Rome has always been at the top of my list for traveling. I hadn’t planned on going when we went. I actually had been looking at tickets for Ireland since that’s number one on my bucket list. However, I came across some pretty cheap tickets and I sure as heck wasn’t passing it up because, number four on the bucket list is stellar. Since going, I decided to give you some Rome Travel Tips.
Rome was one of our first international trips and we were nervous and had no idea what to expect when we got there. We attempted to do some learning before we went but, kept running into the same basic suggestions. So, we figured it was going to be a breeze when we arrived because everyone made it sound pretty cut and dry. It definitely wasn’t. I loved the experience but, boy, was it stressful. That’s what made me realize that no one was telling the hard truth about traveling to Rome. When we got there, we immediately started taking notes of all the things we wished would have been on the internet. It would have been nice to know quite a few more details so we didn’t stick out so much, ha! The following Rome Travel Tips and information should make you feel quite a bit more prepared when you arrive.
Rome Travel Tips
Smoke Is Everywhere
When I mean everywhere, I mean, you feel like you’re going to choke nonstop. People smoke quite a bit over there and there’s not as many limits there to where you can smoke as there is in the US. We didn’t get very much relief from the smell of smoke even in the nicer hotel we stayed at. So, just a heads up, be prepared for cigarette smoke to become a part of your daily habits while you’re there. Also, you’ll see little white plastic sticks in people’s mouths quite often. It took us forever to figure out these are an electronic cigarette. They look much different than the gaudy vapes here in the States.
This really isn’t one of my Rome Travel Tips, but is more of a public service announcement. I’m pretty sure I was averting my eyes more times than I can count. Of course, Rome is home to a ton of art which can contain nudity, but, people would just change their clothes wherever they wanted. This was a totally new experience for me, considering in the US there are laws against public nudity. So just expect it.
Water At Restaurants
If you ask for water, you’re going to get seltzer water. You know, the water that tastes like soda but has no sugar in it? Yeah, that’s the norm over there. So, if you ask for water, be sure to ask for plain water and specify you don’t want seltzer. Unless you’re ok with seltzer then just request water and that’s what you’ll get. If you’re not used to seltzer water, that first drink can be quite startling. Let’s just say, my first drink ended up on me and my husband…oops.
More Natural Options
One of our favorite things about Rome was that there were a ton more natural food options. There were no GMOs anywhere to be found and because of that, their fruits and vegetables had amazing flavor. There were no fake sugars, even in gas station candy. Their fast food, even the chains like McDonalds, have different options because they have stricter food regulations in Rome. We couldn’t believe the sizes of fruits and vegetables over there. The lemons, alone, were as big as my head. They also have a ton of plants everywhere. You’ll see towering levels of apartments and each balcony will have 5+ plants covering it and hanging down the railings. You’ll even be walking down alleys that seem sketchy but, there will be flowers lining the doorways. There’s always fresh flowers for sale among the street vendors as well which was nice.
Just as a fair warning, gas is measured in liters in Rome, not in gallons. It seems like gas is cheaper or right around the same pricing as it is in the states. That is, until you find out it’s not in gallons which makes it 2-3 times more expensive than the States. Thankfully, we didn’t have to buy much of it, so we were spared the horror of those prices, for the most part.
When it comes to Rome Travel Tips, you will find lots on HOW to rent a car, but not on what to expect after you get it. If you’re going to rent a car, be prepared. It will be the scariest and most fast-paced driving you will ever do in your life. We decided to rent a car because it was much cheaper and gave us more freedom if we didn’t have to rely on public transit. There are buses, trains, taxis, etc. that you can use. There’s even a pass you can pay a set price for and it allows you to use the bus as many times as you want in a week’s time. However, we enjoyed the freedom of being able to do things without having to schedule around public transit schedules. Except, the driving is enough to make you want to never drive a car again. There are mopeds zipping in and around cars, there’s no real lines on the road, and people will just kind of do as they please and go as fast or as slow as they please. There really aren’t any cops out and active on the roads. We saw cops once while we were there and it was for an accident. Put it this way, it would exhaust my husband more to do the driving than it would to walk five miles that day.
Guards & Police
You’ll see more armed guards than police. They’re all quite friendly though. They stand outside each entrance of the schools, at entrances for some of the attractions, etc. Don’t be alarmed, but each of them has a large gun. We never saw or heard one be used while we were there but, they carry them in front of them at all times. I thought this was important to mention in my Rome Travel Tips since guns can be a concern for some.
There are no taxes on food and clothes. So, when you go to purchase something at the store, it’s easier to calculate exactly how much you’ll need and get back. We never paid taxes on any of our purchases while we were there, as far as we know.
They don’t’ have pennies. This almost went unnoticed by us until our second to last day. Everything is rounded up or down to be in multiples of five. This is because their coins are in multiples of five without pennies. It doesn’t make a huge or noticeable difference but, it’s a fun fact we picked up on.
You NEED A Credit or Debit Card
One of the most important Rome Travel Tips is to bring cards with you. A debit card is a must. A credit card that has free international payments is a must as well. Many places will only take cash but, then you have your places that won’t take credit cards, but they will take a debit card. Getting cash out of an ATM is expensive. However, it’s still cheaper than the exchange rates we found at our local banks in the US. The ATMs are one flat fee per transaction, so try to take out as much as you need the first time around, if possible. Waiting to get your euros from an ATM is definitely the easier and cheaper option that we have found so far.
Another one of our favorite things about Rome were the aqueducts. They take pride in their water and the drinking fountains you’ll find throughout the city always have fresh and very cold water coming from them. When I say throughout the city, I mean, they aren’t housed in businesses and what not, these aqueducts are in alleys, out on the streets, etc. They believe everyone should have easy access to fresh water. Their water isn’t mixed with anything either. It’s the freshest, cleanest water I’ve ever drank; very satisfying. Just as a heads up, to drink the water, you stick your finger in the hole of the spout which redirects it to spurt out the top for you to get a drink without having to go under the spout.
Most of the Rome Travel Tips you will find on the internet will glaze over this topic, but as a tourist, I feel like it’s important. We did a few guided tours and some that weren’t guided and found out a few tips on tours in general. First, if you’re a tall person, please be kind and stay in the back. Some of the tours move fast and if you’re tall and standing up front, those behind you will miss out on a lot of the experience. If you’re shorter, get your tail to the front or you won’t see anything. The guides are usually pretty good at making sure everyone gets to see, but it keeps things moving if you’re already positioned correctly. Things can get crowded so, it just makes everything that much easier.
Do not go with a large guided tour. Try to stick to around 10-15 people in your group if possible. If your group is too large, it’s not as fun and kind of stressful to keep up with. Don’t ruin the experience by going for a large group, smaller groups are much nicer and more memorable.
Overall, if you can, it’s best to go without a guide and just get the audio guide. It’s usually cheaper this way, you still get the expertise information, but you don’t have to worry about all the rush, times, etc. They will check your bag or purse if you’re bringing one in however, if it’s too big, you’ll be denied entry. Be sure it’s a small bag, which is nice anyways since you’ll be walking quite a bit and won’t want the extra baggage.
Tickets & Events
One of the most time-saving Rome Travel Tips is to buy all your tickets for events and such before getting to Rome. This will not only save you money, but it will save you a lot of time. We bought almost all of ours before we got there, and we were glad we did. Many people hadn’t, and they had to wait in line for hours upon hours before even getting in. We just walked right on in, got our ticket scanned and we were on our way. There are maps of all the most popular spots you don’t want to miss while in Rome. Take a look at that online and plan where you want to go and when, this will make everything a little smoother when arriving.
Everything in Rome is fast-paced but, also laid back which feels strange. People take their time but are also going nonstop. They’re pretty healthy over there and most people seem to be in good shape and all of them dress nicely. I told my husband that I would stick out like a sore thumb because I’m not a huge fancy dresser. We always felt underdressed even in the nicer clothes we bought.
Just as a warning about hotels, their nice hotels aren’t not anywhere near as nice as the hotels here in the US. That’s understandable as the US is quite a wealthy country in comparison. When they offer a free breakfast at the hotel you’re staying at, be prepared for lunch meat, boiled eggs, and crescents because that’s mainly what they serve everywhere for breakfast. It’s not very filling and definitely nothing like the hearty breakfast we’re used to in the States. Be sure that your hotel, or the place you’re staying specifies that you’ll have a private bathroom. It’s common for bathrooms to be shared, even in hotels.
You can’t have Rome Travel Tips without talking about food. Their meal structure is a little different than the US. I mentioned about the light breakfast. Lunch is also lighter but, dinner is their big meal of the day. Many places don’t serve breakfast and will open for a specific time for lunch, then close, then open again for dinner. They refer to lunch as first meal and dinner as second meal. A doggy bag is referred to as a takeaway, not takeout.
One of my favorite stories from Rome was when we ate at a pizza place. We didn’t know a ton of Italian, so we figured pizza would be a safe bet. We ordered a New York Style Pizza, and were incredibly surprised to get a pizza covered in hot dogs and french fries! I laughed, and ate it, but made a mental note never to order that in Italy again!
Rome Travel Tips Recap
I could go on forever with all the things we learned but, I’m going to shorten it up and include below, a bulleted list of some more important Rome Travel Tips you should know before going:
- Major stores like Walmart aren’t easy to find.
- Staying outside the center of Rome is more satisfying because it’s more authentic and you get to see more of how Rome actually is outside of the tourist areas.
- Toll prices are insanely high. We drove to a few places like Pisa and the tolls took all the cash we had. So, beware, if you travel by car, have plenty of cash for the tolls.
- If you’re lucky enough to find a grocery store, you’ll need to have your own bags. They don’t provide bagging or bags in general at most of the stores.
- Learning basic Italian terms will be helpful. Learning things such as thank you, please, terms useful for ordering food, etc. are the most useful. Many in Rome, especially outside the tourist areas, don’t know English or only a few words. So, speak slowly and try to stay basic when you talk and try to throw in basic Italian.
- All the shampoo is super thin for some reason. We tried a few different shampoos, and all were thin but, still worked great.
- Wear comfortable shoes. You’re going to be doing a lot of walking.
I’m sure there is so much that I’m missing in my Rome Travel Tips. If you have a specific question, please feel free to comment below and we will answer with what we know. You’re going to enjoy the crazy vacation that Rome provides. It’s quite a memorable experience!
These Rome Traveling Tips were provided and written by my sister from her most recent trip there. I appreciate her sharing her first hand experiences with us so we can all be prepared for our Italian adventure, don’t you?