By Kalina Davis
Rome is a magnificent city bursting with rich history, art, and culture. Paying a visit to the “eternal city” can be one of the most memorable experiences of your life. However, despite the sophistication and class, Rome runs on a somewhat unpredictable and confusing transportation system, and without the proper preparation, your trip to Rome could be marked by frustration and confusion rather than enjoyment and leisure. But not to worry! With the right knowledge and some patience, anyone can tackle Rome’s transportation system.
Here is some information along with a few to tips on how to take advantage of Roman transportation so you can make the most of your time there:
Maps and information
An important step to take before you use any of the ATAC (Rome’s major public transportation company) services is to purchase a city map. It is helpful to get a visual layout of the city and where public transportation runs. For more specific transportation information, visit the ATAC website (http://www.metrebus.it/index.asp?lingua=ENG). It provides, routes, maps, and other helpful information. Rome’s transportation system is known for occasional strikes that interrupt the regular transportation running times, so it is important to check for any planned delays and interruptions ahead of time.
For travelers with smart phones, I recommend downloading the Google Maps app. When I was living in Rome, this app saved me from getting lost many times as I navigated my way through the city. With this app, you can search your destination while you are in an area with Wi-Fi. If you choose the public transportation option, the app will list several different routes with directions on how to get to your destination, including what bus, tram, or Metro to take, and the names of the stops. Once you start a route, the app will continue to allow you to follow the map even after you leave Wi-Fi. This makes traveling around Rome much less stressful.
Tickets for buses, trams, and the subway can be bought in tobacco (tabacchi) shops, newsstands, and most coffee bars. Additionally, there are ticket booths located in many Metro stations. The most common ticket to buy is the integrated time ticket. This ticket costs €1,50, and it is valid for 100 minutes after it is first validated. If you are staying in Rome for an extended amount of time, weekly passes (€24) and monthly passes (€35) are also available. Additional ticket information can be found on the ATAC website (http://www.metrebus.it/page.asp?p=229).
It is important to note that you must validate your ticket before or as soon as you get on all forms of public transportation. Uniformed transportation officers will board buses, trams, and the subway from time to time to check for tickets. Even if you have a ticket with you, if it is not validated, you could be fined up to €50 or more. These transportation officers are not very compassionate to excuses from tourists.
Learning how to properly use Rome’s bus system beforehand is crucial in order to get to the accurate destinations without any trouble. The ATAC buses run from approximately 6 a.m. to midnight. Some lines do offer night buses, and this will be indicated on the signs with an “N.” It is important to note what lines offer night buses to ensure you don’t get stranded somewhere in the middle of the night.
As you wait for a bus at a stop or fermata, it is crucial to make sure you are on the correct side of the street. The signs at the stop will provide information for which stops that particular line will go to. The stop you are at will be indicated on the sign with a rectangle. If the stop you are trying to get to is below the rectangle, you are on the correct side. If it is above, you must cross the street to the bus stop on the other side.
When you plan to use the bus system, it is important to leave plenty of time to get to your destination. Buses in Rome can be quite unpredictable, and do not always arrive at a stop when they are supposed to. Expect delays. For certain routes it can be faster to walk, which isn’t always a bad thing. Walking provides you with the chance to see the city in a different and more personal way.
Once you are on the right bus, make sure you validate your ticket in the yellow machine at the front or back of the bus immediately. Pay attention to the stops throughout the bus’s route so you are able to get out at the right place. Some buses do not stop at every bus stop on the route, so if you know your stop is coming up, it is wise to press one of the red buttons located throughout the bus to let the driver know he should make the next stop. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
Trams are another transportation option in Rome. They operate very similarly to the bus system. However, they are much bigger, offering more seating, and they come much more frequently than buses. In most cases, you will have to wait a maximum of 15 minutes until the next tram arrives at a stop. The tram system has six lines running through the city. One of the newest and most popular lines is Tram 8, which runs through the Trastevere and Gianicoleses neighborhoods to the historic center of Rome. Besides these few differences, you can follow the same rules that apply to the bus system.
Rome’s underground subway, or Metropolitana, has two lines, red and blue. These lines intersect at Termini Station. On city maps, the Metro is marked by a red “M.” The Metro runs from 5:30 a.m. to midnight. On most occasions, each train will come frequently and consistently. In the station, follow the signs to get to the right train. You will be directed to validate your ticket before being able to board the train. Once on the train, there will be a digital board in each car indicating the next stop. Additionally, each station will have the name of the stop, making it clear when your desired stop has arrived.
On all of these forms of transportation, it is important to be wary of thieves. Buses, trams, and subways can become very crowded, providing a perfect opportunity for a skilled pickpocket to cause some mischief. Keep your belongings close to you and within eyesight. Avoid bringing large amounts of money, credit cards, and important documents with you while you are using public transportation in Rome.
Taxis in Rome can be called by phone. When you call for a taxi, pronounce the address where you desire to be picked up as clearly as possible. The operator will then give you the number of the car, and the estimated time it will take to arrive.
Taxis can also be found at stands stationed around the city. When trying to find a taxi, look for white or yellow licensed cabs with a numbered shield on the side and a taxi sign on the roof. Unmarked or unmetered cabs will take advantage of travelers, charging high prices for their services, and they are often unreliable.
For regular taxis, the meter will start at about €2-4. Expect additional fees for service between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
With these tips, you are well on your way to becoming a Roman transportation pro! Being prepared for this part of your trip will help ensure that the rest of your trip will be an enjoyable and memorable experience.
Go Travel, and Travel Fearless.
Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel
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