Rome tourist traps, things to avoidRome is a city that has established itself at the peak of foreign appeal and intrigue. It is a cultural hub of Italy’s finest, which will undoubtedly leave a distinct impression on even the most jaded.
Putting aside the ‘romanticism’ for a moment, it is important to educate oneself on the possible tourist traps that are common in a big city, and those that are authentic to Rome itself.
"WHAT TO AVOID when visiting Rome"
(1) CHOOSING THE WRONG TIME OF YEAR TO TRAVEL
When planning your trip, it is wise to strategically choose what time of year to travel. June and July are the high peak months, due to being the most convenient. However it is also a time where crowds are at their height and a morning tour of the Vatican can easily turn into a full day affair, where most of your precious time is wasted in a sluggish paced, sweat induced queue.
In considering particular time periods, especially the month of July, bear in mind that the temperature can be extremely hot and humid, and crowds will be at their height, possibly making the overall experience of travelling and sightseeing, an uncomfortable one.
(2) COMPROMISING YOUR SAFETY WITH YOUR MONEY
Like any big city the level of safety and security is indeed an opportunity cost. One problem is the incidence of pick pocketing that exists. It is particularly prevalent on crowded metros and in popular tourist domains. Therefore it is necessary to always keep an eye on your bag. Some people feel more at ease by wearing safely concealed money belts. In any case it is wise not to carry a large amount of money or credit cards on you.
Many of these pick pocketers are ‘gypsys’ who are illegal immigrants that reside on the outskirts of the city. They may lull you in a false sense of security by often being women and children, thus don’t be fooled by age or gender. A gypsy child handing you a rose may melt your heart, but once you take that rose, an adult will suddenly appear demanding payment.
There is a notorious bus link n.64 which is infamous for beening frequently targeted by pick pocketers and purse snatchers, avoid this bus at all costs.
Lastly avoid Termini station late at night, as it will be occupied by undesirables and its level of safety will be low. During the day the station is filled with commuters and is relatively safe.
Many of the locals are extremely canny in dealing with a ‘novice’ of their culture. A foreigner is often easy to detect and the reality is your monetary contribution will often derive unwanted interest. Be aware of your surroundings at all times and be prepared to encounter and handle situations where illicit dealings may take place.
(3) CHANGING MONEY FROM UNKOWN MONEY CHANGERS ON THE STREET
When changing money the best idea is to shop around if possible. Many money changers especially those in stations and airports can charge a commission in excess of 10%. This commission is also often not evident to the public. If in doubt of any extra charges, don’t be hesitant to ask. If someone approaches you on the street offering excellent exchange rates (specifically for you) keep walking, ethical money changers tend not to be in the habit of scouting for clientele.
(4) TAKING ILLEGAL, UNMARKED TAXIS
Rome like many big cities is infamous for over charging of cab fares, especially for unsuspecting tourists. There are a large proportion of illegal unmarked taxis that are on the road. Thus make sure you always enter a cab that is registered and has a meter. If the cab does not have a meter make sure you negotiate your price before accepting the ride. Strategically negotiating the price before you enter the vehicle is more viable.
(5) PAYING EXORBITANT FARES TAKING TAXIS TO AND FROM THE AIRPORT
Taxis from the airports can be extremely expensive and they are certainly in abundance once you exit Fiumicino or Ciampino. Fiumicino has a train called the ‘Leonardo Express’ every half an hour which transports people to and from the airport to Termini station in the centre of Rome. Ciampino has a shuttle service ‘Terravision’ which will also transport you directly to Termini Station. These are far more economical options and are extremely convenient.
(6) ON THE STREET DEALING WITH…
There are a variety of individuals you may encounter on the street, such as over friendly vendors, unofficial tour guides, and costumed gladiators!
- FORCEFUL STREET VENDORS
In regards to the street vendors they can, at times, be a tad invasive and forceful. If they become a nuisance, ignore their advances, make very clear you are not interested and keep on walking.
- UNOFFICIAL TOUR GUIDES
Around monumental sites, especially Vatican City, you may be approached by unofficial tour guides. You are not obligated to pay them anything other than a tip as they are often only scouting tourists to practice their knowledge and expertise on. Regardless of their intention, ask outright if payment is involved, to avoid any potential confusion.
- COSTUMED GLADIATORS
The costumed gladiators outside the Colosseum are definitely a sight worth seeing. However before you have your photograph taken with them, know that a ‘customary fee’ is part of the equation. Many a tourist has found themselves in a modern day battle to the tune of five Euros and up. In order to avoid unleashing any pent up, medieval aggression, don’t take any pictures with the gladiators, unless you’re prepared to hand over the funds.
(7) RESTAURANTS WHICH ARE NOT UP TO STANDARD
In terms of cost and quality, the restaurants in Rome can often be wide and varied. When looking for authentic, high quality Italian cuisine, don’t assume every restaurant in Rome provides this standard. A good idea is to ask around and get suggestions from locals. There will certainly be many examples of excellent restaurants where their reputations have preceded them.
In regards to prices, generally speaking restaurants that are in the historical centre with views of the Vatican and so forth will be a lot more expensive than those that are not in the direct vicinity.
(8) WEARING INAPPROPRIATE FOOTWEAR
Walking in Rome is indeed the best way to see all the sights and follow the tourist trail. Rome is often conjested with traffic, which makes the exercise of walking an easier option. Most of what you see and do in Rome will be experienced on foot; thus it is wise to invest in shoes that are comfortable.
Rome also has a lot of cobbled streets and uneven territory, especially around the Roman ruins, so heels and precarious footwear are not advisable.
As much as you may envision yourself strolling down the Spanish quarter in heels that capture the elegance of Audrey Hepburn in ‘A Roman Holiday’, your feet will be cursing your narcism.
(9) BUYING WATER FROME STREET CARTS OR RESTAURANTS
It is always a good idea to take a water bottle along with you, as you will need to replenish to avoid possible dehydration. Purchasing water from snack carts and restaurants can prove to be a costly exercise. A good option is to purchase water from a supermarket. If you carry an empty bottle on you though, there are plenty of places in Rome where you can always fill up.
Generally speaking, public watering places are very safe in Rome. If you are unsure look out for the term ‘Non Potabile’, which means non drinkable water.
(10) ONE THING YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO AVOID........FALLING IN LOVE WITH ROME
Rome wasn’t built in a day and seeing and experiencing all its enticements and offerings is no minor feat. Thus if you find yourself falling in love with the city make sure you throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain… this will ensure that you will return again.