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Things to Know About the Rome Bus System

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

For the world traveler, city bus systems can be a financial lifesaver. While often less efficient than taxis, they are far more economical.

When visiting Rome, Italy, the city bus system can be your best friend- or it could be a logistical nightmare.

Many European city bus systems, including the one in Rome, Italy, are not designed with tourists in mind. Rome’s bus system is heavily utilized by locals, but it often scares site-seers away with its complexity. However, you do not need to be one of these fearful tourists. Here are a few tips so that you can use the bus system just like a local.

Types of Bus Passes

There are several different types of bus passes that you can buy. The type that you buy depends on how long you will be in Rome and how much you think you are going to use the city transportation system (all of the Rome bus passes can also be used on the metro system. A little more on that later).

  • BIT (Biglietto Integrato a Tempo/Integrated Time Ticket): €1.50. This is a single use ticket that lasts for 75 minutes. It is good for as many bus rides and transfers as you can get in within that timeframe after validation. You can also use it for a single ride on the metro system. You are allowed to transfer the ticket from a metro ride to a bus within 100 minutes.
  • BIG (Biglietto Integrato Giornaliero/Integrated Daily Ticket): €6.00. You can use this ticket for as many bus and metro rides as you would like up until midnight on the day of the ticket’s validation.
  • BTI (Biglietto Turistico Integrato/Integrated Tourist Ticket): €16.50. This ticket is good for an unlimited number of metro and bus rides for three days from the day of validation.
  • CIS (Carta Integrata Settimanale/Integrated Weekly Ticket): €24.00. This ticket can be used for 7 days from the date of validation for an unlimited number of bus and metro rides.
  • Monthly Pass: €35.00. This ticket lasts for one calendar month and is good for an unrestricted number of bus and metro rides.

Where to Buy Bus Passes

Bus passes can be purchased at tobacco shops, or tabacchi, all over Rome. These little shops often, but not always, have signs outside with a ‘T’. There also machines that dispense single use, daily, tourist, and weekly tickets at all metro stops. These ticket machines also exist, though rarely, at a few bus stops.

Unlike many public bus systems, tickets usually cannot be purchased on board buses in Rome. There are a few buses that do have machines that dispense tickets, but these are incredibly rare, so do not count on being able to buy a ticket after boarding a bus.

Validating Your Bus Ticket

After purchasing your bus pass, it is necessary to validate it as soon as you board the bus. If you have a daily, weekly, tourist, or monthly pass, you only need to validate it the first time you use it. Each bus has at least two yellow validation machines, generally with one on each end of the bus.

The Roman buses operate on a kind of honor system; it is up to everyone to buy their tickets and validate them. There are ticket checkers that check to make sure that bus passengers have validated tickets, but they are few and far between, so statistically, you do have a good chance of getting away without paying for your bus rides.

However, if you do happen to get caught, the fine is either €50 on the spot or €104 if you choose to pay later. All of the ticket checkers speak English and have no mercy for tourists that appear to be unaware of Roman transportation laws. You cannot escape getting a fine once they zero in on you. If you get off the bus, the ticket checker will follow you until they are done writing the fine.

Deciding Which Bus to Use

When deciding which buses to use when getting around the city, the website for the Roman transportation system,, is invaluable. On the right side of the top of the homepage, there is a small British flag symbolizing an English version of the website. Also at the top of the homepage is a tool for determining the best bus route between any two addresses and/or landmarks in Rome. Simply input your starting and ending destinations and press ‘Enter’.

If you plan on using the bus system a lot, it might be worth your while to buy a map showing all of the bus routes in Rome. These can be bought at most of the newsstands you see on the street for just a few Euros.

When planning your bus routes, ignore the bus schedule entirely. The official bus timetables in Rome are merely formalities and are completely useless in practicality. Buses hardly ever come on time, and locals never expect them to. So, when using the bus system, plan for 45 minutes to an hour in travel time to allow for late buses and transfers to get most places in central Rome.

Knowing When to Get Off the Bus

The majority of the Roman buses do not have any internal system that tells you which stop is coming up. Locals rely on experience and external surroundings to know when to get off, but unfortunately, tourists with little knowledge of the city layout do not have this advantage. The best way to know when your stop is coming up is to follow the bus route on a map in real time while you are on the bus. Make sure you mark your stop on the map before you leave for the day, or better yet, just use the bus map you purchased.

Do not bother attempting to count stops to know when to get off. Oftentimes, a bus driver will skip a stop if no one wants get on or off, which throws off anyone trying to count stops.

Furthermore, while you can attempt to the bus driver for help, do not rely on this method for getting around. Many Roman bus drivers are not eager to help people, particularly non-Italian speakers. Oftentimes, they will just ignore a tourist who is trying to speak to them in English. It may seem like a sweeping generalization to say that all Roman bus drivers are unwilling to help tourists; however, this generalization has a more than just a grain of truth to it. If you get confused, try asking a local bus passenger for some help. Romans understand that their bus system is not particularly easy to use and are often happy to help as much as they can. However, it is probably best to prepare as much as possible before boarding the bus.

On a side note, make sure that you get off at the middle door of the bus. Sometimes, the driver will not open the other doors for people to get on and off.

Night Buses

At midnight, the regular buses in Rome stop running, and the night bus service begins. Night buses follow completely different routes from the daytime buses, so it is important to plan accordingly. They run from 12:00am to 5:30 and come every twenty minutes during the week and every ten minutes on Fridays and Saturdays. The night bus service, while sometimes still a little unreliable in terms of its schedule, is more dependable than the daytime service.

The Roman bus system is not the easiest thing in the world to use; even locals have problems with it sometimes. However, do not let all this information overwhelm you. The public bus system is a highly economical way to get around Rome, and if you spend a little time planning your bus routes, you should be fine. Just try to enjoy the organized chaos of the buses, because it is uniquely Roman and should be part of any real Roman experience.

Popular Rome Hotels near Termini Station:

  • Yes Hotel Rome – 3-star hotel – doubles starting from € 71 / $ 101
  • Crosti Hotel – 3-star hotel – doubles starting from € 85 / $ 120
  • Hotel Artemide – 4-star hotel – doubles starting from € 149 / $ 211

Photo of bus on Piazza Venezia, Rome, by Ambrosiana Pictures

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About the author

Venere Travel Blog writer michayla sullivan

Michayla Sullivan is a full-time university student at the University of Notre Dame and has spent seven months studying abroad in Rome, Italy. She is an avid reader and news junkie. Her dream is to one day work in editorial news journalism.

8 responses to “Things to Know About the Rome Bus System”

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  1. Richard says:
    August 21st, 2009 at 00:34

    When not knowing where to get of from a Bus, best thing is ask some old lady, or man on the bus. Elderly are often found on every bus in Rome. In a moment you ‘ll have everyone in the bus involved in the discussion, trying to help, if not answered the first time. I live in Rome and barely use the public transportation, but when I do I’ m usually heading towards some suburbs wich I never been before, and its difficult to find out where to drop off. There are no monuments in the suburbs.

    Usually bus drivers, that are not allowed to talk to passengers, do give indications. But very few of them speack english.

    This article describes perfectly the situation. Btw some buses can be veeery crowded, and always watch your pockets, and bags, many gipsies have incredible abilities to ruin your vacation!

  2. niceguysean says:
    August 25th, 2009 at 18:19

    Personally, I don’t think it’s a good idea to write:
    “you do have a good chance of getting away without paying for your bus rides”. If you want to use the system, buy a tickey. It’s 1 Euro, probably one of the cheapest Public Transport systems in Europe, so do the right thing.

    As it says above, the bus driver is not supposed to talk to passengers. Most will, but he does have a job to do, and avoiding accidents in Rome requires some concentration, so give him/her a break if they don’t answer.

    The newer buses have an electronic screen showing the next stop inside, and what is in the area.
    The newer bus stops have an indicator board with the arrival times of buses, and this system is always up to date.


  3. ReneS says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 02:56

    The best tip is to take a hotel near Termini. All the (night)busses stop over there! I don’t know how it is outside (touristic) summer season, but in July we never waited not much for busses to get “home”

  4. chiara says:
    August 28th, 2009 at 22:36

    I usually ask fellow women passangers for help when riding the bus in Rome. It’s true that once one person helps you, the rest of the passangers and even the bus driver will get involve in the discussion of how to get you to your destination. It happened to me when I was looking for an address not found in the regular tourist map. The lady I asked, after much discussion with the driver and several passengers, decided to get off the bus along with me to show me the correct bus stop.
    As for bus drivers, so far, I’ve never encountered one that wouldn’t answer my question or request to tell me the correct stop. I do greet them first and then ask if they can help me before stating my question. I find this very helpful each time.

  5. JE. Arnevick says:
    November 13th, 2009 at 00:58

    Can anyone please tell us how to buy a city bus map before landing in Rome?

  6. George Leone says:
    August 27th, 2013 at 08:42

    I am planning to begin studies at the American University of Rome and have an opportunity to live near the Appia Antica Park. This will require riding the bus about 40 minutes to campus. Not a problem for me. Netiher is the 10 minute walk to the bus stop.

    Security at night when getting home late and walking in the suburbs:-I hear most crime is petty crime. Can’t vouch. Does any one know?

    When going downtown to “socialize”-of course I would not drink and drive. Do the night busses run to the suburbs?

  7. Kate says:
    February 6th, 2014 at 15:32

    It’s actually a nice and helpful piece of info.
    I am glad that you shared this useful information with us.
    Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Chica says:
    February 10th, 2014 at 10:25

    Hey! Can anyone tell me if does exist reduced ticket for public transport in Rome? Im going to visit this city on April and it would be nice to get to know if there are discounts for University or Academy students, personally Im a Tourism and Recreation student from Poland (21 yrs). Ill be thankful if somebody helps me, kisses x

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