Rome Travel Tips
Useful Italian Words & Phrases
To learn a few basic Italian words and phrases, print off a free handy word guide to help you during your travels in Italy and to learn more about Italian language options, please visit our
'Useful Words' page.
If you plan to be in Rome for several days, would like to visit some of Rome’s museums and archaeological sites and you are planning to travel around the city by public transportation, then the Roma Pass may just be the thing for you. The Roma Pass is sponsored by Rome City Council, the Ministry for the Arts and Cultural Activities and ATAC, Rome’s public transportation authority, and it is a great ‘bang for your buck’. With the Roma Pass, entrance to the first two museums or sites of your choice is free, there is reduced admission to all other museums and sites and you will have free access to the city’s public transportation. The pass is good for three days, and costs € 25,00. Need an extra bonus on top of the perks and savings? You will be able to skip past the regular ticket lines with your two free admissions. If you chose to visit the
Coliseum, there is even a designated entrance just for Roma Pass holders, which means no waiting in line. You can conveniently purchase your pass online and arrange to pick it up from one of the many locations offered. You can even pick it up from the airport as soon as you arrive to Rome, that way you will be all set before you even step out into the beautiful Eternal City. To learn more about the Roma Pass, view participating museums and sites or to order your pass, please
click here to visit the Roma Pass official website.
Rome implemented a new hotel tax as of January 2011. What exactly is this hotel tax, how much will you pay and what is the tax collected for?
Many of the city’s ancient sites and monuments are in need of repair, and the Municipality of Rome put this tax in place to help pay for the much needed work and restoration. Since many of the visitors to Rome frequent these sites, they thought it was natural for visitors to help pay for the restorations instead of adding further taxes to the residents of Rome.
The tax is charged per person on a nightly basis. It applies for the first 10 nights, so if you stay for more than 10 nights, you will not be charged the tax on the additional nights. You will need to pay the tax directly to the hotel or property where you will be staying upon check-out. The tax also does not apply to children 10 years of age or under. The tax varies based on the type of accommodation:
- 4-star & 5-star hotels = €3 per person per night
- 1-star, 2-star & 3-star hotels = €2 per person per night
- B&B’s and Apartments = €2 per person per night
- Campsites = €1 per person per night
- Hostels = €0 / No tax
For example, if a couple (2 people) stay in a 4-star hotel for 3 nights, they can expect to pay an additional €18 upon check-out for the Rome hotel tax.
Money, money, money
You will most likely want to buy something during your travels in Italy. It is important to note that in Italy, like other European countries, commas and points in numbers are used opposite from the way they are in the U.S. For example $1,000 is shown as €1.000, and $27.50 is shown as €27,50.
Click here to learn about the Euro, the currency used in Italy, and currency exchange.
Just like with all big cities, be aware of pickpockets. Rome is not a dangerous place, but the crowded buses and metros make a good environment for those with ‘sticky fingers’. Some (not so nice) people will try to take advantage of the crowded situations and take your belongings when you are unaware. Just be alert and conscious of your surroundings, keep an eye on your belongings and keep your belongings close to you. If you are carrying a backpack, wear it to the front or carry it by hand when in crowded places. If you have a purse, keep your arm over it when riding the public transportation or in crowded places. Basically, just try to keep a hand over your wallet, purse or important belongings so that you are not an easy target for a pickpocket. Also be on the lookout for thieves posing as beggars. Some of these ‘beggars’ will be children or women with babies. Many times these people work in teams, while one creates a distraction by showing you a newspaper, begging for money or asking sympathy for a hungry baby, someone else comes behind and takes your wallet or belongings. Just be mindful of your surroundings, don’t fall for thieving distractions (especially in touristy areas) and keep a hand on your valuables. Don’t be fearful, just be careful.
Tip: When I travel to other countries and carry a backpack, I also bring along a small combination lock and fasten the two zippers together on my bag. That way my bag can not be unzipped, my belongings are safe inside and I don’t have to constantly worry about guarding my bag while I’m sightseeing or concentrating on taking photos.
The water in Rome is safe to drink. You will find public drinking fountains all over Rome. Fresh water is piped in from the countryside just as it has been for centuries, and is very good to drink. The drinking fountains all throughout the city are perfect for stopping for a quick drink or for refilling your water bottle. Don’t dive into the Trevi Fountain or any of the monumental fountains around Rome though, look for the many smaller drinking fountains with free flowing water. On a rare occasion you will see a sign next to a fountain that reads “acqua non potabile”, this means the water from this fountain is not safe to drink (most likely because the pipes are bad, not the water itself).
If you want to pick up bottled water, there are many vendors selling drinks and refreshments along the streets and sidewalks. While the street vendors are convenient, they do not have the best prices. Instead, stop in a supermarket and purchase bottled water for a fraction of the price. You can expect to pay 1-2 for a small bottle of water from a stand along the street, but pay less than 0.50 for the same size bottle in the supermarket. Big savings! To save even more, only purchase one bottle then refill it from one of Rome’s many public drinking fountains throughout the day.
When purchasing water, you will notice there are two kinds – gassata (carbonated) or naturale (regular or non-carbonated). Be sure to choose the correct one. This also applies when ordering water at a restaurant. At a restaurant, you will be served water from a bottle, not tap water. Your server will ask which type of water you would like, gassata or naturale. The water is usually brought to your table in a large glass bottle and there is usually a charge of
€1-2 per bottle.
Once you purchase your ticket be sure to validate it in one of the yellow validation machines before using it. From time to time ticket inspectors are on the metros, buses, trams and trains checking to make sure everyone on board has a valid ticket. If you get caught without a ticket or without having your ticket validated to show expiry time, you could receive a large fine. Look for the yellow validation machines on board buses at the front and rear, throughout tram cars and next to tracks throughout the train stations. For the metro, when entering the metro platform you will have to pass through a ticket barrier where you will be prompted to insert your ticket in order to enter. This will validate your ticket for you if you have not already done so.
Click here to view information on ticket options for the different public transportation services.
To tip or not to tip. That is the question everyone is asking. It is not customary to tip in Italy. Yes, that is correct, tipping is not customary. Being an American, I’ve had a hard time with this since the norm for me was to tip at least 20%, even for mediocre service. Again, not the case here in Italy.
Many of the restaurants will include the tip (mancia) or service charge in the bill. Some places will note the charge on the menu, while others will just include the charge on your bill. Look for ‘il coperto’ (cover charge), ‘pane’ (bread) or ‘servizio incluso’ (service included) when the bill is delivered. Il coperto and pane will be around €1-2 per person, and the servizio incluso is usually around 15% and already includes the tip for you. If you receive great service or if the food was super tasty, you can leave a small tip to show your appreciation, €1-2 per person. If you just feel like you have to leave something for your waiter before you go, just leave a few coins on the table or round the total of your bill to the nearest euro. For example, if your bill is €9,55, leave €10 with your waiter. Leaving the tip on the table is standard. If you pay by credit card and want to leave a tip, leave a cash tip on the table.
For taxi drivers it is also not necessary to leave a tip. If the driver provides great service or helps with your luggage you can leave €1-2. Also, just like with the restaurants, if you feel compelled to leave something just round up the total to the nearest euro. If the taxi fare is €4,50, you can leave the driver €5.
When taking tours, I personally would not tip a tour guide unless they do an exceptional job since you are already paying a fixed price for the tour.
In many public restrooms (WC) you have to leave a tip to enter and use the facility, usually €0.50-€1. You will probably find a restroom attendant collecting coins in a basket displayed on the table.
If you plan to visit churches during your travels to Rome, be sure to be mindful of the dress code. If not, you risk being turned away. For women, no shorts, miniskirts, short dresses or sleeveless tops. Shoulders must be covered so bring along a wrap or scarf to put around you to cover your shoulders if you want to wear a sleeveless shirt or dress while touring the city. A good rule to go by is skirts and dresses should come to your knees, not shorter. For men, no shorts. Men will need to wear pants. Jeans are fine to wear when visiting churches.
When an emergency strikes, it sometimes seems like public toilets (known as WCs in Italy) are hard to come by. In many public restrooms (WC) you have to leave a tip to enter and use the facility, usually €0.50-€1. You will probably find a restroom attendant collecting coins in a basket displayed on the table. With other public restrooms you might have to insert the money for the door to even open. To be honest, it somewhat unnerves me to have to pay to use the restroom, and I seldom ever do. Whenever possible, use the restroom at museums, bars, restaurants, fast food places, snack bars (tavola calda) or your hotel. In some bars, fast food restaurants and snack bars, you will need to purchase something before being allowed access to the restroom.
Tip: Even if I have to purchase a coffee from a bar or a small French fry from McDonalds, I always prefer to spend my €1 on a snack or treat instead of just depositing it to solely use the restroom. If you stop in one of the many snack bars (known as tavola calda) which sells an array of foods from sandwiches, hot food, gelato and more, you might like to order a glass of house wine (vino). For around €1 you can sample a glass of house wine and use the restroom. These tips will save you from flushing money down the toilet…literally.
Bars in Italy
Bars in Italy are not the typical pubs or gathering places where a lot of alcohol is consumed. In fact, public drunkenness is very much frowned upon in Italy. While the bars in Italy do offer wine and liquor, they mostly serve coffee drinks. You can also find pastries (cornetti), sandwiches (panini or tramezzini) and sometimes ice cream (gelato) in bars. Taking your morning coffee (caffé) at a bar is a daily Italian ritual. A typical Italian breakfast in a bar consists of caffé and cornetto (brioche or croissant). Most people enjoy their coffee while standing at the counter. Many bars are standing room only and if they do have tables for customers to sit, they usually charge a fee for you to do so. You will also more than likely need to pay for your order at the counter before ordering at the bar. Once you pay at the cash register, you will be given a receipt, which you can then take to the bar and request your order. Coffee is an Italian art form. You will definitely want to stop in at one of the many bars while you are in Rome to enjoy a cup. Please visit our
'Bars' page for a list of the more popular Italian coffee drinks to help you with ordering in an Italian bar.
The tax on goods is already added into the price of the merchandise. What you see (on the price tag) is what you pay. There will NOT be an additional 10 or 15% added to your bill when you arrive to the cash register. The good thing is you don’t have to try to calculate your final total in your head before paying for the merchandise. The bad thing is you, as a tourist, will be paying a built in tax
of 21% meant for European Union residents. On a brighter note, you can get the tax (or VAT – Value Added Tax) refunded to you upon leaving the country.
Click here to learn more information on obtaining a VAT refund.