How to Avoid Getting Hustled in Rome

Rome is a city with a huge amount of fascinating history to offer and as such it’s a very popular tourist destination. Despite this people aren’t protesting on the streets here against visitors, unlike in Spain and Venice. However, if you are visiting there are a few things you need to be aware of.

Firstly, there are people everywhere on the streets trying to part you from your hard-earned cash. Everywhere.

So here are two tips on how to ensure it stays in your own pocket:

1. Beware the Roman Soldiers

Roman Soldier 1 – A Hustler

You will see men dressed as Roman Soldiers dotted around the city, but in particular near to the historic sites such as the colosseum. I’ll give you a first hand example of how they might try to hustle you.

Travel Tip: If you want to take a photo of one of the Roman Soldiers, or have your photo taken with them, agree a price first – and make it a low one!

I was walking around Rome on my own for a few hours as my wife was taken ill during our trip and had to rest. As I walked past the Roman Soldier (pictured above) he offered to pose in a photograph for me. I thought “why not, what’s the harm? It’ll give me a funny picture to show my wife later.”

Roman Soldier poses for photo. No issues so far.

Roman Soldier then offers to take my picture. I consider for a minute and agree, handing over my camera. Not something I’d generally recommend, but I’m a 6’2″ male so I didn’t think he would likely try to run off with it.

Roman Soldier takes my picture, holding his “sword.”

Moments later enter Roman Soldier two, who promptly stands next to me and poses for a photo with me. The alarm bells start to ring. Not because he puts his sword to my throat though.

In my ‘best tourist attire’, with Roman Soldier 2.

Conversation then goes like this:

“Something for my time?” is the opening gambit of Roman Soldier 1.

Of course, it’s a warm day and you work out all day in the heat.” In my head I prepare for giving him €2 for his two minutes work.

Yes“. He smiles. He pulls a €20 note from his pocket and nods.

Absolutely no chance pal!” was the thought that instantly ran through my head. I hastily take out about €2.50 in change from my wallet and hand it to him. €20 is more than I earn in one hour and I wasn’t about to hand him it for two minutes work.

No, I do special price for you. €15.” The tone of his voice has changed from one of friendly banter to one of mild aggression.

“No” is my firm reply.

Okay, okay, I do €10.”

No, that’s all your getting. No more!

What about him?” he says, pointing to Roman Soldier 2.

You can share it with him!” The anger rising within.

Yeah, what about me? Something for me!?” Roman Soldier 2 is more aggressive than the first one and gets up close to my face.

You can share it, no more!” I was close to adding two other words, “…off!”

I don’t know whether there’s something about the tone of an angry Scotsman, the accent does lend itself to a good angry tone in a sort of harsh Germanic style, but at that he backed off and I walked away.

It’s easy to see how more vulnerable, or less assertive, people could have felt coerced and intimidated into handing over a few notes. Better to agree a price first, though next time I’ll walk right past them.

2. Beware the ticket touts

You will find people everywhere trying to sell you tickets to every attraction that requires a ticket. It gets really tiring. If there’s one thing I really don’t like it’s people trying to pressurise me into a sale. It has the opposite effect on me, I walk away.

Colosseum, Rome.

So here are three tactics to get them to leave you alone (skip right to C if you want to see the most effective one, which also works on street vendors and people trying to usher you into their restaurants!)

(A) “No thanks.” this one doesn’t work well. As soon as they know you speak English they will latch onto you and keep trying to make a sale.

(B) “I’ve already got my ticket.” Again, this one doesn’t really work too well. More successful than (A) but they start asking details about your (in my case imaginary) ticket to see if they can do you a better one.

(C) Reply to them in a language they’ll almost certainly not understand. This one’s the winner! I chose to use Ghàidhlig (Scots) , which I can only speak one or two sentences in but it did the trick. I mean most people in Scotland can’t speak the language, so what chance would some street touts have?

The phrase is “Tha mi gu math, tapadh leat.” Which means, “I’m good, thanks.” The only response I received to this statement was one of bewilderment as they walked away but I could have followed it up with another random Ghàidhlig sentence if required.

You could use any other relatively uncommon or obscure language.

While you’re here check out Sorrento, the perfect base to explore Italy and have a think about whether you consider yourself a tourist or a traveller.

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