Rome for students: Discounts, advice, and strategies
Traveling as a student has both of its benefits and its downsides. One of the good things is that you can often find some better deals and some promotions that are specifically geared toward your age group.
However, knowing which one of these promotions to accept can be hard — especially in a large city like Rome where there is so much to do and see.
Here are some ways you can most take advantage of the Eternal City as a student and even for non-student backpackers trying to get the most out of a visit on a low budget.
Accommodations for a Fair Price
The good thing about finding a place in Rome is that it usually isn’t very hard. With so many people coming in and out, you know that unless there’s a specific event going on, you are sure to find something within your price range. Booking online is usually the best way to find out which place can offer you the best rates.
Hotel or hostel?
If you are a student traveling for the first time, you might be a little hesitant about booking a hostel. Whether you are traveling with friends or by yourself, choosing the right one for you can be a challenge because there are so many different options for around the same price.
If you feel uncomfortable with booking a hostel, there are also some hotels for a little bit more. (€25 a night compared to €50 or €60.) It all depends how much you have saved for this trip and how adventurous you want to be. Keep in mind that there is a Roman tax that you will be required to pay when you check in.
Technically, if you are staying at a hostel you shouldn’t have to pay anything, but very few “hostels” are actually registered as such, so you will probably have to pay around €2 per person per night.
Location is important — and travel with friends!
You might want to keep location in mind when you are looking at places, as well. There’s an overflow of hotels and hostels to stay at around the train station, which means that you have just a short walk from one place to another with your baggage.
Also, some hostels or hotels will offer discounts if you are a group of students traveling together. If you have any friends who have always wanted to see Rome, this is the time to do it!
Seeing sights for less
As a student, no place is better suited to what you might be learning in class than in Rome. If you can only afford to be there a few days, knowing which places to visit and which you can save for another time can be helpful.
Rome is a city layered and layered in history, so you know you will always find something worth a look—even if it’s just walking along the ancient Roman streets.
No visit to Rome is complete without a trip to the Vatican. The museum is almost always crowded, so you will want to book your tickets online. You can also get a discount by doing so as a student. The student ticket price is €8 plus fees, so it comes around to €12.
You will be glad you did when you are able to skip the long line outside. Remember to bring your student ID and passport just in case the ticket office requires it, and you will want something to cover your shoulders when you enter the Sistine Chapel — it’s a sign of disrespect if you walk in with bare shoulders.
You will also want to at least see the outside of the Coliseum. A walk around the perimeter is free, and in some places online you can get a reduced ticket student ticket for €7.50.
Depending how badly you want to see the interior, you can usually peek in from the outside and get the general idea of what the structure is like. Tours can be expensive, so it’s often better to download a free brochure off the website so you can get some information on how it was built and what kind of events were held there.
What about a guide?
The Forum is right nearby, but it also costs money to get into. If you are sure that you want to see everything in the area, you might want to consider buying a pass that will let you visit several different museums and ruins for a base price. However, these can be spendy and can cost up to €36 for several days.
I couldn’t find a student pass with a discount, otherwise I might have made the investment in order to see some of the museums. Tours can be a good way to see everything you need to and to get the information you might need in class. Keep in mind that they can often cost a lot if you use a professional guide.
Don’t forget to look into some free walking tours. Even though they don’t have an air-conditioned bus for you, you can still learn a lot for nothing.
There are some things you can do for free.
The Spanish Steps are a must-see, and the best time to see them is during the afternoon when you can grab a gelato and rest after the walk up. There’s usually something always going on there, so if you are in the mood to people-watch, this is the best place to do it.
Also, the Pantheon is worth your time, as well. The Renaissance artist Raphael is buried there, and it has been standing as a structure since the first century AD. It’s free to enter, and no place in the city can transport you back to ancient times quite like the Pantheon.
Food on a student budget
Italy’s obsession with food is no secret, and Rome can give you some of the best if you know the right restaurants to look for. However, don’t expect to be able to afford it all if you are on a budget.
It’s also notoriously expensive, so if this is high on your list, you might have to think about how much you really want to see another museum and whether you would rather spend it on a full-course meal.
Rome has the worst prices in terms of food in Italy, and you will end up paying for more for a plate of carbonara here than anywhere else. Restaurants by the Spanish Steps charge up to €14 for a primi pasta — much more than you will pay for in a city like Florence.
There are some places that charge around €8 for a dish, but it’s hard to call these quality restaurants as they are usually just tabacchi shops with seating in front of them.
If you don’t care about the quality of the food, this might be the best place to sit down and have a quick meal before running off to some other sights. Also, you might want to think about ordering one or two antipasti instead. These are often half the price and the portions are still large.
Save money with street food
Street food is another way to get more for the price you pay. It’s not usually high quality, but it can serve as an easy way to fill your stomach while you are on the go.
Suppli is a quick, easy fried dish made from rice, ragu sauce, and hot and toasty mozzarella inside.
You might also want to consider a pizza by the slice — Roman pizza is unlike any other in Italy, and it’s easy to grab and go.
The best thing about street food is really how little it costs. From about €3.50 to €7.50, you can enjoy a quick meal for a bargain and continue on your way to more sights.
Also, aperitivo is another solution to the high prices of dinner. For the price of a drink (which is still higher than you would find in most of Italy) around €8, you can enjoy a small buffet of local dishes and finger foods.
Though it might not fill you up all the way if you have been walking all day, some places give discounts to students if you join a Roman pub crawl or similar event.
Student Card — Worth it?
Depending on your location and where you are planning on traveling, a student card might be a good investment. It costs very little (around US$25) and you can often get a discount at hostels around Europe. It can also help you acquire cheaper seats on select airlines.
How can a Student Card help me in Italy?
Specifically in Italy and in Rome, a student card will most often help you when you want to get into museums or churches — the ticket prices for these can be steep compared to other European countries, which are either free or much less expensive. It might also help you on finding a cheap hostel or a discount for a special event or dining options.
You can use a student ID from your university or college, but the recognizable student card is the one you can purchase on the ISIC (International Student Identification Card) website. It also gives you some great deals on their website, so it’s well worth what you would spend.
By Alexa Schnee
Alexa Schnee has always wanted to be a writer. She loves the smell of the bookstore, because nothing in the world smells exactly like it. When she isn’t writing, she’s murdering some musical instrument or hitting the road. She will never, ever like math and will always love dancing in the Montana rain. She is a recent graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, and currently spends her days traveling the world and drinking too much coffee. She is currently a writer for Elite Daily and her first novel, Shakespeare’s Lady, was released April 2012.