Rome on a budget
Going to Rome on a budget seemed like almost an impossible task when we first started planning for this trip. But Rome offers plenty of ways to enjoy its sights, without breaking the bank. Here is how I spent 3 glorious days in the capital of Italy.
Getting to Rome from the airport
We arrived via a RyanAir flight from Karlsruhe to Rome’s Ciampino airport on an evening flight. There are cheap (air conditioned!) shuttle buses that will take you right to the main train station in Rome for €4. It can get pretty crowded and buses book up fast, so try to book online beforehand if you can. The most popular shuttle bus service is Terravision.
To purchase Terravision shuttle tickets, here are the links:
After a 35 minute bus ride, we were dropped off at the main train station. We were staying at the Blue Hostel, which was a short walk away. There, we were greeted by Ercole, who helped us to our room, and gave us a ton of information on places to eat, and the main attractions of Rome we wouldn’t want to miss. I appreciated his attention to detail, and the welcoming atmosphere of the Hostel.
The Blue Hostel isn’t like your typical hostel, because there aren’t any dorm rooms. Instead, they offer beautiful private double rooms at very reasonable rates.
Roma Pass – is it worth it?
The best purchase of our trip was the Roma Pass for just €30 – no, seriously. Even though we actually ended up breaking even in terms of cost, we saved hours of time. Seriously. It’s incredible how long those line-ups can get – especially on the weekends.
What you get with the Roma pass:
- Free entry to the first 2 visited museums and / or archaeological sites of your choice.
- Concessionary ticket to all other museums and / or archaeological sites visited thereafter.
- Free use of the city’s public transport network. However, connections to and from Fiumicino and Ciampino Aeroporto are not included – which is why Terravision is a great option to either Ciampino or Fiumicino.
- Plus much more! Check out the official Roma Pass website for more information.
The Roma Pass unfortunately does not include entry into the Vatican, so we used it for the Colosseum and Castel Sant’Angelo.
On our first full day in Rome – a Saturday – we decided to visit the Vatican. We were told by the hostel owner not to go in the mornings (because that’s when everybody goes), so we took our time getting to the Vatican. From our hotel, we wandered for hours through the city, stopping to take photos, have lunch, and eventually got to the Vatican at around 1pm.
The line-up to get through security and into St. Peter’s Basilica wasn’t that bad. It seemed long at first, but it moved fast, and we were through within 30 minutes.
There is a dress code to get inside that is strictly enforced! I saw so many women get turned away for wearing short skirts and tank tops, without anything to cover up with. I even saw men getting turned away for wearing shorts that weren’t long enough!
Once you get inside, it is worth climbing to the top of the Cupola. It costs €7 to take the lift, or €5 to walk the stairs. Although if you take the lift, you still have to walk 320 steps to get to the very top. However when we were there, the lift wasn’t working, so we all had to take the stairs.
The climb doesn’t get hard until you get near the top of the Cupola – and in the July heat, many people had to stop and take breaks. But, I recommend taking the stairs if you can because you’re already paying to get inside, and climbing stairs is a way to get a free mini work-out in. :)
The climb down to the bottom was a lot easier than the climb up. :)
St. Peter’s Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world, and is also regarded as one of the holiest Catholic sites.
Another hot spot we made sure not to miss was the Trevi Fountain. Unfortunately, every other tourist in the city had the same idea, and it was so crowded that you could barely move.
Try going back late at night where it’s a lot less crowded, and you can get a great photo of the sculpture illuminated in lights.
All throughout high school, I was fascinated by ancient Rome – especially the Colosseum. I never thought I’d actually get the chance to see it in person… and it’s one of the most impressive sites I’ve seen so far in in Europe.
However, every other tourist in the city wants to get inside the Colosseum too, so there are always huge line-ups. Your Roma Pass will help you bypass the HUGE line-ups (you get to go through the group entrance) – saving you hours of standing around in the hot sun. Admission into the Colosseum also gets you into the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, which is a bonus. Except that you also have to wait in line to get into Palatine Hill as well – unless you have that Roma Pass! :)
The Spanish Steps start at the base of the Piazza di Spagna, and rise to meet the Piazza Trinità dei Monti at the top. We only saw them because we stumbled into the square when trying to locate the closest Metro station. With so many wonderful things to see in the city, it just wasn’t on our list. I think it’s only worth the visit if you’re interested in the history behind it, or if it’s on your way to somewhere else.
The Castle of the Holy Angel or the Castel Sant’Angelo, is a circular castle that was built around 135 AD. Its original intent was as a mausoleum for the Roman Emperor Hadrian and his family. The building was later used by popes as a fortress and castle, and is now a museum.
We used our Roma Pass to get into the Castel. There wasn’t a line-up to get in, which was good, because this is one site where you cannot skip the line with the Roma Pass. We also purchased and shared an audio guide (we bring headphones and a Y-splitter) for €5 – it wasn’t worth it in my opinion.
There is a great view of the Ponte Sant’Angelo Bridge – or Bridge of Hadrian – which crosses the Tiber and connects the city center to the Castel.
You can clearly see the Vatican from many of the look-out points at the Castel.
There was also a beautiful cafe located inside the castel.
The Pantheon – located in the Piazza della Rotonda – is one of the best-preserved Roman building.
It can be extremely easy to get carried away when dining out in Rome. But your food budget is something that you can always control. If you’re on an extremely tight budget, consider packing sandwiches in a purse or backpack for lunch – or picking accommodation with a kitchenette so that you can prepare a couple of meals yourself.
But if you love food like we do, it can be tough to strike the right balance. If the hostel/hotel doesn’t provide a complimentary breakfast, we will usually make breakfast in the communal kitchen – or if we’re short on time, we will grab a pastry at a bakery, and go on our way.
Sometimes we will sit down in a restaurant for lunch if it’s in the right price point (around €8-10), but most of the time we will try to pick up some cheap street food.
Dinner is the one meal of the day where we decide to treat ourselves – and even then, we are very careful with our money. It’s rare when our meals ever amount to anything over €14-15 each – even with wine or a beer.
And of course, when you’re in Italy, you cannot forget to have dessert! :)
Rome on a budget
Rome was a captivating city, and we just didn’t have a chance to see all that it had to offer – meaning that one day, we will have to come back. :) The Sistine Chapel closed a lot earlier than we had anticipated, and we forgot that most museums close on Mondays. :| It was a whirlwind trip, but one that I will never, ever forget.
My boyfriend took this great picture below. We were walking home from dinner one night, when we spotted my favourite car – an old Fiat 500 – parked on the side of the road.
Breakdown of Expenses:
- €40 ($49.60) – Accommodation (3 nights): Hostelbookers.com sponsorship at Blue Hostel
- €129,64 ($160.76) – Transportation: metro, train, bus, RyanAir flight
- €100,10 ($124.13) – Food: average of €33,70/day, or €10,01 per meal
- €10 ($12.40) – City Transit: shuttle to Ciampino Airport via Terravision
- €41 ($50.84) – Entertainment: Roma Pass, entrance to Vatican, Capuchin Crypt
- €2 ($2.48) – Miscellaneous: magnet
TOTAL COST: €322,74 ($400.21)
Krystal Yee is a travel blogger and personal finance expert with substantial media credits to her name. Lover of off-beat travel, hiking, French macarons, barefoot shoes, and her iPhone. Excel spreadsheet addict. She is currently living in Vancouver, plotting her next adventure.