City bus systems can be a financial lifesaver; they are far more economical than taxis if you are trying to get around the city without walking. They also provide a unique perspective, and allow you to see the city in a different way (sometimes we like to just ride them and see where we end up!). To foreigners and tourists bus systems usually seem like a complex logistical nightmare, scaring site-seers and threatening to ruin the whole vacation. Here are a few tips to taking advantage of the public transportation and saving a few dollars. In this post, we focus on the Roman bus system (just like in the U.S., most cities or counties have their own separate bus systems that do have some similarities and crossovers), but if you have any questions about buses in a specific city, leave them in the comments below!
There are several different types of tickets or passes that you can buy. Which one you buy depends on how long you are planning to stay in Rome, and how frequently you want to use the bus. Bus passes in Rome are good for both the bus and the metro!
Bus passes can be purchased at machines located in metro stops, as well as at a few bus stops. They can also be bought at tabacchi (tobacco shops, more like tiny convenience stores). Although in most cities in Europe you can buy bus tickets on the bus for a slightly higher price, this is a rare case in Rome. Don’t bet on buying a last-minute ticket on the bus!
Validate your ticket by inserting it into the small yellow machine once on board the bus. On the metro system, validation is usually done when you enter a gate to the platform. Bus tickets in Italy are good for any day and time after purchase, so you must validate it when you decide to use it. If you are found with an unvalidated ticket, you can be subject to hefty fines. (And if one machine doesn't work, go find another one! We speak from experience - learn form our mistakes!)
In this modern day and age, the Roman transportation website is the best bet for figuring out which bus to take, especially if you are planning your trip in advance and have access to the internet. The website has an English version, which you can get to by clicking the small British flag in the top right hand corner. At the bottom of the homepage is a simple tool to help you find the best bus route for your itinerary. Although the website will display times, buses often run late or on their own schedule in Rome. You can also purchase a map showing all of the bus routes at any newsstand you see for just a couple of Euros. Although this information might seem overwhelming, public transportation is a great and economic way to get around the city. As we said earlier, it provides a whole new perspective of the city, and you get to interact with locals (or at least people watch)! Try to enjoy the ride!