I have been taking public transport in Rome since the very first day I got there. It’s not because I don’t have an Italian driver’s license (which I studied a lot for and this story is for another day) but parking and people driving with so much disorder just freaks me out.
Although public transport in Rome may not be the most efficient, it gets me where I need to go without having to deal with parking. There are some places in Rome where finding parking is close to impossible! Getting to places takes time so plan well ahead as you never know how long you need to wait for a bus.
I have had to inform many friends how to use the public transport in Rome and been approached by tourists. It can be confusing but it is actually very simple. I hope to provide you with sufficient information to help you easily take public transport in Rome.
Guide to Taking Public Transport in Rome
As this topic is very extensive, it is broken down into several parts. Part 1 is about the types of tickets, where to buy them and validating them. The second part of this series will cover the metro routes and how to check bus routes. Let’s get started with Part 1.
Types of Tickets
If you are visiting Rome, there are mainly 4 tickets which you would consider purchasing depending on your needs and length of stay.
Updated May 22, 2012 - Effective May 25 2012, there is going to be a price increase in all the tickets mentioned below. They have been noted accordingly. More details on the official website (Italian).
1. Biglietto Integrato a Tempo (BIT) – Integrated Time Ticket – Cost €1.50
This ticket is valid for 75 minutes 100 minutes from the time it is validated. You can use it to take unlimited number of rides with buses and trams within that time frame but it is only valid for 1 metro ride.
Updated – With the new fare of €1.50 the validity of the ticket has been extended to 100 minutes. If you still have €1 tickets, they are valid until July 31st. After that period from August 1st to October 31st, you can turn them in and pay the price difference.
2. Biglietto Integrato Giornaliero (BIG) – Integrated Daily Ticket – Cost €6
This ticket is valid for the day with unlimited buses, trams and metro rides. What you need to keep in mind is that it’s not valid for 24 hours from the time it is validated but rather it is only good to midnight of the day it is used.
If you have the ticket validated at 10.00am it doesn’t mean it’s good until 10.00am the next day! Friends and family usually get worked up over this but then they admit that in general, the cost of public transport in Rome is inexpensive.
3. Biglietto Turisto Integrato (BTI) – Integrated Tourist Ticket – Cost €16.50
This ticket is valid for 3 days with unlimited buses, trams and metro rides. It’s valid until midnight of the 3rd day and not 72 hours.
4. Carta Integrata Settimanale (CIS) – Integrated Weekly Ticket – Cost €24
This ticket is valid for 7 days with unlimited buses, trams and metro rides. It’s valid until midnight of the last day.
If you are here in Rome for a month, there is also the monthly pass. It costs €35 with unlimited usage on buses, trams and metro.
For more information, please visit the ATAC website (Azienda Tramvie ed Autobus del Comune di Roma). ATAC is basically Rome’s public transport authority.
Public Transport in Rome – Where To Purchase Tickets
Now you know which tickets are available, where do you buy them? Unlike most places, you need to buy the ticket before boarding public transport in Rome.
However, that is slowly changing as some buses now have machines where you can buy BIT tickets on board. To be safe, buy the tickets before you get on because you don’t which bus has this option.
There are several places which to purchase tickets and monthly pass.
1. Tabbacaio (Tobbaconist) – You can spot them easily as they will have this sign outside. Updated: A friend wanted to buy a ticket and naturally, we stopped at the tabbacaio. They said, they had run out of them too but fortunately, the next one had tickets.
2. Newstands – However, not all newstands have the tickets.
3. Automatic Machines - You usually find them in the Metro stations and usually there is one near a main bus terminal.
You can choose the language so it’s easy to use it and shows the different types of ticket options. The monthly pass cannot be bought from these machines. If you want to buy a monthly pass, you can do so at the tabacchi shops.
When buying from these automated machines, keep in mind that they can’t give you back change of more than €4. I once saw a tourist who bought four BIT tickets (€4 in total) and he was putting in a €10 and the machine kept spitting it out. He couldn’t figure out why and I pointed this sign out to him as a possible cause.
4. On Buses – Again, not all buses have this and so you are better off buying tickets before getting on. As you can see from the photo below, you can only purchase BIT tickets and you need to have exact coins!
Updated May 22, 2012 – These machines are currently out of service as they are being upgraded to issue tickets at the new price. They will be in service again after May 28th, 2012
One common question I get is what if you don’t have tickets to get on the bus or tram. It’s not the bus driver’s job to check if you have a ticket before getting on so you could technically still get on board. However, there are conductors who randomly come on board to check if everyone has a ticket.
How often has this happened? From my own experience, I have seen them do checks about 4-5 times a year and usually the first week of the month.
And if you get caught without a ticket? That has happened me to once as I completely forgot to buy a monthly pass at the beginning of the month. I got a fine of €50 if paid on the spot or double if you pay later. I asked them “Do you take credit cards?” and yes I was serious. Obviously, they said no and I had to find an ATM to pay them cash!
Important – Validate the Tickets
If you take the metro, the ticket is automatically validated as you need to insert it before going through the gates. Insert the tickets usually with the back up and in the direction of the arrow.
Don’t forget to take the ticket before going through the gates. You may get checked when you exit at your destination.
Buses and Trams
Having a ticket and not validating it is the same as not having a ticket. When you get on board, validate your ticket at the yellow validation machines. There is one at the front and another at the back of the bus.
Once your ticket is validated, you will see the time that it was validated and if you have bought a BIT (valid for 100 minutes) it would also show you the time it expires. See the new BIT ticket above
Even if you are taking the Leonardo Express from the Airport to Termini Station, you also need to validate your tickets.
If the validation machines are out of order (and it happens!), using a pen, write down the date and time of travel on the ticket.
While this post covers getting around with public transport in Rome, you may want to venture past the walls of the city and explore the Lazio region. Here’s a very informative post on traveling in Lazio using public transportation.
Hopefully, with Part 2 of Public Transport in Rome you will have sufficient information to help get around the city with ease. In my opinion, taking public transport in Rome is probable the best way in getting around as it is affordable and covers the main sites.