Rome is one of the most visited cities in the world. And while that speaks of its popularity, it can also be a reason of its notoriety when it comes to safety as hassles and annoyances could bother the inexperienced travelers. Without overstating the risks visitors face when they get there, Rome is just like any other popular place in the world: plenty of attractions and requires common sense when it comes to safety.
Perhaps as the seat of the the Roman Catholic church that it’s easy to spot priests and nuns, or police presence is ubiquitous, Rome is relatively a safe city — it is 18th according to a 2015 Economist white paper.
Nevertheless, petty crimes and disturbances can disrupt an otherwise pleasant tour around the ancient city. Here are some ideas on how you can enjoy your stay in Rome despite the unavoidable unpleasant experiences.
1. Roma Termini railway station. This is the biggest train station in Rome and often gets a bad reputation as a dangerous place which is often an unfair label. Most of what you read in guidebooks may just be intended to make you more aware and be mindful of what’s around. More than half of people you’d meet are probably tourists and not troublemakers. Though there are shabby beggars and weird looking fellows milling around, they may be annoying but they’re generally not harmful.
2. Follow traffic signs. Just like anywhere else in the world, becoming a law abiding visitor is a must in Rome. Despite the crowd, street cars or scooters can get hyperactive so it’s a safe bet to be on the side of the law. It is said that Roman drivers are told not to trust fellow drivers around them so you get the idea.
3. Walking in Rome. Although Rome is a huge city — the only city that contains an entire sovereignty of the Vatican — its attractions are best experienced by foot, with some assistance from the subway lines. When it gets late at night though, walking presents risks especially when speeding cars do not bother to stop at red lights.
4. Talking to police. Police officers in Rome generally speak Italian and speak little or no English at all. With this in mind, it’s best to be familiar with commonly used Italian phrases.
5. Pickpockets. Places heavily populated by tourists are haven for pickpockets and those who ask for money. They are non-violent but can be very annoying; some work in gangs of two to three women often with children. Others pass off as charity representatives asking for donations or sign up for a cause, taking your attention away from their cohorts who may be unzipping your bag or slipping their fingers onto your pockets. So it’s a given to securely store your credit cards and cash inside a secure pocket and not on your back pocket.
6. Long lines. In a city that gets crowded especially on summer season, it’s inevitable to be part of a line whether you’d like to buy gelato, go to the toilet or reserve seats at a restaurant. Having said that, if you must visit Rome, try to avoid the high season if you hate to be in a queue for just about anything.
7. Scammers. In spacious areas like the Spanish Steps or Piazza Navona be aware when you get approached by folks who work in tandems. While walking around, a young man will come up and start tying a string bracelet on your finger and in a few seconds, the colorful bracelet is finished and tied around your wrist. The man then asks for payment. If you try to brush him aside, he and possibly a companion could turn hostile and insult if you don’t pay up. The best thing to do is to never allow them to tie the string in the first place and walk away.
Other forms of scams involve strangers asking for directions, then selling you some merchandise like designer jackets or leather wallets (remember this country is home to Ferragamo, Prada and other well-known Italian brands); getting befriended by locals who tour you around in a busy tourist area, bringing you over for drinks, and getting billed worth hundreds of dollars.
8. Riding the taxi. Unless absolutely necessary, it’s not a good idea to take taxis within the city limits. First, there is a well-connected subway network, and that traffic mess could further delay your travel. The worst is that taxicabs, though not all, attempt to make extra money on top of your fare. Should you take the taxi, insist on metered fare and not on a pre-arranged price. Daytime fares within center of Rome can cost between 5 and 20 euros. Anything above that is likely overcharged.
If you get into an argument with a driver over fare or other reasons, write down the driver’s name and license number which appears on a metal plaque on inside rear door. The number of his taxi company is displayed at car’s body.
9. Eating at restaurants. Just because you’re in Italy does not mean every restaurant offering Italian dish has authentic Roman feel. It may be ironic but you may want to avoid restaurants with overly excited, solicitous staff, menu list displayed in multiple languages or located prominently at major piazzas. Make prior research of restaurant reviews before your trip if you can.
10. Changing currencies. Do not deal with touts offering money exchange as they are likely going to offer unfair rates. Ethical ones do not necessarily go out on the street scouting for customers.