getting around rome 101
Italy is a really beautiful country with wonderful people, but getting around the country can add a lot of frustration and stress to your trip. From our daily use of public transportation and driving up and down the country, here are our tips for public transit, driving, and everything in between.
- Buses, trams, and metros all use the same type of ticket. They cost €1,50, are good for 100 minutes, and can be purchased at tabaccheria (a smoke shop that you can find in the city because they have signs that say ‘tabaccheria’), newsstands, metro stops, and ticket machines at bus depots. If one journey means you need to transfer from bus to tram to the metro within 100 minutes, you can use the same €1,50 ticket.
- You cannot pay for bus and tram fares on the buses and trams. Make sure you purchase tickets before boarding or you may be fined €50. Once you board the bus or tram find the yellow machine (located in the front, middle, and back of the buses and metros) to validate your ticket. The bus driver doesn’t check the ticket, but the transportation authorities do randomly board to check passengers for valid tickets.
- When you enter a metro station there will be many machines to purchase tickets from. Once you have your ticket, walk to the gates, put your ticket in the machine, make sure to collect your ticket from the machine before walking through, and the gates will open for you to walk to the train.
- Buses and trams almost never run on time. Make sure to download Probus Rome to check on the status of the bus you’re waiting for and CityMapper to help you navigate the city on public transit.
- Metros are much more predictable and usually run every 3-5 minutes. There are only three metro lines in Rome: A, B, and C. Check out the metro map HERE.
- Bring antibacterial hand soap and wipes. Bus and metro drivers can drive a bit abruptly, meaning you don’t have much of a choice but to hold onto the railings. I’ve seen people do some foul things before touching the railings, so bring something to protect yourself.
Ticket machines at the bus depots. Many of them have credit card slots, but a lot of them don’t work. Make sure to have cash.
- Download the FREE NOW app to request a taxi the same way you would Uber or Lyft in the states. Create an account and add your credit card information for a seamless experience.
- If you’re using the app, you can pay with your card through the app. If you’re not using the app, before getting in the taxi make sure to ask the taxi driver if they accept a card if you don’t have any cash.
- If you’re not using the app, make sure to only use white taxis. Any other colored taxi car is illegal in Rome.
- FREE NOW can be used throughout Italy and Europe!
- Lyft doesn’t operate in Italy and only UberBlack, Uber LUX, and UberVan are available in Rome.
Toll booth lanes on the freeway.
- In comparison to America, driving in Italy could be considered reckless. Make sure to always check to the left and right before entering an intersection after the light turns green.
- Sidewalks are more of a decoration on the street and Italians are notorious for crossing even when there are no sidewalks and when the crossing light is red, so always be on the lookout because someone might be crossing in the middle of the street.
- Drivers don’t always obey the lanes painted on the road. A street might have two lanes, but one driver splits the lanes the entire time they’re driving. On the flip side, a street that has two lanes might have three cars driving side by side. Surprisingly, there aren’t nearly the number of accidents as there are in America.
- Rental car prices are cheap compared to the US. We’ve rented a 2-passenger car for less than €50 a week. Our favorite website for car rentals is rentalcars.com. If you’re renting a car from the Termini station in Rome during high season, expect a long wait time. Jaime and I have waited over an hour to pick up our rental car before.
- Gas is expensive. Gas is per liter, not per gallon – so don’t let those signs saying €1,58 fool you into thinking gas is cheap. At the gas stations off the freeway (autostrada in Italian) you’ll have two options: full service and self serve. If you decide to go full service, pull up to the pump and someone will come out to help you. You’ll stay in your car while they pump your gas and then you can pay with card or cash. Keep in mind that full service is a bit more expensive, but it’s a seamless experience and if you’re not sure what gas your rental car takes it’s the way to go. If you decide to do self-service, pull up to the pump, put the pump in your car, and start pumping. When you’re done, walk over to the attendant and let them know you’re ready to pay.
- In the city, you won’t find the same gas stations you find on the freeway. Most will be a full service, one pump station on the side of the road that only accepts cash.
- The autostrada has tolls and sometimes they’re expensive. Tolls to our favorite places in Umbria are less than €5, tolls to Naples are over €16, and tolls to Piemonte are over €50 one way. Tolls don’t need exact change and also accept credit and debit cards. The toll lanes are split up by payment, so make sure to only pull into the lanes notating cash or card unless you have a Telepass device from the rental car company.
- Italians are very serious about the left lane being the fast lane. It doesn’t matter what the speed limit is, move to the right if someone faster than you is approaching to avoid being honked at, having high beams flashed, and being aggressively tailgated. Do not brake check people in Italy.
Our favorite rental car – Smart ForTwo or Smart ForFour. This was the view from our B&B in Norcia.
- Aside from driving and flying, my favorite way to get around Italy is on their train system. We use the Omio app because it shows prices and routes across Europe’s major train companies all in one place. It also allows you to utilize your tickets as mobile tickets which means no need to print or validate your ticket.
We hope these tips are helpful! What are the biggest issues you face when traveling?