Before signing up (and paying up).
When visiting a city as rich in fascinating history as Rome, you’ll not only want to see everything, but also understand the significance of what you’re seeing! This is a daunting task even for a history buff, but luckily there is a more interactive, interesting alternative to guide books or Googling—guided tours! There are so many guided tours offered throughout the city, and the incredibly knowledgeable guides will fill you in on everything you should know about every landmark, monument, and ruin. However, there are some important tips you should know before signing up (and paying up) for a guided tour in the Eternal City:
They get booked up, so plan ahead!
Try to book your tours as far in advance as possible, because you’ll have many more date and time options. However, if you can’t commit to a time weeks in advance, you should still be able to snag a spot, but options will be limited.
A simple Google search will give you tons of options!
Browse a few different sites to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck at your desired time, but don’t stress too much about which company you pick. Just make sure their price is comparable to others and they promise to show you everything you want to see.
Look for tours that include multiple nearby attractions.
For instance, a Colosseum tour can easily lead into a tour of the close by Forum ruins, so you might as well sign up for a tour that includes both! (*Important note about Colosseum tours: if you want to see the underground part of the Colosseum, you must make sure that your tour includes access to this area, because not all do!)
Tour groups can allow you to skip long lines and access areas that are off-limits to the public,
so don’t be afraid to call the tour company to clarify what’s included in the experience if it’s not clearly outlined on their website.
Eat first, because most tours are long and do not include a break!
You’ll want all the energy you can get when embarking on an hours-long walking tour! I’d recommend grabbing a coffee beforehand as well.
You don’t need a tour guide with you all times!
Although guided tours are a very helpful way to experience the city’s biggest landmarks, don’t be afraid to explore the city on your own. Being attached to a tour group at all times can be exhausting, expensive, and even limiting. It’s good to have freedom, too!
Try not to schedule more than one guided tour in a day.
Take it from someone who completed a four-hour Colosseum and Forum ruins tour, followed by an even longer Vatican tour in the same day—one tour is tiring enough! While both tours were incredible experiences, it would’ve been nice to have a good night’s sleep in between!
Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
That’s what your tour guide is there for, so find out everything you want to know!
Don’t be late!
Aside from the fact that it’s not courteous, tardiness could cause you to be left behind by your tour group because the guides often have to stick to a strict schedule in order to access certain areas.
Bring a camera, but be aware of areas in which photos are not allowed.
And don’t spend so much time snapping pictures to look at later that you forget to appreciate the sights while you’re actually there!
Be strategic when booking private tours as opposed to large group tours.
If you are willing to pay significantly more money, a private tour of the Vatican Museum is a smart move, because it is always so incredibly packed with tourists that it can be very difficult to hear and stick with the tour guide of a large group. It’s far easier to navigate the crowded hallways and rooms with a small private group, and a private tour guide can tailor your experience to what you’re most interested in seeing and learning about. However, tours of more open areas, such as the Colosseum and Forum, are perfect for large groups.
Tipping your guide is a nice way to express appreciation for an excellent experience!
While tipping is not expected in most situations in Italy, handing the guide a tip when saying goodbye is pretty common, so bring some cash with you to add a little something extra to your “Grazie.”
Photo: Jordyn Asakowicz