I do not recommend Rome Hop On Hop Off bus
In many cities, sightseeing by HoHo bus is popular. However, as far as Rome goes, it is not very useful.
- HoHo sightseeing bus cannot go near most of the popular attractions. City authorities have allocated bus stops to these sightseeing bus operators such that they do not hinder the traffic. In simple English, this means the bus stops are placed far away from the attractions. For instance, stop for Coliseum is a long way away from the gate.
- Many of Rome's attractions such as Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and Pantheon are in pedestrian-only zones.
- Rome roads are crowded and congested. Often, a 25 minute bus journey can be substituted by a walk of less than 10 minutes! You are better off walking than in a HoHO bus.
- The bus only travels in one direction. This can be a big bother, For instance, the Vatican can be reached from the Colosseum in 20 minutes by metro. However, since the sightseeing bus travels in one direction, you have to go round the entire loop to get back to the Colosseum. This can take upto 2 hours!
- They have a recorded audio tour. Often the audio is out of sync with the sites. Thus the commentary is meaningless
- In peak season, these Hop On Hop Off buses are overcrowded. It is almost impossible to hop on from smaller attractions as buses are already packed and very few people hop off. You have wait for an hour or more to step into one of these buses.
- Some of far flung attractions like The Catacombs are only included in special tickets. The premium may not be worth it.
At the entry of many popular attractions, you will find touts selling HoHO bus tickets. At best these sightseeing HoHO bus is good to get a quick view of Rome. The best way to see Rome using the sightseeing bus is to go for the full circuit without getting off. This will take about 2 hours. Post that, decide where you want to go and travel there by foot or by metro.
Despite my advice, if you still insist on taking a sightseeing tour by HoHo bus, do read the review of various operators.
Comparison of Rome Hop On Hop Off bus operators
There are many operators offering Hop On Hop Off bus service in Rome
- Rome City Sightseeing bus
- Big Bus Rome Tour Bus
- Roma Cristiana
- I love Rome
There used to be one more, the public transit company run service called “Open 110 Trambus”. Amongst the HoHO operators, Open 110 Trambus used to clock the best reviews. However, the service stands suspended and there are no sightseeing bus tours from the public transit company.
All the operators use double-decker buses with open top deck . They follow almost identical routes covering key attractions of Rome. Bus leave from Via Marsala, beside Termini station, but you can pick it up at any of its nine stopping points.
Review of Rome City Sightseeing bus
This is the franchisee operation of the popular city sightseeing bus operator. However, the service is mediocre in Rome. The bus has a thorough route on the west side of the river Tiber, but not so well organized across the river on the Vatican side.
- Number of stops :8
- Frequency of Service :10 -15 minutes
- Color of the bus : Red
- Ticket cost for Rome City Sightseeing HoHO tour:
Adults : € 28,00 (24hrs valid ticket) ; € 31,00 (48hrs valid ticket); € 35,00 (72hrs valid ticket)
Child: € 14,00 (24hrs valid ticket) ; € 15,00 (48hrs valid ticket); € 17,00 (72hrs valid
Review of Big Bus Rome HoHO bus
The route and service is similar to SightSeeing bus tour as above but also include a walking tour covering some important monuments like Vatican & St. Peter's Square; Roman Forum & Colosseum, Pantheon & Piazza Navona and Barberini Square & Spanish Steps
- Number of stops :8
- Frequency of Service :15 minutes
- Color of the bus : Yellow
- Map of the route with stops
- The bus tour also entails you to a free guided walking tour
- Ticket cost for Big Bus Sightseeing HoHO tour:
Adults : € 27,00 (24hrs valid ticket) ; € 31,50 (48hrs valid ticket)
Child: € 18,00 (24hrs valid ticket) ; € 20,70 (48hrs valid ticket)
They also have family tickets which are available at a discount
Review of I love Rome HoHO bus
This service is operated by grayline. Except for bus livery, very little to differentiate from other operators. The route misses important areas of Rome like Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Navona, and the Vatican.
- Number of stops :11
- Frequency of Service :20 minutes
- Color of the bus :yellow
Review of Roma Christian Bus
This hop on hop off bus comes free when you buy Omnia Pass. I am not a major fan of either the Roma Christian Sightseeing bus or the Omnia card.
- Number of stops :12 [ with focus on more Catholic places]
- Frequency of Service :20 minutes
- Color of the bus :yellow
As I have said earlier, I do not recommend any of the HoHo bus operator. However,if my guests insist on naming one of them, my vote goes for Big Bus. Amongst the options, it has the most thorough route options for a reasonable price and also includes a free walking tour.
I have been to many cities all across Europe and I have seen some good HoHo buses and some bad ones, but the ones in Rome are disappointing consistently.
There are two issues, the first issue is to do with the fact that the service quality on all of the bus to us is consistently poor. The audio commentary is bad, the ports don’t work, and the buses move too slowly in the Rome traffic.
The second issue, which is actually more important, is that in a city like Rome which has so much ancient history to see, there is no way a bus can reach all the attractions anyway. Almost 90% of Roman sites are in pedestrian only zones so I don't see the point of taking a hop on hop off bus tour to see these attractions when you anyway need to get off to walk from one to another.
However for families who are traveling with young children I would suggest to take a one round loop of Rome on the bus so that the entire family can get acquainted with the city at one shot and then after the tour is over you alight at the attraction you want.
You should absolutely avoid taking a bus tour of Rome in the summer (July/August) because if you sit up on the deck in the hot sun you will surely be baked by the time you are done with the tour. And if you are with children that is even more difficult to deal with.
Some people say that in such cases you can actually move to the bottom of the bus but that takes away the point of the tour. When you're at the bottom of the bus you see everything from street level and it is not that much fun especially in a congested city like Rome you might be looking into another bus window if you sit at the bottom deck. So being up on the deck is the best place to be.
So you see what a difficult decision it is whether to take the bus or not. My view would be to skip the bus to go to altogether and depending on your own 2 feet navigate the very very walkable central part of the city to see all of the ancient Roman attractions.
HoHo bus can be a good idea!
Although some people prefer to take public transport or walk to the main attractions of Rome, the hop on hop off (HoHo) bus can provide a wonderful alternative. Here are some of the reasons that I would recommend using this kind of bus service:
You get a great overview of Rome
Firstly, the HoHo bus is a great way to orient yourself in the city. The bus goes past all of the main attractions in Rome in just a couple of hours (even if you are not dropped on the doorstep). If you have arrived in Rome and you do not know a lot about what there is to see, and have not yet decided what you are going to visit, the bus would be a great way to get a general overview of the city. This would be especially good if you have arrived half way through the day and are not planning on exploring until the next day (you can get straight on the bus at the Roma Termini Station).
HoHo is a perfect option for tired feet
Secondly, this is a great way to see the city if you have mobility issues. Rome is generally walkable and public transport is easy to use, but if you have an injury or mobility issues then the bus service will whisk you around the city where you can see the attractions from the comfort of the top floor. If you do get off there would be less chances of you getting lost using public transport and therefore less walking involved.
A nice way to learn Rome’s history
Thirdly, you can learn more about Rome's history than if you were walking around and touring by yourself. If you have the audio information playing as you go, you can understand and appreciate the rich architecture and history that Rome has to offer, rather than just taking pictures and moving on. It is a shame to visit somewhere so exquisite and not really understand what you are looking at, and although you can look up information before you go, the bus services mean that you can sit back and relax and listen to information as you go.
Get a unique perspective of Rome
Fourth, you can see the city from a different perspective. If you find a seat on the top deck of the bus, you can see the city and everybody below from a different point of view, and this will provide you with a unique discovery of the city. You can sit up here and take photos even when the weather isn't that great- most bus services provide you with rain ponchos so you can keep going no matter the weather!
You can combine the bus with walking tours
Fifth, most hop on hop off bus services will connect you with more services. For example, at some stops you can get off and join free walking tours. These are usually lead by local tour guides who are always excited to share their knowledge of the city with you, and often give you insider tips on where to eat, where to enjoy the nightlife, and places that you should probably avoid. Another perk is that with companies like Big Bus, they run hop on hop off tours in many of the major cities around Europe, and if you show your ticket from another city you can receive discounts on your next tour.
Some companies can have issues with the ever-present traffic in Rome, but if you want to relax, see the city from up high, and get some insider knowledge on this magnificent city, then you should definitely consider taking a hop on hop off bus tour.