Pompeii is an ancient city in Southwestern Italy that was completely covered with ash from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, leaving no survivors. It wasn’t until 1748 that the remains of a whole city were found under this thick layer of ash. And that’s when archaeological excavation began.
At present, it is possible to visit the place where ancient Pompeii once stood. This is a venue of great historic interest, so I highly recommend you include it in your To-Do list if you’re in the area. It blew my mind to realize just how many paintings and buildings are preserved to this date, 2,000 years later. Even the bodies of some of the volcano’s victims – both adults and children – still lay there.
It’s no wonder that Pompeii attracts thousands of tourists every day, which leads to frequent scams. This is what led me to write this article, where you’ll find information on what to do and – most importantly – what not to do, along with other insider tips to enjoy your tour of Pompeii to the full, with no (nasty) surprises.
- How to avoid being scammed
- Other tips for visiting Pompeii on a self-guided tour
How to avoid being scammed
According to Pompeii’s official website, regular tickets cost €16, regardless of whether you purchase them in advance or on site. However, there are third companies – very well ranked on Google – that will try to sell you more expensive tickets. Careful – don’t fall into the trap! Keep reading to find out where to get your tickets at no extra charge.
If you buy Pompeii tickets in advance
I won’t name names, but if you google “Pompeii tickets” or something along those lines, the official site will most likely not appear in the top results of your search. Instead, you’ll find third party websites that resell tickets. I’ve seen tickets as expensive as €35! More than twice as expensive!
If you’d just like to go on a self-guided tour around Pompeii and avoid being ripped off, then make sure you get your tickets from the official site. You’ll be redirected to TicketOne, the only authorized retail, and you’ll be able to buy your tickets for a specific date, which grant you access at any time during the chosen day.
When purchasing your tickets, you’ll be asked to pick an access gate. But don’t worry – in my experience, you can enter through any gate, so it doesn’t matter whether you choose one or another.
If you buy Pompeii tickets on site
I strongly recommend you purchase your tickets in advance, as you’ll skip the line. That said, if you still prefer to buy them at the ticket office, keep your eyes wide open. As you exit the train station (I’ll explain how to get to Pompeii further on), you’ll be approached by two or three people who will give you indications for where to buy tickets. According to them, you have to go to a ticket office that is located on the first floor of the train station. Don’t listen to them and keep walking! The real ticket office is by the entrance gates. There you’ll be able to buy your tickets for €16.
Other tips for visiting Pompeii on a self-guided tour
Best way to get to Pompeii from Naples
There are many companies that offer all-inclusive tours from Naples to Pompeii. But this blog and this website is all about traveling independently because that’s how I like to travel. So I’ll explain how to get there on your own.
The easiest and fastest way to get to Pompeii is by train from Napoli Centrale train station. These trains are operated by a company called Circumvesuviana, with departures every half an hour approximately. It takes you to Pompeii in around 40 minutes and tickets cost €2.80 per person each way. Round-trip tickets are still valid the next day, and they can be purchased at the station. When you arrive at Napoli Centrale, just follow the Circumvesuviana signs and you’ll find the ticket office. There’s no way you can miss it!
Visiting Pompeii: must see attractions
You can grab a free map of Pompeii at the entrance gate. The site is divided into 10 different “regions” with several attractions each, which are marked on the map. Pompeii is pretty big – it will take you between 3-4 hours to see it all, and yet you might need to skip a few places. That’s why it’s important to know what the must-sees are. Some of the landmarks you can’t miss are the Orto dei Fuggiaschi (Garden of the Fugitives), where 13 bodies where found, and the Villa dei Misteri (Villa of the Mysteries), a suburban villa on the outskirts of Pompeii featuring stunningly well-preserved frescoes.
By hiring Beidoo trip planning services, you’ll get a full list of all the landmarks you shouldn’t miss during your Pompeii self-guided tour. You can request your itinerary here.
Guided or self-guided tour?
We decided to pick up a map and go on a self-guided tour. But, to be honest, I’m not entirely convinced that’s your best bet.
On the one hand, a self-guided tour is a good idea if you’d like to explore every corner of Pompeii. Visiting the site with a guide means longer stops at each attraction to listen to the guide’s explanations. So you might not have time for everything.
But on the other hand, I kind of regretted not having hired a guide. I had the feeling that we were just seeing things for the sake of seeing them, without really knowing what they represented. You must bear in mind that information signs are scarce. So unless you’ve already done your homework before visiting, you will learn nothing about most of the sites you see during your self-guided tour.
If you’re not on a tight budget, I’d say taking a guided tour isn’t a bad idea. If you finally decide to go through with it, you must know that the archaeological park doesn’t provide its own guides, so you’ll have to hire a private guide. But don’t stress out – dozens of official (freelance) tour guides are waiting at the gates for tourists to arrive every day. So you can just book your tour upon arrival. There are no official rates – they’re determined by the tour guides themselves – so you’ll just have to ask.
Best time to visit Pompeii
We visited Pompeii in mid-December and, if you ask me, it’s probably the best time of the year to explore it. It wasn’t packed with tourists (in fact, I was expecting long lines at the ticket office, but when we arrived there was no one), and the temperature is perfect to walk around at your own pace (when we went it was 14ºC/57ºF and sunny!). However, I strongly advise against visiting Pompeii in the summer months unless you don’t have a choice. There’s virtually no shadow and it can be a hell of a day.
Where to eat near Pompeii: are there any restaurants around?
If you think you’ll be in Pompeii during lunch time (I can already tell you that you probably will), I’d advise you to bring a packed lunch. There’s only one café inside the park that sells sandwiches and pastries (at a ridiculously high price). You’ll find a few restaurants outside, close to the train station but, apart from the fact that they didn’t look great, if I’m not mistaken, you cannot exit Pompeii and then enter again using the same ticket. So better safe than sorry!
If you follow these tips, then there’s nothing else that should prevent you from enjoying your day in Pompeii to the full! But if you still have any questions, feel free to drop a comment and I’ll be more than happy to answer them 🙂
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