In this blog I will share information about the value of taking Hop On / Hop Off buses in Rome. This represents Section Seven, blog entry #9 of the Rome as a Pre or Post Cruise Stop
Before I begin, and as a reminder to my readers, many cruises begin and end in Rome and this city is also a common stop on both eastern and western Mediterranean cruises. Cruise ships do not dock in Rome, they dock in the port of Civitavecchia so if you are looking for information on the actual port city, see Section Eight, blog entry #10 of the Rome as a Pre or Post Cruise Stop series which will cover Civitavecchia.
My Rome blog entries are found under the following headings and if you are looking for information on any of the subjects listed, go to that posting for the specific information that will best serve your needs:
1. History of Rome (2 blog entries)
2. Transportation to and from the airport
3. Transportation to and from the port
4. Getting around the city
5. Places to see (2 blog entries)
6. Rome Markets / Food Tours
7. Hop on Hop off buses
8. Civitavecchia as a port stop for Rome
9. Rome / Italy Fun Facts / Historic Churches
In Rome, as in other major cities worldwide, there are Hop On / Hop Off tour buses. Commonly known as hoho buses, there are different companies which usually offer two or three colour coded (or different numbered), routes that tourists can choose according to the places they want to see and things they want to do. Here are just a few on offer (Please note that different companies have different offers and some include entrance tickets so price comparisons should be undertaken at the time of booking):
Big Bus Rome Hop-on Hop-off Open Top Tour $40cdn for 24 hour pass
I Love Rome Hop on Hop off Open Bus Tour $22cdn for 3 hour tour
Panoramic Open Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour $27 for day pass
Sightseeing Roma Bus $39 cdn for 24 hour pass
Roma Cristiana Hop On Hop Off Bus $30 for a day pass
You can purchase a single route ticket/pass which will allow you to take hop on, hop off trips on a designated route throughout the day. You will hop on or off at the stops of your choice or simply continue to ride the route. In the case of companies that offer multiple routes, buy a package deal to take advantage of more than one route. This will allow you to enjoy multiple routes during a single day and take in far more points of interest. If you have mobility issues, this is an economical way to see Rome and many of it's sights without walking or taking more expensive options such as a taxis. You can also buy a multi day, multi route pass. For example, on one day, we rode the bus through two routes to get an idea of what stops we wanted to hop off at and spend more time exploring. Later that same day, we started hopping off and getting back on the bus when we were ready to move on to the next point of interest. The next day we picked up where we left off. I recommend that visitors to Rome take all available routes to enjoy a more comprehensive overview of the city. However, for those arriving by cruise ship for a one day stop, it is best to purchase a ticket to take just one route as you will want to get off and tour some of the sites along the route. You will not have time to take multi routes so select the route that visits the most places or locations that you want to see.
The buses all provide ear buds that will allow you to plug into the sound system and hear information in the language of your choice as the bus moves around the city. I find this is especially useful in identifying landmarks and obtaining information about the city’s history. However, in high tourist season, there are times when the sets malfunction so sound quality can be hit and miss. Usually you can find, English, French, Italian, German and Japanese available in the selection program.
The advantage of taking a hoho bus is that you are able to get a tour around the city and that such a tour, will always include many of the most popular tourist spots. If you are interested in getting off the bus to visit any specific site, you can do so and when you are ready to move on, you simply take the next hoho bus that comes along. Another advantage is that often there are coupons attached to your hoho tickets for discounts on entries to various sites or at certain restaurants.
People often disagree on how to make the most efficient use of their hoho tickets. There are those that advocate in favour of taking the full route tour once and then on the second go around, getting off at different locations you earmarked on your first trip. Other people recommend getting off and on as you arrive at each point of interest. I have done both and I see no advantage to one strategy over the other. I do suggest that if you are going to places that are popular, such as the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museum, get off the bus as soon as you arrive at the site you want to see. Some places only become more crowded as the day goes on.
The disadvantages of taking a hoho are that you are on a bus that sticks to a specific route and if you are only in port for the day, you may not have the luxury of time to spare. Spending time on a bus that is slow to get you to the points on your “must see list” may not be the most efficient way to move from point to point. Additionally, hoho buses are on set routes and time schedules. So, if you get off a bus at a popular spot, by the time you are finished touring that site and go back to the hoho pick-up/drop-off stop, you may find that there is a line up and you might have to wait for a couple of buses before there is room for you to board one.
You can catch hoho buses at, or near, almost all popular tourist stops. If you are arriving in Rome by train, exit the termini building and you will see the tour bus stops at the north, west corner. There are several lines that stop there and you can easily walk from the train station to the buses and purchase your ticket onsite.
All in all, if you want to tour a specific site or two, and you are only in Rome for the day, take a taxi or subway and avoid the hoho buses. But if you want to get an overview of the city and enjoy a broad spectrum of sights and points of interest, I fully recommend taking a hoho.
If you have any comments or questions relating to this blog posting, please feel free to leave a note or contact me.