquaducts.
Let’s back up a little bit. Odds are you’ll be either flying or taking a train into Rome. If you’re flying, you’ll be landing at the Fiumicino airport outside the city limits. There’s a couple options for getting into the city from here, namely train, bus or taxi. After seeing the rates people were talking about a few years ago, I honestly didn’t even bother to find out what the current taxi rate was.
There are two train options between the city and the airport:
- Non-stop – 14 Euro
- With stops – 8 Euro
The non-stop option is called the Leonardo Express, which runs between the airport and the city center train station (Termini) every half hour. The ride is approximately half an hour long. The option with stops is a regional train that runs every 15 minutes or so, and stops at multiple stations on the way into Rome. I believe this option took about 45 minutes.
There is also the option of taking an airport shuttle directly to your hotel. If you’re travelling in a group, or you’re carrying a lot of luggage, this could be a good option. The airport shuttle costs 15 Euro per person; however, the price per person starts decreasing once you have a group of three or more. If you’re travelling as a family, it would probably be worth it to check this out.
Having spent the last 12+ hours in the air, we opted for the Leonardo Express.
If you’re coming into the city by train, you’re going to arrive downtown at the same train station as you would taking the train from the airport.
The city of Rome does have an underground metro system. It’s not as large as, say, the Parisian system, but it does what it needs to do. There are sites to see all over Rome, but if you want to see the big name sites (Colosseum, Vatican, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, etc…) and you only have a couple days, find a hotel near the red/orange line. I always thought of it as the red line, but I’ve seen it marked as the orange line in some literature. All of the metro lines converge at the main train terminal.
The Colosseum is on the blue line, but we found it was close enough to walk from where we were staying. The bulk of the other attractions we visited were on the red line.
Using the Metro is very straight forward. You buy your ticket from either a cashier or one of the machines, put the ticket through the machine and walk through the turnstile to access the train platforms. I’ve read that the trains run both directions every 10 minutes or so, but honestly I don’t think I ever waited longer than 3-4 minutes. Maybe they upped the frequency due to tourist season? The ticket machines give you the option of changing the language, so that was easy enough. Some of the screens are showing their age and don’t acknowledge that you’re trying to select certain options, so you have to touch the edge of the button on screen instead of the center.
- Metro Ticket (100 minutes) – 1.5 Euro
- Metro Ticket (All Day) – 6 Euro
The Boy and I prefer to walk, so we never used the metro line often enough to warrant buying a full day ticket.
- City Tax – 3 Euro per person, per night
If you’re staying at a hotel in the city, and especially if you’re going to be running a tight budget, you should know that the hotels charge a city tax. If you pay for your hotel upfront before you leave home, you’ll still have to pay this tax when you check out from your room. If, for example, two people spend five nights in the city, that’s 30 Euro, or about $45. Not an inconsequential sum if you’re on a budget.
A lot of the major sites in Rome don’t cost you a penny, because they’re public areas. The Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain (actually, all of the fountains) and the Piazzas are all free. There are audio guides available for the Pantheon, which is currently being used as a church, but other than that there was no cost associated with it either.
There is the option of touring the Vatican with a tour guide, or at your own leisure. We opted to do it at our own leisure. While waiting in line to get into the Vatican there were people walking up and down the line flashing pamphlets advertising tour services to get into the museum before it opened. I ran under the assumption that that they were all scam artists, because in all honesty the Vatican is more professional than that.
- Vatican Museum Adult Solo – 16 Euro
- Vatican Museum Adult Tour – 32 Euro
- St. Peter’s Dome – 7 Euro
There are reduced rates for children and university students with a valid international student card, but those were the adult rates. The Vatican Museum price is mandatory if you want to get into the Vatican, so if you’re an adult you’re paying at least 16 Euro that day. The trip up to the top of St. Peter’s Dome isn’t mandatory, but if you’re okay with stairs and small corridors I would highly encourage you to spend the extra 7 Euro and go up to the top.
As I mentioned in the last post, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum are actually on the same ticket. It makes sense given that they are literally side by side:
Tickets are available at the entrances to both the Colosseum as well as the Roman Forum.
- Colosseum and Roman Forum – 12 Euro
That being said, you don’t want to buy your ticket at the entrance. Especially if you’re not an early bird. In the upper left hand side of the map below, you’ll see a little blue and white logo with the words “Biglietteria Foro Romano”
THAT is where you want to buy your ticket! If you’re walking down Via dei Fori Imperiali (the big road beside the forum), you’ll see the ticket stand from the sidewalk. The lines here are much smaller than the ones at the entrances, and once you have your ticket you can bypass the ticket line up and go right in to the attraction.
Most of the attractions in Rome are small enough and close enough together that if you start getting hungry you can stop at a cafe and grab a bite to eat. The Roman Forum is not one of those attractions. It’s massive, and other than the illegitimate souvenir guys trying to push their ponchos and water bottles on you, there wasn’t anything for sale inside the Forum. This is one area that I would highly encourage you to pack a lunch. At the very least, pack some snacks. There are benches you can sit on, fountains you can get a drink from, and garbage cans to dispose of any litter your meal may produce if you’re not feeling up to carting it back out. There is a museum up on the Palatine Hill that may have a cafe or something in it, but it was closed for renovations while we were there. Pack a snack.
Hopefully if you’re planning a trip to Rome in the future some of this comes in handy for you.
Next up, Santorini!