Rome is one of the most beautiful and interesting cities in the world – it has awe-inspiring ancient ruins, romantic side-walk cafés, exceptionally delicious food and wine (Roman pizza!), a wealth of history, lush green parks in the middle of the city, the best espressos in the world, beautiful people, and the most magical atmosphere as you walk the streets!
If possible, I’d highly recommend visiting Rome at least once in a lifetime. Even just a weekend is enough to leave a profound imprint on your soul. If you have a shoe-string budget but still want to experience Rome, then this is the article for you!
How to Get the Best of Rome – On a Budget
Visit during the off-seasons (February-April, or September-January)
Rome is admittedly incredible during the summer, but peak season (May – August) is a lot more expensive for travellers. Off-season visits to Rome can be fantastic, as the climate is quite mild, there are a lot less tourists, and prices are significantly lower (for air fares, accommodation, etc). It can get cold in winter, but in general, you can expect between 8° and 18°C, overcast days and cold nights, and occasional rain.
Cooler weather also makes it easier to spend all day outdoors sightseeing, especially if you’re visiting the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum. You’ll need an umbrella and a good waterproof jacket, but the cloudbursts don’t last long, and you may even get occasional blue skies and sunshine!
Use only carry-on luggage, and choose a budget airline, if based in Europe
You can get great deals within Europe on budget airlines like RyanAir, especially if you only travel with carry-on luggage. I managed to pack 10 days worth of winter clothing into a small backpack, so it is fully possible! Making small sacrifices, like packing fewer outfits and taking a less comfortable flight, will help you to save money for travel experiences. I find that having a strict budget for certain things (e.g., getting from A to B, or your accommodation) can free up some money for one or two splurge purchases.
I like to have at least one nice meal out, even if I eat takeaway or cook in a hostel the rest of the time, and at least one fantastic “touristy” or sightseeing experience, like a guided tour of the Colosseum. That way, you won’t feel deprived or regret travelling on a budget!
Book accommodation via AirBnb
Instead of booking a hotel room in the city centre, try to book a room in shared accommodation via AirBnb, or even a bed in a hostel dorm / backpackers. You will save a lot of money, and still get a safe, clean place to sleep (provided you choose a place that has good recommendations, of course). A shared bathroom and kitchen isn’t as bad as you might think!
Research free tourist sights!
Rome is an amazing city in that you can see and experience so much, simply by walking the streets. I’ve written about several great scenic walks that are totally free of charge, and even wandering the city centre without a destination can be a fantastic experience. I’ve stumbled upon amazing churches, hidden gardens, intriguing side-streets, and great coffee shops just by wandering a bit off-track.
A great many of the best sights in Rome can be visited and experienced free of charge:
- The Colosseum, from the outside
- The Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Imperial Fora (seen from the road and walking paths)
- Capitoline Hill
- Trevi Fountain
- Churches! You can enter almost any church open to the public, and there are some spectacular artworks and architectural beauties in certain churches
- Piazzas! Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna, Piazza Venezia, etc.
Eat like a local & avoid expensive tourist traps
Rome has no shortage of fantastic budget meal options – pizza al taglio (pizza “by the slice”), focaccia (flat bread), panini (sandwiches), arancini (risotto balls), antipasti (olives, cheese, artichokes, etc), and even dolci (sweet treats! all kinds of pastries, cakes, etc). Italian pizza is a world apart from the greasy, thick-based stuff you usually get from large take-away chains – it’s made from fantastic, fresh local produce, it’s healthy, and it really hits the spot when you’re hungry during or after a day of sightseeing.
Pizza al taglio is my favourite, as you can choose several different (rectangular!) slices of pizza, and enjoy them on the go. If you’re in a hostel or other accommodation with kitchen facilities, buy locally sourced groceries at a farmer’s market or grocery store, and make some simple yet tasty dishes. Click here for inspiration! 🙂
Keep it Simple!
My golden rule is to keep things as simple as possible when travelling on a budget. Stick to the basics – this applies to what to pack (outfits, toiletries), where to go, and even what to eat!
Do you have any tips for fellow budget travellers planning their Rome trips? Pop them in the comments section!