The Ultimate Backpacker’s Guide to Rome on a Budget

Backpacking Rome Travel Guide

Welcome to your backpacking Rome full Guide. Rome is a city where every corner seems to tell a story. Despite its fame, it can be surprisingly budget-friendly. With a wealth of free attractions, affordable eats, and a range of hostel options, the city is perfectly suited for those traveling on a shoestring.

Having lived in Rome for almost a year, I’ve explored beyond the usual tourist spots to discover what truly makes this city amazing. From the ruins of the Roman Forum to the underground catacombs, Rome offers a deep dive into the ancient world. Backpackers can step back in time, walking the same cobblestones as emperors and gladiators.

In this guide, I’ll share insights on navigating Rome like a local, finding affordable delights, and embracing the slow, enchanting rhythm of the city of Love. Andiamo (let’s go) to discover Rome.

Traveling solo to Rome? Check my solo travel guide to Rome.

Travel Costs: Detailed Breakdown

It is easy to navigate Rome on a budget – it is also a student city. My guide below is designed to help you gauge your daily expenses based on your travel preferences:

Suggested Budget per person

  • Low –  €50 – €80
  • Middle –  €120 – €200
  • High – €250+

These prices are estimates and can vary based on factors like location within Rome, seasonal changes, and personal spending habits. Always check for the most current prices and deals when planning your trip.

Detailed Costs

Let’s dive deeper into the costs to help you plan and prepare. I break down the main expenses category by category.


  • Low – Hostels or budget guesthouses: €20 – €30
  • Middle – Mid-range hotels or B&Bs: €80 – €180
  • High – Luxury hotels or upscale apartments: €250 – 550+

Public Transportation

  • Metro ticket cost: Single ride €1.50
  • Daily pass: €7
  • 3-Day tourist pass: €18

Museum Entrance Fees

  • Low – mostly Free Activities: Churches are free. Also, some museums on the first Sunday of the month have free entry.
  • Middle – combined tickets: around €15 (for a ticket including the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill)
  • High -Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel: €17+


  • Low – Budget eateries (look for daily menu): €8 – €15
  • Middle – Mid-range restaurants: €30 – €50
  • High -High-end restaurants: €60+

Cheap food (Panifici, Pizza al Taglio, Salumerie)

  • Low – Takeaway pizza slice, Food in market stalls, or sandwich in a Salumerie: €2 – €5
  • Middle – Slice in a sit-down pizzeria: €4 – €6
  • High – Artisanal pizza slice in upscale areas: €8+


  • Low – Espresso at a local bar standing: €1 – €1.50
  • Middle – Espresso, or latte seated in a cafe: €2 – €3
  • High – Specialty coffees or in very touristy areas: €3.50+

Beer & Wine

  • Low – At a local bar or pub: €2 – €5. (Ask for the house wine)
  • Middle – In a mid-range restaurant or trendy bar: €5 – €8
  • High – Craft beer or special vintage wine: €9+

Gelato “to go”

  • Low – Small cone or cup: €2 – €3
  • Middle – Medium with special flavors: €3.50 – €5
  • High– Large servings or gourmet gelato: €5+

>>> Special Hostelgeeks Tip: Change your dinner for an Apertivo and get both drink and food for a meal price.

An Italian aperitivo is a pre-dinner tradition in Italy. When you order a beverage—often a light alcoholic drink such as the famous spritz, wine, or cocktail—you’re also provided with a selection of small bites.

These can range from olives, nuts, and chips to more substantial offerings like cheeses, cold cuts, bruschetta, sandwiches, and even pasta in some places. It typically takes place between 5 pm and 8 pm, so it could be your dinner after a long day walking around the city.


  • Low – Drink & snacks in a casual setting: €8 – €12
  • Middle – Drink plus a wider selection of appetizers in a trendy spot: €13 – €18
  • High – Premium drinks and gourmet appetizers in a luxurious venue: €25+

Note that the Apertivo is not offered in all restaurants and bars, only in a few. Wanna get my favorite? Download my secret guide to Rome – it is free!

Exploring Rome: Things to See & Do

Rome has many sights and can cater to every interest, from ancient ruins and art collections to picturesque neighborhoods and sacred sites. By combining must-do experiences with free or discounted activities, you can enrich your visit without overstretching your budget.

Must Do

  1. Visit the Colosseum and Roman Forum: No trip to Rome is complete without exploring the iconic Colosseum and the ruins of the Roman Forum. These ancient sites tell the tale of Rome’s glorious past.
  2. Toss a Coin in the Trevi Fountain: Join the tradition by tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain, ensuring your return to Rome. It’s not only fun but supports local charities.
  3. Climb the Spanish Steps: Enjoy a leisurely climb up the Spanish Steps, leading to the Trinità dei Monti church, offering a splendid view of the city. Before you could sit here and people-watch, but those days are now in the past.
  4. Explore Vatican City: The Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica are must-visits. Witness Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel and the vastness of St. Peter’s Square. Bear in mind St. Peter’s Basilica is free, but the Vatican Museum has an entry fee of 20€.
  5. Wander Through Trastevere: Experience the authentic Roman lifestyle in the charming neighborhood of Trastevere, known for its cobbled streets, lively nightlife, and quaint cafes.
  6. Pantheon: Marvel at the architectural wonder of the Pantheon, one of the best-preserved Ancient Roman buildings, with its stunning dome and oculus.

Free things to do in Rome

  1. Enjoy Parks and Gardens: Rome is full of beautiful parks and gardens, such as Villa Borghese and the Orange Garden (Giardino degli Aranci), offering panoramic views of the city for free.
  2. Stroll Along the Tiber River: Walking along the Tiber is free and provides a unique perspective of Rome, especially at sunset.
  3. Basilicas and Churches: Many of Rome’s churches, including the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and San Giovanni in Laterano, offer free entry and are treasure troves of art and history.


  1. Free Museum Days: Many of Rome’s museums offer free entry on the first Sunday of each month, including the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill.
  2. Vatican Museums Free Entry: Visit the Vatican Museums for free on the last Sunday of each month. If you plan to do this, arrive as early as possible. Queues are long and there will be thousands of people. I would invest in the ticket entry and avoid coming on a free day cause you can barely enjoy it.
  3. Doria Pamphilj Gallery and Capitoline Museums: Enjoy discounted entry with the Roma Pass to these museums.

Tickets you should pre-book

Even though the Colosseum held around 50.000 spectators in the past, visitor numbers have been limited to ensure the conservation of it. Therefore, I do recommend you buy your tickets in advance.

Wanna avoid crowds and long lines? Visit the Colosseum early in the morning. Also, booking a skip-the-line tour can ensure a smoother and more efficient visit.

Tip: If tickets are sold out on the official Colosseum site, booking a small group tour is an excellent option to be able to visit it.

Where to Stay on a Budget in Rome

For backpackers on a budget, Termini (Esquilino) is the hub for affordable stays. It’s right next to Rome’s main train and metro station. 

You might have read that Centro Storico or Trastevere are the best areas to stay in Rome. It might be true for those willing to spend around 200€/ night.

Now let’s get to Termini. It’s perfect for those looking to save on accommodation and transport, offering a variety of cheap eats and budget-friendly lodging options – most hostels concentrate on this area. While it’s more functional than scenic, it’s convenient for travel. Here you have 3 good hostels in Termini area:

  1. The Yellow Hostel
  2. Alessandro Palace Hostel & Bar
  3. Generator Rome

Read our guide about the best hostels in Rome here.

Eating and Drinking

Eating in Rome on a budget is easy, with a variety of options to savor authentic Italian cuisine without overspending. Here’s how to enjoy the culinary delights of Rome affordably:

Water: Tap water in Rome is safe to drink, and the city is filled with public water fountains offering fresh, clean water. Don’t be shy to ask for a “caraffa d’acqua” (jug of tap water) in restaurants to avoid paying for bottled water.

Restaurants and Trattorias: Look for “menu fisso” (set menu) or “pranzo di lavoro” (lunch specials) for the best deals. These menus often include a starter, a main course, and a drink or coffee.

Make sure you pay attention if the restaurants charges any supplement – like copperto. The “copperto” charge is a small per-person fee added to your bill at restaurants, covering the cost of table settings and bread. That means if you ask for more bread, they might charge the copperto 2 times.

Avoid Touristy Areas: Dining near major tourist attractions can be costly. Wander a few streets away from the landmarks to find better prices and more authentic dining experiences.

Affordable Eats

Eat at Local Markets: Rome’s markets are a great place to enjoy affordable and fresh food:

  • Mercato Trionfale: One of Rome’s largest markets, offering everything from fresh produce to ready-to-eat meals.
  • Campo de’ Fiori: The market offers a mix of fresh produce, spices, and quick bites. It is also quite near some important landmarks, making it one of the easiest to visit during your travels.

Affordable Food Options:

  • Pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice): these places all over Rome, offer a delicious and cheap way to fill up on the go.
  • Panifici and Salumerie: often sell sandwiches, supplì (rice balls), and other snacks at budget-friendly prices.
  • Kebab shops: you did not come to Italy to eat a kebab… but in case you need a filling meal at low costs this can help.

Where you can find the most affordable groceries in Rome:

  • Conad Supermarket and Conad City: A popular supermarket chain throughout Italy offering bakery items, and pantry staples at reasonable prices.
  • Carrefour Market: ranging from larger supermarkets to Carrefour Express shops for quick and convenient shopping.
  • Todis: Todis is a discount supermarket where you can find great deals.

Cheap Nightlife Spots

Joining the nightlife in Rome does not have to be expensive at all. Most students just meet in the piazzas (squares) to have a drink before they move to the nightclubs. Next to the squares, you’ll find supermarkets that sell drinks and panifici or pizza al taglio shops in case you get hungry.

Another option to have fun while eating and drinking is going to an Aperitivo place. Impress your travel mates by bringing them to these cheap aperitivo places in Rome:

  • VinAllegro (Trastevere): €5
  • Angeli Rock (Ostiense): €5
  • Piccadilly Roma (San Giovanni): €8 for a buffet

How to get around Rome

Navigating Rome is straightforward with its integrated metro, bus, and tram networks. Rome’s beauty often lies in its narrow streets and hidden piazzas, which are best explored on foot or by hopping on and off public transport.

Understanding Rome’s Public Transportation

Rome’s public transportation includes the Metro, buses, trams, and a few urban railway lines. Tickets and passes are valid across the entire network within the city limits, and even some regional trains like the Roma-Lido, Roma-Viterbo, and Roma-Giardinetti lines.

  • Single Ticket (BIT): Allows 100 minutes of travel after validation, including unlimited transfers between buses and trams but only a single metro or train ride within Rome.
  • Day Pass (BIG): Offers unlimited travel within Rome for 24 hours from the time of validation. Ideal for days packed with sightseeing.
  • Roma 24H, 48H, and 72H Tickets: These time-limited tickets offer unlimited travel across Rome’s public transportation network for 24, 48, or 72 hours from the first validation. They’re perfect for short stays when you plan to use public transport frequently.
  • CIS Weekly Ticket: For longer visits, the CIS ticket provides unlimited travel for seven consecutive days, offering great value.

Using the Rome Metro and Bus System

  • Metro: Rome’s metro (A, B/B1, and C lines) is a fast way to cross the city, especially useful for reaching major sights like the Colosseum or the Vatican. Note 2 things:
    • the metro can be very crowded during peak hours, and these are perfect for pickpocketing.
    • working hours:  every day from 5:30 am to 11:30 pm. On Friday and Saturday, the metro runs until 1:30 am.
  • Buses and Trams: Buses and trams cover areas not accessible by the metro, including night buses when the metro is closed. They offer a closer view of the city but can be affected by traffic.

Using the ATAC Transportation Network

The easiest way to use and manage your travel within Rome’s ATAC network is through a contactless card or a mobile ticketing app. While Rome doesn’t have a system exactly like the Navigo Easy card:

  • Contactless Payment: You can use contactless payment methods like credit cards or mobile pay on buses and at Metro stations for single rides. You will find the machines before entering the metro and inside the bus. Make sure you buy and validate your ticket.
  • Roma Pass: Besides offering free or discounted entry to various attractions, the Roma Pass includes unlimited use of the city’s public transportation network.
  • Mobile Apps: Apps like ‘MyCicero’ allow you to buy and store digital tickets on your phone, making it convenient and eco-friendly.

Tips for Saving on Transportation in Rome

  • Walk When Possible: Rome’s historic center is compact and walking is often the best way to see the city’s sights. Save money and discover hidden gems on foot.
  • Purchase Multi-Day Passes or Roma Pass: If you plan to use public transport frequently, opting for a 48-hour or 72-hour pass can be more economical than buying single tickets. The Roma Pass combines transport with access to attractions, which might save you money. Have a look at those options consider your itinerary and decide if it is worth it for you.

Cheapest Way to Get To and From the Airport in Rome

Rome is served by two main airports: Ciampino (CIA) and Fiumicino (FCO). Both airports are well-connected to the city center by public transport, offering budget-friendly options for travelers:

From Fiumicino Airport (Leonardo da Vinci) to Rome:

  • Regional Train (FL1): The FL1 regional train does not go directly to Termini Station but stops at several major stations in Rome (like Trastevere, Ostiense, and Tiburtina). It’s a cost-effective choice if you’re staying near these areas or willing to transfer to the metro. A single ticket costs around €8.
  • Shuttle Bus: some companies are offering a direct bus service between Fiumicino Airport and Termini Station. Have a look at the different bus companies here. Tickets are around €6-€8. In Termini, change to the metro or bus to get to your accommodation.

From Ciampino Airport to Rome city center:

  • Shuttle Bus:  Terravision and SIT Bus operate a direct bus service from Ciampino Airport to Termini Station, offering a straightforward and economical option for getting into the city. Tickets are around €6 when purchased online.
  • Local Bus: For the most savvy travelers, the Cotral/ bus connects Ciampino Airport with the Anagnina metro station. From there, you can take the metro into central Rome. The bus ticket costs approximately €1.5, plus the metro fare. Be aware if you have a big suitcase you might have to pay extra for the suitcase on the bus.

Best Time to Visit Rome

For budget-conscious backpackers, the best time to visit Rome is during the shoulder seasons — spring (April to June) and autumn (September to October). These periods offer a sweet spot between the desirable weather and more manageable tourist crowds, which can significantly affect both the cost and the quality of your experience.

  • High season: From June through August – Peak tourist season in Rome, with soaring temperatures and prices to match.
  • Shoulder season: September to October and April to May – mild crowds, milder prices, and temperatures.
  • Low season:  November to March – embrace the chill for the best deals.

>>> Special Hostelgeeks Tip: make sure you avoid Easter Week (dates change every year and some years Easter is celebrated in April).

National Holidays & Peak Festivals

Here are some key dates and events to consider when planning your trip to ensure you get the best value:

  1. Easter Week (Holy Week): Including Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday (La Pasquetta). Rome is a popular destination during this period, especially given the Vatican’s special events and masses led by the Pope.
  2. Christmas and New Year’s: From mid-December through the New Year, Rome streets are beautifully decorated.
  3. Liberation Day (April 25th): This national holiday commemorates the end of WWII in Italy. There may be parades and public events, and while not as crowded as other holidays, it’s still a busy time for travel within Italy.
  4. Primo Maggio- Labor Day celebration (May 1st): many businesses are closed because people do not go to work. Additionally, there are many free events held in the city center to celebrate the occasion. Many people from all over Italy come to Rome because there are free concerts.
  5. Feast of Saints Peter and Paul (June 29th): celebrating the patron saints of the city. While it’s more of a local celebration, some services may be affected, and there could be special events around Vatican City.
  6. Ferragosto (August 15th): This public holiday marks the Assumption of Mary and is traditionally a time when Italians take their summer vacation. Many Romans leave the city, but it’s also a peak time for tourists, which can affect prices and availability of accommodations.
  7. Rome Marathon (usually in March or April): This major sporting event attracts thousands of runners and spectators from around the world. The city is busier around this time, especially along the marathon route, impacting accommodation prices and availability.

Backpacker Essentials & Safety Tips

Rome is a bustling metropolis rich in history and culture, attracting travelers from around the globe. While it’s generally a safe city for tourists, like any major city, it has its share of safety concerns and scams to be aware of.

Here are essential tips and advice to help you navigate Rome safely and enjoyably.

Safety Tips

  • Stay Aware of Your Surroundings: Especially in crowded places like the metro, tourist attractions like trevi fountain, and busy streets. Pickpocketing is the most common issue, so keep your belongings secure and be mindful of your pockets and bags.
  • Avoid Walking Alone at Night in Secluded Areas: While I did not have any problem during my party nights as a solo female walking down the streets, I do recommend you stick to well-lit, populated streets, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area.

Common Scams

  • The Rose Scam: This happens normally while you are having dinner at a restaurant. A person offers you a rose, often implying it’s a gift, and once you accept, they ask for money.
  • Gladiator Photo: Around the Colosseum, individuals dressed as gladiators offer to take photos with you but will expect payment afterward, sometimes demanding more than you might anticipate. If you are interested in the photo, just agree on the price before taking the photo.

Things Not to Do

  • Don’t Buy fake items from Street Vendors: You will find them, especially around major tourist sites. Buying from them can be illegal and you could be fined.
  • Don’t Eat or Drink on Monumental Steps or Fountains: There are laws against eating and drinking in certain areas, like the Spanish steps or near historic fountains, to preserve the city’s heritage.
  • Avoid Showing Off Valuables: Flashy jewelry, cameras, and smartphones can make you a target for thieves. Keep them discreet.
  • Don’t Skip on Travel Insurance: Ensure you have coverage for theft, loss, and medical issues. Rome is safe, but it’s always better to be prepared.

Resources and Planning

These apps can help streamline your travel plans, enhance your exploration of the city, and ensure you have a memorable trip. Here are some of the best apps to assist you on your Roman adventure, covering everything from navigation and language to dining and sightseeing:

Transportation and Navigation:

  • Trenitalia: The official app for Italy’s national railway service, offering schedules, ticket booking, and real-time train information. It’s essential for planning rail journeys within Rome and to other Italian cities.
  • Italo: This app is dedicated to Italo train services, a high-speed train operator competing with Trenitalia. It’s useful for booking and managing your high-speed train trips between major Italian cities, including routes to and from Rome.
  • MyCicero: An all-in-one travel app that allows you to plan city and intercity journeys, buy bus and train tickets, and even pay for parking in Rome, making it a versatile tool for getting around.
  • Free Now: A popular app for hailing taxis in Rome and across Italy. It offers a convenient, safe, and cashless way to book rides, with transparent pricing and the ability to track your taxi’s arrival.
  • ATAC Roma Official App: The official app of Rome’s public transportation provider offers real-time updates, route planning, and ticket purchasing options for navigating the city’s buses, trams, and metro system efficiently.
  • Nasoni di Roma: Dedicated to helping you find Rome’s iconic nasoni (public drinking fountains), this app will help you stay hydrated for free while exploring the city.
  • WC Rome: Finding public restrooms in Rome can be challenging. WC Rome helps you locate nearby public toilets, providing peace of mind during your explorations.

Tours and Activities:

  • StreetArtRome: This app guides you to Rome’s best street art, offering a different perspective on the city’s culture and creativity. It’s perfect for art enthusiasts and those looking to explore beyond traditional sights.
  • You&Co – You and Colosseo: audio guide and tips specifically for your Colosseo visit.
  • Uffizi Museum: While the Uffizi is in Florence, if your travels take you beyond Rome, this app provides detailed guides and information on one of Italy’s most famous art galleries, enriching your visit.
  • MiC Roma – Musei in Comune App: The official app for Rome’s municipal museums, offering information on collections, exhibitions, and events, making it easier to explore the city’s rich history and art.
  • iDotto: Acting as your personal audio guide, iDotto narrates interesting facts and stories about Rome’s landmarks as you explore, offering a rich, immersive experience.
  • Italian Food Decoder: This app is your culinary guide to Italian menus, helping you understand dish ingredients and make informed dining choices, enhancing your gastronomic experience in Rome.
  • covering and booking top-rated restaurants, often with discounts. It covers a wide range of dining options across Rome.

Money Saving Tips for Rome

Saving money while exploring Rome is both an art and a science. This enchanting city offers a plethora of ways to stretch your euros without compromising on the rich experience it promises. Here are some tried and true tips to help you enjoy Rome on a budget:

Leverage the Roma Pass: The Roma Pass offers free use of the city’s public transportation system, free or discounted entry to various museums and archaeological sites, and other discounts around the city. It’s a great way to save money on attractions and transport if you plan to do lots of sightseeing. Make sure you have a look before at your interested museums to check if the Roma Pass covers them.

Enjoy Free Attractions: Rome is filled with free sights that are as captivating as the paid ones. Don’t miss the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and the lively Trastevere neighborhood.

Walk or Use Public Transport: Rome’s historic center is surprisingly compact, and many of its iconic sites are within walking distance of each other. For longer distances, public transport is affordable and efficient. A daily or multi-day transport pass can be a cost-effective choice.

Eat Like a Local: Step away from the tourist hotspots and dine where the locals do. Roman pizzerias, bakeries (panifici), and market stalls offer delicious and affordable food. Look for places offering pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice), pasta, and other Roman specialties.

My conclusion: Visiting Rome on a budget

Rome has etched itself into my heart. Living here for nearly a year allowed me to peel back the layers of this city, uncovering the true essence of Roman life beyond the tourist trails.

To my fellow backpackers dreaming of or planning their Roman adventure, remember that Rome is not just a destination to be ticked off a list. It’s a city to be lived, loved, and explored. Allow yourself to get lost in its narrow alleys, find unexpected beauty, and create memories that will linger long after you’ve returned home.

If you have any doubts, need tips, or simply want to share your own experiences, please feel free to reach out to me on Instagram, via email, or leave your doubt/comment below.


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