Where to start:
When I first started planning our Europe trip, it obviously started with a budget. You can find lots of information on how to prepare for any trip HERE! So at this point, I’ll assume you’re all caught up, and we can move on with Europe specific planning.
First off, you’ll need to set your time frame and determine your locations. Then you’ll need to plan your route and decide what types of lodging fit your budget and style. Simultaneously you should research flight options and activities and keep plugging all this info into your spreadsheet.
Obviously, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out where we were going to stay. Typically down in Central America, it’s all about the hostel. But if you’ve read my budget travel tips, when you’re traveling as a group, hostels are not always the best value. Think about it, if the going rate for a bed in a mixed dorm is $10, you’ve already committed to spending $40 and you don’t even have your own bathroom. So it’s best to expand your search to everything from traditional hotels to renting private homes. We never stayed in a hostel during our European tour. Mostly we used Airbnb and Booking.com with a few random sites here and there. All the prices listed include taxes and fees.
ROME – Airbnb – Near San Lorenzo – $69 per night
Rome is another pricey location. Rome is a fairly condensed city, but at the same time, it’s impossible to position yourself within walking distance to everything. This Airbnb was situated near the Colosseum and within a 15-minute walk from the Termini Station. I actually really liked the neighborhood, there were lots of supermarkets and clubs, and restaurants. All very reasonably priced because the area is not a main tourist hub. Plus, you can either walk to the termini or catch the bus, and within a few stops on the metro, you will find yourself in Piazza Navona or Trevi Fountain. From that aspect, Rome is very small. There’s also a tram stop just outside of the home that takes you to Vatican City.
One thing to note when staying in Rome is that when lodging at an Airbnb, the host will ask you to pay a city tax on top of the posted Airbnb rate. This is roughly $4 per day per person, that’s quite a bit when you think about it. So, when you’re doing your research and comparing prices, just make sure you account for the tax. Most hotels had it included in their price, but any direct owner lodging you will most likely need to add it in. Something else to keep in mind is the lack of a living room. During our stays in Rome and Pompeii, we lacked a living room. Not a big deal for us, but something that you may not realize at the time of booking.
It’s true what they say. Rome really is just an open-air museum. You can walk around the entire city absolutely free and see many of the famous sites that make Rome one of the most visited cities around the world. With that said, there may be a few things you wish to pay for. A few notes on activities. When you’re researching things to do in an area, it’s really easy to get lost in the mix. And it seems as though it gets harder and harder to find Official Websites. There are so many skip-the-line websites, and perhaps you decide that the increased fee is worth it, but first, you have to locate the base price on the official website to make that determination. There are also many audio/walking guides available on your phone as an app. However, some of these require internet access.
- Trevi Fountain – Free – We started at the Trevi Fountain and found it easy to walk to many of the famous sites.
- Pantheon – Free – The Pantheon is completely free to enter, you do need to assure that you are dressed properly as it is a place of worship. 10 FACTS ABOUT THE PANTHEON
- Church of Saint Louis of the French – Free – This beautiful church is also free. And you can see beautiful works from Caravaggio. Once again, ensure that you are appropriately dressed. INFO ABOUT THE CHURCH
- Piazza Navona – Free – Another famous landmark. A beautiful fountain sits in the plaza among the shops and restaurants. INFO ABOUT PIAZZA NAVONA
- The Spanish Steps – Free – And yet another famous landmark. INFO ABOUT THE SPANISH STEPS
- Columns and Obelisks of Rome – Free – As you wind your way through the streets of the city, you will come across many famous obelisks and columns. All free to view as they are huge landmarks in the many plazas. CLICK HERE FOR A WALKING TOUR OF THE COLUMNS AND OBELISKS OF ROME
All of the above activities were easily accomplished by walking around the city in just one afternoon. As you can see, visiting the highlights of Rome is easy and very affordable.
We opted to purchase a guided tour of the Colosseum, which included an upgraded underground tour as well as entry to Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. There are many guided tours available, and it can be hard to sift through all the info. See below for specific information.
- Colosseum Underground/Area Floor, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum Tour – $340 – The Colosseum can be toured a number of ways at varying fees. OFFICIAL WEBSITE CLICK HERE FOR BASE PRICES AND INFO I used the previous website as a baseline when deciding how we wanted to tour the colosseum. I was very excited about doing the underground tour and having a guide. I often feel that a guide can make history come alive. Otherwise, sometimes it just feels like you’re looking at yet another old rock or column. Also, with some of the more popular sites, they can have very long lines. Even during low season while we were there in February 2020, the colosseum still shut down by 11 am. So if you hadn’t arranged tickets, you would not be getting in. With that said, we could have done the Colosseum for far less than $340 for the four of us. So, was the underground tour worth it? Yes and no. Had I gone to Rome and not done the tour, I would always wonder if we would have had a richer experience by doing a tour. However, many of these sites are under construction, which definitely takes away from the experience, especially in the underground of the Colosseum. Our guide was great, she had lots of information, but I’ve definitely had more personal and educational tours. Knowing what I know now, I still would have prepurchased tickets as I would want to have my entry guaranteed, but I don’t know that I would pay the extra money for the underground. If you are interested in a guided tour I would highly recommend THE ROMAN GUY I do feel that their prices were the best and as I said our guide was great!
- The Vatican – $70 – This was a late addition in our travels, but I am so glad we did it. I can’t imagine going to Rome and not visiting the Vatican. The collection of the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel are so special you just can’t miss it! We purchased base tickets and opted to tour the Vatican on our own, but our tickets guaranteed us entry within our time slot. I didn’t feel like we needed a guide, although guides always add more to the experience. OFFICIAL WEBSITE CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS
There’s no way around it. The food in Rome is expensive. We really cut down on our costs by doing a lot of supermarket shopping and cooking in the Airbnb. However, we did have a great little pizzeria near our house, which was great to try some traditional Italian food at great prices. It was definitely a locals place, which probably helped account for the good value. Plan to spend at least $15 on a mediocre plate near Piazza Navona and the like. My best suggestion is to eat off the beaten path. It happens to the best of us. We get hungry in the most touristy stop we can find, and when that happens to our family, we try and get just enough to tide us over until we can get somewhere with reasonable prices. Sometimes all it takes is gelato or one slice of pizza. Pizzeria La Casetta in San Lorenzo was our favorite. Great little locals place with a traditional carbonara to die for. Carrefour was our supermarket of choice as we found good variety at really good prices.
Before our arrival, we arranged our airport transfer through the Airbnb host. Most of you know by now that when we arrive in a new location, especially in the evening, we like to make things as simple as possible, and that usually means more costly. We paid $55 for our airport transfer. Our Airbnb was approximately 45 minutes from CIA. That’s something else to remember about Rome. They have two main airports. FCO and CIA, very important you know which one you are arriving and departing from. As for our transportation around town, we walked to and from the termini, which was about a 15-minute walk from our lodging. We did hop on the metro a couple of times and utilized the tram system.
The metro in Rome is very simple, nothing like the underground in London. There are just a few lines, and honestly, it’s quite a small network. It seems that every time they attempt a new tunnel, more ruins are found. CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS AND INFO The Rome metro tickets are about the same as in other European cities. You can purchase a ticket for a couple of Euros, which is good for approximately 75 minutes. These tickets can always be used on all methods of transit. While the underground system is quite small, the bus system in Rome is one of the world’s largest. You can also purchase 24 hour, 3 day, and week-long passes. It really just depends on where you’re staying and how you will utilize public transit. There’s also a tram system that is easy to use. It doesn’t necessarily get you to the tourist hubs, but there is a tram that gets you to the Vatican that we found very useful. From where we were staying, it was just about door to door service. You can purchase tickets at digital kiosks and at most tabacchi shops. If you know you’re going to be traveling roundtrip, I always recommend purchasing extra tickets. The tickets are not valid until scanned, so you can put them in your bag and save them for later. We’ve found that the kiosks are often down in some of the remote stations, and you don’t want to get caught without a valid ticket!
For us, for our departure, it was easy enough to walk to the main termini and catch a Terravision bus back to the airport. You can easily purchase tickets on their website HERE It’s only about $6 for a one way, and it’s a direct route from the termini. You don’t even need to print the tickets, just simply present the image on your phone.
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