How to do Rome on a budget

Following my recent short break in Rome, I want to share with you some tips and travel advice I picked up along my travels in the Italian capital.

A few friends and I had been planning a short city break in Rome since last year, we finally got around to booking it in early August where we trawled the internet for some cheap accommodation on websites like Hostelbookers.com and for some cheap flights, we decided to fly with easyJet as they had the most suitable departure and arrival times to suit our itinerary and budget.

Getting to the airport
I knew that as the only driver in the group I didn’t want to be lumbered with driving around to collect everyone and getting us to Gatwick Airport on time – not to mention the expensive petrol costs and airport car park charges! So we decided to take the train, where a return ticket to Gatwick Airport from Chichester booked in advance earned us a 25% discount with Southern Rail costing under £10 – bargain! An added benefit of taking public transport to get to the airport is that in the event you get delayed and miss your flight, your travel insurance should cover you as the transport provider should supply sound evidence in writing to support your claim. If you drive yourself and get stuck in traffic resulting in you missing your flight could prove to be difficult finding evidence to back up your claim – who’s to say you didn’t get out of bed late?! When we arrived in Rome we took the frequent Leonardo Express train which travels directly to Termini train station and takes 30 mins. You can buy your Leonardo Express train ticket from the ticket office for €14; remember to validate your train ticket in the yellow machines at the entrance to the platform to avoid risking a fine. There is also a bus shuttle between Rome’s two airports and the Termini train station which takes about 1-hour and 20 mins costing €8.

Cheap accommodation
After a relaxed day of travelling (without any delays!) we arrived at our accommodation near Rome’s main Termini train station which we booked a quad room at Cristina Rooms but actually stayed in the Stargate Hotel in the same building, apparently there was a problem with the plumbing. Our room had a private bathroom and air conditioning for only £25 per person per night, including breakfast (a croissant and a cup of coffee). The hotels in central Rome are all situated in beautiful buildings with window shutters and all within 5 storeys high – it might be an idea to check that your hotel has an elevator. Through our research we noticed that accommodation in Rome is quite expensive, remember to do your homework on areas you are likely to visit and whether they are within walking distance or will you need to use public transport, costing you more.

Getting around
One of the perks of staying near the station is that you are close to the national train service (if you fancy a day trip to Pompeii), the metro line and bus station. Tickets can be bought from the train ticket desk for the national train service or the newsagents dotted around for metro and bus tickets. A one-way metro/bus ticket costs €1 or if you are planning to hop on and off the metro/bus a one-day tick costs €4, ideal for a day of sightseeing if you do not want to explore on foot or are on a tight schedule. There are open top city sightseeing buses which include a guided tour and allow you to hop on and off at each attraction costing €20 for 24-hours.

Eating out
As with many tourist areas, the best food and drink can be found in traditional restaurants away from the main attractions. Wander around to find a great little restaurant away from the crowds and beggars. If the locals are eating there, it’s a good sign! The food was obviously Italian so expect lots of pasta dishes, pizza, ham and cheeses and of course ice cream! The food wasn’t cheap as you would expect from a busy city but there are many cheaper restaurants away from the main tourist areas where you can have a good meal for under €20 each.

Things to pack
A pair of comfortable walking shoes, there is so much to see and do we were spending all day walking around visiting the various sights. A camera is a must, you’ll end up with loads of photos of the Vatican City, Roman Ruins and the Colosseum so remember spare batteries or you camera charger. There is a strict dress code for the sacred places of interest including St Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Pantheon so pack clothes which cover your knees and shoulders or take a scarf to wrap around you.

And finally, don’t forget your cheap travel insurance…
You can get an instant quote and immediate cover by going online to 24/7 travel insurance. A 3-day break in Rome will cost you only £5.32* – a small price to pay for peace of mind protection whilst you are away!

* Premium £5.32 includes Insurance Premium Tax based on an adult aged under 55 taking out a “Standard” Single Trip 24/7 travel insurance policy for 3-days in Europe excluding personal possessions cover and purchased within 14 days of departure date. Cover details and prices are correct at time of going to press (October 2010) and are subject to change.