While Rome is a beautiful – and overall a very safe city – it is important to be aware of potential scams that can occur. This is particularly true as we approach ‘high season’ when many visitors flock to the city and scammers take advantage of the crowds. The best way to avoid being scammed is to be aware of the common tricks and ripoffs so you can know when to walk away. Here are the most common scams to avoid in Rome:
- Bracelets and roses “as a gift”: You may encounter street vendors, especially around popular tourist attractions, offering various items like souvenirs, flowers, or bracelets. Be cautious, as some of these vendors can be persistent or even aggressive in their sales tactics. They may try to place items in your hands or offer you a rose for “good luck” or insist it is a present, and then demand payment. Don’t allow any street vendors to place flowers in your hand, or to put bracelets around your wrist. It is best to give a polite but firm “no thank you” and hand the fake gift back – or leave it on the ground and walk away to be clear that you are not going to engage.
- Fake Tickets and Unauthorized Tour Guides: When visiting popular attractions such as the Colosseum or the Vatican, be aware so-called ‘gathers’ who will invite you to join a tour when tickets are sold out. In all likelihood, you will be joining a real tour, but you are probably going to overpay by quite a lot and be in a group of 40-50 people being ushered through the venue. You also do not want to buy physical tickets from them as they may be fakes. Planning your stops at major landmarks is the best way to avoid overpriced tickets. Stick to authorized ticket vendors or purchase them in advance from official websites. Additionally, be wary of unauthorized individuals offering guided tours or claiming to be official guides. Always verify the credentials of a guide before hiring their services – guides always wear an ID around their neck with the Lazio region’s logo. If you wait too long and tickets sell out, use a reliable re-seller like Tiqets or GetYourGuide which will deliver tickets digitally to your phone almost instantly.
- Taxi scams: There are certainly more honest taxi drivers than not in Rome. However, some taxi drivers try to rip off tourists by offering to drive them to another landmark for a set fee. A taxi should always use the meter – except for trips to and from the airport, which are a set price. I also had one taxi driver swap out my 20 for a 10 and insist I still owed him money, so consider paying by card whenever possible.
- Pickpocketing and Bag Snatching: Rome, like many crowded European cities, has some very experienced pickpockets. Be on high alert in crowded areas, public transportation (the metro and the 64 bus are notorious), or tourist hotspots where thieves may operate. Keep your belongings secure – never leave your phone on your table or place your bag under the table or on your chair. It should be around your knee/touching you at all times. Pickpockets will also often use a distraction, like a partner who makes a scene or a baby, to keep your attention elsewhere so the best thing to do is stay focused on yourself/your things and to limit the number of valuables you carry with you. Here are some tips on how much cash to bring to Italy.
I have never been pickpocketed in Rome (touch wood), but I did experience someone attempting to snatch my bag out of my hand when I was walking alone at dusk near the river. I held on to it and screamed THIEF! and he took off, but I still prefer crossbody bags to this day.
- Restaurant Scams: Some restaurants in tourist areas may try to take advantage of unsuspecting visitors by overcharging or adding hidden fees to the bill. Before entering a restaurant, check reviews, prices, and menus to ensure transparency. Here is how to avoid tourist trap restaurants in Italy – but keep in mind that a “coperto” or cover charge is pretty standard these days. But tipping is up to you.
Remember to trust your instincts and be cautious when dealing with unfamiliar situations. Romans are really great overall, and hopefully this bit of research will help you better identify what is normal and what is suspect so you can steer clear of scammers in Rome.