Rome is a city like no other. The city is full of history, culture, ruins, beauty, and of course delicious Italian food. It’s no wonder, Italy’s capital is one of the most visited cities in the world. Due to Rome’s popularity, it can be quite expensive to visit, especially for budget travelers. However, with the help of this travel guide, every budget traveler will quickly learn that backpacking Rome on a budget is not just possible, it’s easy.
Read on to see how you can avoid long lines at popular attractions, visit the Vatican Museum for free, and stuff your face with delicious Roman dishes for less than €5.00.
What You’ll Find in This Travel Guide
- How Much to Budget for Rome
- How Long to Stay in Rome
- Cheap Places to Eat in Rome
- Cheap Places to Stay in Rome
- Top Things to Do in Rome
- What to Skip in Rome
- Popular Events & Festivals in Rome
- How to Get Around in Rome
- General Travel Tips for Rome
- Day Trips from Rome
How Much to Budget for Rome
With the help of this travel guide, it is very possible to explore Rome on a budget of €45.00 – 70.00 a day. In the four days we stayed in Rome, we spent about €400.00 between the both of us, and that included the price of the apartment we rented through Airbnb.
How Long to Visit Rome
Rome is a huge city with a lot of history to explore, so that’s why we recommend a minimum of 3-4 days. If you are interested in doing some day trips from Rome, consider adding on a few more days.
Cheap Places to Eat in Rome
Like most places in Italy, panini, pizza, pasta, focaccia and of course aperitivos are the cheapest eats you will find in Rome. However, Rome also has its fair share of cheap street food. Don’t expect any healthy options though, as deep fried foods reign supreme in Rome!
Mama Eats | Via di S. Cosimato, 7/9, 00153 Roma
With individual pizzas starting at €5.50, Mama Eats is a great restaurant for cheap Italian dishes. We enjoyed eating here multiple times because of its extensive gluten-free menu which is full of Italian classics.
Mama Frites | Borgo Pio, 28, 00193 Roma
Mama Frites, located near the Vatican, sells delicious street food, like fried pizza, Zeppole and Cuoppo Napoletano for around €5.00.
Pane & Salame | Via Santa Maria in Via, 19, 00187 Roma
A great spot, not too far from Trevi Fountain, to get fresh panini from €3.50 – 6.00. Pane & Salame is also a nice place to sample some Italian meats. We recommend ordering at least a medium mixed cutting board that comes with different kinds of cheese, cold meats, mixed vegetables and bruschetta.
Pinsere | Via Flavia, 98, 00187 Roma
This cheap spot located just ten minutes from the Termini, sells freshly made and delicious pinsa (oval-shaped, ancient-type pizza with or without toppings) for €3.00 – 4.00. This mini pizza, with its crispy crust and flavorful toppings is a must try in our opinion.
Pastificio | Via della Croce, 8, 00187 Roma
A small pasta restaurant where you can grab a nice plate of fresh, homemade pasta for as low as €4.00. The price also includes wine and water, if you decide to dine in.
Must Eat Street Foods in Rome
- Trapizzino, a thick and toasted triangular pocket pizza, sliced opened and filled with hearty Roman dishes like oxtail stew or braised beef.
- Cuoppo Napoletano, a paper cone filled with deep fried seafood.
- Pizza al taglio, baked square pizzas made on rectangular cast iron trays and sold by the weight.
- Zeppole, deep fried dough balls, usually filled with either chocolate, jelly, or cream and topped with powdered sugar.
- Porchetta Romana, a deboned, roasted pork stuffed with herbs and traditionally cooked on a spit.
- Suppli, deep fried rice balls.
Traditional Roman Dishes
- Spaghetti Carbonara (egg and cheese pasta dish)
- Pizza Bianca (white pizza/foccacia)
- Fritti (deep fried food)
- Cacio e Pepe (cheese and pepper pasta dish)
- Bruschetta (grilled bread with a variety of toppings)
Cheap Places to Stay in Rome
For such an expensive city, Rome surprisingly has a huge number of budget accommodations, even in the city center. There are a handful of budget accommodations within walking distance from the main train station, Termini. The average price for a bed in a decent hostel is about €25.00. Prices may be higher in the high season.
Please note: Rome charges a local city tax of €1.50 – 7.00 per person per night. The city tax is usually not included in your accommodation price.
The Beehive: This stylish hostel/budget boutique hotel is a two-minute walk from the Termini and offers a bed in a dorm for €25.00+. The only downside is that there is no communal kitchen. Read reviews.
Freedom Traveller Hostel: This laid-back hostel offers all the amenities a modern hostel should provide including a free happy hour. What better way to meet other travelers than over some free wine and snacks? Dorm beds start at €16.00. Read reviews.
Orsa Maggiore: A women-only hostel located just five minutes away from Termini station, has a courtyard, fully equipped kitchen, free wifi and breakfast. Beds in a 4-bed dorm start at €26.00. Read reviews.
For more awesome hostel recommendations in Rome click here.
Plus Camping Roma: A great priced campsite, outside of the city center with resort-like facilities such as a pool, hot tub, and poolside bar. A dorm bed in a three-person tent starts at €9.50. Read reviews.
A great option for those who enjoy their privacy and want to stay somewhere that is more homey (and many times cheaper than a hostel or budget hotel). Private rooms start at €30.00 and entire apartments start at €45.00. We were able to book an entire apartment last minute in September for €50.00, which was nice as we were able to cook some meals and had complete privacy. For some recommendations check out our list of the best Airbnbs in Rome here.
Top Things to Do in Rome
1. The Colosseum & Ancient Rome
Take a step back in time and visit the ancient Roman ruins that were once the center of Roman life over 2,000 years ago. Though these ruins are beautiful to admire, we recommend getting a tour guide to help bring these ancient ruins back to life.
Since we enjoyed our Walks of Italy tour in Venice, we naturally decided to take another tour with them and of course they did not disappoint us. Not only did the guide bring the Colosseum and the Roman Forum back to life, we also got a VIP tour through Caesar’s Palace. For more information on the tour click here.
Budget Tips for Visiting the Colosseum
- Free the first Sunday of the month
- If you are a European citizen between the ages of 18 – 25, combo price tickets only cost €7.50 with valid ID.
- Purchase the Colosseum combo ticket for €12.00. The ticket is valid for 2 days after first use and gives you access to the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
2. St. Peter’s Basilica
No visit to Rome is complete without visiting St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the largest and probably the most impressive church in the world. It’s free to visit, however be sure to dress conservatively or risk being denied entry.
Be sure to climb up to the top of St. Peter’s dome (“cupola”) to get a beautiful view over Vatican City and Rome. The dome fee is €5.00 if you go by foot (551 steps) or €7.00 if you take the elevator halfway (321 steps) to the terrace level.
3. Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel
The Vatican Museum is actually a collection of over 50 museums as well as the Sistine Chapel, and one can easily spend a whole day exploring the exquisite artwork throughout the building.
To be honest we weren’t too impressed with the Sistine Chapel especially after seeing all the other artwork in the museum but hey everybody has a different taste.
Insider Tips for Visiting the Vatican Museum:
- Vatican Museum is free the last Sunday of each month (open only from 9 am to 12.30 pm) and on World Tourism Day (Sept. 27th)
- Best time to visit the museum is around lunchtime or an hour before the box office closes at 4pm. If you do the latter, you will still have 2-3 hours to visit the museum as it doesn’t close until 6pm.
- Avoid visiting the museum on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays as these are the most popular days to visit, especially since the museum is closed on most Sundays.
- Don’t be tempted by the many touts to pay over €30.00+ to skip the line as the line does move fairly quickly.
- If you are a student under 25, you can see the Vatican Museum for half the price with a proper ID.
- If you plan to visit St. Peter’s Basilica, skip the long queues and save time by taking the secret passageway (exit on the right) from the Sistine Chapel straight into St.Peter’s Basilica. Note: This passageway is technically for tour groups only but you can just wait for a tour group and tag along with them.
4. Piazza Navona
Rome’s liveliest square, which took the unique shape of the ancient Roman stadium it was built over, is lined with outdoor cafes, restaurants, and beautiful houses. However, the highlights of the square are the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, and the three fountains, with the most notable one being the beautiful Fountain of Four Rivers.
5. Vittorio Emanuele II Monument
This beautiful, hard to miss white marble monument was constructed to honor the first king, Vittorio Emanuele II, under the unified Italy. Climb up the massive stairway to admire the many statues, to visit the museum inside or to get a great view of the city.
6. The Trevi Fountain
This massive, building-sized fountain is one of the most famous fountains in the world, and probably the most crowded at all times of the day. Legend has it, if you can manage to squeeze through the crowd to throw a coin over your shoulder and into the water, you will return to Rome in the future.
This 2,000 year-old Roman temple is the most preserved building from Ancient Rome. It’s exquisite marble filled interior, and its architectural genius of the world’s largest unsupported dome, makes it a must-see while in Rome.
8. Free Walking Tour
Rome is probably the first city we have been to that offers so many free walking tour. With a huge pool to choose from, we went with Rome’s Ultimate Free Walking Tour and lucky for us, it turned out to be the best free tour we have done. We really enjoyed this tour as it took us off the beaten path, and showed us parts of Rome we would have never explored ourselves. Oh and the sarcastic, funny and informative guide was the cherry on the cake. We highly recommend them!
9. Honorable Mention:
- Castel Sant’Angelo
- Villa Borghese
- Via Appia Antica
What to Skip in Rome
1. Piazza di Spagna and Spanish Steps
With so many great things to see in Rome, it’s not worth wasting your time on those crowded steps.
Popular Events & Festivals in Rome
1. Rome’s Birthday
On April 21st, many events take place throughout the eternal city to celebrate the birth of Rome.
2. Easter Week
During Easter Week, there are many religious events happening around the city, including a free, open-air mass at St.Peter’s square with the Pope.
3. May Day
To celebrate Labor Day (May 1st), the trade unions put on a free music festival each year in front of the basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano.
How to Get Around in Rome
Though Rome is a fairly big city, it is still a walkable city, especially in the city center where most attractions are within walking distance from each other.
2. Public Transportation
Rome has a good public transportation system with buses, trams, and a metro that can get you just about anywhere in Rome.
A B.I.T. is the standard ticket valid for only one Metro ride or 100 minutes on all other public transportation. The ticket costs €1.50 and can be bought in advance from tobacconists, bars, or vending machines at metro stations and major bus stops.
Please Note: Vending machines can only dispense €7.00 worth of change so plan accordingly or buy tickets ahead of time at a tobacconists. Once on the bus and tram make sure to validate your ticket to avoid paying a fine.
General Travel Tips for Rome
1. Time Your Attraction Visits Wisely
The secret is out and early mornings are not the best time to visit attractions anymore, because that’s when everyone else will be there. Visit attractions around lunchtime or an hour or two before closing instead, and avoid waiting in long lines.
2. Refill at Water Fountains
No need to constantly buy water, as Rome is full of public water fountains where you can refill your bottle.
3. Visit During Low Season
Though Rome is always crowded with tourists, consider visiting during low season (November-February) when the amount of tourists is not so overwhelming, lines are considerably shorter and accommodation prices are lower.
4. Take Your Meal To-Go
If you are on a tight budget, take your meal to-go to avoid paying a sit-down service charge.
5. Book Ahead of Time
Rome is an extremely popular travel destination: therefore, we highly recommend booking accommodation ahead of time.
Day Trips from Rome
Rome is a great base to explore some of the other must-see places nearby. Below are a few popular day trips from Rome:
- Ostia Antica: A smaller version of Pompeii, filled with well-preserved ruins of ancient Rome’s seaport.
- Tivoli: Home to beautiful gardens and Renaissance-era villas. Popular villas are Villa Adriana, Villa d’Este, and Villa Gregoriana.
- Assisi: A beautiful medieval town in the Umbria region. Highlights: Basilica di San Francesco, and Fortress La Rocca for a great view of the city.
- Sperlonga: A beautiful seaside town with two beaches easily accessible from Rome. Sperlonga is a great place to cool off and escape the chaos of Rome.
Get Insured Before Backpacking Rome
No matter how long or short your trip, don’t forget to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and trust us, you don’t wanna get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. So don’t leave home without it. We recommend World Nomads.
Even if you don’t get travel insurance with World Nomads, please make sure to get travel insurance from somewhere.
Other Travel Guides
If you are more of a book person and would rather carry a physical guide with you while backpacking Rome, we recommend Lonely Planet Rome. Remember though, don’t follow it step by step, use it as a guide instead.
If you enjoyed our backpacking Rome on a budget guide, please share it on social media and consider coming back to plan your future trips with our other detailed backpacking guides.