So the university holidays have started, or perhaps you’re thinking of finally taking that block leave before you lose it. But you’re sick and tired of “affordable” destinations like Malaysia or Thailand. Are you doomed to never being able to do some “real” travelling in the name of being budget conscious?
Well not exactly. Thanks in part to a weakened economy, Mediterranean destinations like Rome, Italy can be surprisingly affordable. We break down a week-long trip to the city of Vespa-riding, pasta-eating Latin lovers to show you just how much it will cost.
Forget about overpriced tickets on Singapore Airlines, which will set you back at least 1.4 grand. The trick is to check price comparison websites like Kayak (my favourite of the moment, but you can also use others like Skyscanner or Zuji) obsessively in the lead up to your trip. When you suss out the best deals, don’t forget to go to the airlines’ websites directly to see if they’re even cheaper there.
I bought tickets to Rome for 900+ SGD on Sri Lanka Airlines three weeks before my departure in October this year. That wasn’t the cheapest, though—about 2 months back, I saw tickets for 850 SGD on Air France.
In general, if you avoid peak season during the summer and the Singapore school holidays and start doing research 2-3 months before your trip, you should be able to get tickets for 1,000 SGD or less.
Cost: 1,000 SGD
I always say accommodation can be as cheap as you can stand. I’ve travelled for more than a month using couch surfing as my main source of accommodation, and it cost me a grand total of nothing. However, in a big city like Rome that sees waves of tourists all times of year, you need to send out tons of couch requests way in advance if you want to secure a place.
That being the case, it’s probably better to look out for low-cost accommodation, either in the form of hostels (warning: mostly crummy) or apartments on AirBnB. The latter can save you even more cash if you travel in twos or threes, as many apartment owners don’t charge extra for additional people.
Accommodation in the ultra touristy areas like Termini (which is also dodgy and filled with pickpockets) might be cheap but it’s also likely to be downright disgusting. Instead, pick an area on the fringes of the main tourist sites (“fringes” meaning you’ll have to take maybe 2-4 extra metro stops to get to the Colosseum or the Spanish Steps).
Some areas locals recommend include the area around Piazza Bologna metro station and the area off Castro Pretorio metro station, close to the university La Sapienza.
Hostels typically cost 12 euro (19.50 SGD) to 15 euro (24 SGD) per night for a dorm bed, while a private room at a hostel will cost about 20 euro (32.50 SGD).
A single traveller can get a room in a reasonably central area for 30 euro on AirBnB. If there’s two of you, it’s possible to get even better per-person prices.
Cost: 20 (19.50 SGD) euro per night / 140 euro (227 SGD) for one week
Rome’s metro system does bear some similarities to Singapore’s MRT—it’s packed to the gills during peak hour and doesn’t smell very pleasant in the summer. The stations are however quite a bit closer than those in Singapore, at least in the inner city area, and you’ll probably find yourself walking from one station to another with ease. For the purposes of tourism, the metro is more than adequate, and most major attractions are within a few minutes’ walk of the closest metro station.
There is also a bus network, but unless you are familiar with the lay of the land and prepared to decode Italian signs, it might be best to stick with the metro. Also, the frequency of most buses in Rome leaves much to be desired. Perhaps SMRT and TIBS can empathise….
A ticket costs 1.50 euro and is valid for 100 minutes on both the metro and buses. If you plan to hop from sight to sight in one day and forsee yourself taking multiple metro rides in one day, you can also get a day pass, which costs 6 euro and is valid for 24 hours. A 3 day ticket will set you back 16.50 euros. For a 7 day ticket, you’ll be charged 24 euro.
Cost: 24 euro (39 SGD) for a week-long ticket
Rome is one of those places that’s so thick with sights that you really need to keep the kiasu Singaporean in you in check and not try to force yourself see everything.
Here’s a sampling of what it will cost you to see some of the city’s major sights:
- Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill: 12 euro (19.50 SGD)
- Vatican City: 16 euro (26 SGD)
- Pantheon: free
- Piazza Navona: free
- Spanish Steps: free
- Most churches: free
Cost: 50 euro (81 SGD) to keep yourself occupied for a week
Surprisingly, food isn’t that expensive in Rome. The food that the locals eat, that is. Unfortunately, most visitors end up in crappy tourist traps that are just one step above buying a bottle of Prego Sauce and doing it yourself (though they don’t realise it). And you can’t really blame them—because 99% of the restaurants in and around the main historical sights are targeted at tourists. And since virtually the entire city centre is historic, these restaurants are hard to avoid.
Since food is one of the main reasons visitors come to Rome, I would highly recommend doing some research on places to eat before you arrive. This is one place where spontaneously walking into a restaurant usually does not work out so well.
As a general rule of thumb, the cheapest places to have lunch are the tiny pizzerias selling pre-cut squares of pizza to go. A slice of pizza or a sandwich costs about 2 to 4 euro, and two slices make a decent meal.
For dinner, you can choose between cheaper restaurants serving mainly pizzas or full-blown restaurants that will start with pasta and then follow up with a meat dish and finally dessert. A meal at the former will set you back around 12 euro, while at the latter you’ll be paying upwards of 20 euro.
It’s best to alternate between the different types of eateries if you’re on a budget, as eating at restaurants every night will burn a hole in your pocket. Besides, if you know where to eat and avoid the tourist traps, you’ll discover that the food at the cheaper joints is usually excellent.
Cost: 20 euro per day (32 SGD) / 140 euro (227 SGD) for a week
Total cost of a week-long holiday in Rome: 1,574 SGD
Considering the ticket itself costs around 1,000 SGD, a week in Rome will set you back a reasonable 574 SGD.
To put things in perspective, 574 SGD is the cost of 3 nights’ accommodation in an upscale resort in Bali. The full cost of your holiday, including airfare, of 1,574 SGD is about the price of one return flight to Rome on Singapore Airlines.
If you are looking to get away, make sure you’re able to travel with peace of mind with a good travel insurance plan. You can check out all the best plans available on MoneySmart’s new Travel Insurance Comparison Page now!
Are you inspired to travel to Rome now? Let us know your travel plans in the comments!