Updated: I thought that this post needed to be refreshed a bit since I get a lot of emails about this. Any questions, send an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Are you confused about how much money to take with you and to budget for your trip to Rome? I receive a lot of emails from readers asking me this question. Keep reading to find some useful budgeting tips and learn how much things cost.
With traveler’s checks becoming less common with the advent of credit and debit cards and universal ATM access, bringing physical money with you is not always the concern that it once was. I do advise that you bring some bills/notes with you, either in your home currency or euro if you can get them. Many international airports in the United States will dispense currency in euro, especially in larger airports.
ATM networks are not always functioning, and you might find yourself without cash if you rely solely on getting money that way when you arrive in Rome. I learned the hard way recently when I arrived in Rome only to find that the ATM couldn’t communicate with my bank network, and I only had $30.00 in my pocket. Stash some cash just for these kinds of emergencies! Credit cards are not as commonly used in Italy as they are in other countries, like the United States, for example. Many shops have minimum that you must spend before you can use your credit card. Trying to buy a 80 cent coffee with a credit card probably is not going to happen.
Another important tip: Always carry change with you! In Italian, the word is spicci. Paying for a 1 euro supplì with a 50 euro note will draw you a lot of grief, and I have seen people turned away for not having small bills.
Try to withdraw only what you need. Constant withdrawals from your bank account will most likely mean more fees. Not only will you pay the fee for using an ATM that’s not your banks, but you will also be charged a fee for the conversion from your home currency to euro. You will also lose money when you convert those euros back to your home currency when you leave the country. I try to save thirty or forty euro at the end of my trip to use on my next trip).
Your hotel, apart from your plane ticket, is going to be your largest expense between 100-300 euro per night, depending on where you stay. Hostels, bed and breakfasts, and small hotels are cheaper. I always advise travelers going to Rome to stay in bed and breakfast, short term apartment, or a decent hostel. You get more for your money, generally – and you’ll most likely be spending most of your time out and about. Your lodgings will just be a place to sleep and relax, but I understand that for many people having a place to crash can be important to them. I have found that web sites like Airbnb.com are also quite useful in finding accommodation by renting a room or even an entire apartment. This can give you a lot of flexibility and improve your comfort, especially if there is inclement weather or you want to sleep in without the cleaning staff trying to get into the room to make up your bed.
Prepayment can be a double-edged sword. Sure, you might save 10-20% upfront, but what if you do not like the place? Or perhaps the location isn’t to your likely or comfortable? Or what if your plans change? Many prepay deals do not allow for cancellations (think about trip cancellation insurance). Definitely shop around, read reviews of hotels and hostels, and be certain before you pay. Keep in mind that hotel rooms in European cities, particularly in Italy, tend to be smaller than what you might expect since space is usually a luxury few hotels have. Expect to pay more for a larger room.
What things cost in Rome
I think it’s important to know how much things cost in Rome before you head out. Of course, my numbers are based on my own observations! Please leave a comment below with your own observations, too!
A bottle of water in Rome can range from 0.15 euro to 3 euro – it all depends on where you buy it and how well you plan. A coffee in Rome is about 0.80 euro. Remember that a cup of coffee in Rome isn’t really a cup, but a “shot” of coffee. A cappuccino or a longer coffee (that is, taller) is going to cost you more. A cappuccino can range between 1.50 euro and up, depending on whether you take it at the bar or sit down or you decide to have a coffee in a very touristy spot, such as one of Rome’s many piazzas or piazzas in any Italian city (Venice and Florence come to mind). Sit down service in Italy costs more than if you take your drinks (coffee or otherwise) standing up at the bar. Keep this in mind, especially if there is a band or live music: often this is added to your bill!
Lunch can be inexpensive and on-the-go – a slice of pizza, an arancino (rice ball with various veggies and/or meats that is lightly fried – sometimes baked), supplì or a panino (sandwich) – and might run you 1-2 euro. Again, if you sit down for something more elaborate, the price is going to go up to anywhere between 10-20 euro per person. Usually walking around outdoors in the heat and being super active makes me less hungry, and I try to find a market or supermarket and purchase some fresh fruit, water, yogurt and some crackers. Fresh fruit is not only good for you, but you can also help the local economy and keep you hydrated. You can also rinse it off from water running from the many fontanelle in the city.
Dinners will be one of your largest expenses: 20-30 euro per person, depending on where you dine and how much you eat (If you rent a short term apartment, you could even cook a few meals for yourself!). Don’t feel compelled to have a full course dinner every night – save money by sticking to pasta dishes or pizza (if it’s on the menu). A basic Margherita (tomatoes, mozzarella, basil) will run you about 6-7 euro. More elaborate pizzas can range from 5-10 euro. It’s not unusual to order a few antipasti, share them and then finish off your meal with dessert and coffee. Again, what you eat depends on your mood, what you like, and how active you were during the day.
In Italy, there is a “coperto” — this is for the bread and other amenities on the table and can vary by restaurant. Some charge a flat cover while others charge per person. This cost is unavoidable, but will add 2-3 euro per person onto the bill, even if you do not eat the bread. Some restaurants include a gratuity automatically, especially those near hotels and tourist spots — the menu will usually list these charges (hopefully in English) and most menus are posted outside restaurants for you to study before entering.
Transportation in Rome is relatively inexpensive. For 1.50 euro, you can ride the tram, bus, metro and some regional train lines for 75 minutes. When I went to Rome, I walked 95% of the time to my destinations so it wasn’t cost effective for me to use the 4 euro day ticket. There is also a weekly ticket option, too, if you plan to stay longer and know that you will use the public transportation. If you plan to be in Rome longer than two weeks, purchase a monthly pass. It costs 35 euroDepending on how much you want to walk versus making use of public transport should dictate which ticket you purchase. 4 euro a day for two weeks can add up fast — if you are only using public transport once or twice a day, 4 euro probably isn’t the most cost effective option.
Taxis in Rome are expensive, and I would suggest that you use them sparingly: late at night when the buses are few and far between, when you need to get to the airport early in the morning, when you arrive after a long flight and public transport isn’t a viable option for reaching your destination (if you have a lot of luggage, a taxi might be the better way to go), or when public transport isn’t going to get you to your destination (for instance, if I stay with friends who live outside the center). For those who do not speak Italian, it might be helpful to write down where you need to go before getting into a cab. For example, you might carry a piece of hotel stationery to hand to your driver or a notecard that you fill out before heading to Italy – you might have trouble pronouncing the name of the hotel or even the name of the street correctly. You don’t want to spend money needlessly in a taxi as the driver criss-crosses Rome trying to find your hotel or being dropped off at the wrong destination and not realizing it! Taxis to/from the airports are fixed price journeys, currently 48 euro to Rome’s city center (inside the walls). 50 euro to/from Ciampino. The prices are listed on the cab. Ask before you get into the cab if you have doubts.
So how much money do I bring?
Leaving out your hotel or lodging expenses, I think a good rule of thumb is 50-70 euro per day for someone traveling alone. If you plan to be in Rome a week, think of having 350-500 euro per week per person. You can lower your costs by eating cheaply at lunch, making use of the free breakfast at your hotel or bed and breakfast. Budget more if you intend to buy a lot of clothes and other goods while you’re in Rome — just a word to the wise that shopping in Rome can be expensive. July is a good month to shop in Rome as many sales take place starting the first weekend in Italy.
I think that it’s important to know what you want to do while you’re there. I’m not a shopper – I don’t usually buy much in the way of clothes or other high ticket items. I purchase mainly books, some household goods, sometimes olive oil and wine. If you expect to do a lot of shopping, you’ll need to bring more money. If you want to spend a lot of time outdoors and seeing the sites, you can probably get by with less money. Just keep in mind that museum entry fees can add up – try to take advantage of tourist cards (Roma Pass, for example) where you can visit multiple museums and sites for a set price. Many age related discounts in Rome (may) apply only to members of the EU so don’t rely on that to save money, but it never hurts to ask (especially for students and those over 65 years of age. The more you want to do in Rome, the more you will need to spend.
Having a rough plan of what you want to do and see is important and can help you budget. You don’t need to map out every minute of your vacation, but sketching out some ideas of places you want to visit, things you want to buy, and other activities will help you plan your trip, make your money last longer, and avoid any surprises when you get your first credit card statement after your trip. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to have a great vacation but be careful that you do not overdo it. A vacation can become dull very quickly if you spend more time watching your money than you do having fun!