Pristine waterways, artistic buildings and rich history give the city on water – Venice, a cult status for every traveller. It’s a city which had the audacity to build marble palaces, gigantic churches and heritage hotels on water canals. It’s the place where lovers from the world over dream of the traditional and romantic Gondola ride. With so much to boast, Venice is one of the most famous destinations in the world. With only 55000 residents, it receives an overwhelming 6000 tourists per day. With such a daily influx, it’s imperative that Venice is an expensive destination. The hotels, the food joints and even the Gondola rides are exorbitant for the budget traveller.
So is there a way to explore this stunning city with a lean budget? Fortunately, yes! Not only Venice, the neighbouring island of Murano with its intricate glass factories and Lido – a 12 km long strip of land between the Adriatic Sea and Venetian lagoon can also be explored without burning a hole in your pocket.
Here’s how you can visit Venice on a budget
1 Take the Venezia Unica Pass
The public transport system in Venice is very reliable. It’s a 24-hour service and is ideal for the burgeoning amount of tourists that visit this one of its kind city every day.
You will find the Venezia Unica ACTV ticketing machines on the exit way Venice Marco Polo airport.
Tickets are available for 1,2,3 and 7 days. People aged between 6-29 years (kids and students) are entitled to a special 3-day pass (Rolling Venice) at a discounted rate.
The public transport pass will give you access to almost all the buses and boats in Venice for the given period. A 3-day ticket will cost you 40 Euros and the Rolling Venice Pass around 29 Euros.
Pro Tip: You can also book these passes online and take the print out at several ACTV ticketing machines.
You may also choose the Museum and Churches pass to get access to all the attractions. Tickets start from 8 Euros to 24 Euros depending on what all you would like to visit and how much time you have.
You can also opt to take all-inclusive tickets of Gold City Pass (58.90 Euros) which will give access to all public transport and Museums and Churches. Many more options are also available depending on the visitor’s requirement. Visit www.veneziaunica.it to get all the details and book your online passes.
2 Stay in the mainland of Venice
Almost all accommodation options in proper Venice are expensive. Built amidst the pristine waterways, the hotels charge outrageous prices for the location. Many rooms which look towards the canals also suffer from the cacophony of the numerous boats that pass through and the general din of the ever-increasing crowd.
Choose much cheaper options in mainland Venice which is on the other side of Ponta Della Liberta (Bridge of Liberty) which connects the islands of Venice to the mainland. There are plenty of stay options on this side. There are several camping sites, trailers, hostels, budget and small boutique hotels which will not burn a hole in your pocket. Most of these accommodations are not more than half an hour bus ride from Venice Island.
3Use Roadways and Waterways
With the Venezia Unica pass, use public transport as soon as you exit the airport. The bus lines are clearly mentioned with the system and schedule very easy to understand. The people at the ticketing counters are very helpful and will guide you with the appropriate bus numbers as per your requirement.
The waterways with more than 30 well-connected lines serve for the island hopping. The Vaporettos (water bus) have various stops and go as far as Murano and Lido (the outer islands). You will have more information on this site.
Gondola rides are very expensive (80 Euros onwards) and even if you have not taken the public transport pass, this is still the best budget option to explore this magnificent city. The 3.5 km route of Vaporetto Line No.1 & 2 will give a great city tour at just 7 Euros. Passing through the famous Grand Canal, it will navigate several ostentatious palatial buildings, six important churches and many more beautiful structures. Also if you don’t mind walking, there is plenty to see on foot as almost all the inner islands are connected.
4Know which attractions to visit
The two most spectacular churches of Venice – The Santa Maria Della Salute and the Basilica Di San Marco are free to visit. Both are architectural wonders with ornate interiors and regal statues – its extravagant designs, a celebration of famous Venetian architecture.
Museums & Galleries
With the history and quality of art and architecture in Venice, it is difficult to find Museums with free entry. Prices range from 10 – 20 Euros.
However, the first Sunday of every month gives free access to the historic gallery of Venetian art in Gallerie dell’ Accademia, the frescoed interiors of Palazzo Grimani and the 15th-century Gothic façade of Ca’d’ Oro.
Another interesting palace museum is the 16th century Palazzo Franchetti which showcases brilliant art exhibits and allows free entry to visitors on all days. Other commercial art galleries such as the Galleria La Salizada and Galleria Traghetto are free to visit and a delight for art lovers and connoisseurs.
You can always visit more attractions with the Museums and Churches on a budget with the Venezia Unica Pass specifically meant for history and art lovers.
5Pizza Slices, Cichetti and Coffee
A full course meal amidst Venetian waterways will be disproportionate to the wallet of the budget traveller. Most of the waterside/waterfront restaurants have unusually expensive menus. However, the more local and cheaper way to survive in this expensive tourist destination is to snack it up all day long.
There are a plethora of pizzerias which give a variety of pizza slices for few Euros each. Then there is the popular snack called Cichetti – side dishes/finger snacks which are usually seafood based and served all day long. They are served with wine in the several Bacaris (wine bars) of Venice.
All’ Arco, Al Merca and Cantino Do Spade are the three most popular wine bars here.
If Italian coffee is your thing, then visit the several Pasticerrias which serve delectable tortini di riso (pastry with rice pudding filling) and coffee. Da Bonifacio is one such preferred pasticerria.
There are daily flights from Rome to Venice Marco Polo Airport. A Delhi to Rome return ticket costs around INR 35000-40000 if booked 3-4 months in advance. The island of Murano (known for its intricate glass manufacturing) is a 15 minutes water bus ride from Venice. Lido (famous for its long pebble beach) is a half an hour journey.
WHEN TO GO:
The period of April to July is peak is the peak season with warm sunny days and the occasional shower.
November to February is offseason and it’s chillier. However, flight and property rates will be cheaper (though many budget options close down) and the city will be blissfully bereft of tourists.
Also read: How over tourism is affecting Venice
WHERE TO STAY:
With the options of tents and mobile homes (trailers), Camping Serenissima is an ideal budget option. Free Wi-Fi, free admission to the swimming pool and free luggage storage are added benefits. Camping options start from 8 Euros onwards and mobile home options (with attached bathroom) cost 40 Euros onwards.
A budget hotel in mainland Venice, Hotel Centrale has rooms starting from 35 Euros onwards. The hotel offers Free Wi-Fi and complimentary breakfast.
Also read: A Stroll through Venice