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am i being ripped off?

Henderson, Nevada
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am i being ripped off?

i'm organizing my family's trip to rome--we have three kids 12, 10, and 1.5 years old. i thought getting a pre-arranged private tour of the vatican and colosseum might be a good idea because i don't want to waste any time in lines and i don't know that much about the history of the two places. i contacted two different highly rated tour companies on tripadvisor: easyitaly tours and rome tours (aka rome city tours). easyitaly offered private tours for 280euro per tour while rome tours offered 200 per tour--this does not include an underground tour of the colosseum. so i thought, no brainer, i'll take the cheaper of the two. but then i do some further reading and find out from reviews that the same tour company solicits tourists right outside the colosseum and offer tours for 25 euro per person. then i read that there is a way to skip the lines to the colosseum by buying your tickets at some office. now of course, i don't know whether or not the 25 euro per person charge is a truly private tour or if you end up going with whoever else jumps onboard. i'm happy to pay for a private tour, i just don't like getting ripped off. in your opinion, is 200 euro a fair price for a private 3 hour vatican tour or a 3 hour colosseum tour without the underground portion? keep in mind, i still have to buy all my tickets separately in addition to the cost of the tour. if not, can you suggest a better alternative?

thanks!

Melbourne, Australia
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1. Re: am i being ripped off?

Private tours are usually very expensive and can cost as much as what you have been quoted. Even if you went on a small group tour wirh other people, it would probably cost about €60 per person.

The cheapest alternative is to book a tour that ia offered by the vatican museum office itself through its official website. As for the colosseum, you can only go into the underground by booking a tour through the colosseum website and the ticket can be used to explore the forum and palatine hill.

Edited: 4:14 am, April 30, 2013
Le Marche, Italy
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2. Re: am i being ripped off?

In order to skip the lines, all you need to do is buy the tickets on the Colosseum web site. You can print it at home, and it's good for all three sites: Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. You can also buy one of the two tours of the Colosseum, which are group tours. One goes to the underground area and the third level, and the other visits just the first and second level. If you take the underground tour, you can visit the first and second levels on your own, but if you take the other tour, you can't enter the underground or third levels, although you can get a good look at them from the other two levels.

The web site offers no tours of the Roman Forum or Palatine Hill. In my opinion, these two areas are far more in need of a good tour than the Colosseum, which is a much simpler site, and which has excellent explanatory signs in both Italian and English. I don't know anything about the two tour companies you mention, but I know of two excellent private tour possibilities. One is Context Travel, and the other is www.rome-tours.com . Context Travel also offers small group tours. One of the advantages of a private tour is that the guide will gear the tour to the interests of the group. This can be a great advantage if there are children on the tour. Rome Tours is basically a one-woman operation, Daniela Hunt, who is truly excellent. Context Travel has a number of guides, or docents, as they call them, and if you tell them the interests and ages of the group they'll assign a guide who is deemed ideal for your group.

Both of these are more expensive than what you've been quoted for the tours. For groups of more than one, Rome Tours is cheaper, because Daniela doesn't charge as much for the 2nd, 3rd, etc., person as for the first.

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3. Re: am i being ripped off?

I can heartily recommend Daniela Hunt. Her explanation of the Forum and Palatine was a big highlight of our last trip to Rome, and well worth the money.

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4. Re: am i being ripped off?

I also have not used either of those private tour companies, but the prices do not seem out of line for a truly private tour for just your family

But if your main concern is to skip the lines, that is easily done for both sites as noted above for just the entry cost (there might be a booking fee for on line, but I don't recall that).

With the Col/Forum etc. a guide will be telling you some information (factual or not) that would hopefully keep the interest of the older kids.

At the Vatican museum you can reserve a time to join a tour there by the Vatican staff, but it is not a private tour so you will be in a small group. I am afraid I have to tell you I think your kid's eyes will start to glaze over in the Vatican museum after about 20 minutes unless they are budding art lovers, so you might have to keep flexible. At the end of the tour you go on to the Sistine Chapel, and from there through a back door to the Basilica, thereby avoiding any possible lines at the front of the Basilica - sometimes this back door is reserved for people on the tour. I suppose as one option you could push on ahead of the tour if necesssary.

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5. Re: am i being ripped off?

I wouldn't take a 1.5 year old to the Vatican museums and I certainly wouldn't take it on a tour of the museums. The museums are so crowded that you'll need to carry it the whole time or risk getting separated. I would let the older kids and the spouse visit the Vatican museums and I would take the baby to the park or do something else and meet up with them later.

As far as tours, I would just book a museums tour with the official site. They are really good tours and everyone gets to wear the headsets so the guides don't need to yell to be heard. They give a really good tutorial on the artwork of the Sistine chapel and the tour ends right before you enter it. You can also use the "tour door" to get to the basilica.

Donna

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Le Marche, Italy
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6. Re: am i being ripped off?

I'm not sure I'd go on the official tour even with older kids. They may start getting agitated and want to leave before the tour is over. In that case, it would be better to have just the entrance tickets so you can push ahead at your own pace.

I myself wouldn't take any kids there unless they have a great interest in art and are well aware that it will be an uncomfortable, very crowded experience, and still want to go.

Henderson, Nevada
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7. Re: am i being ripped off?

thanks for all the replies. it seems based on the responses as well as further inspection of tour prices that 200 euro is actually a very good deal for a totally private tour. as for the kids, the older ones are very mature and did great touring museums in france last year, and they actually really appreciate art and history. the baby may or may not be a problem--but we won't let her stop us from seeing the world. that isn't in our family's DNA--we're just simply not the stare out your window at home types. but then again, that is why i'm opting for private tours so that we don't get stuck touring at someone else's pace.

my only other question is this--if i only wished to pay for one private tour as a budgetary compromise, which attraction would you recommend i use it on--the vatican or colosseum/forum?

thanks again!

Le Marche, Italy
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8. Re: am i being ripped off?

I wouldn't suggest staying at home with your baby, but maybe you're not aware of the very extreme crowding in the Vatican Museums. I sure wouldn't take a baby there, and I'd be reluctant with any kids under age 12. Mostly they'd just see the backsides of the adults pressing in on them on all sides.

I have a 7-year-old granddaughter who's been to Rome with us every year since she was almost three. On every trip, we've taken her to several museums, but never that one. She's been to the Villa Farnesina, the Corsini Gallery, the Doria Pamphilj Gallery, the Barberini Gallery, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, and probably some I'm forgetting. Some of them she's seen several times, at her request. She's loved all of them.

Here is a photo I took in the Vatican museums on a Saturday morning in March (low season!).

https:/…

In the summer, in addition to being far more crowded than this, it's also stifling hot, because most of it isn't air conditioned.

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9. Re: am i being ripped off?

To answer your other question, I think a tour is more important at the Roman Forum than at the Vatican Museums. It's very poorly marked, and it could end up looking like a pile of rocks. I encourage you to take a joint tour of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. The Colosseum is very well marked, and I've never felt the need of a tour there. However, if you want to go to the Underground area of the Colosseum, you need to go with an official guide. If that's what you want, make sure the guide you're hiring will be able to take you there, because not all guides are allowed to enter that part of the Colosseum.

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10. Re: am i being ripped off?

I swear Bvlenci, every time you post that photo, my heart rate rises and brings back the memories of that misery. I so hope to have the money one day for one of those very private night tours that cost a fortune so I can go and actually enjoy the art there someday - if those tours will exist then.

Being just a bit over 5'2" - being in the Vatican Museum crowds is a lesson in controlling frustration at barely being able to see anything.

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