Rome is on almost every traveller's bucket list. Whether you prefer to take in the historical references interspersed throughout the city, admire the beauty and effort taken in crafting some of the city's iconic masterpieces or whether you're not that interested in the tourist sights but would prefer to tackle the Tiber river rapids on your holiday, there's something in Rome for everyone- even those on a tight budget.
Choosing the best accommodation for Rome
Despite many thinking that the only places you can stay in Rome are hotels which charge inordinate amounts per night, there are plenty of places to stay within the city - and more importantly, within walking distance of the favourite sights - without having to splash out. The best place to stay for a first-time traveller is probably nearer the Pantheon, as most sites are within walking distance (so you can save money on transportation costs) and accommodation is reasonably priced.
Cheap and good hostels are abundant, especially as this is one of the world's biggest tourist destinations. The Friends Hostel is located in the heart of the city and isn't far from the Colosseum. It offers single bed private rooms from £21 a night, but shared dorms are a lot cheaper. If you wanted to spend even less, you could consider staying in convents and monasteries located a little further outside the city for a true Roman experience - but bear in mind these establishments tend to have strict curfews and if you choose to stay out late, expect to be locked out until the morning.
As from the beginning of 2011, the Rome City Council has added accommodation tax on hotels and hostels within the city to help pay with the maintenance and preservation of the city's tourist sights. At ‚€2 per night per person for campsites to 3-star hotels, and ‚€3 a night for four- or five-star hotels, it isn't too expensive but must be paid in cash.
How do you get around in Rome?
Although walking is genuinely the best and cheapest way to see the sights, you might not or are not able to do this. For all public transport, make sure you purchase your tickets from a tobacconist (look for the big 'T' sign) or a newsstand before you board the bus, Metro or tram. The whole public transport system network uses the same kind of tickets, so you can get them for single fares, day tickets, 3-day tourist tickets, 7-day ticket, monthly or annual passes. You don't have to buy a new one every time you change routes or modes of public transport.
These are the best way of getting round the city except walking, and are reliable but can be crowded. If you plan on heading outside of the centre of the city, beware that heavy traffic can mean that bus schedules become heavily altered or cancelled altogether. Night buses tend to be less crowded but more reliable.
Rome also offer a popular alternative to the standard buses that you and I are used to back home in the UK. HO-HO (Hop-On, Hop-Off) buses are open-top double-deckers which allow you to literally, hop on, and hop off whenever you want. An all-day ticket costs around ‚€20 and provides you with unlimited access to available seats and headphones to plug into nearby outlets for a running commentary on the nearby sights.
Similar to buses, but due to their older design tend to be lacking in both space and air-conditioning, which can make for an uncomfortable ride when it's hot out.
The metro is pretty simple to use, reliable and definitely the fastest way to get around town except walking. By buying a multiple day pass, you could save more money than buying each day's separately.
Hiring a bike in Rome is as easy as picking up an espresso - there are opportunities everywhere, for every possible option: tandem, child, family, road bikes, trekking bikes - everything. Best thing is, it isn't overly expensive, so if your itinerary means you have a lot to see in one day and you don't want to splash out on the public transport passes, bicycle hire is probably the best way to go.
Don't do it. Although some people might enjoy becoming slowly more infuriated by the traffic system and other drivers, the traffic in the city can be very chaotic. It's important to understand than Italians drive in a very pragmatic way - taking turns and letting people have the opportunity to go in front of you is incredibly rare. Parking is scarce, but horns blowing to let you know that you can move are abundant. Many areas are limited-traffic zones which means they can only be accessed by residents who have special electronic passes. If you end up in one of these zones without a pass, you'll be given a hefty fine, especially if your car has Italian plates.
Where is the best place to eat in Rome?
Looking at places to eat in city guidebooks are likely to lead you into tourist trap restaurants and cafes which charge a lot more for their food than it's actually worth - you're paying more for the view than the thing you're eating. Try and eat where locals eat, or try these local places below which offer an oasis of affordable cuisines during your trip to the city.
For sandwiches: Likeat
For excellent, freshly made sandwiches with high-quality authentic Italian ingredients and great conversation for affordable prices, Likeat is actually voted the #1 place to eat in Rome on TripAdvisor. Because it's so popular, it is usually packed - so grab your sandwich and find somewhere picturesque to eat it - a view without the price.
For real Italian pizza: Pinsere Roma
Be prepared to pay between ‚€4-‚€5 for a perfectly-sized stonebaked pizza made using the fresh authentic Italian ingredients, freshly baked and able to takeaway - what else could be better than strolling through the streets of Rome with some of the best affordable pizza Rome can offer?
For real Italian gelato: Tropical Ice Gelateria
Just a few blocks away from Pinsere Roma, and amongst the impressive spread of gelato places throughout the city, Tropical Ice Gelateria is full of flavours, passionate and friendly staff.
For an all-round Italian lunch: Zizzi Pizza
Serving hamburgers, Italian pizza, pasta and sandwiches almost all day long, for as cheap as between £2 and £6, Zizzi Pizza has become one of the best places to sit and have either breakfast, lunch or dinner (or takeaway, if you prefer to walk round whilst enjoying your food).
What can I do on a budget?
One of the most culturally rich cities in the whole world, Rome has so much to offer even the backpacker on a tight budget. Most famous sights and tourist attraction in Rome are free to see, which makes for a relatively cheap day's sightseeing. Churches, such as St. Peter's Basilica are free to enter and are in keeping with other Roman Catholic architecture of their time - extravagant but beautiful, and the Vatican museums run a scheme which allows free entry on the mornings of the last Sunday of the month, so long as you're prepared to queue for a free glimpse at the Sistine Chapel. The Pantheon, located to many cheap hostels and other accommodation, is easy to walk to and free to enter.
If you're up for a challenge, and a bit more fun than admiring artwork and architecture from afar, the Scuola Gladiatori Roma is a one-of-a-kind experience which teaches brave tourist participants ancient Roman combat techniques. Students are given a series of gruelling agility, co-ordination and speed tests to determine their ability to fight like the warriors of old, for £55.
For other adrenaline junkies, why not see the sights by kayaking the River Tiber and tackling some of its rapids? Fun for all, kayak hire ranges from ‚€35 (£27) and you can travel for miles.
Alpha Travel Insurance and alphatravelinsurance.co.uk are trading names of Infinity Insurance Solutions Ltd which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority: FRN 528912. Registered Office: 1 Tower View, Kings Hill, West Malling, ME19 4UY. Company Registration: 4319592. (c) Infinity Insurance Solutions Ltd; All rights reserved.