How to Use Rome’s Public Transportation System

Your complete guide to how to use and buy tickets for the metro, buses and trams in Rome.

Between strikes, buses breaking down, and the never-ending project of building the third metro line, Rome’s public transportation system is not the most user friendly. And with its concentrated historic center and a monument around every corner, Rome is a city we like to explore by foot. That said, having a basic understanding of the transport methods means you can navigate from the Colosseum to the Vatican Museums confidently, or catch your bus to the airport for that early morning flight like a pro. 

A guide to navigating public transportation in Rome

Photo Credit: Albert Koch, Text Overlay: Devour Rome Food Tours

How to decide which of Rome’s public transportation options to take

First, let’s get the basics down. Rome has three types of public transportation options, and they all involve different methods for how to use them.

Metro (subway)

The simplest of them all, the Roman metro system has three different lines and comes regularly and on time, but only covers a small portion of the city. For the most part, metro lines A (orange) and B (blue) are the most useful, including the stops Colosseo (in front of the Colosseum), Ottaviano (near the Vatican Museums) and Termini (Rome’s main train station). You can buy tickets at the stations and should keep them for the duration of your metro trip. The metro runs from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and until 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Termini metro station in Rome
The metro station at Termini, one of Rome’s key transport hubs. Photo credit: Juan Enrique Gilardi

Tram 

Your second best option when it comes to moving by public transit in Rome, the trams work similarly to the buses but run more frequently and are generally more reliable. The two main tram lines are the 8 (which runs from Piazza Venezia to Trastevere and makes it super easy to get to our Trastevere tours!) and the 3, which runs from the Colosseum, through Testaccio (where our morning tour is) and finishes in Trastevere as well. You do need to buy your tickets in advance and stamp them on the tram to validate them and avoid any fines. 

Tram on the streets of Rome
Rome’s trams are reliable and easy to use. Photo credit: Rob Dammers

Bus 

While they’re not the most reliable, taking the bus is inevitable in Rome if you can’t walk to your destination and want to avoid taking taxis (although the Free Now app is a great alternative to Uber in case you do cave and go for that taxi!). 

The trick to taking the bus in Rome is to leave yourself plenty of time and not rely too much on the timetable. Certain lines are more dependable than others as well, especially in central areas. There are a few tricks for catching the bus, though—always stamp your ticket when you board (the driver doesn’t have any tickets for sale so you’ll need to buy them beforehand) and push the red button to indicate you’d like to get off at your stop. 

Hot tip: some useful buses include the 64 and 40 which run from Piazza Venezia to Termini Station, and the H which runs from Termini to Trastevere.

Purchasing tickets and prices for Rome’s metro, buses and trams

Now that you’re an expert on using public transit during your stay in Rome, it’s time to touch on the always-complicated subject of where to find tickets and how to pay for them. 

There are different options when it comes to tickets for the metro, trams and buses, as well as combined tickets like the Roma Pass, where you can pay one fee for entrance to public museums and have unlimited use of transportation services included. The pass is available for 48 hours (€32) or for 72 hours (€52). 

If you’re just looking for an open pass for all public transportation, you can purchase one from ATAC, the local public transportation network, for 24 hours (€7), 48 hours (€12.50), 72 hours (€18) or seven days (€24). If you won’t be relying on public transportation 100 percent, the easiest option is to use single-use tickets (€1.50 each).

All of the ATAC tickets (not including the Roma Pass) can be purchased online by credit card and picked up at any ticket offices in the metro stations. If you have cash, you can use the ticket machines in the metro stations and at some bus stops like Termini, or grab them from any of the tabacchi shops you see on the street (indicated by the “T” sign in front). For access to the metro, you can also use Apple Pay with iPhones and bring up your wallet to swipe yourself through the turnstiles (not applicable for bus/tram trips).

Tobacconist shop in Rome
When in doubt, you can always get tickets from a tobacconist shop. Photo credit: Helge Thomas

Hot tip: most automatic machines don’t accept cards and will give change in coins, so be careful if paying with large bills!

The single-use tickets are valid on the metro, bus and trams, and have a 100-minute expiration, meaning you can ride the metro (using the ticket) and then keep the same ticket on you to take a bus or tram for the full 100 minutes. While some people may think that buses are “free” because the driver doesn’t check tickets, there are groups of ATAC enforcers who will do random checks and fine you around €50 if you don’t have a valid and stamped ticket on you.

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