Rome isn't exactly renowned for being the cheapest of cities to take a holiday in. Unfortunately, despite the imminent recession the credit crunch hasn't dampened people's desire to visit this expensive city. Help is at hand: I've been a Rome shuttle driver for more years than I care to remember, and have picked up a great deal of insider knowledge that should help you get by on - well, if not a shoestring budget, then at least significantly cheaper than you'd expect to pay.
I won't go into details of booking flights - that's not really my area of expertise - but do shop around, and make sure you get the best deal possible. Once you get there, there's plenty of ways to save money:
Don't be Fussy About When You Go
Every bit of budget travel advice mentions this, but in Rome it seems to be particularly relevant. When you travel makes a huge difference as to how much it will all cost. If you head out to Rome in August, for example, you'll find hotel rates slashed. True, this is offset against many restaurants and galleries being closed for the season, but there's still plenty to see and do.
If you absolutely must go in peak season (if you need to match the school holidays, for example) then do remember that weekends are usually more expensive, so you can still save a few Euros here and there.
The other advantage of going in the off-season is how much less crowded it is - from your Rome airport transfer to the city's famous highlights.
Don't Pay Top Dollar for Your Room
It always amazes me that people are willing to pay so much for a hotel room, when the chances are they'll spend next to no time in there! Spend plenty on your house, sure - but a temporary place to sleep? Sounds like a premium place to cut costs to me.
There are a number of decent cheap hotels I can recommend. They are basic (and it's best to check there is air conditioning in the heat of summer - some will charge extra), but they're safe and clean. Hotel Luzzatti, Hotel Romano and Hotel Principe Eugenio are all 2 stars, but offer excellent locations at a competitive price, while Hotel Igea is a 3 star hotel with budget prices, conveniently located just two blocks from Rome's main railway station.
Know Which Attractions are Free or Cheap
There's loads to see in Rome that's either free or very cheap. On the free end of the scale you have The Roman Forum, The Bocca della Verita, the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. Pick of the freebies is the Vatican museums if you're there at the right time: on the last Sunday of every month, they're free of charge!
As for very cheap, the Archeobus is pushing it at 7.75 Euros, but few could argue that at 2.5 Euros the Museum of the Walls is exceptional value for money.
Skip on the Hire Car
Rome is a big city, but you don't need to hire your own car. Taxis too are an expense you don't need - consider using the public transport and walking around the place to seeing the best bits. As for getting your luggage to the hotel, I may be a little biased, but for me taking a Rome airport transfer really is the way forward. It's cheap, reliable and from someone knowledgeable about the city. And when it's time to head back to the airport, a Rome airport transfer is sure to get you there on time, so you can concentrate on relaxing rather than getting your timings right.
Know Where the Best Cheap Eats Can be Found
The worst offenders in terms of overpriced, substandard food tend to be the tourist eateries, as in any city. Follow the locals for cheap eats - some of the best are Da Baffetto (arrive before 7, because the lines are huge!), Brek (a chain that offers a decent hot meal for under 10 Euros) and Antica Osteria da Giovanni (a bit of a walk, but half the prices of those in the city centre).
The final tip I can give is to ask around, and follow the lead of people who actually live there. Shop around and ask for recommendations from your Rome shuttle driver - they may have some tips that I've managed to miss!
Fabio Carrozi is a Rome shuttle driver for Shuttle Direct. They provide pre-booked shuttles to major destinations all over Europe. Wherever you travel, Shuttle Direct can make sure that you don't miss your car on your holiday abroad.
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