ADVICE FOR TRAVELLING TO ROME
The Italian capital definitely offers a taste of 'la dolce vita' with its cobbled streets, Roman statues and to-die-for pizza, pasta and gelato. If you're looking for an amazing city break, then look no further. Rome welcomes millions of visitors every year and we've rounded up the best advice for travelling to Rome, including how to navigate the public transport system, when to visit the Vatican and how to save on your city break.
Want to explore more of Italy? We've got your must-see guide to Italy covered.
Italy is a very safe country – and the Italians are famously welcoming. Though crime remains pretty low, be aware that pickpockets do operate in the city with particular danger spots including the main railway station at Termini, on trains to and from the airport, and on the number 64 bus to St Peter’s Square. Thieves will target crowded areas and vehicles, so make sure you have your hand on your wallet or purse at all times. If someone tries to distract you, guard your belongings extra carefully.
There are also various different cons to stay aware of. These include people asking for directions (only to pickpocket you) and scammers offering you ‘gifts’ before then demanding a large sum of money in return. Remember, there’s no such thing as a free lunch – if something seems too good to be true, it most probably is. You may also come across people begging in the city, particularly near the churches - and you’re always near a church in Rome! It’s generally best to avoid contact with beggars, strangers or sales people in the street.
When travelling by public transport you must purchase a ticket, usually located on entrance platforms, to avoid a hefty fine by officials on patrol. The Termini area (where you'll find the train station) is very well policed and thousands of locals and tourists alike pass through it every day without a worry - but again, it's worth keeping an eye on your belongings just to be sure. Don’t be afraid to explore this spectacular city after dark as that’s when many of the landmarks look their most beautiful, illuminated against a black starry sky. Rome is as safe as anywhere at night, but it makes sense to avoid the backstreets and the area around Termini if you can. Also (just so you know), the dressed up soldiers near the Coliseum don’t want to take a photo with you out of the kindness of their heart – they will demand money in return for a snap (and if you don’t agree a price beforehand, you might find that it doubles or triples)!
Take a look at our top cheap weekends away for exciting city escapes at excellent prices.
LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS
By law you must have some form of identification on you at all times in Rome – so carry a photocopy of your passport in your wallet or purse just in case. Police can ask you to retrieve the original either immediately or within 12 hours.
Dining out is made easy in Rome by a law that requires restaurants to display a menu outside – so you can see at a glance whether the dishes tickle your fancy and fall within your budget! No cover charge should be added to your bill either (coperto) but you can leave a tip if you like.
When travelling by taxi, make sure you use a registered car and that the meter is turned on. To travel by public transport you can buy tickets from shops, stations, bars and tobacconists, but these must be validated in a ticket machine. Patrolling public transport wardens can give on the spot fines of 50 or 60 euros if you’re found travelling by bus, metro or train with a ticket that hasn’t been validated.
As they say, all roads lead to Rome, and the traffic in the city is always hectic, with mopeds flying around as well as cars, vans, buses and bikes. Take extra care at zebra crossings as drivers won’t always stop, even though they should. The fact that there are double the amount of road deaths in Italy as in the UK should be enough to make you look both ways before stepping out into the road!
Rome isn’t the easiest city to drive in, but if you are thinking of hiring a car, keep in mind that cars are often not allowed into the historic centre of the city without an official pass and parking is very sparse. If your hotel is in the centre then you will need to buy a pass when you book your hire car (although it’s not guaranteed that you will be able to, so check before you book). You can find a map of the forbidden zones (ZTL zones) online. Cameras are set up to catch the registration numbers of rule-breakers, so don’t think you can cheat the system and no-one will notice! Rome also has traffic pollution reduction measure in place where vehicles with odd or even number plates are allowed into ‘green’ areas on alternate days. Check if these measures will be in place when you visit as it may influence your plans.
VISAS, VACCINATIONS AND TRAVEL INSURANCE
OTHER TOP TIPS
- Check your change for counterfeit notes, as these are in circulation across the city. Be especially careful in restaurants or when buying from a market or a street vendor.
- Dress respectfully when visiting Vatican City or one of the many churches in Rome. Men should remove hats and women should have shoulders and thighs covered. As a city with such a rich history, Rome is rightfully protective of its relics. If in doubt, do as mum always said and look with your eyes, not with your hands! Anyone climbing on the ruins in the Roman forum or taking a dip in the Trevi Fountain is going to be very unpopular with the local polizia!
- Remember, even though a trip to Rome isn’t a beach holiday, a Mediterranean climate means that temperatures can reach scorching heights of 30 degrees in summer. Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen, hat and sunglasses, and make sure you drink enough water to avoid dehydration during all that sightseeing!