Tourist Traps in Rome

Tourist Traps in Rome – Which Ones to Visit and How to Avoid the Others

There has long been a saying in Rome, and it goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. This saying couldn’t be more truthful, especially if you are trying to avoid all the tourist traps that this historical vacation destination is known for. It is a known fact that many of the local Romans are not visiting some of these destinations, so you probably shouldn’t either. While you don’t need to skip past every single tourist trap in Rome, there are a few that you could very well live without.

Restaurants with Menus in Every Language

When you come across a restaurant that has a menu translated into English, as well as many other languages in the world, you are going to want to walk in the other direction. These restaurants cater to tourists and we can guarantee that you will not get a delicious and authentic Italian meal in any of them. We recommend choosing a restaurant that is off the beaten path, where the menu is in Italian.

You will find many of the touristy restaurants within Piazza Navona, so try not to go there when you are hungry. Instead, walk down one of the side streets until you reach a restaurant that only the locals know about. If you are having difficulty finding local restaurants, find a local supermarket and purchase foods to eat at a local park.

Gelato Carts

While we are on the subject of foods and the tourist traps for purchasing them, we might as well get you squared away with gelato. You are going to want to eat gelato every single day when you are in Rome but stay away from the gelato carts if you want the best gelato available. Those gelato carts normally charge twice of what you will pay for better tasting gelato in a non-tourist area of the city.

Costumed Gladiators at the Colosseum

There are always a bunch of people dressed up in costume to look like gladiators at the Colosseum. Tourists normally do not think much of these gladiators until they try to get their picture with one or two and then need to fork over some serious euros. We do get the appeal of getting your picture taken with these gladiators, but it is probably a tourist move you want to skip unless you are truly ready to pay the fee.

The Colosseum

Speaking of the Colosseum, this is another Roman attraction that gets super packed most days. While that will make it scream tourist trap to many people, it is still a destination you must visit. To avoid some of the touristy parts, you may want to consider taking a guided tour and visiting in the early hours of the day.

The Trevi Fountain Plus the Other Fountains in the City

The Trevi Fountain is the most popular of all the fountains in Rome and that is why you may be tempted to avoid it altogether. However, we urge you to take the time to see this fountain and toss the required coins into it. After all, we know how so many of those coins have made peoples’ wishes come true over the years and we want your wishes to come true as well.

You can skip many of the other fountains in Rome and if you do decide to stop at one, take pictures and skip throwing some coins in. You can then use those extra coins you accumulate for an additional gelato or two.

The Vatican

You can’t really call the Vatican a tourist trap, because this is a city, well state, that is comprised of a lot of history. Plus, the Pope lives there. However, it can be perceived as a tourist trap, because there are always people lined up on the streets. The least busy days for a visit are Tuesdays and Thursdays, so you may want to plan your time there accordingly. It is also a good idea to hire a tour guide, because that will allow you to skip the long lines and see a few things that other people do not get to see.

If you are not in the mood for yet another tour, or you simply don’t want to try to find the perfect tour guide, there is nothing wrong with aimlessly wandering around the Vatican on your own. When you choose to walk around the Vatican in this way, you can spend hours in areas that appeal to you the most, while simply skipping the places you do not find too intriguing.

The Catacombs

If you are claustrophobic, you might want to avoid the tourist trap called the Catacombs. If you are not, then embrace the crowds and pay your respects to the rows upon rows of the deceased.

The Hills of Rome

There are seven hills within Rome, and you will want to avoid them all, with the exception of Palatine Hill. This one hill offers incredible views, despite the major crowds, and you may find that you are standing up there much longer than you anticipated.

The Pantheon

The Pantheon is one of those Roman attractions that you can pass on by most of the time, especially if you have been to Rome before. However, if you can plan your visit for between the hours of eleven in the morning and one in the afternoon, you must enter to see the entire inside lit up from the sun shining high in the sky. The internal glow is from the hole in the top of the Pantheon, directly in the center, and those two hours of the day are when the sun shines in the brightest.

Unofficial Tour Guides

Unfortunately, unofficial tour guides are plentiful in Rome, so you will want to do your research before you arrive. Not only can an unofficial tour guide potentially charge you more, they can also give you a lot less for your money. You won’t need to worry about anything happening to you if you hire one of these unofficial tour guides, but you will lose out on the money you paid. The unofficial tour guide though will be fined and hopefully prevented from taking advantage of another tourist in the future. It is best to go through official websites that offer online tickets and tour packages, so you know you are working with authentic tour guides and not someone looking to make a quick buck.

Authentic versus Not as Authentic Neighborhoods

Since Rome has turned into a major tourist destination over the years, it shouldn’t be too surprising that many of the neighborhoods have turned into tourist traps. While it can be difficult to avoid some of those neighborhoods, it is better if you stay in the neighborhoods that are still considered the authentic part of the city. The best authentic Roman neighborhoods include San Lorenzo, Testaccio, Pigneto, and Ostiense.

Don’t Sit at Cafés when Ordering Coffee

You might be accustomed to ordering your regular cup of joe back home and then taking it to a table to sit and relax, but you won’t be able to do that in Rome unless you are willing to pay double for that coffee. When you order a cup of coffee at the bar, you will pay a lower price, but then you must leave and drink your coffee elsewhere. If you want to sit and experience the life of the locals at a coffee shop, or at least watch the locals order their coffee, you will pay upwards of twice the price for that same cup. If there is more than one person in your group, the extra cost for the table, or chairs, will be for each person.

It is usually not worth it to pay the extra euros for coffee in Rome, simply so you can sit in the café. However, at certain cafés like Sant’Eustachio or Antico Caffè Greco, it is definitely worth it to pay the extra euros once. This ensures you are capable of seeing the history that is everywhere within these cafés.

The Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps are very crowded and not worthy of a second glance during the daytime hours, but that all changes at night when most tourists are exhausted, the stores are closed, and the stars come out in the nighttime sky. This is the best time to grab a glass of wine, or a cup of gelato, and simply sit on these stairs as you watch the night grow later and later.

The Galleria Borghese

Many people venture inside the Galleria Borghese to see the numerous exhibits of paintings, antiques, and sculptures. We recommend you skip the inside and focus on the gardens outside instead. This large open green space is perfect for picnic lunches before walking around and stopping at the little zoo. Afterwards, you can easily go to the Piazza del Popolo. This is a destination you may not have noticed if you hadn’t spent time outside the Galleria.

Long Lines

Many of the attractions within Rome have thousands of people visit them on any day of the year. All those people mean super long lines that you are going to want to avoid unless you love standing under the blistering sun for two hours or more before you reach your destination. The best way to avoid standing in these lines is to simply go online and purchase your attraction tickets prior to your visit. You can purchase admission tickets, as well as tour tickets, for many of the popular attractions, including the Vatican and the Colosseum. It will only take you minutes to book your online tickets and while that may seem like forever during the regular hustle and bustle of your life, it will be nothing compared to the time you are losing by standing in line when you are in Rome.

Local Transportation

Many tourists end up falling for the trap of paying way too much for local transportation when they are in Rome. Either they are falling for some of the informal taxis, because they do not see an official taxi in sight, or they are not confirming the price before they enter the taxi. The other thing that oftentimes happens with unsuspecting tourists is they will agree on the price, but then pay using larger bills. The driver sees the extra money and claims they do not have change to give back. This is how they make a lot more than they should from tourists every single day of the week.

There are a few recommendations for using local transportation while visiting Rome. First, always use an official taxi, or a safe riding app like Uber Black. Second, make sure you know exactly what you will owe at the end of the ride before you enter the vehicle. Third, it is recommended that you have plenty of small bills with you to use to pay for local transportation. This will ensure you are not swindled out of your money when the driver claims to have no change. Instead, you can simply hand over the amount owed in small bills and walk away.

As you can see, it is impossible to avoid all the tourist traps within Rome, because some of them are simply must-see attractions. However, it is imperative that you skip past some of the true tourist traps, because your experience at them will be less than stellar.

The main tourist traps we urge you to avoid are all those touristy restaurants and gelato carts. After all, you are probably planning a trip to Rome to taste some of the incredible cuisine and we guarantee you won’t find what you are looking for at the tourist locations. Therefore, wander down those side streets and venture a little further from the tourist attractions, so you can find the authentic restaurants and cafés that the locals have come to love all this time.
By doing all these things, you can truly appreciate everything this city has to offer, tourist traps and all.