One thing is certain, Venice is a “must see” city. It should be on your “bucket list”. However, keep in mind that the city is very expensive, especially the main island. Here are several tips that can help make your trip more budget friendly so you can truly enjoy yourself and get lost in the streets of Venice without breaking the bank.
This romantic city is a labyrinth of canals, bridges, narrow, cobbled streets, and courtyards. The streets of Venice, full of history, tell a story of how a once-swampy lagoon was transformed into the “most beautiful city in the world” (2016); the buildings of Venice are actually constructed on closely spaced wooden piles from alder trees and limestone.
There are streets of Venice chock-full of restaurants, retail shops, kiosks, and tourists. There are also quiet side streets where one can hear the splashing of the sea against the side of the canal, or watch a housewife hang her laundry out her window to air dry in the warm sun, or witness the local children kicking a soccer ball around in a courtyard.
Keys to Travel to Venice on a Budget:
Save on Hotel Prices
Cheap hotels and hostels are non-existent on the main island of Venice. The average cost of a hotel costs $400 per night. To save money on accommodations, we stayed in an Airbnb just outside of the main island of Venice. We could easily get to the main island in 20 minutes via public bus. The Airbnb was a shared apartment (located across the street from the train station, one block from the bus station, with wireless internet, A/C, and washer) for $50 per night. Our host was amazing and gave us great advice on where to visit outside of the main island. We also had access to other neat little bars and restaurants outside of the main island.
Travel Tip: Whether you are staying in a hostel, hotel, or Airbnb, privacy and security are key. You may not always have a lockable door for your room or, even if you do, you want to double down on the security. We use these door stoppers to make sure unwanted people, or dogs, are not trying to enter our room at night. It’s also great for a shared shower situation. It’s small to pack and will give you peace of mind. Find this and other tips on our Travel Tools page.
Shop at the Local Markets or Pack a Picnic
Dining out in Venice is very expensive. The average cost for lunch for two people is 30-40€ and dinner can cost 80-100€. There are several local markets in Venice selling fresh fruits, cheeses, and vegetables in addition to traditional groceries. There are also many bakeries selling fresh bread and pastries. Packing a picnic can save a lot of money and provide the same view depending on where you set up shop! There are many grassy areas along the various canals in which you can enjoy your lunch or watch the sunset as you eat a picnic dinner.
Avoid the “Coperto”
Most restaurants and cafes have a coperto or “cover charge”. The charge is typically 2-3€ per person. The coperto is typically listed on a sign outside of the restaurant or in the menu at the very top or very bottom of the first or last page in the menu. There are some restaurants that will advertise “No Coperto”. Try and find restaurants with no coperto to save some money as it quickly adds up.
Buy Bottles of Wine
You can buy a decent bottle of wine for 4-5€ at the local supermarkets. Pair this with some fresh fruit and cheese from the local markets and watch the sunset along the canal or while you people watch in one of the many squares or parks.
Buy a Tourist Travel Card
Getting around in Venice (between the main islands) is done by walking as most of the islands are connected by bridges. With no cars on the island, it is a perfect place to explore on foot, wander around, and get lost. There are, however, some islands that are not accessible by bridges and one must use the Vaporetto system (water boat system). If you are staying outside of the main island, in the surrounding area, like we did, getting to and from the main island of Venice can easily be done via public bus.
When you arrive in Venice make sure to purchase the Tourist Travel Card. This will save you a lot of money. The card can be purchased at various local stores (we purchased ours at a tobacco store that sold the cards), supermarkets, or at an Actv ticket counter or vending machine at one of the Vaporetto stops. The card is available as a 1, 2, 3, or 7-day Travel Card (costing 20€, 30€, 40€, and 60€ respectively).
The card does NOT get activated until you use it for the first time (via scanning it at a port on a card scanner or in a bus when you board). Why is it worth it? Every time you take a Vaporetto it costs 7.50€ (one way) per person. The card can be used an UNLIMITED number of times during the duration of the card’s activation period. The card can also be used on the public bus. Every time you take the public bus, it costs 1.50€ per person (up to 75 minutes of travel by any number of bus lines).
Note: You must validate your ticket before you board a Vaporetto via the white electronic card reader near the walkway leading to the floating Vaporetto platform. You must also validate your ticket when you board the public bus. The ticket readers can be found throughout the bus. During our stay in Venice, we used our Tourist Travel Cards every time we took the public bus to the main island of Venice from our Airbnb and multiple times per day when we took the Vaporetto around the main island of Venice.
Take a Free Walking Tour
Many major cities that we have visited have these types of tours – Lisbon, Cusco, and Santiago. Venice, too, offers an amazing FREE walking tour on the island where you can easily register online. The tour is fun, informative, free, and you get a great 3-hour walking tour of Venice (approximately 3 km) out of it! It is a great way to learn the history of Venice and discover some hidden gems! Make sure you tip your guide at the end if you like what you see! Typical tip is 5-10€ per person. The company website is: http://www.venicefreewalkingtour.com/
Note: Make sure to book online in advance as the walking tour groups fill up. Similar professional walking tours cost 40€ per person. You save a lot of money with free walking tours and the guides are professional tour guides! If it rains, bring an umbrella and wear the appropriate attire as walking tours occur rain or shine!
Split a Gondola Ride
The city of Venice sets the official rates for gondola rides. The gondola ride rates are non-negotiable. The price for a 40-minute gondola ride before 19:00 will cost 80€ (40€ for each additional 20-minute increment) and 100€ after 19:00 (50€ for each additional 20-minute increment). The price actually increases for extras like singing. The gondola rides will allow for up to 6 people per ride. If you do not mind sharing a ride with another couple, you can split the cost with a new couple you meet along the canal or with a group of friends to save some money!
Drink from the Water Fountains
There are many water fountains located throughout Venice that contain fresh, water okay for drinking. This is a great way to save money by not having to purchase bottled water. You can either drink directly from the fountain or bring an empty bottle/ container to refill with the fresh water from the fountain.
Eat a “Take -Away” Lunch or Dinner
Although this concept is not popular in Italy, this option makes for a more affordable dining experience in Venice. There are several small cafes and shops that have fresh pizza slices, focaccia, spinach tortes, tramezzini (small triangular sandwiches made of crustless, white bread stuffed with local fresh ingredients like prosciutto, vegetables, mozzarella, tuna, olives, etc.), salads, and fruit salads. The food is very fresh and affordable. Sandwiches, pizza slices, and tortes are typically 2-4€ while salads are 4-5€.
Note: These “take away” cafes/shops also offer wine/ cocktails and also have outdoor seating where you can enjoy a cup of coffee, gelato, or the food you purchase. The alcohol is very expensive at these locations and there is typically a coperto charge to sit outside at these locations.
Just like our visit to the Galapagos Islands on a Budget, it is possible to see these unique, one-of-a-kind destinations without breaking the bank. Best of luck seeing Venice on a budget!
Traveled July 2017