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Rome public transport is operated by ATAC and includes the metro subway system, tramways, and buses. The ATAC offices are located next to Termini station, open daily from 07h30 to 19h00. Ask for a free transport system map (Mappa dei Transporti Pubblici), which contains detailed information about the metro, buses, and tramway, including ticket types and prices. Information is also available here.
All Rome public transport is integrated. Tickets cannot be purchased on board, so you must obtain them in advance. Both bus and metro tickets are available at tobacconists, bars, or vending machines located at metro stations and major bus stops. Termini Station is a good place to buy tickets, especially travel passes. Outside the station you will find ticket kiosks at the bus station, as well as nearby tobacconists who cater to foreign-speaking tourists. (Look for a sign in English in the window.) Metro passes are also available online.
On both buses and the metro there is a fixed fare, whether you travel one stop or to the end of the line. These tickets are known as biglietti. They are valid for one metro ride, but can be used for unlimited travel on buses and trams for 75 minutes after the ticket is stamped.
Buses and trams have machines on board for validating tickets and passes. If you have a single ticket then insert it into the machine. If you have a pass, insert the pass the first time you use it to stamp the date and time from which the pass or ticket is valid. Most locals have passes that do not need to be stamped. Ticket inspectors occasionally enter bus or metro platforms to check for tickets: If you don't have one you will incur a heavy fine.
At metro stations there are barriers where you must insert a ticket to enter or leave the station.
Termini station is Rome's main transport center, located just north of the centre of Rome. It is one of the largest train stations in Europe, with connections inside and outside Italy and several floors of shops and cafes. Termini is also the crossing point for the city's two metro lines. Regular shuttle service operates between the station and Rome's two main airports. In front of Termini is Piazza dei Cinquecento, one of the main hubs of Rome's bus network. The station and the piazza are high risk areas for pickpockets, so keep a careful eye on your luggage and your wallet.
There are several smaller stations around Rome, including Ostiense, from which you can easily catch a train to the ancient ruined port of Ostia Antica, or to the beach.
The Rome bus network is comprehensive, with frequent buses from about 05h30 to 00h00 daily. Outside of those hours night buses serve the main routes.
Public buses are normally used for short trips, or to get to a metro or train station. In the ancient centre of Rome, however, there are no metro or rail lines, so the bus is the only public transport. But even the buses are constrained by their size in this congested area, serving just the major roads. They can be crowded and sometimes are slowed by traffic, but they are still more efficient than driving.
Bus stops have yellow or white signs with a column for each bus line that lists all the stops for the line. The current stop will be marked with a red rectangle. The type of bus will also be given at the top. It can be Express (stops infrequently), Urbano (normal), or Notturno (night). Metro stops and train stations will also be noted. At the bottom of each column are the hours for the line.
An approaching bus may not stop unless you wave at the driver, especially away from the center of Rome, or if you are alone at the stop. Rome buses should be entered by the front or back doors, and exited by the middle doors, although this rule is often ignored when buses are crowded. You need to stamp your ticket immediately unless you have a pass. Some seats at the front of the bus are reserved for elderly, handicapped, or pregnant people. It is customary to offer your seat to the elderly or anyone who looks like they need to sit down. When you want to get off the bus, wait until your stop is next, then ring the buzzer to signal the driver.
Running every day year-round, Rome Opentour hop on/hop off buses give unlimited rides for 24 or 48 hours. They are an easy and inexpensive way for tourists to discover Rome. Get more information here.
The Rome metro system has just two lines, named A and B, which intersect at Termini Station. A new Line C is being built. The metro bypasses much of the city center. Compared with cities like Paris and London it has limited coverage, however, there are stations next to the Colosseum/Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps, and within five minutes of the Vatican. Metro trains run every 4-10 minutes from 05h30 until 23h30 daily (until 00h30 on Saturdays).
By purchasing a Rome Metro Pass you can avoid waiting in lines to buy tickets, and not have to worry about carrying enough cash for them. The Rome Metro Pass is available for 1 day or 3 days, providing unlimited use of the public transport network, including urban buses and trains, the metro, and Met.Ro trains Roma-Lido, Roma-Viterbo (Roma-Sacrofano only), and Roma-Pantano (urban Rome only). It does not include Trenitalia trains, Cotral buses, or airport transfers. They can be delivered directly to your home, anywhere in the world. More information is available here.
The Italian rail company TrenItalia offers a special train pass for travelers who plan to spend some time in Italy. Versions are available for rail travel for 4 to 10 days over a two month period. Additional fees apply for some trains, such as the faster Eurostar service (not related to the Eurostar train which links the UK and France). If you plan carefully it can be a good value for the money. Discounts apply if you are under 26 or are travelling with at least one other person.