Many of us have dreamt of visiting Venice. The ever sinking city that started as a stronghold for those running from war. A place that un-expectantly turned into a city of romance, art, culture and music.
Truman Capote Once said “Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.”
Boy was he right; Venice can be a disorienting and intriguing labyrinth of streets, and people. An exhilarating, culture rich place that has captivated people around the world with its picture perfect canals and waterside palazzi’s. With virtually no cars on the island, getting around is done by foot or boat, a world far different than most we are used to.
Nowadays more than 18 million tourists a year visit Venice. They outnumber locals by 2 to 1 on any given day. That hasn’t taken away from the infinite charm and awe that this city has, but it has made it more expensive. As a backpacker you may be thinking that coming to Venice is out of the question. So here are some tips and tricks to enjoying this mesmerizing city on a small budget.
Arriving in to the Marco Polo airport there are several options to get you to the island of Venice.
Water Taxi: Roundtrip ticket on the Alilunga Water taxi €27 and €15 one-way. Walk straight out of the airport and follow the signs, it is about a 10-minute walk. You can buy tickets in the airport or on the boat. Buy Online & save €1. Boats are bright yellow and the trip takes about 75 minutes. There are three lines so it’s best to consult a map before you buy a ticket.
Tip: Do not be led astray by people that ask if you are looking for water taxi. These are usually private water taxis and they will cost you an arm and a leg.
Hack: Buy a roundtrip ticket to Murano for only €13 and use your Vaporetto card to get you to your hotel. (see below for Vaporetto) It will be a longer travel time but this will save you €15.
Bus: Buses are the other option and they are much cheaper at only €8 one-way and €15 for RT. There are two bus options from Marco Polo check out their website for the best option for you. Bus Information
Getting around in Venice:
Since there are no cars in Venice and teeny tiny streets, getting around is by foot or boat. The Venetian water taxi is called the Vaporetto which runs 24 hours a day.
Depending on how many days you will be in Venice it would be wise to purchase a Tourist travel card for the Vaporetto.
They offer the following options and the card is good for both land and water transports in Venice, Lido and the other islands.
Where to Stay
Finding affordable accommodations in Venice can be difficult, especially during the summer months when many festivals are taking place; the Venice film festival, La Biennale and the Historical Reggatta (Dragon boat Races) all take place in August and September.
If you are really looking to make your dollar’s stretch, we recommend going in offseason during the week and avoid February at all costs as this is when Carnavale takes place.
Recommended Length of Stay: Staying for 2 or 3 nights will allow you to see all of Venice’s best attractions and still get you out with a few dollars left.
Hostels: There are several hostels and guest houses in Venice. They are not great quality but will only cost you about €30 per person. We recommend to look at hostels.com or booking.com and search for guest houses.
Air BNB: If you are traveling with a group or willing to do a private room Airbnb has many options in Venice for around €100 a night mid-week. If you really are set on staying in the city of Venice and not across the canal, then the Biennale area has some less expensive apartments as well.
Tip: While looking you might see a lot of inexpensive hotels and rentals in Venice Mestre. This is actually on the mainland closer to the airport. Not in the Venice we all want to visit; so steer clear of these listings unless it’s your only option.
Stay in Lido: If you don’t mind being a little outside the city than staying in Lido di Venezia is a great way to save money and still be in a great location. Lido is located right across the canal from Venice and can be easily accessed via the Vaporetto. Lido also has some great café’s, restaurants and the public beach if you need a day of relaxing. There are more than 50 guest houses in Lido that average €60 or less per night as well as some great Airbnb’s.
For 1 or 2 Guests: Stay in a real Venetian house boat. Host will pick you up from the airport, take you on a boat tour and cook you breakfast, there’s even Wi-Fi on board. All of that for a splurge of $84 US a night. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/6835007?bev_ref=1474482301_CN7MtvuWjyNaYDiA&s=4
Have more people? This listing in Lido, is just a 2-minute walk to the Vaporetto and won’t break the bank at an average price of $64 US. And it sleeps up to 5 which is less than $13 per person. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/13245214?
Eating & Drinking
Food is often the thorn in every budget travelers side. Venice can easily be a place where your food budget multiplies if you’re not careful. Often you will find that Venice restaurants are overpriced and sub-par since there are more tourists than locals on any given day.
To avoid this mediocrity, if you are staying at a place with a refrigerator or kitchen, shop for groceries and try to eat some meals at home.
Tip: Don’t forget a shopping bag, as Italians charge extra for plastic bags.
If you do go out for a bite you can save money by eating at café’s and take away sandwich spots.
Tip: It costs more to sit at a table then it does to stand, so blend in with the locals and stand at the counter while you enjoy your meal.
Have cichetti or venetian tapas. Available at Bacaros(Venetian wine bars) all over the city this take on Venetian Happy hour is usually offered from 5 to 8pm. These small plates are usually inexpensively priced between €1 and €4 and served pretty much everywhere. When you walk into a bacaro the cichetti will be displayed in glass cases and made fresh daily. Cichetti often focuses on seafood but whatever is fresh that day is a good bet.
Pair it with an Aperol or Campari Spritz or a cheap glass of Ombra (happy hour wine in a small glass)
Best places to find cichetti- just get lost and get off the tourist tracks. If you are observant you will see tons of bacaro’s hiding in plain sight.
Favorites: Taverna Al Remer – although it can be a little difficult to find this Taverna offers a fantastic assortment of delicious bites in a buffet setting all for just €5 from 5-8 pm Monday through Friday http://www.alremer.it
Tip: Avoid eating in tourist areas like San Marcos square and the Rialto bridge, where prices are even higher.
Riding in a Gondola: There is nothing more Venetian than a Gondola ride, but getting a ride through the canals can be a real hardship on a budget traveler. There are several options to get your picture perfect shot in Venice even if you only have €2 to spare.
Price: Average price is $40 US per person and can be shared with 6 people which lowers the price. Gondola rides are set officially so they should be the same price with whoever you chose, however they are more expensive at night. You can negotiate sometimes for a smaller fee, but keep in mind this will lower your trip time.
Tip: Book ahead of time with Viator or similar tour group and you can usually save a few Euros.
If $40 is out of the question your other option is to take the Traghetto.
A Traghetto is an empty gondola used to ferry passengers back and forth across the grand canal and typically only costs somewhere between €.50 and €2. Just look for signs along the Grand Canal that say Traghetto.
San Marcos Square & the Basilica : San Marcos Square or as the Italians call it Piazza San Marco is one of the most famous icons in town. And no trip to Venice would be complete without stopping to feed the pigeons and looking up at the impressive Basilica San Marco. The best part about it, is that it’s completely free. The square has always been a central and important place in Venetian history so it’s no surprise today that it is still the largest and most visited square in town.
The Basilica was originally built in the 9th century and has some amazing gold mosaics in the interior. These ornate mosaics gave it the nickname of church of Gold. The opulent byzantine interiors of this church are well worth a gander. If you can spare €3 wait in the queue and head to the top of the bell tower for an amazing view of San Marcos Square from above.
Tip: Get there early or be prepared to wait at least an hour.
Situated next to the San Marcos Basilica is the Doge’s Palace. The Doge’s Palace was home to the rulers of Venice for over 1,000 years. It has amazing architecture and history.
At €19 it will hurt your wallet a little more than others but the ticket will also get you in to the Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, and the Monumental rooms at the Biblioteca Naazionale Marciana.
Art & Architecture :If you are in to art or architecture then you will be mesmerized by some of the works in Venice, especially if you are there for La Biennale. The Venice Biennale is one of the world’s largest displays of Modern art and architecture with a podium from almost every country in the world. This takes place every odd year and goes for several weeks in the summer. For more information you can visit LA Biennale
Visit the Gallerie Dell’ Academia – Venice’s largest museum and the world’s largest display of 15th – 18th century Venetian Masters Admission is €12 but you can get a discount if you are an EU citizen between 18 and 25 or an art teacher.
Explore the other islands: When the locals need to escape they head to the islands surrounding Venice. If you are in town for more than a day we highly recommend using your transit pass to explore the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. Murano has the glass blowers, Burano has lace and the iconic multi colored pastel homes strewn along the canals. Or you can head to Torcello for a relaxing picnic outside the hustle and bustle of the city. You will be sure to see some locals doing the same. We recommend doing all three, save a half a day for this and hop from one to the other before returning for an evening stroll of the Venetian streets.
Tip: Save some extra money for Burano if you want to experience some amazing fresh seafood and Italian fare. After spending a few hours wandering the shops head to the canal with the colored houses. You can’t miss it! Here you can find several wonderful restaurants cooking up amazingly fresh seafood. Try some squid ink pasta with fresh clams, mussels and octopus if you get the chance.