Which Hop-On Hop-Off Rome Bus Tour is Best?

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This post is a comparison and review of Rome bus tours, including hop-on-hop-off and night buses.  Many tours are already included in one of several tourist discount passes available to you.

 


HOP-ON-HOP-OFF BUS TOURS

If you’re new to Rome, you may want to consider taking a hop-on-hop-off bus tour. These services will take you to all of the most popular sites and landmarks in the city. As you’re traveling around town, tour guides and audio commentary will provide plenty of information about Roman history.

Most of these bus tours provide free wi-fi and English speaking drivers to accommodate visitors from around the world.

Tickets range from €20-€30 per person.  Some operations are also included for free as a part of a tourist discount pass or offer discounts to cardholders, and we mention this when this applies.

Below is our analysis of the best 4 hop-on, hop-off companies.  There are actually two more hop-on-hop-off bus companies, Open Tour and Green Line, but their reviews are so poor, we left them off the list completely, so as not to waste you your time or money. 

The 4 that are listed below are ordered by how well reviewed they are.  Since most of the companies offer very similar routes, we detail the first company, Big Bus, and use it as the reference for the other companies offerings.  


Big Bus Tours

Big Bus is our recommended choice. Much like some of their competitors, this company also provides bus tours in several cities across the globe, and you may recognize their rather bland looking buses.

Unlike their competitors, they operate their own buses here in Rome.  Big Bus sees itself as the premium hop-on-hop-off bus service.

 

Big Bus Rome Reviews

 

This well-reviewed company offers 3 different ticket options and routes with adult, child and family prices for each.

They provide pre-recorded audio commentary in 9 different languages, free wifi on their buses, as well as a smartphone app that you could download to see real-time bus locations to help minimize your time waiting at a stop.

Buses are available daily from 8:30 am – 7 pm with varying frequencies depending on the day and route.

Each ticket also comes with 4 free walking tours, which can be taken in several languages.

Click on the map for a larger interactive map.

Big Bus Rome Map of Stops

 


Tickets and Routes

  • 1-Day Classic Ticket: €28.80 for Adults | €18.90 for Children (5-15)  | Free (kids 4 and younger) €85 for Family
  • 2-Day Premium Ticket: €35.10 for Adults | €22.50 for Children | €103 for Family
  • 3-Day Deluxe Ticket: €43.20 for Adults | €29.70 for Children | €129 for Family
    • the Deluxe Ticket includes the Purple route with stops at Catacombs and Terme di Caracalla. (Baths of Caracalla)
  • Family tickets are good for 2 adults & 2 children
  • All tickets include 4 free walking tours.
  • Purchase tickets for a discount online.

Stops on the Red Route

The red route is Big Bus’s weekday route and includes 8 stops within reach of over 40 attractions, and most of the competition follows this same route (with minor differences).

  1. Termini Railway Station (starts)
  2. Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore
  3. Colosseum
  4. Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus)
  5. Piazza Venezia
  6. Vatican
  7. Treve Fountain/Spanish Steps
  8. Piazza Barberini/Spanish Steps

Stops on the Purple Route (Catacombs and Caracalla Route)

The Purple route mixes a few of the stops from the Red and Blue routes (mostly the southernmost stops) and adds in a couple new stops.  As the name suggests, the big draw is the Catacombs and Baths of Caracalla, as well as the Appian Way

The Purple route is only available on the deluxe ticket, so you could still take the red or blue routes to see the rest of the sights.  This route runs daily and the total circuit takes 60 minutes (if you don’t get off) and buses are supposed to run every 20 min starting at Termini Rail Station.  There are 10 total stops within reach of dozens of attractions. 


Free Walking Tours

Every Big Bus Ticket includes 4 free walking tours, which are led by Big Bus tour guides.  It’s important to know that these walking tours do not include entry into ticketed sights such as the Vatican or the Roman Forum.  Click here for more detailed descriptions, starting points and times of each walking tour.

  1. Vatican and St. Peter’s Square 
  2. Pantheon and Piazza Navona
  3. Roman Forum and Colosseum
  4. Barberini Square & Spanish Steps

Reviews of Big Bus Rome

Big Bus Rome has a rating of 4 out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor. Compared to walking tour companies, this doesn’t look great, but for less personable hop-on-hop-off bus tours, this is a high mark.

Guests report that their audio commentary is actually very good, providing a lot of useful information about all the landmarks on their route. Reviewers often note that their ticket prices are very affordable and the equipment they use is first-rate.

Although there are some negative reviews, such as some audio jacks didn’t work, they don’t indicate many common problems.  Judging from the company’s responses to reviews, they seem to be very engaged and are making efforts to address any issues or complaints.  They are relatively new in Rome, so we will keep an eye on their reviews to see if they slack off.

 


Grayline Tours (I Love Rome)

Grayline, like Big Bus, is an international brand, but in Rome, they have an affiliate “I Love Rome”.  In a city full of bus tours, Gray Line found a way to stand out from the crowd. The I Love Rome tour takes place on a pink bus, making it easy for their customers to find them.  

 

Gray Line I love Rome Bus Review

 

Like their competition, GrayLine offers 9 stops, pre-recorded audio tours (in 13 languages), free wifi, and several hop-on, hop-off ticket and attraction tour options. 

Unlike their competition, this company also offers a single-circuit option as well as a 1-way ticket. Guests who just want to ride around and enjoy their tour from the bus can choose to pay for these cheaper options, which do not include the option to hop on and off at their discretion.

They offer even cheaper tickets in the afternoon. Their buses run daily from 8:30 am – 18:40 (6:40 pm) in the summer and until 16:55 (4:55 pm) in the winter, and depart every 10-15 minutes.  


TIP: The I Love Rome Tour is included for free with the purchase of the Rome City Card, a tourist discount pass.  


Ticket Options

Because GrayLine offers several ticket options, it can get confusing.  Essentially, they offer 2 types of tickets – tickets that let you hop on and hop off at your pleasure and tickets that require you to stay on the bus for the duration. 

Within their hop-on-hop-off ticket options, they also have an array of time options and prices.  We explain below.  You can also see descriptions of your options here


STAY ON THE BUS

1 Way Shuttle – from Termini Station to St. Angelo Bridge

  • €7 for Adults | Free for Youth | Free for Kids

1 Complete Circuit (1 lap) 1 hr 45 min

  • €14 for Adults | €9 for Youths | Free for Kids 
  • €11 for Adults | €7 for Youths | Free for Kids – after 13:15 (1:15 pm)

HOP ON AND OFF AT WILL

5-hour Ticket 

  • €15 for adults | €10 for Youths | Free for Kids
  • hop-on and hop-off as much as you want for up to 5 hours

1 Calendar Day

  • €19 for adults | €12 for Youths | Free for Kids
  • hop-on and hop-off as much as you want from start to finish in one day

24-Hour Ticket 

  • €22 for Adults | €13 for Youth | Free for Kids Under 10
  • for example, if you start at 11:00 am on Day 1, you have until 11:00 am on Day 2

48-Hour Ticket  

  • €29 for Adults | €17 for Youth | Free for Kids Under 10
  • same as the 24-hour ticket, but for the 48 hours

Adults are 12 and up, youths are ages 6-11 and kids are 4 and younger.  Discounts available on all tickets after 1:15 pm.

Learn more or purchase here.

TIP: The I Love Rome Tour is included for free with the purchase of the Rome City Card, a tourist discount pass.  


Grayline Rome Reviews

Gray Line (or I Love Rome) gets mixed reviews, receiving an overall rating of 3 ½ out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor and 4 out of 5 stars on GetYourGuide (read the reviews). Most guests report that this service was exactly what they were expecting, indicating that they don’t over-promise or under-deliver with their itinerary.

Although there are a few complaints about the seating on their bus, most customers agree that Gray Line provides decent transportation and audio commentary. 

 


City Sightseeing Tours

If this name sounds familiar, that’s because City Sightseeing provides services all over the world.  City Sightseeing usually has a local vendor running their tours as a co-brand, and in Rome, his company is “Sightseeing Experience”.  Their buses are probably the most noticeable and are the classic red, double-decker buses seen throughout the world.

 

City Sightseeing Rome Bus Review

 

City Sightseeing offers 1, 2 and 3-day hop-on-hop-off tickets as well as tickets that combine their bus with entry to and tours of, for example, the Vatican and the Colosseum. 

Their route is essentially the same as Big Bus with the exception that they do not stop at the Baths of Caracalla or the Catacombs (which is a totally different tour for them).

They offer an audio guide in 8 languages.  Their buses have wifi and operate from 9:00 am – 19:00 (7 pm) in the summer and till 17:00 (5 pm) in the winter. 

They do not offer free guided walking tours, but they do have a self-guided audio walking tour app that you could use off the bus.  This app is also used as a bus locator to help minimize your wait time. 

City Sightseeing is not as well-reviewed as Big Bus, but the devil is in the details.  


Tickets 

Before you buy: City Sightseeing tickets are included in the Rome City Pass, a tourist discount pass.  Read our post explaining these passes.

  • 1-Day Ticket: €28 for Adults (16 and up) | €14 for Children (5-15) | Free for 4 and under
  • 2-Day Ticket: €31 for Adults | €15 for Children | Free for 4 and under
  • 3-Day Ticket: €35 for Adults | €17 for Children | Free for 4 and under
  • Purchase tickets for a discount online. 

You can also bundle attractions and tours with your hop-on-hop-off service. They have 3 main bundles.

2-Day bus service and skip-the-line entry to the Colosseum (with audio guide), the Forum and Palatine Hill – €51/adult

This one isn’t such a deal as it is a convenience purchase. As we detail in our Colosseum, Forum and Palatine post, you could get the same skip-the-line entry through the Colosseum’s official website for €21 with advanced reservation. 

With City Sightseeing, you would save $1.50/adult. Children under 18 enter these 3 locations for free, though you would still need to pay €5.50 for the audio tour (€7.50 if you reserve in advance).

Learn more about this combo.

2-Day bus service and Audio Tour of St. Peter’s Basilica – €38

Skip this one.  Essentially, you are paying €7 for an audio tour instead of €8.

We recommend downloading the Rick Steve’s St. Peter’s Basilica audio tour, which is excellent and free. We detail all of your options to visit St. Peters and the Vatican Museums.  


Reviews of City Sightseeing Rome

Unfortunately, although City Sightseeing is very popular in other cities, this service has mixed reviews in Rome, receiving an overall rating of 2 ½ out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor with 40% of their reviews being just 1 star. 

However, they do get a score of 4 out of 5 stars on Get Your Guide (see the reviews).

Several guests take issue with the audio tour itself, suggesting that it isn’t very useful for travelers, or didn’t work. Other visitors felt that this bus tour does not make enough stops, indicating that they had to walk for a while to reach certain landmarks, or that the buses waited too long at stops. They also receive numerous complaints about a lack of good customer service. 

With that said, they do have people who like their service.  As with most hop-on-hop-off bus services, happy customers see this service as a great way to get the lay of the land and to get around from attraction to attraction. 

 


Vatican & Rome Bus Tours (Roma Cristiana) 

This might be the most unique hop-on-hop-off option in Rome. Vatican & Rome Bus Tours is run by the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, a branch of the Vicariate of Rome, which is directly overseen by the Cardinal Vicar to the Pope. 

They operate double-decker buses with the yellow color of the Vatican.  Their bus tours are free with the purchase of the Vatican tourist discount card

 

Roma Cristinana Bus Rome

 

Like City Sightseeing Bus, this outfit has mixed-reviews and offers both stay on the bus as well as hop-on-hop-off tickets, with daily, 24, 48 and 72-hour tickets.  

With a total of 16 stops around the city and differs slightly to the usual hop-on, hop-off routes by focusing more on religious locations. 

The 16 is misleading, as some of the stops are really close to each other, but the biggest differences to Big Bus’s route is that they have stops at the Pantheon (which is a church), Piazza Navona and San Giovanni in Laterano (the seat of the Pope).  They do not stop at either the Spanish Stairs or Trevi Fountain. 

 

Click on the map for a larger map view.

Roma Cristiana Bus Map

 


BEFORE YOU BUY: This bus tour is included for free with the purchase of the Omnia Vatican tourist discount card.  Read our analysis of this and other tourists discount passes by clicking the link.


Tickets:

  • 24-Hour Ticket Prices: €25 per person
  • 48-Hour Ticket Prices: €28 per person
  • 72-Hour Ticket Prices: €32 per person
  • Availability: Daily from 9 am – 6 pm
  • Children under 9 and disabled visitors travel for FREE
  • Free wi-fi included

The Vatican & Rome Bus Tour currently has a score of 3 out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor with almost 40% of reviewers rating them with either just 1 or 2 stars. Although ratings like these aren’t exactly excellent, most customers agree that this company does a decent job of providing transportation to all of the major sites in Rome.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the audio guide and the ease of finding their bus stops, guests are very torn about this service. Visitors with a disability or young children will definitely want to consider this option to save money on their tickets.

 


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COMBO TICKETS & DEALS

Most of the bus tour companies in Rome provide discounts and combo tickets for their services. In addition to those options, several tourist passes also offer discounted or even free hop-on, hop-off bus tours.

Whether you’re interested in getting a city pass or you just want to save some money on your ticket, we recommend taking a look at the following deals before making a purchase. 


Omnia Vatican & Rome Card

This tourist pass includes a lot of benefits that visitors might want to consider. In addition to offering free access to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, you’ll also receive a 3-day ticket for the Vatican & Rome hop-on-hop-off bus tour.

After the tour is over, you can also use the public transportation in Rome with the free 72-hour travel card that is also included with this pass. These are only a few of the benefits included with the Omnia card, but they are definitely worth noting if you are interested in bus tours.

  • Tourist Pass Prices: €113 for Adults | €85 for Children (ages 6-9)
  • Omnia Pass lasts for 3 full days
  • Includes Vatican & Rome (Roma Cristiana) Bus Tour
  • Includes Rome Metro Pass
  • Includes Free Entry to Vatican City Landmarks
  • Click here for more information. 

Rome City Pass – Turbo Pass

Much like Omnia, the Rome City Pass also provides access to a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. Unfortunately, in the case of this attraction pass, the included bus tour is only available for one day. That being said, the price of this pass is much more affordable than the services offered by their competitors. The Rome City Pass also provides a free metro card allowing you to use public transportation throughout the city.

  • Tourist Pass Prices: €89.90 for Adults | €45.90 for Teens | €29.90 for Children
  • The Rome City Pass lasts for either 2, 3, or 6 days
  • Includes Hop-on, Hop-off Bus Tour
  • Includes Rome Metro Pass
  • Free Entry to Top Attractions, Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel & More
  • Click here for additional information.

City Sightseeing Combo Deals

If you want to do more than just see the sites, City Sightseeing provides a few interesting combo deals that are definitely worth considering. Each combo package includes their hop-on, hop-off bus tour and admission to notable landmarks in Rome.

Roma Pass

  • 48-Hour Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour
  • 48-Hour Rome Metro Pass
  • Admission to the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
  • Skip-the-Line Admission to Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
  • Combo Pass Prices: €95 for Adults | €73 for Children/Teens | 6 and under are FREE
  • Click here for additional information

Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel + Bus Tour

  • 48-Hour Hop-on, Hop-off Bus Tour
  • Skip-the-Line Admission to Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
  • Combo Pass Prices: €62 for Adults | €38 for Children/Teens | 6 and under are FREE
  • Click here for more information

Maxi Combo Pass

  • 48-Hour Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour
  • Admission to the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
  • Skip-the-Line Admission to Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
  • Combo Pass Prices: €82 for Adults | €50 for Children/Teens | 6 and under are FREE
  • Click here for more details

 


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NIGHT BUS TOURS

The only problem with hop-on-hop-off bus tours is that they typically don’t run after dark. Rome is the kind of city that changes after the sun goes down, and a great way to experience illuminated Rome is to take a night tour. Thankfully, a few of the popular bus tour companies in the area offer their own bus tours at night.

Unlike the services they provide during the day, you will not be allowed to hop on and off at your leisure. That being said, you will enjoy a completely different experience on these excursions which may be worth the additional cost. 


Rome by Night – (Gray Line Tours)

Known for their big pink buses, Gray Line also provides a night tour with a professional guide on board to provide valuable information. As you travel around the city, you’ll have the opportunity to see famous landmarks such as the Colosseum and St. Peter’s Basilica after dark.

Additionally, you will also enjoy free walking tours of the Trevi Fountain and Trastevere. 

  • Ticket Prices: €47 for Adults | €37.60 for Children | FREE for Infants
  • Availability: Daily at 8:45 pm (Apr-Oct) and 8 pm (Nov-Mar)
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Includes walking tours of Trevi Fountain & Trastevere
  • Click here for more information

Reviews for this night bus tour are very mixed. While some visitors are very pleased with the service, others feel that it’s not worth the price of admission. Some customers described the trip as disorganized and chaotic, but others were very happy with their experience.

Most of the complaints about this outing focus on the amount of foot travel that is required for both walking tours. With that said, some of you may actually jump at the chance for a little more activity, and this is one excursion that will give it to you. Couples were far more impressed with this trip than any other audience. 


Romantic Rome – (City Sightseeing)

In addition to offering a full-length bus tour after dark, City Sightseeing also gives guests the opportunity to enjoy a nice meal. Why worry about missing dinner when it’s included with the tour? Guests will enjoy a welcome drink and appetizers at the restaurant Eataly along with a full buffet dinner at Zodiac.

Although you won’t be able to hop on and off whenever you wish, this night tour will give you the opportunity to see all of the major landmarks after the sun sets.

  • Ticket Prices: €75 per person
  • Availability: Daily at 8 pm
  • Duration: 2 ½ hours
  • Includes appetizers at Eataly and buffet at Zodiac
  • Click here for additional details

Sadly, reviews for this service weren’t much better than the overall ratings for City Sightseeing. Although there were some negative comments, others were very impressed with the night bus tour offered by this company.

Visitors were especially pleased with the opportunity to see major sites in Rome with all of the lights on, creating a lot of wonderful shadows and giving them a completely different look at the historic city.

 


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