It’s easy to say Venice is one of Europe’s most beautiful gems, although ‘Venice on a budget’ – well not so much. It’s as picturesque as one can imagine it, with the flowing canals and the serenity that it offers. Moreover, Venice main island is car-free! Marvellous! Public transport is the Vaporetto and this works exactly like a local bus does, with regular stops and different routes.
Venice is known as the flooded city because of what the Italians call the “Acqua alta”, and this is because of the high-water levels that end up flooding the narrow streets and walkways of Venice. The Acqua alta usually happens in the winter, but recently it’s been happening more often. During our visit there, the water level was exactly up to the tip of the canals, making it VERY challenging (especially during the night) to distinguish between what is in fact solid ground or a two-metre deep canal.
One of the first thoughts coming to mind when ‘Venice’ is mentioned could be EXPENSIVE, and it is! Surely not many people can say they explored Venice on a budget. In reality, it’s not the easiest of tasks. A gondola ride can cut you back €80 for a 30-minute ride during the day. Hotels in the central area are not for the budget traveller, and neither are the majority of restaurants. So, how would you go about it as a budget traveller?
What to Do to Conquer Venice on a Budget?
The most important thing is PLANNING. This is the advice you always have to keep in mind. Therefore, we planned our 3-day visit to Venice up to every detail. And we succeeded! This detailed plan should also include cafeterias and bars that wouldn’t break the bank (Yes, they exist! ?).
To just give you an idea of how important and vital this is, we arrived 30 minutes earlier, at a certain point, to the time our bus was due to leave. I felt I needed to stimulate my caffeine level, so we sat down at an ordinary café’ without taking a look at any menu prices, ordered a coffee and a cup of tea and were left shocked with a €15 bill and two tiny mint sweets. That’s expensive!
Okay, So We Need a Plan to Take On Venice on a Budget. Any Tips? Sure … ?
Tip #1 – Do Not Plan a Long Stay. Venice is not that huge. 4 days are more than enough to cover the city and some of the islands. If you’ve got more than that, we suggest going out of Venice to cities like Verona, a northern ski resort, Milan or maybe cover the country of San Marino amongst many others.
Tip #2 – Accommodation. Accommodation on the main island can be a bit expensive, therefore we found a cheap hotel on Lido di Venezia, which is another island just opposite to Venice main island. Besides getting cheaper accommodation, this basically made it a must to ride the Vaporetto which is a great opportunity to watch the locals going by their daily routines and admire Venice from the sea.
Tip #3 – Food & Drink. Venice is not a massive place. It can be crossed on foot in an hour (a Vaporetto ride would take shorter time) so no place is too far from another. So, one should make a list of restaurants, cafeterias and bars in each area of the island according to the planned budget.
Tip #4 – Vaporetto. Do not buy the single journey ticket for the Vaporetto. This will cost €7.50 for just one way, and to get back (if you don’t fancy swimming) that will be another €7.50. Depending on how long you’ve got in Venice, there is an unlimited 1-Day, 2-Day or 3-Day pass. These should cost €20, €30 and €40 respectively.
Tip #5 – Cheap/Free Sights. Like any other city in the world, not everything is expensive and need paying for. One can wander in the Rialto Market, go into Basilica di San Marco, be smart and visit Venice during the Carnevale or else go island hopping with the day/multi-day Vaporetto ticket.
Island Hopping…. But Which Venetian Islands are Most Worth Visiting?
Venice is made of a total of 118 islands. So, to visit them all would take quite a while (it’s not even possible if you don’t have your own boat, but anyways). Besides the main island of course, here are the top 4 islands worth a visit. All of these are accessible via the Vaporetto. The routes and time tables can be found by downloading the AVM Venezia official app, more info to be found here.
1. Burano Island – This island is mostly known for its colourful houses, fishing and hand-made lace traditions. With a population of 2,000 people, Burano will welcome you instantly with the brightly coloured houses that fill in the roads and canals of the island. The bright house painting is coming from an old tradition, where fisherman used this technique to be able to see their houses from far offshore.
Isola di San Michele – This island is completely dedicated to being a cemetery. It’s been serving the city of Venice from the early 19th century.
Murano – Glass making is Murano’s speciality. Beware of cheap shops trying to sell glass labelled to be hand made in Murano. Authentic Murano glass is now protected by a trademark, and one should look for the “Vetro Murano Artistico” decal.
Lido di Venezia – This is the island where we stayed in. It’s very close to the main island and the Vaporetto is very frequent to cross. This island is different from others because it has roads and locals here do use cars. There is also a public bus system around the island. Also, the island is famous for its 12 km long sandy beach overlooking Croatia (120km away).
Ready to take on Venice on a budget?