Navigating Rome’s Public Transportation System While You Study Abroad

As a city designed over 2,000 years ago, Rome has always been a challenge for urban planners. Attempts to expand the subway system often turn into archeological excavations when construction crews happen upon buried ruins, cobblestoned streets are often too narrow for buses, and the high ratio of cars per Romans (71 for every 100 inhabitants!) causes heavy traffic and illegally parked cars throughout the city.

You will find that Rome’s public transportation company ATAC offers inexpensive ways to get across the city. Rome’s system includes buses, the metro, and above-ground trams, although you may need to take multiple modes of transportation for longer routes. Our orientation team will teach you how to buy a ticket and take public transportation when you arrive on campus, and John Cabot University’s student life office is a resource if you need help with anything when classes begin. While the system may seem intimidating at first, you’ll be a pro by the end of your time abroad!

How Much Do Tickets Cost?

A single ride costs €1.50, a monthly pass costs €35, and an annual pass costs €250. Any of these tickets allow unlimited rides on buses, trams, and the metro. Be sure to validate your ticket when you get on a tram or bus, as ATAC often sends undercover controllers to catch passengers riding illegally, and issue hefty fines. You can buy tickets either in a metro station or a Tabaccheria, a local tobacco shop.

The metro and tram typically depart every five minutes or so

How Do You Plan Your Trips?

You can plan trips using the ATAC website or Google Maps, although be aware that buses don’t typically arrive on schedule and your trip may take more time. The metro and tram are usually more reliable, as they depart every five minutes or so. We recommend downloading a phone app allowing you to check where your bus is in real time, such as Moovit or Muoversi a Roma. These apps are not always 100% accurate, but they are definitely useful if you take public transportation frequently.

Taking Public Transportation at Night

Study abroad students should know that the metro and trams close at 11:30pm on Sunday-Thursday and on holidays, but stay open until 1:30am on Fridays and Saturdays. If you miss the metro home, night buses cover most of the city. If traveling alone late at night, however, we recommend taking a taxi. Plus, women who travel alone at night get 10% off taxi fare according to Rome’s taxi regulations (just remind your driver if they don’t tell you!).

Rules of Civility on Roman Public Transportation

Avoid eating or drinking on public transportation, and always offer your seat to pregnant, disabled, or elderly passengers. When the bus, tram, or metro is particularly crowded and you’re trying to get past other passengers, it’s polite to say “permesso” (can I please pass?) or “scusi” (excuse me). Often passengers will ask those around them if they’ll be getting off the train before arriving at the stop (“scende alla prossima fermata?” or simply “scende?“) to ensure that passengers will allow them to pass in advance.

Holiday Hours Explained for Study Abroad Students 

Schedule timetables and routes often differ between Monday-Saturday (feriali) and Sunday/holidays (festivo). If you’re going to study abroad in Rome, be sure to check your planned route online to be sure that your bus will arrive and take you where you need to go! 

Want to attend a university in Rome?

Contact JCU for more information!

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