There are cities where a bus tour might be obsolete. Rome, however, is definitely not one of them. Rome is a large city and has so much to offer. I remember when I was planning our trip, I was feeling completely overwhelmed by the amount of things to see: all these museums, beautiful churches, Roman remains to visit – to name just a few! Even now after, I still feel overwhelmed; we managed to see a lot – and yet it was just the surface of this incredible city.
I decided that taking a bus tour would be a good solution to learn about the city – also because as it was a family holiday, well, let’s be honest, the kiddos agree on just a certain amount of walking – specially in 40 degrees summer heat.
The Big Bus Tour in Rome: 3 different Routes
The company offers 3 different routes to discover Rome.
- The red route – first bus leaves Termini Railway Station at 9am and the complete loop without any hop off is approx 1h40min. Last bus at 6pm. It runs monday to saturday at 2pm – every 20min. There are 8 stops.
- The blue route – this runs from saturday 2pm to sunday 6pm – with the same frequency as the red bus, but with a slightly different route. There are 8 stops.
- The purple route – this is the Catacombs and Caracalla Circuit. It lasts approx 1hour and departs every 60min from Termini as well. Last bus is at 5pm. There are 10 stops.
There is a team member (or more) at every stop to help you and direct you if you should need it. I found that some stops could get quite chaotic as all the different tour buses stop at the same place – and some of them get very busy! But well, it’s Italy, it was July – it probably cannot get any busier.
The Big Bus Tour also has a great app available on IOS and Android to download. It was ideal to prepare the day, offers a real-time bus tracking so that you know if it’s time to get to the next stop and a very good map that pinpoints the most important attractions as well as the stops. You will find the links on their website.
Our experience on the Big Bus Tour
I found that The Big Bus Tour was just perfect. We had tickets for the Red Route tour, which is their classic tour – and it takes you from Termini, the central train station, through the streets of Rome stopping at all the major landmarks: the Colosseum (stop 3), the Vatican (stop 6) or the Trevi Fountain (stop 7), for exemple.
All the buses we had, were clean – the staff was always courteous. In all the buses there were new headphones if one should have lost one and also maps available.
We took an early bus – it was July and very hot during the day, with busy streets. It was a double-decker bus and we sat upstairs for the first part and were lucky to get the front seats – they are a bit covered and the kids loved it! To take a few pictures it is also the best spot. The comments are in 9 different languages, and gives you great info and there is also free Wifi aboard the buses – which can always be handy!
A part from the stops that were a bit messy (that being just a space issue in Rome, more than anything else), we had no problem with getting seats on the buses. They run so often that we didn’t have to queue to get on a bus. Traffic can make the buses run a bit late, so their real time tracking system can be very useful.
We drove by the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, up along Circus Maximus, past Piazza Venezia and got off at Castel Sant’Angelo, Emperor Hadrian’s (76-138) Mausoleum.
This stop (number 6) is the closest to make your way to the Vatican.
We walked back to our stop and hopped on the bus again after waiting a little bit. Thankfully the stop is in the shade! Just one stop, to stop 7 – hop off to walk to the Trevi Fountain – such a difference from last time I walked these streets on a cold February morning many many years ago: we were in transit in Rome on the way to the Ivory Coast with my parents – check out the picture!
A stroll in the lovely streets of the area and a walk to stop 8 to take us back to Termini. We used the Big Bus Tour for most of the day: it was so easy to use to get a proper feel of Rome! It was the only day I had no complaints from the kiddos because we were walking too much.
Tickets and other info
You can buy your tickets online on their website: bigbustours.com and enjoy a 10% discount on the street price. As explained earlier they have 3 different tickets:
- Classic ticket: US32.40/adl – 1 day hop on/off, Red Route (weekdays) and Blue Route (weekends) with walking tours.
- Premium ticket: US37.70/adl – 2 days hop on/off, Red & Blue Routes and walking tours
- Deluxe ticket: US48.50/adl – 2 days hop on/off, Red, Blue & Purple Routes and walking tours.
Children under 5 go free, and older children (5-15) get a discount on all routes. The tickets if purchased online need to be used in the 6 months. You can also buy tickets in the shop in front of Termini Station.
I did not try any of the free walking tours – you can find more information about them here. There are 4 different ones, starting at some of the bus stops, at different times during the day.
I would like to thank the Big Bus Tour for sponsoring our tickets during our trip to Rome!