How to visit Venice, Italy, without breaking the bank
Arriving at the airport
Venice is served by two airports – Marco Polo, which is close to the city, and Treviso Canova, which is a few miles away in a neighbouring town.
Treviso is a Ryanair hub, so a lot of cheaper flights will arrive and depart from there. Though it is a few miles away, it is really well served by an ACTV bus service, so it’s not a huge inconvenience. I actually really liked it as an airport, it’s small so getting through security is fast, and the cafeteria sells very reasonably priced (and freshly made) pasta and pizza.
Arriving at Marco Polo, you have several transport options.
The cheapest one is to take the bus, which will take you to the mainland bus station on the edge of Venice. The most expensive is water taxi, which costs (in 2019) about 120 Euros! There is a third option, which is the one I’d recommend – taking the Alilaguna boat service. It only costs (at 15 Euros) slightly more than the bus, and you still have the magical experience of seeing Venice for the first time from the water. Just follow the signs for water transport from the arrivals area.
Venice is incredibly walkable, but there are a lot of bridges and it’s very easy to get lost.
Do consider using the vaparetto service, as there are several routes which will take you all over the place, including to the outlying islands (Murano and Burano are especially worth visiting, if you have time). It can be expensive to use, but you can get a travel pass – the Venezia Unica – which reduces the cost considerably. Under 30s can buy the Rolling Venice card, which is cheaper.
Just remember to validate your card at the scanner before you get on the boat, as tickets can be inspected.
I used the app CheBateo which is incredibly easy to use – you put your starting point and destination in, and it tells you which boat to catch, what time it arrives, and how long the journey takes.
This is what the stops look like –
Lines 1 and 2 will take you from one end of the Grand Canal to the other. I was lucky enough to get one of the outside seats at the front of the boat, and the views were incredible.
Visit other islands
As well as the centre of Venice, your travel pass will take you to the neighbouring islands – Murano is famous for glass making, and Burano for it’s lacework and striking coloured houses.
It’s also possible to escape the crowds on a trip to Venice Lido, which is a classy resort. Follow the path straight down the main thoroughfare from the vaparetto stop, and you reach the beaches, which are wonderfully sandy. Most of these beaches are private, and entry can be expensive, but by turning to the left and following the arrows for a short way, you’ll reach a free public beach.
Toilets, changing rooms and lockers for any valuables are available for a small fee, and there’s also a small beach bar.
You could join the endless queue and pay to go up the clock tower in St Marks Square – or you could take a vaparetto over to the small island of San Maggiore and go to the top of the tower there, which is crowd-free and won’t cost you anything.
If you want a view of the Grand Canal, then head to the Rialto Bridge area, and go to the fourth floor of the new T Fondaco dei Tedeschi shopping centre. You do need to book a time slot, which can be done online or on the tablet between the lift and the viewing area.
You’ll be rewarded with panoramic views in all directions.
Watch out for tourist traps
It’s surprising how much prices can drop just by turning down a side street. Cafe Florian is both historic and beautiful, but with a 6 Euro charge per person for music and an inflated menu cost, why not turn the corner to a quieter cafe, where prices are normal (and you can still hear the music!)
However if you’ve always dreamed of floating down canals in a gondola, then remember that prices are set by the city, agree the duration upfront, and then relax and enjoy – after all, you are in Venice!