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20 travel tips every first-time Rome visitor should follow

Whether you are a Roman novice or expert, these travel trips for Rome should be followed at all times

Livia Hengel
Written by
Livia Hengel

Don’t get us wrong, Rome is a very friendly place. But it’s not always the easiest to navigate. And unless you want to find yourself waiting for a coffee for three hours or queueing for the Vatican for three hours, there are some things you should know before you go.

And don’t panic. Our local writer Livia Hengel has the inside scoop on every rule, custom and hack for the big city. If you want to absolutely smash a weekend in Rome, read this list (and read it before you go. Trust us). Here is every travel tip you’ll need to do Rome as the Romans do. 

📍 The best things to do in Rome 
🍝 The best restaurants in Rome
🏛️ Unmissable attractions in Rome
🛍️ Where to go shopping in Rome
🏨 The best hotels in Rome

Livia Hengel is a writer based in Rome. At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines

Travel tips for visiting Rome

Don’t order a cappuccino after noon
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1. Don’t order a cappuccino after noon

You may or may not have seen this one crop up on TikTok from time to time. But basically, don’t you dare order a cappuccino after noon. Cappuccinos are thought of as heavy drinks more suitable for breakfast, and paired with a cornetto. If you’re craving one in the afternoon, order a caffè macchiato instead. 

…But gelato is acceptable any time, any season
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Derek Key

2. …But gelato is acceptable any time, any season

Great news for gelato lovers. You can order one of these bad boys anywhere, anytime. Before lunch, after lunch, whatever you desire. The gelato world is your oyster in Rome, and their flavours change seasonally, so you’ll never get bored. Think ciccolato fondente (dark chocolate), pistacchio and mandorla (almonds). Delicious. 

Buy Vatican tickets online to skip the line
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3. Buy Vatican tickets online to skip the line

Housing one of the world’s greatest collections, the Vatican Museums are one of Italy’s most popular attractions, visited by over 5 million people annually. Though you’ll inevitably face a crowd, you can skip the long lines by purchasing your museum tickets on the Vatican website. The extra Euros for booking online are well worth the time you’ll save by not waiting in line.

Free museums on first Sundays
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/David Blackwell

4. Free museums on first Sundays

Rome’s state-owned museums, galleries, archaeological sites, parks and gardens are free on the first Sunday of each month, so be sure to drop by and soak in some art if you’re in town these days. Lines quickly form outside the main attractions, so plan to show up early or visit a lesser-known destination (warning: you’ll still need to pay a fee to browse through special exhibitions).

Note museum closures

5. Note museum closures

Many of Rome’s city and state-owned museums, like Galleria Borghese and Palazzo Barberini, are closed on Mondays, so plan your schedule accordingly. The Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays instead, so they’re very crowded on Saturdays and Mondays; if you can, try to visit Tuesday through Friday.

Order coffee at the bar
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6. Order coffee at the bar

Have you guessed the Italians are quite particular about their coffee yet? Coffee etiquette actually makes up a fair few of the biggest culinary crimes you can commit in the capital. You might notice people in Rome tend to order an espresso and drink it standing up, before even leaving the bar. That’s the way things are done. Italians don’t order coffee from the table and have it brought to them, and in fact, that’ll likely slap you with service charge and almost double your bill. Do as the Romans do, and neck that espresso before you go anywhere. 

Buy bus tickets ahead of time
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/linssimato

7. Buy bus tickets ahead of time

Rome’s public transportation leaves much to be desired, but if you need to take a bus in the city centre, stock up on bus tickets ahead of time because you can’t buy them on the bus. You can buy tickets at any tabaccheria in the city, little convenient shops that are designated with a large T. Tickets are €1.50 each, or opt for a 24-hour, 48-hour or weekly ticket for a discounted price. Tickets are valid for all forms of public transportation in Rome (bus, metro, tram and local train).

Take your bus ticket straight to the beach
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia Commons/Arnaud 25

8. Take your bus ticket straight to the beach

Speaking of public transportation, your €1.50 ticket is also valid on the local commuter trains in Rome, including a line that goes straight to the beach. You can catch a train at the Piramide Metro Station that will take you directly to Ostia Lido, Rome’s local beach. Although it’s not the most glamorous beach near Rome, Ostia is perfect for an inexpensive day trip, with some sunshine and fresh seafood.

Dress modestly in church
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9. Dress modestly in church

Rome has over 900 churches that house some of the city’s most beautiful works of art, so don’t miss stepping inside to marvel at their treasures, whether you’re devout or not. Just be sure to dress appropriately to enter these holy spaces: women’s shoulders should be covered, and skirts should hit at or below the knee, while men should wear pants or shorts that extend to the knees. Linen pants are a great option for the summer, and a scarf is a perfect last-minute cover-up if you’re wearing a tank top.

Watch your bags
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10. Watch your bags

Always be mindful of your bags on public transportation and around key tourist attractions. The city is safe, but petty crime is rampant, especially on crowded buses and metros. Thieves in Rome are stealthy, so always keep your bags zipped and held in front of you; wallets should ideally be tucked in your inner jacket pockets. Some thieves also snatch bags, so keep them in close reach at all times.

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