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The Colosseum as seen from the Roman Forum by Louise Ingham

Rome on a budget

Rome is an incredibly beautiful city and visiting it has been on my bucket list for years. This summer I finally ticked it off without dipping into my student finances too much. If you’re planning on visiting Rome there are some things to consider beforehand to keep the price down but also to get the most out of the trip. Before you go, you’ll need to consider flights, hotels and what to pack. For when you’re there, there are plenty of things to do and see for free as well as cheaper options for dining out. 

Flights, hotels and what to pack:

We flew with Ryan Air because the flights are relatively cheap and if you can restrict yourself and only use hand luggage it keeps the price down. Ask any one of my friends and they will tell you I cannot and do not pack light, but I managed it for Rome. Only take essentials, and you don’t need a huge amount.

Definitely take comfortable shoes. I foolishly spent the first day in flip flops and my feet really did not thank me. The attractions are spread out and we decided to do all our exploring on foot to really get a good feel for the place. However, you can get a Roma Pass which costs EUR 34 for three days and amongst free and cheaper entry to some sites it also gives you unlimited use of public transport. If I go back to Rome I would certainly consider getting this pass, if only to save my feet. Secondly, take plenty of sun cream and a hat. I went there late May when it was already at least 30 degrees, which can be difficult when you’re walking around a busy, crowded city and it only gets hotter in June, July and August.

Where you end up staying isn’t the most important decision; we found that we simply used the hotel as a place to sleep at the end of a hectic day. However, we used Trip Advisor and stayed in Hotel Cavour and I would definitely recommend it. It wasn’t anything fancy but it was clean and comfortable and literally five minutes from the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Altare Della Patria. It wasn’t over expensive either and using Trip Advisor is great as you can set the price, location and amenities you are looking for and it gives you a whole host of options.

 While you’re there:

Visit as many of the free attractions as possible and it is guaranteed will can have an amazing time simply getting lost and exploring. In Centro Storico there is the Pantheon and it’s incredible as you look up at the single ray of light pouring from the large hole in the center of the roof, called the oculus.

The Trevi Fountain was high on my list of things to see, and as a bonus it’s free to see. Slightly disappointingly the monument was under reconstruction so it had been drained. Despite this there was scaffolding up so you could walk right up to the statues. They had also left a small area of water which you could throw your coins into. We did this and hopefully (as the saying goes) this means we will end up back at Rome one day!

The Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palantine Hills are definitely something you want to do when you come to Rome. These aren’t free but they are all included for the same price for EUR 12 or EUR 7.50 if you are from the EU. The queues are extreme if you do not get there early however, we got around this by going to the Roman Forum first which, while there was a queue, it was not half as bad as the Colosseum. After the Forum and the Hills we went to the Colosseum later in the day when the queues had died down. It’s not free but it’s certainly not something you can miss, it was definitely a highlight of the trip.

The Spanish Steps are another good place to visit, you can climb up and and people watch everyone down in Piazza di Spagna. There are hundreds of expensive designer shops in the area so if you can face the scathing looks of the beautifully dressed shop assistants its great fun to window shop and browse the gorgeous clothes.

Travastevere was one of my favourite areas; the picturesque alleys were filled with restaurants, cafes and stalls selling unique jewellery and other gifts.  It was especially lovely in the evening when the whole place had a buzz about it with everyone chatting, browsing the shops or watching the performers that gathered in the piazza. We loved sitting with a cocktail, people watching and taking in the atmosphere.

Within the Vatican City, St Peter’s Square and the Basilica are free but if you wanted to go up the Dome you will need to pay an admission fee. The Vatican Museums unfortunately are not free and costs EUR 16 or EUR 8 at the reduced price. The Sistine Chapel costs EUR 15 to enter however it is free on the last Sunday of every month- so this is good to keep in mind if you’re in Rome at that time.

Overall there are plenty of ways to keep the cost down in Rome by focusing your attention on the many free exhibits and attractions and choosing the cheaper restaurants and cafes. We also found the Lonely Planet guide book to Rome was our best friend during the trip, it’s definitely worth having to help you find your way around like a local.

About Louise Ingham


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