If you are planning to visit Rome on a budget and are looking for ways to save wherever you can, this article was written just for you.
Whether you are looking for free things to do or cheap eateries, we got you covered. Rome is not as expensive as it might seem. Even though it’s a European capital and a large city, there are plenty of opportunities to save money, travel on a shoestring, and absolutely enjoy your trip.
Table of Contents
- 1 Visiting Rome on a budget – The planning
- 2 How to visit Rome on a budget – Moving around
- 3 Rome on a budget – Free and cheap things to do
- 4 Rome on a shoestring – Eating out
- 5 Rome saving tips – Accommodation + where to stay
Visiting Rome on a budget – The planning
Probably the first thing to consider when planning to visit Rome on a budget is the traveling date. If you want to save money, definitely book your trip off-season because you are going to find cheaper flights and cheaper hotels.
The lowest seasons in Rome are usually fall and winter, except for the month of December, when there is a jump because of Christmas. Other than that, months like November, January, and February are not really busy and along with saving money, you will enjoy the landmarks without the crowds.
Visit the city on your own
Taking a private tour will save you time but it costs money. It saves you time because you will skip the line at the entrance and because your tour leader will take you directly to the main highlights of the attractions you are visiting without the need to look around too much.
However, if you are joining a quality tour, it will hardly be cheap. More so if you are a family or a group. If you are bent on exploring Rome on a budget, skip on private tours and see the city on your own and at your own pace.
Purchase tickets on the spot
Similar to private tours, also booking fast-track entrance online will cost you more than buying the tickets at the booth at the entrance of a landmark or museum. However, depending on the time and the season, you might have to wait in line.
This really depends on how much you want to save on your Rome trip because if the line is too long and you are short in time, you might need to skip the landmark all together. As an example, a single ticket for the archaeological park of the Colosseum that includes also the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill will cost 16€ if bought on-site and 22€ if bought online (with skip-the-line entrance).
The Vatican Museums are the other extra crowded landmark in Rome. If you buy the ticket on the spot, it will cost 17€, while if you buy it online, prices start from 29€ per person.
Consider Rome Pass
If you want to save money but without sacrificing sightseeing, one way to be cost-effective is to purchase one of the Rome cards available. These are mainly two: Roma Pass and Omnia Rome + Vatican Card.
Starting from 33€ per person, Roma Pass is a more affordable option. It’s valid for 2 days and depending on the option you choose, you will have 1 or 2 attractions included, free public transport, and reduced entry to other attractions and exhibitions.
Omnia Rome + Vatican Card gives you access to the Vatican Museums and the Hop On Hop Off bus plus another attraction among the most popular ones such as the Colosseum, the Capitoline Museums, Castel Sant’Angelo, Galleria Borghese, and the Baths of Caracalla among others. And of course, also public transport is included. But starting from 129€ per person is definitely more expensive than Roma Pass. Omnia Rome is more of an investment if you are looking at your 3 days in Rome as a sightseeing marathon.
Use free WiFi
There are several places in Rome that offer free WiFi so you don’t need to buy an Italian SIM card. Apart from the hotels that, by now, all provide complimentary WiFi and some museums, Rome’s municipality offers free WiFi service across the city center where there are hotspots near landmarks, parks, public libraries, and stations. Check our complete guide to finding free WiFi in Rome for more info on this.
How to visit Rome on a budget – Moving around
Take the bus from and to the airport
From and to the airport, you are going to spend less if you travel by bus than by train. Bus prices range between 6 and 7€ depending on the company. If you book with Terravision, the bus both to Fiumicino and Ciampino Airport costs 6€.
Both companies connect the airports to Roma Termini train station.
Use public transport
Public transport in Rome is not expensive. On top of that, there are also weekly and monthly tickets that can save you money and time because you won’t be chasing vending machines and newsagents to buy always a new one.
All tickets, whether it’s a single or monthly one, include all the means of transportation, so not only buses but also trams, Rome metro, and city trains, all great ways to get around the eternal city.
Prefer taxi over Uber
While I always suggest opting for public transport over a taxi, if you are going somewhere not covered by metro or buses or you are traveling at night and prefer a lift, local cabs are cheaper than Uber.
Uber in Rome has started with some obstacles and still now it’s not the best option. For one, Uber is more expensive than the local taxi, and even though you can now book them both through the Uber app, Uber in Italy is present only with its luxury services, so more expensive than the UberPop so popular in the U.S.
Rome on a budget – Free and cheap things to do
There are plenty of free and cheap things to do in Rome, so if you are traveling on a shoestring, don’t just assume you should rule out the Italian capital as an expensive destination. Plenty of ways to save and still enjoy its world-famous art, architecture, and culture.
Go for free city views
I know, the panorama from Rome’s coolest rooftop bars makes your evening drink more enjoyable, but thankfully, there is no lack of fantastic views wherever you are in the city. And if you are bent on exploring Rome on a budget, this is one of the easiest things you can save on.
Instead of heading to expensive terraces, you can enjoy the view for free in many places such as the Pincio Mount in Villa Borghese, Monte Mario Riserva Naturale, the Garden of the Oranges on Aventine Hill, or the Capitoline Hill for the best view over the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum.
Go to church
Whether you are visiting the huge St. Peter’s Basilica or the smallest local church, entering a worship place is free. Some churches might ask for a donation which is not mandatory but at your own discretion.
The good news is that Rome’s churches are a real work of art. From their facade always the work of leading architects to their interiors packed with artwork from the most important artists, painters, and sculptors, it really feels like you are entering a museum.
Enjoy the piazza
From one of the most stunning masterpieces of Bernini in Rome, that is St. Peter’s Square, to the smaller Piazza di Spagna at the bottom of the Spanish Steps, to the popular draw of Piazza Navona, enjoying a piazza in Rome means taking in the surrounding art and beauty but also identifying with the local way of living.
This is especially true if you take your time to sit on a bench, engage in some people-watching, and maybe strike up a conversation with the guests on the nearby bench. This is more possible in more residential and traditional quarters such as Testaccio rather than striking squares like Piazza del Popolo, the glamorous entrance to the Centro Storico and the Tridente roads.
See Rome’s fountains
Another free thing you can do if you are visiting Rome on a budget is to chase its fountains. Keep in mind that you are not simply watching marble statues placed there by chance. All of Rome’s fountains are works of art placed in a specific time of history.
In fact, some had the purpose of being the last spring of important aqueducts such as the Trevi Fountain for the Aqua Virgo or the Fountain of Moses that marks the end of Acqua Felice. Others served the purpose of public fountains, so even though they are beautiful works of art, they were actually providing a public service, like the Fountain of the Bees in Piazza Barberini.
Looking closely at most of the fountains in Rome, a keen won’t miss the symbols and coat of arms of Roman noble clans, often popes’ families, that ordered the construction also as a boost to their reputation.
Walk across the bridges
The bridges in Rome are always architectural feats and historically important. From the wonderful Ponte Sant’Angelo, Bernini’s masterpiece, to the ruins of Ponte Rotto near Tiber Island, from the modern Ponte della Musica in Flaminio to the ancient Milvian Bridge and Pons Fabricius, crossing a bridge in Rome doesn’t just mean walking across the river.
Apart from having countless views and opportunities for great pictures any time of the day, evening, and night, crossing a bridge in Rome will show you a piece of the city’s history, buildings linked to local facts and artists, and yet another proof of Romans’ architectural skills.
Take a stroll in the park
Just like for many other activities you can engage in in the eternal city, walking in a park in Rome doesn’t just mean relaxing in the green. Rome’s parks are all notable villas that were built and used to belong to former noble families. So we have the wonderful Villa Borghese property of the Borghese family, Villa Pamphilj, the summer residence of the Doria Pamphilj dynasty, Villa Ada, formerly serving as the Roman residence of the Savoys Italian royal family.
In most of the parks, there are museums or buildings open to visitors. While these are ticketed landmarks, you don’t have to enter if you don’t want to. If you’d rather save money, you can walk around the park, enjoy the buildings from outside, wander the alleys, the local fountains, and the eventual grottoes and statues.
Rome on a shoestring – Eating out
Explore Rome’s street food
Be it a slice of pizza al taglio, a panino (sandwich), or a trapizzino, in Rome, you can find plenty of street food places that serve cheap dishes and meals you can have on the go or sitting on a nearby bench.
Apart from saving money, choosing street food over restaurant meals will also save you plenty of time.
Take advantage of Rome’s free water
The city center is dotted with nasoni, those small cast-iron fountains pouring drinkable tap water non-stop. Use them, carry your travel bottle, and fill it wherever you can instead of buying a new plastic bottle each time.
Check out the food markets
Along with fruits and veggies shops, Rome’s food markets always host also stalls of ready meals such as sandwiches, pasta, pizza, salads, lasagne, and similar. These are usually served in a disposable container with plastic cutlery so easy to eat outside sitting on a bench in a pizza or at the tables they often place in front of the eatery.
Enjoy an aperitif
If you go to a fancy rooftop bar, you will likely be spending quite a lot, but these are not the only places serving aperitifs. In fact, if you are visiting Rome on a budget, swapping dinner for an aperitif is a great idea to save some bucks.
Often, aperitifs have a fixed price that includes one drink and an unlimited buffet. Take this as an early dinner after which you can keep exploring the city and take a nice walk in the neighborhood.
Rome saving tips – Accommodation + where to stay
Book your hotel out of the city center
Hotels around the city center or near famous landmarks such as Piazza Navona, Pantheon, Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, and the Trevi Fountain are usually more expensive than those in other parts of Rome far from the historic center and more residential rather than touristy. The hotels around the Vatican, too, are a bit pricey but there you can find several apartments, and sometimes rates are quite affordable.
Even neighborhoods like Garbatella, Ostiense, Monte Mario, or more north along Via Trionfale such as Ottavia and Ipogeo degli Ottavi have cheaper accommodation options and are well-connected with the city center by bus, train, and metro.
Check out budget accommodation
Between 2 or 3-star hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses, apartments, and hostels, Rome has a big offer of cheap accommodation. Of course, to find cheaper stays, you need to be willing to stray far from the touristy areas. In fact, this is where you can get better quality for a cheaper price.
Opt for an apartment
Renting an apartment can make you save quite some money for a number of reasons. Apart from being a cheaper option in general, if you are staying in your own flat and don’t really care about eating out, especially for dinner, you can buy your own grocery and make your food at home.
This will make you save plenty, so it’s perfect if you are in Rome on a budget. Of course, this option is more suitable if you are staying in Rome for a week or longer than a weekend anyway. For a day or two, it might not even be worth it and you might just prefer to have at least your breakfast made at the hotel.