How to Visit Venice on a Low Budget
Some of the Most Enduring Memories of Venice are Free
The band at the iconic Cafe Florian in St. Mark's Square playing the theme from the film Titanic as the waters gradually flood parts of the square during high tide on Wednesday evening (a regular occurrence);a gondolier singing Quando, Quando to his passengers as an audience gathers on a small narrow bridge and applauds his performance; the accordion players strolling from restaurant to restaurant. Stroll through the narrow alleys to gaze into the wonderful tiny specialist shops. There are shops which sell handmade gloves in a kaleidoscope of colours; a shop selling only upmarket gentleman's shaving apparatus and toiletries; artist shops with displays of paint pigments in the colours of Canaletto; luxury fabric boutiques, shops that make and supply fabulous gowns and masks for the carnival. And—of course—the unique architecture of Venice is free to view!
Tips for Visiting Venice on a low Budget
- If you plan to fly, travel on a budget airline
- Investigate the cheapest means of getting to the airport. Public transport is often much cheaper than the cost of fuel and airport parking. (Though it may take longer to get to the airport).
- Take carry-on luggage rather than paying to check a suitcase into the hold
- Buy a ticket for the Venice airport shuttle in advance
- Buy a Vaporetto pass to cover the duration of your visit—available online.
- Search online for accommodation that suits your budget— the Trip Advisor or Air B & B websites are good places to start.
- When in Venice eat your main meal at lunchtime and away from the main tourist areas. Meals in museums and galleries are often good value for money
- All the walking is likely to make you thirsty—especially if the weather is hot. Buy bottles of water cheaply at corner stores and carry them with you to avoid having to pay for expensive drinks.
- Buy a ticket for a tour of the Basilica San Marco in advance—available online.
- If your budget is really tight, don't buy a ticket for Basilica San Marco—queue to get in for free
- Whilst in St. Marks Square enjoy reasonably priced coffee, biscotti, and a great birdseye view of the Square at the Museo Correr. Don't join the queue for the museum—just walk upstairs.
- Spend time enjoying the wonderful shopping alleys and arcades for free!
- Take a tour of the Fenice Opera House if you can't afford a ticket for a performance
- If listening to live Vivaldi is on your must -do list there are several churches and a couple of small concert venues where performances are relatively cheap
- Spend an evening in a campo enjoying a glass of wine as you watch the local families gather to socialise
- Avoid the summer high season and the Carnival, which takes place late January to early February
Use a Travel Guide Book to Plan in Advance for a Short Visit to Venice
Most visitors to Venice arrive for a short stay or even a day. To make the most of your visit it's a good idea to pre-plan what you want to see. A travel guide is a good place to start the planning process. An excellent, reasonably priced guidebook, providing all the essential information to help you find your way around this delightful city is Marco Polo The Street map that is included with the book was indispensable during our visit. The book also contains a simple map of the Vaporetto routes and stations Perfect Days in Venice.
The Best Time of the Year to Visit Venice
We visited in May—pleasantly warm during the daytime but not too hot for sightseeing - and it's not too crowded. Also, May is not high tourist season so the cost of accommodation is not at peak season prices. That said, it is likely to rain at any time of year and we were caught in a couple of showers.Take an umbrella.
(Our bed and breakfast accommodation had roof top breakfasting terrace but we found that the mornings (in early May) were either wet or a little chilly for eating outside).
What to Pack for a Trip to Venice
The type of clothes to pack for a stay in Venice will depend upon the season but the priority is comfort and practicality.
- Smart casual is the keynote for low-budget travellers, with something more dressy if you plan to splash out on an evening at the opera or an upmarket restaurant.
- There will be a lot of walking (we walked up to 10k each day) and hopping on and off vaporetto—where at peak travel times there is often standing space only. Take comfortable, flat shoes!
- It rains quite often in Venice—take an umbrella or a light packable waterproof!
- In the winter months the weather is quite cold so pack warm clothing
Average Daily Temperatures in Venice
Getting to Venice and Getting Around the City
The two closest airports to Venice are Marco Polo (closest) and Treviso, which is approximately forty minutes away from the city.
My sister and I flew from the UK to Venice on budget airlines. I travelled on Ryanair from East Midlands airport to Treviso airport and my sister flew from Bristol to Marco Polo airport.
As it was a short visit we were able to fit what we needed to take into carry-on suitcases. The advantages:
- avoiding the queues at the airport carousel
- keeping costs down (budget airlines charge extra if you want to put a suitcase in the hold).
We each travelled to Venice Piazzale Roma coach station on the airport shuttle buses that run very regularly. We chose to purchase our coach tickets online before travelling but they can be bought from machines in the airports.
Our accommodation was a short walk from the bus station. The only alternatives if accommodation is not within walking distance are a private water taxi or a vaporetto. Even so, unless a hotel is situated in a prime position on a canal, with mooring that enables the water taxi to drop passengers outside the entrance, there will inevitably be some walking involved, with steps and bridges to negotiate. It's worth bearing this in mind when deciding how much luggage you want to take.
A gondola ride is an expensive luxury—and the Grand Canal can become very busy, so a gondola is perhaps not a particularly relaxing ride unless it is restricted to the smaller canals.
Buy Venice's Official City Pass for Discounted Entrance Prices Into a Package of Museums and Galleries
By far the cheapest way to purchase entrance to several museums is by purchasing a pass online.
There are a number of different packages available to suit different requirements and budgets.
It is possible to save between 22% and 33% by buying a pass.
Check the website Venezia Unica for more information.
Buy a Venice Travel Pass
- The only way of traveling around Venice is on foot and by boat. Public transport is the Vaporetto (water bus).
- It is essential to purchase a ticket for a vaporetto journey in advance of boarding. There are heavy fines if you are caught without a validated ticket. Machines are situated at every Vaporetto stop.
- Single trip tickets are expensive. To get the best deal on Vaporetto transport buy a pass online to cover the duration of your visit.
- A three-day pass costs 40 euros, a seven-day pass 60 euros.
Take a close look at the price list if you are tempted to occupy an outside table at a cafe in St. Mark's Square. Yes, we all would like the experience. But you will be charged a staggeringly high price for drinks, and a premium when the band is playing.
Coffee at the Correr Museum Cafe in St. Mark's Square
There is a fabulous unimpeded view of St. Mark's Square from the cafe (upstairs) at the Correr Museum. If you are only visiting the cafe you don't need to pay for entrance to the museum. Arrive early, grab a table by a window and enjoy a reasonably priced cappuccino and biscotti whilst enjoying a birds eye view of the Square in the opulent surroundings of a former palace.
Visit the Doge's Palace
The Doge's Palace is a 'must-see' when visiting Venice. If you allow 2 hours you still will not have seen everything.
- It enhances a visit if you read a bit about the history of the Palace in advance
- The cells where prisoners awaited trial are at the top of the building. These are what stayed in my memory, on account of the horrible conditions in which prisoners were confined.
- Arrive early to beat the long queues. We got there at 8.45 am. and gained admittance in quite quickly
- Don't take large bags, as you won't be allowed to carry them around and will have to queue to check them in.
- There are lots of stairs which might be a problem for those with mobility issues. There is a service lift that you will be allowed, on request, to use (as I did) - but it's a bit of a hassle.
- A good way to make use of limited time - an early visit to the Palace, followed by a rest and a snack in the Correr Museum cafe, in preparation for crossing the square to visit St. Marks Basilica. It's what we did!
It's Worth Paying for a Guided Tour of St. Mark's Basilica
It's worth investing 20 euros for a pre-booked place on a guided tour of the Basilica of St. Mark. Try to time your visit for around 11.30 a.m.—each day the lights are switched on for one hour only and this is when you will see the gilded mosaics in all their indescribable glory. The tour lasts for around an hour.
If you decide not to pay and instead join the long queues to get into the Basilica for free you will queue for up to 45 minutes (take an umbrella - it often rains in Venice!) and be rushed like cattle around a delineated path through the Basilica. You could pay two euros to jump the queue—but you would still have a very short visit—and would not have access to the specialised knowledge of a guide. (It's not worthwhile trying to tag on to a guided tour - the guides are wise to this ruse and you will suffer the indignity of being asked to leave the group. (I saw it happen).
Tour the Fenice Opera House
- If you don't want to splash out on hearing a performance at the world famous Fenice Opera House do the next best thing. Take an audio tour of the building.
- Full price 10 euros. Concessions seven euros.
The Fenice was one on the highlights of my visit to Venice. We were allowed to spend as long as we wanted wandering around this wonderful building; we toured the Maria Callas Gallery, sat in the Royal Box, and visited the special function rooms. The chorus was rehearsing when we were there, so although we couldn't see them live opera was in the background during our visit.
- Tip: you will be asked to leave your passport on the desk. If you feel reluctant to do this take a photocopy with you and offer that.
See Venice From a Distance
If you are not planning a visit to Venice, or if you would like a fascinating insight of the city prior to visiting, then I recommend the cd collection of Francesco da Mosta's series for British television, Francesco's Venice
Francesco in an architect from an old noble Venetian family and has in-depth knowledge of the buildings and history, which he shares on the CDs.
Spend a Leisurely Evening in a Campo With the Locals
When evening starts to fall in Venice the hoards of day-trippers who have disembarked from the cruise ships leave the city. It's quieter and the locals emerge to socialise in the many squares.We particularly enjoyed an early evening in Campo San Giacomo, where we sat out of doors watching families spending time together whilst we enjoyed a glass of bio-dynamic prosecco and a substantial tasting platter of local speciality cheeses at the wine bar/delicatessen Enoteca Al Prosecco.
Learn a Few Phrases of Italian Before Visiting Venice
When travelling in Europe I like to have a basic grasp of the language - it's both reassuring and polite to be able to communicate with the local people. Fewer Venetians speak English than you might imagine! I have tried different methods of learning foreign languages and find that the is the best for me. His credentials speak for themselves - during his lifetime, Michel Thomas taught languages to many public figures and celebrities, including Bill Clinton and the actress Emma Thompson. His cds may be available from your local library but I like to own a few so that I can practice and revise for some time before embarking on a trip. The full set is quite expensive but cheaper introductory sets are available in several languages. Michel Thomas method
Visiting Museums and Galleries in Venice
The wealth of ecclessiastical and Renaissance art in Venice is overwhelming. There are numerous galleries to choose from but the costs can quickly mount if you visit a lot of them, so it's a good idea to do a little research and then make a couple of choices in advance.Alternatively, restrict your cultural visits to the churches, some of which offer free access to works of art by major artists.
The major gallery is the Gallerie dell Accademia. Tickets can be booked online. Prices vary if there are special temporary exhibitions. Arrive here in the early morning if visiting in the summer months as the indoor temperature quickly starts to climb. Tickets cost upwards of 18 euros.
If you prefer modern art a visit to the Peggy Guggenheim Gallery in her former home overlooking the Grand Canal is worthwhile. Ticket price 15 euros for adults with reductions for students andseniors.
The Guggenheim is fairly close to the Accademia and it's quick to get from there if you get on a Vaparetto at the Accademia stop.
Alternatively, look at the official Venice Tourism site for some very good museum package deals.
Official Tourist Site for Venice
- VeneziaUnica City Pass
Budget Accommodation in Venice
It's possible to stay in Venice for a reasonable price, providing your expectations are not too high. But it is essential to book early.
My sister and I rented a one-bedroom self- contained ground floor apartment in a historic area, San Rocco, at a cost of 700 euros ( £533 in May 2016) for four nights, including breakfast at the building to which it is an annex ( a two-star Bed and Breakfast establishment). Tourist tax costs an additional 2.50 euros per night for each guest. To be honest, the accommodation was a very spartan apartment and the buffet breakfast, though adequate, was uninspired. Hot food, not unusually for this type of accommodation, was not offered. (It appears, from photographs that I have seen, that a bedroom in the main building would have been a better option).
If you expect more then you will have to pay more. We met up with friends who were having a special anniversary break, staying in the Junior Suite at the ultra-stylish Venezia Palace Barocci for around 850 euros per night.
If a stylish hotel on the Grand Canal is beyond your budget, try searching for reasonably priced self-catering accommodation on the Air B and B website.
It's cheaper to stay on the mainland. Mestre is a small pleasant town which has regular buses and trains to Venice. The bus ride takes 20 minutes - prepare to be thrilled by the approach across the bridge that links the island to the mainland.
Camping in Venice
- Accommodations near Venice | Camping Rialto
Accommodation 10 minutes from centre of Venice . Chalets, Tents, Glamping Bungalows-Tents.
Plan of the Rialto Campsite in Venice
When and Where to eat Cheaply in Venice
- It's cheaper to eat a main meal at lunchtime, rather than in the evening.
- Expect to pay up to 18 euros for a three course lunch at a trattoria or an osteria
- The quality of the fixed price lunch menus variable. Avoid all places where a menu printed in several languages is displayed in the window! It's worth searching for an out of the way restaurant where the locals are eating. Alternatively, the cafes in some of the museums provide good value for money.
- Or eat like a local, touring back street bars (bacari) to enjoy the cinchetti snacks unique to Venice, washed down in the traditional way with an ombra (a small glass of local wine). Cincetti are the Venetian cultural equivalent of Spanish tapas. Savour a bite-size morsel standing at the bar and sipping your ombra before moving on to the next bacari.
A Fixed Price Lunch in Venice
Of course, no visit to Venice is complete without trying at least one of the many fabulous restaurants. We enjoyed a superb lunch at Ristorante Cherubino. We had Antipasti followed by tagliatelle with crabmeat, dolce della casa (divine chocolate and caramel torte), and a glass of excellent vino bianco della casa for 40 euros each, including a generous tip for the great service.
What not to do in Venice
- Tourists are sometimes seen dipping their feet in the canals, presumably to cool them. Don't do it. Most of the city's sewage is discharged directly into the canals. The twice daily tides wash the sewage into the lagoon and from there into the Adriatic. Nevertheless, tests on the water have revealed unacceptable levels of bacteria in the canal water.
- Don't take a bicycle to Venice. Cycling is strictly prohibited in the historic City. Bikes can be securely parked at Mestre railway station for a small daily charge. Cycles can be hired at the Lido but this is the only place in Venice where you will be permitted to cycle.
- Do not feed the pigeons in St. Mark's Square. Heavy fines are imposed on anyone who breaches the regulation.
Location of the Places Mentioned in This Article
This is where the writer stayed, in a self-contained apartment
What do you Enjoy Most About a Short Break
Accessibility Limitations in Venice
Venice is really not suitable for people with physical and mobility problems. There are numerous bridges and only a few of them have ramps or lifts.
The buildings in the historic centre are hundreds of years old and consequently many do not have disability access.
The Vaporetto can become extremely crowded during peak travel times as many Venetians use it for going about their daily business. We often had to stand for at least part of our journeys.
Similarly, Venice is not toddler-friendly and there is little to maintain the interest of very small children.
Even the emergency services - police, fire, and ambulance - have to travel around the city by boat.
Questions & Answers
© 2016 GlenR