If you're visiting for the first time, taking one of the Rome bus tours around the city can be a great way to get a lay of the land and spot some famous landmarks right off the bat.
Is this the best way to spend a day in Rome? Your first day in Rome?
Learn about the ins and outs, the pluses and minuses of taking a Rome bus tour, and whether it's right for you.
Most of the bus tours in Rome are hop-on-hop-off tours.
On this page we'll cover:
Taking a hop-on hop-off bus tour can be the perfect way to get an overview of the city, especially those that offer an open air bus tour Rome option.
You can get on and off the bus as often as you like, so you can explore the sights that interest you most at your own pace. All the operators offer bus tours of Rome in English as well as other languages.
This is the most common type of bus tour in Rome and there are many companies offering this tour with pretty much the same itinerary.
So let's talk first about the itinerary of these tours and what you can see from the bus, and what you can see by getting off the bus.
The most common route for Rome Italy hop on hop off bus tours is:
This route takes you to or near most of the major tourist attractions in Rome.
The buses cannot go near some of Rome's must-see sites but they do have stops nearby.
So on the route above, besides the obvious sites listed there, you can also see:
Of course, you can (and should!) visit the stunning basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. If you have time, you could also visit a hidden jewel of a church just around the corner from Santa Maria Maggiore, the basilica of Santa Prassede.
You may also wish to explore the charming Monti neighborhood.
You may want to do this as part of your hop-on-hop-off ticket (you can purchase them as a combo), or you can just use the bus tour to get a quick view and then come back later for a complete walking tour of Ancient Rome.
Other sites in the area include the basilica of San Clemente, the Roman Houses at Celio, and the basilica of Saint Peter in Chains where you can see Michelangelo's sculpture of Moses.
Via dei Fori Imperiali, Via del Corso (shopping), Mamertine Prison, Capitoline Museums, and Capitoline Hill
If you decide to get off the bus at the Vatican stop, you can visit Castel Sant'Angelo, the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, Saint Peter's Square, Saint Peter's Basilica, and Saint Peter's Dome. The bus ticket does not include entrance tickets to any locations, so you will need to purchase these separately, such as those for the Vatican Museums.
The Spanish Steps are a must-see tourist attraction by themselves but there is also a lot to see nearby.
From the bus, you can spot Bernini's Triton fountain but if you get off the bus you can easily also visit the famous Capuchin Crypt, the Trevi Fountain, and the Palazzo Barberini museum.
Most of these buses are open on top but also have a closed lower level.
The tour typically includes an audio guide in a variety of languages.
Some of the companies will also have live guides on the bus who give commentary in multiple languages.
Many of the companies say they offer free wi-fi onboard, but I would not always count on this.
You can board the bus from any of the stops and get on and off as much as you want in the time frame of the ticket you buy. (Often there are options for 24, 48, or 72 hours.)
If you stay on the bus, the entire loop takes around 1 ½ hours.
The ticket will also include a map of the city.
You can generally find discounts online if you book in advance.
Is there a downside? Here are a few issues to be aware of:
Given the above pluses and minuses, you may be wondering if the hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus is worth it.
One important thing to note is that it's not the same as using the public transport system.
The Rome bus and metro system is considerably cheaper and much more flexible in terms of schedules and routes.
So I would not consider taking the hop-on-hop-off bus as a means to just "get around Rome."
It is meant specifically to be a sightseeing tour with strategic stops that allows the visitor to get between some of the main sites in Rome.
What I would suggest is to stay on the bus for the entire loop so you really get a lay of the land.
This is also a great option if you are jet-lagged, because you don't have to tire yourself out with a walking tour and you can absorb as much as your body and sleepy brain will allow.
Then, the second time around (or the next day), you can get off at any of the stops that interest you and explore more.
Or, if you're done with the bus tour, you can then decide to explore more on your own on foot or take some walking tours.
If you love walking and want to make your own way, Rome is fairly compact and easy to walk around.
While Rome is actually hillier than you might think (7 hills of Rome!), it's still pretty easy to cover a lot of ground on foot. (Don't forget to wear super comfortable shoes!)
You may also not want to deal with the crowds on the bus or having to wait for the bus to come at the different stops.
Finally, as I mentioned above, if what you're looking for is the best Rome public transportation option, then this is not the bus for you.
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Most of the Rome hop-on-hop-off bus tour companies offer various ticket options depending on the number of days you want to use the pass, the age of the passenger (adult vs. child), and any add-ons or bundles you may wish to include.
Typically a 1-day adult ticket costs around 27-30€
Typically children aged 5-15 pay around 13-15 Euros.
I say "usually" and "around" because there are often discounts when you book tickets together, and when you book online in advance.
In most cases, you can purchase 1, 2, and 3-day passes. You can also get family passes.
Often you can add on a tour and/or ticket. See below for more details about bundles.
Most bus companies do offer the option to purchase your ticket directly on board or at a kiosk near the stop.
However, keep in mind that during high season the Rome hop-on hop-off tours sell out quickly and you may find there is no room to board.
If you can plan ahead, the best way to purchase your hop-on-hop-off tickets is by booking online in advance.
First of all, you'll often get a discount this way.
Second of all, as I mentioned above, sometimes in high season, you may find there is no room on board if you just show up.
Looking for the best hop-on hop-off bus in Rome?
Some of the top companies to book with include:
You can also visit our partner site Get Your Guide, where you can compare the different hop-on hop-off bus tour companies, including viewing visitor ratings, the hop on bus Rome price, and more details.
There are also some hop-on hop-off bus tours that bundle other things like:
The hop-on-hop-off tour of Rome can be fun and interesting if you plan it right.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your tour:
Wear comfortable shoes as you may be doing a lot of walking if you get off at any of the stops.
I know I don't need to tell you to bring your smartphone and/or camera, but don't forget to also bring a spare battery for your camera, and a charger for your phone.
If you have an e-reader or tablet, consider bringing that as well so you can look up things about the sights you are seeing as you go along.
You can always refill it at one of the bus stops, from one of Rome's many drinking fountains - the ideal way to stay cool and hydrated!
Keep your valuables close to you - pickpockets do target tourists on these buses.
Better yet, travel with a pick-pocket-proof backpack.
Visit my page here about staying safe in Rome for more tips.
Book in advance to avoid disappointment.
If you decide to combine the bus tour with some city sightseeing on your own, i.e. you plan to actually get off and on the bus, make sure to have plenty of patience and no major time constraints, as the buses don't always run on schedule.
Yes, but with a caveat.
All the major companies who run the Rome hop-on hop off bus tours state on their websites that 'most' of their buses are accessible.
Most of the buses I see around the city are modern vehicles with wheelchair and step-free access available, but some do appear older.
I would recommend contacting your preferred bus company in advance to check they can accommodate your needs.
If you're looking for a walking tour of Rome, you'll find those on many other pages on this site.
And while this page is mostly about taking the hop-on-hop-off bus in Rome, there are a few other types of bus tours you may find useful/interesting, including trips further afield, like bus tours from Rome to Pompeii: