- Know which airport you are flying into
Rome has two main airport: Fiumicino (FCO) and Ciampino (CIA). FCO is the main airport, known as the nicer and larger airport. You will find more dining options, experience better service, and it bodes well with international travelers. Both airports are the same distance to Rome, with FCO being slightly farther, but not by much. It will be about a 35 minute ride in depending on your form of transportation. There are more transportation options to Rome from Fiumicino. Taxis, buses, and trains are all available to take from the airport to the city.
We flew into CIA, their smaller airport. This airport is not considered as nice and is usually the hub for cheaper flights. There are only two transportation options, riding in a taxi or going by bus. In result of the airport being small and less popular, we were able to get around quicker. There were shorter lines for immigration, security, and transportation. Dustin and I took the Terravision Shutle Bus costing us only €12 round-trip. This drops you off right at Termini Station.
2. Exchange your money before you go
If you are planning on staying in Rome for more than a day, be sure to exchange your American dollars to Euros before leaving. This will be cheapest option because you may be charged larger fees if you exchange in Rome. Make sure you DO NOT exchange at the airport, here or there. The airport is known to over-charge for money exchanges. If you do not exchange before your trip, hotels in Rome usually offer cheaper exchange rates.
3. Know the exchange rate of the Euro to your primary currency
The Euro has usually been worth more than the American Dollar. However, the actual exchange rate fluctuates frequently. Be sure you are aware of how many dollars is equal to one Euro.
4. Research the area of where you are staying!
I cannot stress this enough. If you are planning on staying somewhere on a budget, your hotel will likely be a bit far from the main attractions. I would suggest splurging a little in Rome and getting a hotel closer to the central part of the city. One main reason is that you are pretty much walking distance from everything so you can avoid Termini Station. The second reason is you avoid the sketchy neighborhoods of Rome. Termini Station and the train system as a whole open opportunities for you to get pit-pocketed or scammed. It also isn’t the safest form of transportation, especially at night.
Honestly, you will have an all around better experience if you are more centrally located.
5. Do not carry a purse
Prior to going, I heard way too many horror stories of people finding ways to steal a purse, even when it’s strapped to your body, so I didn’t want to risk. I simply kept what I needed in my jean or coat pockets.
6. Safety pin your pockets
Keep your belongings even more secure by safety pinning your pockets. Dustin and I did this everyday before we left our hotel room. We definitely felt more secure about our things and didn’t have to keep our hands over our pockets the entire time.
7. Do not hand anyone your phone to take a photo with
Either buy a selfie stick before your trip or take a regular selfie. In Rome, you never know who’s who and trusting a stranger to take a photo with your phone can result in you losing your phone. Seriously, just stick to selfies.
8. Avoid everyone around Rome at ALL COSTS
Whether they are trying to sell you a trinket or tricking you into a tour, avoid them. There are ridiculous groups of scammers around Rome’s tourist attractions. Some of these people are coming around trying to sell you clothes, souvenir items, selfie sticks, and much more ridiculous junk. Just walk past them and do not make eye contact.
Some of these people work in teams so when you are talking to one person, someone else may come and pick-pocket you. This is why you shouldn’t engage at all.
If someone tries to direct you for “cheap tickets” or “group tours,” walk away. Some of these people have fake ID badges on trying to pose as official workers. They will guide you somewhere further away from the attraction, charging you higher prices or ripping you off with an uneducated tour guide. If you are ever lost of confused, go and speak to an administrator working inside the attraction.
9. Read restaurant reviews online prior to picking where you eat
Not every restaurant in Rome is authentic *GASP* Some restaurants are designed specifically for tourists charging high prices and serving microwaved food. Check out some blogs online and Yelp to read some reviews before eating somewhere. Usually, restaurants by a main attraction are a bust so be weary of those.
10. Beware of fake gelato
Yes, there is also fake gelato. I know, it’s heart breaking. Here’s how to spot the fake gelato: If the gelato is formed as a large mound, looking pretty, it’s fake. If the “banana” flavor is a bright yellow, run away. This goes for other flavors like “pistachio” that can be in bright or dark green colors, when it should be a light green.
11. Use Rick Steves!
I mentioned this in the full blog post, but I can’t stress this enough. Rick Steve’s Audio Tour App was the best thing we could’ve discovered before our trip. We saved a ton of money by not purchasing audio tours when we visited major tourist sights. Rick is incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic when giving his tours. You won’t be dissapointed with his audio tours and will be so thankful you didn’t have to waste your money on a tour guide.
12. Travel during December for less crowds
We traveled there during the second week of December and we had no problem with crowds at all. Traveling during this time has been known to be their low tourist season. It is much easier to get around when the streets aren’t crowded with tourists and you will be able to enjoy the tourist sights much more. We were able to view the Sistine Chapel with only 20 other people in the room with us! Plus you get to experience the city while it is decorated for the holidays!
13. Eat your food as soon as it comes out
Since everything in Rome is made fresh, you must start eating your food the minute it comes out. Usually, it’s courteous to wait for everyone else’s food to arrive at the table, but in Rome people start digging in whenever their plate gets to the table. You’ll get the most out of your meal this way.
14. Do research on tourists sights before you leave
Some sights in Rome offer students discounts or cheaper tickets online. Be sure to research everything you’d like to do and ticket prices. These discounts may save you a good amount of money, so don’t just buy tickets in person without checking online first.
15. Indulge and have fun!