Time zone: Italy (GMT+2)
Best to visit: All year round
Rome, the amazing capital of today’s Italy and also the ancient capital of the Roman Empire, is a must-see destination. Every year, about 10 million tourists choose it for its history and cultural heritage, great Italian food and lovely weather all year round.
If you’re planning a trip to Rome, you will surely have the best of time. However, continuously expanding tourism in Rome has also led to all sorts of traps and scams across the city, and innocent tourists might have unpleasant experiences.
That being said, Rome is not an unsafe city! In the unlikely event you experience crime, it will most likely be a petty crime. You will see the Italian military patrol around all major tourist attractions and it hasn’t experienced any terrorist attack.
However, there are pickpocketers and all sorts of people who will want to sell you anything for sums of money way larger than the object might actually worth. Taxi drivers who might do a detour to tax you some extra euros and so on. So, it’s good to know the scams and to avoid them in order to have the best experience in Rome.
All you have to do is have some good common sense and everything will be just fine!
How to avoid traps in Rome
First of all, no matter where you travel, its always good to have copies of your documents, in case you yourself might lose or misplace them. And keep the copies with you instead of the real documents. Moreover, you should always know which is the emergency number of the country you travel to.
In the case of Italy, the emergency number is 112. This is also the emergency number for all states in the European Union.
Also, when in Rome or any other destination, you must always be aware of your belongings. Do not leave your bags, purses or other valuables unattended or in the care of strangers. It is also useful to be aware of your surroundings, to know where you are or just look around to see that everything is fine. If you feel uncomfortable in any situation, just leave.
People of Rome are generally generous and kindhearted, able to help you with any advice or information you might need. But, just as in any other bustling destination, there will be bad apples and you must know what to avoid.
Beware of pickpockets or street distractions
Pickpockets are everywhere, and they operate either alone or in gangs. Locals in Rome recognize them by now, but it might be difficult for tourists to do so. So, if you want to avoid them, you must know the following aspects: they can be female and even teenagers, as those are most likely to attract attention.
They usually operate in places with large crowds and push against you either on the metro or when large groups of people walk by each other. While you try to regain your balance or even figure out what’s happening, they might steal your wallet, smartphone or other valuables.
In Rome, pickpockets are most likely to be found Termini central train station, but also along with the major tourist attraction. They are more likely to operate where large groups of people are found.
How to protect yourself against pickpockets? When you find yourself in crowded places, keep your valuables in your front pockets, keep your bag or backpack in front of you and don’t carry all your cash with you. Its best you leave your documents at the accommodation and keep only copies with you, as well as only a certain amount of cash, only what you need for the day.
It is also useful to split your cash in different pockets, but you can also use only credit cards.
Also, be aware of people that might try to distract you in the street. This might happen under the excuse of asking for directions, asking to take part in surveys or try to block your vision with a map. When this happens, those people might try to steal your belongings by having another one around you and snatch everything when you are not paying attention.
Avoid pushy street sellers
In Rome, as in most famous destinations, there are lots of street sellers who will try to sell you anything, from bottles of water to handmade bracelets. Generally, they can be avoided with a polite ‘No’, but you might meet some who are pushier.
Some vendors might even tell you they offer you something for free, for example, handmade bracelets. Do not accept them or let the vendors put them around your wrist unless you are willing to pay for it. No one will offer you something for free in the street, so refuse and walk away.
If the vendors insist, look for the police or even call the emergency number, while you explicitly tell them what you are doing. Most will get scared and run away. Also, be aware of who is around you when conversating with the vendors, as they might have gang friends who will try to benefit from you not paying attention and steal your valuables.
Avoid overpriced restaurants
This advice might seem obvious, but you will notice that restaurants found in tourist areas are generally overpriced. Usually, these are tourist traps and you will get a half-decent meal and spend lots of money.
If you want to have a delicious meal and not overpay, choose the restaurants found in the less crowded places, on the non-tourist streets. And when in the restaurant, if the waiters bring you other dishes than you have ordered or extra dishes make sure you tell them about it. It might be a scheme to charge you extra.
However, you might see some extra charges on your bill, but they are normal. Firstly, there is the ‘pane e coperto’, which means bread and tableware, and it is found in some restaurants. Moreover, tap water is not commonly offered in Rome, so every water bottle you order will be on the bill.
Some restaurants also have a city charge, which is imposed by the city hall. Some restaurants pay it by themselves, while others impose it on the bills of the customers, and this is also normal.
In conclusion, if you keep in mind these few pieces of advice on how to avoid scams in Rome, your vacation will be perfect. We have to underline, again, that Rome is a safe city. But, like any other vacation destination which is overpopulated with tourists, there might be some who will try to benefit from your lack of attention.