Europe has a reputation for being prohibitively pricey for budget travelers. While the continent is steeped in history, art, and romance, it can seem ridiculously out of budget, and most backpackers and tight-fisted travelers skip it over for cheaper pastures in Asia and South America.
But the budget is only a problem if you can’t get creative. If you visit Rome, you’ll find that you can pack in a lot of sightseeing and activities on a teeny tiny budget by planning a few inexpensive and impactful activities, especially if you forego the expensive hotel and spring for an Airbnb (which gives a more local experience anyways).
Where to begin?
Visit Vatican museums
But, the museums in Rome are expensive! Yes, true, usually they are. BUT the Vatican museums are free on the last Sunday of the month, in the morning. Plan your visit accordingly, and stop by the museums anytime from 9am to 12:30pm.
Forego the pricey Vatican line skip and take the cheapskate’s way out. You may face quite a wait, but try to beat the crowds by arriving as soon as the museums open at 9am. You can’t complain when you get to see the Sistine Chapel for free. Plan at least 3 hours in the museums, and a lot more for art lovers, as there seems to be miles upon miles of priceless artwork and sculpture covering every wall (and sometimes even the ceiling!).
Toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain
The iconic fountain, and of course the coin toss, are must-dos in Rome for travelers of every budget. Aside from the cost of the coin, this attraction is totally free. According to local legend, leaving a coin in the fountain ensures a future trip back to Rome! Hopefully, when you have a few more coins lining your pockets.
The fountain is closed periodically for cleaning and restoration, which means that it can still be visited (from a distance), though no water will be running. Still, it is worth a stop!
Eat at a trattoria
These local restaurants often have staggeringly cheap set menus with a choice between a few options, but with less leeway than pricier menus. This is real Roman food, the way your grandma would have made it (if you were lucky enough that she hailed from Rome).
Try to eat at local, family owned trattorias for cheaper meals but also a more authentic experience.