5 Tips For Visiting Venice On A Budget
It’s a bucket list destination for many, but it’s also one of the most expensive cities in Europe: Venice. The Italian treasure costs a pretty penny if you do it in the most obviously splashy way. But there’s another Venice that is closer to the price of an average vacation with all the picturesque canals that you imagine. Here are five tips for visiting Venice on a budget.
1. Go during the offseason.
The first thing you need to know about Venice is that it’s an absolute nightmare in the dead of summer. It’s packed to the brim with visitors, to the point where city officials have had to literally coral tourists within certain routes. All that competition for lodging and activities drives prices sky-high. Plus, it’s extremely hot. And in a place where there’s still water around every corner in the canals, it can smell a little fishy.
So skip July and August and visit Venice in the offseason. May or October allows you to avoid winter weather, as well as the worst of the cruise ship traffic.
2. Stay outside the city center.
If you want to live the dream of waking up and wandering along the canals on the way to grabbing a morning cup of coffee, you’re probably going to want to search through Airbnb. We’d be shocked to find any listings for less than $75 per night — if you find one on the main island, book it. We’d guess you’ll be paying closer to $125. The further away from the big tourist centers you get, the less you’ll pay.
Solo travelers and backpackers, your move is to stay on the mainland or another island. We’d suggest the Generator Venice hostel. It’s on Guidecca Island, meaning you’ll need some money in the budget for transportation, but a bed in this hostel in the offseason is around $40.
Hotels run between $100 and $1,000 per night. To avoid being anywhere near the scary price-tagged ones, search away from the Grand Canal.
3. Take the water bus.
Water taxis are a great way to spend your entire budget just hopping from spot to spot within the city. Instead, take a vaporetto water bus. You can get a multi-day pass for the ferry-like system for around $35 (a one-way ride costs $8.50). We also like the vaporetto for a budget cruise along Venice’s grand canal. Why pay for a fancy cruise when you can take public transit?
4. Eat away from San Marco.
Tourists tell horror stories of gigantic bills racked up at cafes around San Marco Plaza. There are reports of thousand-dollar bills for short meals and hundred-dollar seating fees. Sometimes, this is hidden in the fine print. Other times, it’s an implied table charge. Unless your Italian is strong enough to read the menu rules or chat with the servers in the local language, skip these spots.
Instead, follow the side streets to find a pizzeria. You can grab a slice or two and eat on the go (Antico Forno) or enjoy more of a sit-down affair (Rossopomodoro). Either way, you won’t have to worry about exorbitant bills. You can also explore the Castello neighborhood, one of the last areas where you’ll find actual Venetian local dining.
More traveler-oriented Al Covino has a three-course tasting menu for around $45, where you can choose an appetizer or pasta, main dish, and dessert or cheese plate. It’s a restaurant that’s all about the wine, so we’d suggest grabbing a glass or two to go with your meal. Just remember to make a reservation.
5. Skip the gondolas.
If riding a gondola in Venice is on your bucket list, we suppose the splurge might be worth it. But fair warning: It’s expensive for a very short ride. It’s a total monopoly (not much competition for other boat rides) and very few bargains to be found. Gondolas aren’t cheap boats for the gondoliers to keep in tip-top shape, so the prices aren’t up for negotiation below a certain point.
Your base price will be 80 Euro ($90) for 40 minutes, but it costs more if you take a gondola ride in the evening — those sunset views are valuable — and every extra 20 minutes costs an additional $45. Now, if you’re splitting the fare with five other people, it’s about $18 a person. But if you’re traveling alone or with a partner, only do the gondola if it’s a once-in-a-lifetime must. Personally, we’d rather have a nice dinner and bottle of wine by the water and watch the gondolas glide past.
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