This is a guest post Barry and Julia, who sold up in the UK to travel around Turkey for 6 months. They’re still in Turkey, living in Fethiye on the southwest coast. Their blog, Turkey’s For Life is a travel and food blog about Fethiye and other parts of Turkey – especially Istanbul. All of the images in this post are courtesy Turkey’s For Life.
‘Rome’ and ‘budget’ are not two words that traditionally sit together comfortably when it comes to the subject of travel. We like to think we’ve mastered the art of budget travel over the years but when we found ourselves with an unexpected 2-night stopover in Rome on a recent trip to Italy, we wondered if we might have a challenge on our hands in keeping costs to a minimum. Well, a bit of pre-trip research mixed in with a bit of ‘hit and hope’ while we were there and we proved to ourselves that Rome is not a no-go area for those of us with limited Euros at our disposal.
Here’s how we got the most out of our visit to Rome without making too much of a dent in the contents of our bank account.
Book (Just) Out Of Town Accommodation
Booking a room out of town means you get a lot more for your money. At 38 years old, we feel we’ve got to the stage now where we prefer a little more luxury than a bunk and a shared bathroom. It took a bit of online research but for the cost of a hostel room in the city center, we found a double, en-suite room at the Al Casale de Santis (an extended family villa), set in its own grounds.
Another upside to staying outside Rome city center is you get to see life in a different neighborhood. We like to try to get a feel for the cities we visit and removing yourself from the main sightseeing areas is a perfect way to do this.
Use Rome’s Public Transportation System
As our hotel was 3 kilometers out of town, we needed to familiarize ourselves with Rome’s public transport system immediately on arrival. The good news is, Rome’s public transport system is simple – once you’ve worked it out.
We took a shuttle bus (Terravision) from the airport [4 euros at the booth; 9 online] and were dropped off at Rome Termini, the main public transport hub for the city. This building is colossal but once you’ve found the front, there are tourist booths with fantastically knowledgeable, multilingual advisers who seem to know every bus and metro route in the city. You can buy single (1 euro) or multi-trip bus tickets from these booths and the news kiosks dotted around Rome. And we did say we like to get a feel for the cities we visit – what better than a crowded bus for a spot of people watching?
See With Your Feet
We only had one full day to see as much as we could of Rome. If possible, we love to explore new cities on foot and in Rome’s case, all the main sites are relatively close to each other. Exploring on foot meant our sightseeing didn’t cost us a single Euro.
Finding your way around the center of Rome is easy enough. We soon worked out that wherever there was a huge crowd, there was a famous sight to be seen. But we also cheated a bit. Amongst the ancient sights, modern technology came to the rescue in the form of our (Samsung Galaxy II) tablet. The GPS came in very useful!
Rome Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps were top of our sightseeing list and by late afternoon, we’d had a beer break, a lunch break and seen all of those and more. We were even surprised to find we’d walked as far as the Vatican after friends suggested we’d need to take a bus. Rome is a really pleasant, easy city in which to wander.
Move 50 Meters To Save 50%
What’s the pleasure of travel if not to indulge oneself in the fine foods and beverages of the area? Well, that’s our philosophy at least and this was what we were happy to blow a chunk of our budget on. Our lunch of pizza topped with translucent slithers of prosciutto (we live in Turkey so we feast on pork whenever we leave the country) and an ice-cold beer each was the perfect sightseeing break. And afterwards, once we’d had our fill of the sights of Rome, a cone topped with Italy’s famous ice-cream, gelato, came to the rescue.
If you are on a budget, you can keep eating and drinking costs right down by choosing somewhere away from the immediate vicinity of famous sights. For example, a beer in beautiful Piazza Navona cost an eye-watering 9 Euros. Just outside the piazza, only 50 meters or so away, small panini bars were selling the same beer for 4 Euros.
Rome On A Tasteful Budget
Our accommodation costs (120 Euros) made up the bulk of our spends in Rome. Our guilty travel pleasure is food and drink and as we only had a short time in Rome, we forfeited more detailed sightseeing in favor of a more literal taste of Italy. If you’re in Rome on a budget and want to explore as many sights as possible, spend some time researching your options before you go. There are many types of ‘avoid-the-queue’ museum cards and passes that will get you free or reduced-fee entry to the places you really want to see and some give access to unlimited public transport to get you there.
Thank you very much Julia, Barry for this post on saving without starving in Rome. Barry and Julia are some of the best people I’ve met and you’ll enjoy their engaging posts, photos, and food on their blog, Turkey’s For Life. You can also find Julia and Barry on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ where they’re just as entertaining and appetite inducing.
Two big things here…use public transportation and book outside of town. Spot on
We rented a bungalow at a campground in 2009 for €10 per night for 2 people. AC, bathroom, hot water, queen-sized bed, totally private…and was only a 15 minute bus ride to the subway, which was another 10 minutes or so into centro. Save us from spending €100+ per night on in-Rome accommodations.
Another recommendation I can make is this: bring your own bottled water and when you finish drinking, fill up at the public mineral springs scattered throughout centro/downtown Rome. When I was there in 2009 it was €8 to €10 for a bottle of water, which is ridiculous. We filled up instead at our campground where it was only about 1 Euro for a bottle of water, then when we ran out we re-filled for free at the mineral springs that you can find throughout Rome.
We actually looked at the camp grounds as we don’t consider camping any sort of sacrifice. We love it – especially if it’s an air-conditioned bungalow. 😉 If we had more time on our hands, we might have gone for that option. The public transport in Rome does make life easier for those of us looking slightly out of centre for our accommodation.
I’m From rome and never seen in 33 years a bottle of water at 8 euro per bottle.
We got many place to have free water
The biggest thing for me would be avoiding the food! Gotta go into the city with the right mindset, and appetite. Prepping yourself for the struggle with prices beforehand is key!
While there’s no street food scene as such, we thought paninis and pizza slices were pretty reasonably priced at 3 or 4 Euros…but if we had the facilities, and a nearby shop selling local goods, that would definitely make for a good picnic-on-the-go for us.
I’d rather avoid the €10 water and risk the dehydration if it meant more food 🙂
TEN EUROS FOR WATER? WHAT IS THIS?
Thanks for having us here, Anil, for our first guest post. We’re honoured – with the English spelling. 😉 Got to say, we were concerned about how much Rome was going to cost us before we went as it was an unexpected stopover, but we did come in on budget – it’s doable.
Thank you very much! And I’m hono’u’red here is where you chose to have your first guest post and enjoy the Rome budget hacking 🙂
Great advice, all spot on. Another choice for cheap accommodations is to check out staying at the convents. Only drawback is that they lock the doors around 9 p.m. as I recall, but if you can work with that, you can stay right in the city center for very little money.
Thank you, Barbara! 🙂 For those intent on waking early to see the sights of Rome, the convent idea would be a great option. The 9pm door locking would be the deal breaker for the likes of us but that’s only because we like to people watch and sample the nightlife of a city.
I had no idea such a thing was possible… wonder if they have wireless. I’m guessing that’s very unlikely but you never know!
Ha ha. Wouldn’t surprise me if they had a super-speedy connection with unlimited access…unlike the rest of the city.
I bet it was exciting being in a new country wasn’t it? Sometimes I think we miss out on the basic thrills of travel in Turkey because we know it so well. Little things like the bus system or the local market, even giving it a go at ordering the bill in the language.
Always good fun being in a new country, Natalie. Don’t know if you find the same thing but as we’re based in Turkey, Turkish is our foreign language and although we did learn a few Italian phrases before we went – mainly to be able to say a few words to our friend’s family later in the trip – our foreign-language-head constantly slipped back to Turkish. Barry was thanking people with a very confident, “Grazie, sağolun.” 😉
Rome is definitely a walking city. And I also go right for the prosciutto, for the same reason. I’ve never used gps though, and I sure could use it. Sounds like the Samsun Galaxy is more practical than my bulky ipad.
We walked into the centre from our hotel on our day of exploration and soon realised the locals obviously know where such things as the Colosseum are – they don’t need signs. And there is a distinct lack of signposts outside the city walls. The trusty GPS walked us to a leafy area from where we spotted the Colloseum. Fortunately, Rome felt safe enough to be walking around with a screen in front of us! 😉
Great post and advice as always guys! Rome is definitely an easy city to walk around!
Another accommodation site I’d recommend is airbnb.com. We used it when we traveled to Rome in May and found a studio near Campo dei Fiori for only $130/night (109 EU). A lot cheaper than the hotels in the same area. The studio had a washer so we did laundry and packed less so we had more room to bring back wine, limoncello and Italian salami!
Wine, limoncello, and salami make a good luggage trade for pretty much anything else 🙂
With any city breaks I go on I always opt to walk every where when possible. There is no point taking a taxi or the local transport when you can discover more places and sights via foot without knowing. It is also great to exercise and prepare for a lovely big evening meal and possibly a few beers!
It also opens you up to new, unanticipated discoveries along the way 🙂
Good tips! I booked a bad and breakfast in Rome for 40 euro per person per night to stay in city center, but doing so I had no need of taking transportation to go anywhere. I visited everything walking.
Rome is one of my favourite cities! You have given great tips. And “finger up” for walking around round the city 🙂