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10 Helpful Rome Travel Tips for First-Timers

10 Helpful Rome Travel Tips for First-Timers

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Are you planning a trip to Rome for the first time and don’t know what to expect? Keep scrolling to check out my top Rome travel tips for tourists!
This list of Rome travel tips was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Are you planning on traveling to Rome for the first time?

Great choice! The Eternal City and Italy’s capital is somewhere that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Not only is it home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, but there are also so many other historic sites to visit and delicious meals to taste.

There is so much to pack in that visiting Rome for the first time might seem like a daunting challenge instead of an exciting vacation. Luckily, these Rome travel tips for first-timers will help you out.

This guide has absolutely all the Rome, Italy travel tips every visitor should know including all the best attractions so you can have an enjoyable, memorable vacation.

Read on to discover all the Rome travel tips you need to do as the Romans do!

Don’t have time to read a bunch of Rome blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Rome with kids.

Popular Rome Tours/Activities

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Awesome Rome Travel Tips for First-Timers

Planning Your Rome Visit

It would be a real shame if you returned home from your amazing trip only to discover that you forgot to visit the Pantheon or the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museums.

Make a list of your can’t-misses so you don’t forget them. Most travelers want to visit the Colosseum, throw coins into the Trevi Fountain, walk up the Spanish Steps, and visit St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

Image of a woman taking a selfie at the Colosseum in Rome Italy
You’ll definitely want to take a selfie in front of the Colosseum! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

Then, make another list of places to visit if there’s time. Villa Borghese park, the Roman Forum, watching the sunset at Aventine Hill, and Castel Sant’Angelo are great options.

I also suggest doing a Rome food tour, participating in Rome Gladiator School, and booking a photo shoot!

One of the best Rome travel tips for first-timers is to not overstuff your itinerary. That can be difficult for families as it’s one of the top kid-friendly destinations in Europe due to all the cool activities.

Leave space to eat an extra gelato, wander down a cute cobbled street or listen to a street performer. Plus, some attractions might be further away than they seem!

How Many Days in Rome?

Spending 4-5 days in Rome gives you enough time to see all the top sights as well as explore the lesser-visited neighborhoods like Trastevere.

If you plan on spending a week in Rome, you could probably squeeze in a day trip to smaller nearby cities like Tivoli or Viterbo.

Rome’s Tourist Tax

Whether you are staying in a hotel, guesthouse, or short-term rental, you will need to pay a tourist tax. This is one of the things to know about traveling to Italy before you go because it’s the law everywhere in the country!

Rome’s fees are currently €3 to €7 per person per night. Guests at one or two-star accommodations pay the lowest tax and those in better accommodations pay more.

Public Transportation in Rome

Rome has an underground metro system that is cheap and easy to use. However, you won’t be able to rely on it too much as there are only three lines and it doesn’t cover everywhere in the historic center. 

Image of a Roma Metro sign and station.
It’s really easy to take the Metro around Rome.

The Barberini station, which is on the red ‘A’ line, is the closest to the center. It’s still a 15-minute walk from landmarks like the Pantheon but the metro is the best option for traveling to Vatican City.

Single journey tickets cost around €1.50. 48-hour unlimited passes are available for €12.50.

The Rome metro is a high-crime area, so be vigilant with your belongings. I actually had my phone stolen out of my pocket on a crowded metro train. Almost all of our tour guides gave us strong warnings.

Taxis and Ubers

Rome Fiumicino Airport has a train station with connections to the city, but it will be easier to take a take from the airport. Book a taxi in advance and make sure it is big enough to accommodate your whole family plus your luggage.

Taxi cars on the city street. Rome taxi sign, Italy
Taxis are another great option of getting around Rome.

You can also use taxis for journeys that are difficult or impossible on the metro. Ask your hotel to order one for you and take a card so you have the details of a reputable service.

Rome also has Ubers, but they’re not like regular taxis. You’ll only find Uber Black, Uber Lux, and Uber Van in Rome which are far more expensive.

How to Avoid Crowds

Rome is a popular city and the reasons why you want to visit are likely the same reasons why millions of others want to visit too!

One of the things to know before visiting Italy, and to make peace with, is that it’s going to be crowded but you’ll still have a great time.

Image of the Vatican at sunrise in Rome, Italy
You’ll need to get up early to avoid crowds in Rome.

However, if you’re hoping to take some nice family photos with as few people around as possible then you will have to get up at dawn. The Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain are the most popular landmarks so prioritize visiting them first.

No matter where you go in Italy, the churches are absolutely beautiful. One of the best top Italy travel tips is to dive inside a church whenever you pass one and take a look around. You’ll be able to take a break from the crowds and cool off at the same time.

Don’t Buy Bottled Water

Rome has something that all cities should have: free drinking fountains! There are over 2,500 throughout the city and this water is 100% safe to drink. 

Old traditional drinking fountain with cold water in Rome. Classic roman free water public fountain.City Fountain Closeup. Authentic corners of Rome. Iconic Roman Landmark. Travel to Rome.
There are tons of free drinking fountains, like this one, all across Rome.

This is one of the top things to know before going to Rome, in particular. Accessible drinking fountains are unique to Rome and aren’t common elsewhere in Italy.

Save your pennies and bring a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated all day. You’ll need it walking around in the heat!

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    Finding the Best Gelato

    There must be dozens if not hundreds of gelaterias in Rome but they’re not all made equal. Don’t waste precious stomach real estate by eating gelato packed with artificial flavors, preservatives, and thickening chemicals! This is one of the top things to know before traveling to Italy in general.

    You’ll probably end up having gelato for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

    Luckily, there are ways to spot the difference between fresh, homemade gelato and factory-made junk.

    For example, pistachios and bananas aren’t bright green and yellow in their natural form so they won’t produce brightly colored gelato. Homemade ice cream is also usually made and stored in silver metal containers.

    Fresh gelato still consists of milk, cream, and sugar. But you can feel a little better about giving your kids their third scoop of the day when it’s only flavored natural ingredients! 

    Yes, the San Crispino Gelateria near the Trevi Fountain that features in Eat Pray Love is one of the good ones.

    Money in Rome

    Italy uses the Euro as currency and it’s a good idea to have both credit cards and cash. Some restaurants and gift shops will only accept cash but you pay for attractions and larger purchases with a card.

    Euro money: closeup of banknotes and coins
    It’s always helpful to get some Euros in cash.

    Paying with an American Express card can be hit-and-miss in Europe so make sure you have a Visa or Mastercard too.

    Book Rome Attractions & Tours in Advance

    Rome can already be quite an expensive city but it is well worth paying a little extra for tickets to some of the big attractions online in advance. Lines to the Colosseum, to visit the Vatican Museums and St Peter’s Basilica are always super long. 

    Not only are you wasting valuable exploring time waiting around, but you’re also standing around in the sun! It’s no fun for you or your kids. Check out my favorite Rome tours for kids.

    St Peter’s Basilica is free to visit but to avoid the lines you can book a tour guide for the Vatican Museums and St Peter’s Basilica combined. That’s definitely one of the top Rome travel tips many people learn when it’s too late! Check the latest rates and availability.

    Book a Family Photo Shoot

    Whenever we travel, we almost always book a family photo shoot with Flytographer. They are super easy, affordable, AND guarantee that I’ll be in some photos. You can get $25 off if you book through this link or use the code HAWAIITRAVEL.

    Dining in Rome Tips

    One of the things to know before going to Italy is that each of the 20 regions has its own signature cuisine. Pizza is from Campania, pesto is from Liguria, and carbonara pasta is from Lazio where Rome is located. 

    Look for Pizza Romana on the menu as this is a traditional Roman pizza and a little different from Napoli pizza.

    Image of a Roman-style pizza in Rome Italy
    Try ordering Roman-style pizza.

    Americans can often get confused when they don’t see ‘pepperoni’ on the menu of Italian pizza restaurants. Pepperoni translates to ‘bell pepper’ in Italian which is an entirely different topping! Don’t expect to find garlic bread under the side dishes either as this is an Italian-American invention.

    Italians don’t drink milk after noon because they consider it heavy and hard to digest. Swap your after-dinner cappuccino for espresso if you want to fit in with the Romans!

    If you’re traveling to Rome with your kids, you won’t need to worry about splitting the bill. But if you’re with extended family and want to pay separately, you’ll need to pay in cash. Most Roman restaurants don’t split bills.

    Museums Close on Mondays

    Historically, museums and galleries in Europe needed to close for at least one day a week to clean and move exhibits around. They chose to close on the quietest day of the way: Monday!

    Galleria Borghese in Rome, Italy

    Skip forward a few generations and the practice is still commonplace in Rome. Borghese Gallery, Castel Sant’Angelo, and the National Gallery of Modern Art are all closed on Mondays.

    The good news is that many of these museums have free entry on the first Sunday of every month! Visiting museums is one of the coolest free things to do in Rome!

    Just to confuse you, the Vatican Museums are open every day and offer free entry on the last Sunday of the month.

    Get a Travel Adapter

    Like most European countries, Italy uses electrical sockets that fit plugs with two round prongs which is a type C socket. Americans and people living in other countries that don’t use round-pronged sockets will need to use a travel adapter. 

    The voltage in Italy is also different from the US so that’s something to keep in mind. Invest in an adapter with USB ports so you can charge multiple devices with one plug! This is the one we use!

    Safety and Awareness in Rome

    Rome is fairly safe for a capital city and it ranked 29th in The Economist’s Safe City Index 2021. It’s unlikely that you will become a victim of a dangerous and violent crime during your trip to Rome as long as you stick to open, populated areas.

    However, pickpockets are rife in heavily touristed areas. They like to operate in places like the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, and the Spanish Steps. There are always lots of tourists packed into these very dense spaces.

    Image of Piazza de Spagna in Rome, italy. Spanish steps in the morning. Rome architecture and landmark.
    The Spanish Steps often has lots of pickpockets, so keep an eye out.

    Navigating through traffic as a pedestrian in Rome is also an eye-opening experience. Many Roman drivers take traffic signals as suggestions rather than rules.

    Keep a close watch on your kids when you cross the street and be mindful of Vespas. These small scooters nip in and out of cars faster than you can blink! But, they can be super fun if you want to rent a Vespa in Rome!

    Piazza Venezia has some of the worst traffic in the city. During peak hours, a traffic conductor stands in the middle of the road and directs the traffic with their hands and a whistle. It’s actually fascinating to watch.

    Rome Travel Tips FAQs

    What should I wear in Rome?

    Italy has a Mediterranean climate which means hot summers and mild winters. You will likely need sunglasses no matter which time of year you visit. Pack comfortable, casual clothes made from breathable fabrics in summer. 

    If you want to visit churches (and you should) then you will need to wear clothes that cover your knees and upper arms. Since they don’t call it ‘The City of Seven Hills’ for nothing, bring comfortable and flat shoes! Rome also has lots of cobblestone streets which don’t pair well with heels.

    Where are the best places to stay in Rome?

    Since you are looking for Rome travel tips for first-timers, you should stay in the heart of the action! This will cut down your time traveling in and out of the city and leave you with more time to explore. Stay in the historic center near Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. 

    Do you need to tip in Rome?

    One of the first things you need to know before traveling to Italy for the first time is that tipping is not essential. However, it has increasingly become expected in restaurants and hotels and it is very much appreciated.

    Sometimes 10-15% gratuity is even added to the bill automatically. If it isn’t, tipping around €1 per person or rounding up the bill is a good rule of thumb.

    Rome Travel Tips for First-Timers Wrap Up

    Rome is a beautiful and enchanting city. Having these tips for visiting Rome will make it so much easier for you to plan and enjoy your trip there.

    Whether you’re most excited to visit the landmarks or eat tasty dishes, these Rome vacation tips will make your experience that much more memorable.

    Looking for more Rome travel resources? Check out the top Instagram spots in Rome, things to do in Rome with kids, how to book a Rome photo shoot, is it worth visiting the Vatican with kids, best Rome hotels for families, how to spend 3 days in Rome with kids, what Italy is famous for, how to become a gladiator for a day, Rome day trips by train, how to spend 10 days in Italy with kids, tips for visiting Italy with kids, best Rome tours for kids, and hidden gems in Rome Italy!

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