Ie. How to do Rome for under a hundred bucks. Heh heh!
I was in Rome for four days in end July, when the sun is burning and gelato is in high demand, to the strange and disconcerting realization that Rome, like Paris, smells like piss. It was the Eat Pray Love (coughpretentiouscough) part of my trip, where I was determined to go solo in a country most people deem dangerous. So guys, the moral of the story is, if a small asian girl can do it alone, so can you – basically, if you can’t find a travel companion, just wing it solo! Don’t let the fear of a pickpocketed wallet or being knocked over by a Vespa keep you from the wonders of a new city. Pssh!
This hundred bucks includes everything except my flight into Roma and my shopping, because no one should have to account for my shopping habit except myself. Anyway, I booked it early and my Ryanair flight only cost me 30euros, so.
I couchsurfed in Rome – because paying for accommodation is overrated anyway. Also, when you couchsurf, you get to hang out with a local who knows what’s what. It’s like a walking wikipedia experience and match.com for making friends all at once. I also hung out with the other two couchsurfing american girls who stayed at the same place i did / met them for meals, and now they’re coming to Singapore to visit me in a year!
The last time i spoke about couchsurfing here I had a lot of feedback from you guys on how it may not be safe, or how it might be dangerous for a girl to do it alone and so on, so here’s my two cents. Couchsurfing is essentially you sleeping in a stranger’s home, and most of the time your host will be a guy, so I understand the concern. However – it’s a community based website, and with all community based sites, you have the huge advantage of being able to read real life (read: non-sponsored content) reviews from other users. You can read my guide to couchsurfing here to give you an idea of what to look out for in a host and so on because it’s too lengthy to list here. Either way, it’s a really good experience I feel, and will make your travels much more interesting compared to basing it out of hotel rooms, so give it a shot!
BREAK DOWN OF EXPENSES + ROUGH ITINERARY
Touchdown Roma – if you arrive by train, the metro is right next to Rome Termini, so good for you!
If you take a flight in, you’ll be in either Rome Ciampino or Fiumicino. Either way, it’s pretty easy to get to the city center. I landed in Rome CIA because that’s where cheap flights go (ha ha) – when you touchdown, there’s no passport stamping area, you just walk right out and there are a whole row of buses there. Walk up to them and ask when the next one is departing and pay the bus driver. It cost me 4 Euros on the spot (accurate as of mid 2014) and this is the same price you would pay if you book online, so don’t bother booking it. If you book with a bus company online you’re gonna have to follow their schedules, which isn’t worth the hassle. The ride to the city is about half an hour.
The metros run by the gantry system, so you need a ticket to get in. Buy the BIT ticket (basic integrated ticket or something) from any metro station machine. Each ticket is 1.50Eur and gives you a single train ride plus a hundred minutes of bus rides from the time stamped, though that’s a bit unnecessary because you’ll find that noone in Rome cares if you pay for the buses or trams. You can’t even buy a ticket on the bus itself. Consequently, I took buses everywhere because i’m a poor student who has no money for morals.
Buses in Rome can either be the best thing in the world or your worst nightmare. They’re irregular, always late, and pickpocketing heaven. On the other hand, they go everywhere and they’re basically and illegally free.
The metro line is far more regular and reliable, but there are only two lines and they don’t really go everywhere unlike the trains in london and paris, ie. you’ll still have to walk a fair distance to the attractions when you alight. I only took the train 3 times – once late at night when i reached Rome and didn’t know how to work the bus system, once to the Vatican (not much choice about this i think) and once to the main station because i was rushing to catch my train out from Rome and i didn’t wanna risk missing it.
Total cost on public transportation: 4.50EUR.
This is how I do holiday meals. It’s no secret that eating out in Europe is really expensive, and sometimes you don’t stay in a central enough area to justify time spent popping back to your apartment to cook lunch. At the same time, eating bad food just because it’s the cheapest option available when you’re traveling can kind of be really depressing.
So what I do is, I splurge on 1 x good meal per day (usually in between lunch and dinner) and then just have a snack in the morning or while walking. For Rome, it was 1 x meal and 1 x gelato/ lemonade or some form of refreshing beverage a day. It worked out goooooood. Here’s what I had and highly recommend:
Via Properzio, 20/22/24, Rome, Italy
Near the Vatican, recommended by my new American friends’ previous couch host in Bari, Italy. Pretty much the most fancy restaurant on the street.
Shared appetizer (this amazing bruschetta!!!). Homemade Fettucine, still water to share, a large bottle or Peroni, and a post-meal espresso. Free flow bread. I also tried a bit of both my lunch companions’ food – lasagna and pizza. Both were really good – I was originally going to order carbonara but i asked for the server’s recommendation and he said to try fettucine and it’s rude to ask for advice and not take it, so. But it was a great recommendation either way because it was SO GOOD.
Viale Regina Margherita, 17, 00198 Roma
I saw an ad for this on the bus and googled it – it had 4.5 stars on trip advisor and yelp, and was pretty far out from the city center but it was soooo worth it. It’s a Japanese / Chinese / Brazilian buffet restaurant where you order food off a menu and they bring it to you, and it’s basically the best meal i’ve had in a long long time. The different sushi rolls.. fresh grilled salmon and scampi… before the brazilian churrasco i didn’t even know pork could taste this good. Make a reservation or go exactly when they open to avoid a long wait. I recommend this so hard i would rate it about fifteen upon ten.
EUR21/ person for dinner, but if you do lunch it’s 15.90
Via del Governo Vecchio, 112, 00186 Roma
“Best Gelato in Rome” – i did my research on this!! It really is several kinds of amazing though. Near the gorgeous Piazza Navona and Pantheon, so plan out your route and itinerary accordingly.
2EUR/small cone with 2 flavors, comes with free whipped cream or chocolate dip.
Via degli Uffici del Vicario, 40, Roma
“Mainstream Best Gelato in Rome” – seems to be a hot favorite, really really famous, and beautiful seating area in a very grand and old interior deco style. Really wide selection of flavors, but i take points off for being shoved nonstop by annoying tourists. This is one of those places you never see sans a whole flock of tourists.. it’s near the Pantheon and Trevi fountain. Random fun fact: the pope came here once!
3,50EUR/ medium cone with 3 flavors, comes with whipped cream.
I only had gelato twice in Rome, but I got a heck load of recommendations for more places on instagram. Check out the comments here for user based reviews and suggestions. (View on phone to load all comments)
Basically bought it because the weather was ridiculously hot and for the instagram shot.
1EUR/ slice (overpriced, but it costs the same in all the stands i think)
Bought beers to go from a supermarket/convenience store and went to sit on a grass ledge by the Colosseum to people watch and catch the sunset. Peroni, 1eur/bottle vs sitting in a restaurant to order, 3.5-5eur/same bottle.
Via Borgognona, 4, Roma
On my last day I decided to give myself a treat at Laduree instead of having a proper meal because i’ve never done a sit-in for them and had coffee and what not. I didn’t get food because I wasn’t hungry (snacked on watermelons) but I had some pretty heavenly salted caramel coffee for 5.5Eur. When the waiter saw me taking photos of my coffee, he got excited and brought me a whole plate of macaroons. Score!
I also spent money on random bottles of water (1-1.5Eur each depending on how touristy the area is) and drinks, though actually this is not necessary expenditure since Rome is littered with water fountains spouting drinkable water on the streets. My host was saying he never buys water, but I was lazy to carry my bottle around and I’m useless at water fountains – i always get my hair wet, so whatever. Spent 6.2Eur on water/drinks in total for the trip (yes I kept track for this blogpost and wrote everything down).
Total spent on snackables and so on: 20.2Eur
Total spent on meals plus snackables (ie. total spent on ALL ingested material): 66.2Eur for 4 days
I guess it’s cheaper than if i ate out for lunch and dinner each day because a cheap meal (pizza, pasta, cheapest options) would have cost 8-10EUR each anyway, and this way i actually get to leave Rome with BEAUTIFUL MEMORIES OF REALLY EPIC MEALS.
– TOURIST ATTRACTIONS/ THINGS TO DO
The Americans girls told me something i thought made a lot of sense: anytime anyone comes up to you and tries to sell you something in Italy, it is almost certainly a scam. People kept trying to get us to buy their packages and tours to skip queues and so on, but they’re often so very overpriced and bought on misconstrued premises anyway! (Eg. Especially in the Vatican, tour guides are always trying to hustle you into buying their tour packages because it’s immediate while the queue takes “two hours”. It does not. It takes half a hour, max.)
Is one of those things you have to do if you come to Rome, because of its rich history and also just because it’s actually classified as another country within Rome, so you can be all like hey, I’m in two countries at once!! when you cross the border. Etc.
I paid 5Eur to climb the dome (500 steps y’all) and visit the basilica. It was pretty impressive – i felt like it was worth about five or more euros. Didn’t visit the Sistine Chapel due to a lack of time, but it cost 17Eur if you’re a student under 26.
This is the only thing I spent money on to see. Everything else was free.
Piazza della Rotonda, 00186 Roma
So necessary and breathtaking. Except, when I was walking into the Pantheon, I overheard two boys behind me excitedly going “I recognize this from Assassin’s Creed!!!” Sigh.
The Trevi Fountain
Piazza di Trevi, 00187 Roma
I wanted my Lizzie Mcguire moment so badly, but the trevi is undergoing reconstruction work and will only be done in 2015. Right now, it’s just an empty fountain where tourists flock to for their photographs. Still, I had extra time and I was in the area so I popped by to have a look. Honestly though, I recommend the..
Piazza Navona, 00186 Roma
One of the most beautiful squares in Rome in my opinion, with the most gorgeous fountain. Great to people watch or just chill and take photos. Possibly my favorite place in Rome x
Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 Roma
Also another very recognizable/ iconic place. I didn’t bother going in because honestly? I’m not going to pay for that. I grabbed beers with the American girls and sat by a grass ledge right behind the Colosseum to watch the sun set from 8-10pm. It was lovely.
The Roman Forum
Via della Salaria Vecchia, 5/6, Roma
Important ancient ruins. Didn’t pay to go in either, because you get a pretty amazing view of the place if you climb up this hill from the back. It’s called the Capitoline Hill and has several lookout points on the way up.
Piazza Venezia, Via del Corso, Roma
The heart of Rome, around which everything is centered. It’s also a huge monument/building that looks like an extravagant wedding cake and which tourists love. Nevertheless, it’s pretty…
Other places I visited: Piazza della Repubblica (mainly to sit and people watch/ eat my watermelon), Piazza di Pietra, Villa Ada (a chill bros park near Chopsticks Restaurant), and the whole governmental building area.
And that was it. That was literally all I spent in Rome: a total of 75.6EUR. I wrote this post to debunk the idea that you need loads of money to travel in Europe – because you don’t. You really don’t, you just need to not stay in a five star hotel and give yourself a rough budget in your head. At no point in my trip to Rome did I feel like an imporvished student, I just felt like a normal person having a really, really good time abroad alone.
There was one other thing I bought in Rome that I didn’t include in the tally above – a SIM Card. I didn’t include it mainly because not everyone will get a SIM card when they go to Italy, and also because my SIM card lasted me six Italian cities, so it wasn’t technically a Rome-only expenditure. But for those of you who, like me, live and breathe data and are looking to get a SIM card in Italy, here’s what I recommend:
TIM’s Tourist Sim Card
20EUR for 2 GB of data and 200 minutes of call time
+ 10EUR for the sim card itself
More info here
TIM is one of their main service providers, and their shops can be found everywhere. I relied on it a lot for my italian trip because I was using it to search up best places to eat and visit and so on (more info on my Guide To Top Five Free Travel Apps), and if you’re spending more than a week in Italy I suggest you get it. Even better if you’re with friends – then one person can get it and hotspot everyone else. It’s a pretty decent deal, and I think one of the best ones out there for tourists looking for a temporary data fix without any commitment.
Alright, so that’s that! I had a lot of fun in Rome, and though it isnt necessarily the most exciting Italian city around, it certainly is the most iconic and a mandatory stop for anyone hitting Italy. It’s also easy to get from there to Ponza (blogpost upcoming!), my favorite destination in seven months of traveling Europe. I hope this post was useful for you guys planning trips, and as usual, if you have any suggestions or tips do hit me up via ask.fm or in the comment section below 🙂