Venice on a Budget

Yes, you can use the words “budget” and “Venice” in one sentence. While Venice has a reputation for being one of the most expensive Italian cities for tourists, there are several ways to cut down costs.

1. Go off-season.

Summer (June to August) is peak season in Europe. If you’d like to avoid the stampede of tourists, go during the shoulder season (April to May and September to October) or off-peak months (November to March). The prices of everything from hotels to airfare go down during shoulder and off-season.

2. Book everything early.

From airlines to hotels, rates are lower if you book months ahead. If you download the app or subscribe to the mailing list of your favorite airlines and booking sites, you’ll get dibs on flash promos.

3. Get your accommodation outside the island.

When you think of Venice, you’re probably thinking of Rialto Bridge, St. Mark’s Basilica, and those gondola rides, right? Those famous tourist spots are located in Venice Island, an easy 12-minute train ride (only €1 per ride) from Mainland Venice. The hotels in Venice Island are double the price of the ones in mainland Venice.

Think about this: One night in a dingy, sleazy Airbnb apartment in Venice Island costs as much as a decent hotel in mainland Venice. You do the math.

(Read more about my great experience with Anda Venice Hostel here.)

At the back is the Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark, commonly known as Saint Mark’s Basilica.

4. Rethink that gondola ride.

Do you want to take your significant other on this iconic Venetian boat while the gondolier, dressed in a striped top and hat, sings “O Sole Mio” as you float through the canals? I hate to burst your bubble, but this is the biggest tourist trap of Venice. The price is a whopping €80 (₱4,800) for half an hour during the daytime, and €100 after 7pm. If you’re a gullible and clueless tourist, they might charge more.

I’m not romantic, so perhaps that’s why I did not consider the gondola ride during my Italian trip. I also learned from the locals I met there (Ciao, bel Giovanni!) that “O Sole Mio” is not even a Venezian song. It originated from Naples. While gondoliers have been trying for years to avoid singing “culturally deficient” songs, money-spending tourists (especially Hollywood filmmakers) continue to believe this stereotype and ask their gondoliers to sing this song.

Taken from the Rialto Bridge. Venice on a busy, rainy day.

But hey, if a gondola ride still tops your list, go ahead and enjoy. Money saving tips: A standard gondola fits up to six people, so bring friends to split the cost with you. They won’t allow you to team up with random people you met right there and then. You have to arrive as a family or convincing group of besties.

Does a budget gondola ride exist? Yes! Look for the traghetti, a public gondola used to cross the Grand Canal. The price? Only €2 (or 70 cents for residents). But don’t expect the frills, like a romantic scenery or comfortable seats. If you ask the gondolier to sing “O Sole Mio,” he might push you off the boat. Just kidding! Or maybe I’m not.

As for me, I enjoyed people watching. It was interesting to see the dynamics of gondola tourism. I particularly enjoyed it when the gondolier would intentionally rock the boat to prove to tourists that it won’t capsize, and in turn the tourists would scream in fright.

To get around Venice Island, there are several options: vaporetto or water taxi, gondola, speed boat, or just walk.

5. Walk.

A vaporetto (water taxi) is €7 per ride. My friends told me to purchase the €20 one-day, ride-all-you-can pass, which I regretted because I realized it was so easy to walk around Venice. I hardly used my day pass, which was a waste of €20. If you’re physically fit and can easy walk 10,000 steps a day, then save money by walking more. But for the experience, take only one vaporetto ride and nothing more.

6. If you really must take the water taxis, get the unlimited pass.

If you’re too tired to walk and still have a long itinerary, then don’t buy individual ride tickets. There are better options available, from group tickets to 3-day passes. Click here for more info.

7. Buy special tour passes.

If you’re planning to visit several museums, churches, and other attractions, get discount cards and passes, which are cheaper compared to separately booking each attraction. Try the Venezia Unica City Pass (for museums, churches, etc.) and ACTV Passes (for buses, vaporettos, etc.).

Kate was here. Behind me is Rialto Bridge.

8. Look for free things to do.

You don’t have to spend a lot to see the beauty of Venice. For starters, try free walking tours (Click here for recommendations). If you’d like to see St. Mark’s Basilica, note that the main body of the basilica is free to visit, while the other areas have an entrance fee. Make your way to Murano to see free demos of glass-blowing workshops. If you booked a hostel, there are free community activities and parties that you should definitely join.

9. Choose only what you really want to see.

You don’t have to do every little bitty thing suggested in blogs and travel sites. Research early. Don’t be pressured into doing something you don’t really like just because all your friends paid to see it. Do only what suits your travel personality. It will prevent you from wasting your time and money.

Save money by avoiding the restos in Piazza San Marco (overpriced!) but eat as much gelato as you want! To suss out fake gelatos from genuine Italian gelatos, click here.

10. Pack your own meals.

Restaurants in Venice, especially the ones located right next to tourist spots like Piazza San Marco, are overpriced. Aside from the jacked-up prices of the pizza, pasta, and wine, they will also charge you a service fee for dining in.

When budgeting with family or friends, try this: Shop for prepackaged salads, sandwiches, sliced fruits, and a bottle of wine at the markets and grocery stores. The quality is just as good as the restaurants, but for less cost. Have a picnic at any of the squares and public parks. Make sure to dispose your rubbish properly.

Planning a trip to Venice soon? Hope these tips help. Arrivederci!