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Hop-on, Hop-off bus tours in Rome: Are they worth it?

Published on August 13, 2018 by C. P.
User: Benreis at wikivoyage shared [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

When you finally get to Rome, you will discover that there are dozens of different companies offering hop-on, hop-off tours of the city. We must confess that they look interesting enough: the vantage point provided by the seating on the top floor is great for photography lovers, and the itinerary is convenient when you don’t have much time (say you’re visiting after disembarking from a cruise...). We would be partial to them if it was somewhere else…
However, in our opinion, 
they are pretty much useless when it comes to Rome. A bold statement, surely: but hear us out!

The reasons why a hop-on, hop-off bus tour is useless in Rome

  • Local levels of traffic. These buses are huge, the streets of Rome are not. They are in the way all the time, they obstruct the lanes reserved for public buses, the hinder and hamper traffic flow. As a result, your breezy ride through central Rome turns into a hiccup-y, intermittent hell that’s close to what millions of drivers experience every day when trying to get to and from work. You’d be faster if you walked to any of the landmarks!
  • They are expensive. We saw tickets starting at 12 Euros each, with an average of 20 Euros per person, which is simply too much for what the tour offers. For a fraction of the price you could use public transportation and drive on the same exact route of some of these big buses (see below!).
  • They don’t take you where they should. Hop-on, hop-off buses are designed to let people visit a city at a glance. In a place like Rome, where most monuments and landmarks are off-limits to all vehicles except ambulances and police/firefighters, they can’t possibly leave you at all the sights they show on their route. They will, however, drop you off where they can without breaking the law, and it will be up to you to reach your destination on foot (case in point: Fontana di Trevi, Piazza di Spagna, the Pantheon…). So, essentially, you’ll be under-using the bus you paid (handsomely) for!

Only book your Hop-on, hop-off tour if…

  • You’re hard pressed for time. You’re only here for the day? Get your tickets and don’t even think about it. You’ll make up for it – and see everything you could not from the bus – next time you come visit!
  • The company offers skip the line tickets for some attractions: if you have to go for the Hop-on, hop-off experience, splurge on it!
  • You have a walking disability and you need all the help you can get. However, remember that you will still have to walk to certain sites as the buses can’t possibly pull over by them.

A pro-tip by From Home to Rome!

Many bus lines that run through the city centre actually share the same routes as Hop-on, hop-off buses (or viceversa): that’s precisely because most part of central Rome has alleys that are too small for a bus to pass through it. If you study the bus lines network carefully, you will discover that many bus can take you by the most famous landmarks for just the price of a single ride ticket. And if you’ve already bought a Roma Pass, that’s an even sweeter deal!

A few examples:

  • Tram line no. 3 can be boarded from the train station in Trastevere. It passes by (among other points of interest) the Pyramid of Cestius and the Protestant Cemetery, the Circus Maximus, the Colosseum, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Scala Sancta and the Basilica of The Holy Cross in Jerusalem, the Coppedé district, the National Gallery, and Villa Borghese.
  • Bus line no. 23, in one of its direction, passes by the Mouth of Truth in the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church, the Jewish Ghetto, Tiber Island, Ponte Sisto Bridge, Via Giulia and it gets you close enough to Campo de’ Fiori, Castel Sant’Angelo and the Vatican. On the other direction it’s very handy to get to Trastevere, having its stops scattered along the Lungotevere by Villa Farnesina, Accademia dei Lincei, John Cabot University, Piazza Trilussa and more!
  • Bus line no. 85 has one of its terminals right outside the Termini train station and it will take you to Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza Barberini, it will drive by Palazzo Chigi (the seat of our Prime Minister), part of Via del Corso down to Piazza Venezia, by the Victor Emmanuel monument and through the Fora to the Colosseum and will continue its ride towards the Basilica of St. John Lateran…

And these are just three lines that you can use to have a great experience in Rome, without having to spend extra money for a service that you will likely under-use!

By the way, if you want to know the basics on how to use public transportation in Rome, here’s where you can do so.

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