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How to Visit Venice on a Low Budget

As the flight to Venice from the UK is just over two hours, it's an ideal destination for short breaks to beautiful, unique, Serenissima

Mars the God of War at the steps to the entrance of the Doge's Palace.

Mars the God of War at the steps to the entrance of the Doge's Palace.

Some of the Most Enduring Memories of Venice are Free

The band at the iconic Cafe Florian in St. Mark's Square plays 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 sings "Quando, Quando" to his passengers as an audience gathers on a small narrow bridge and applauds his performance. The accordion players stroll from restaurant to restaurant.

Wander through the narrow alleys to gaze into the wonderful, tiny specialist shops. There are shops that 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!

Use a Travel Guide Book to Plan in Advance for a Short Visit to Venice

To make the most of your time in Venice, 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 Perfect Days in Venice. The map that is included with the book was indispensable during my first visit. The book also contains a simple map of the Vaporetto routes and stations.

Also, I strongly recommend that you buy passes for the places that you want to visit. (More about this later in the article).

Tips for Visiting Venice on a low Budget

  • Check out the cheapest flights and the extra costs and excesses that you might have to pay for baggage. The Skyscanner website has a list of the charges made by most airlines.
  • Take only carry-on luggage if your trip is short, making sure that it doesn’t exceed the permitted size.
  • Stay on the mainland. The journey into Venice is fast and cheap by bus or train.
  • Buy a Venice travel pass to cover the duration of your visit.
  • Eat your main meal at lunchtime and away from the main tourist areas.
  • Buy a bottle of water cheaply at a corner store and carry it with you to avoid having to pay for expensive drinks. There are around 100 drinking fountains with good, free, drinking water in Venice where you can refill your bottle.
  • Entry to the Basilica St. Marco is free. Alternatively, you could pay 4 euros to jump the queue. Buy tickets online.
  • Whilst in St. Marks Square enjoy reasonably priced coffee, biscotti, and a great birdseye view of the Square at the Museo Correr. No need to 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 Theatre 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 gathered to socialise.
  • Avoid the summer high season and the Carnival, which takes place late January to early February.

Buy Venice's Official City Pass for Discounted Entrance Packages for Museums and Galleries

By far the cheapest way to get the best prices is by purchasing a pass online for entrance to most popular visitor attractions.

A range of package deals is available for the 30-64 age group in a range of prices between 33,90 and 57,90 euros (2022)

Check the website Venezia Unica for more information.

Remember that you will also save a lot by buying a pass for the Vaporetto (public service water bus) Prices are 21 euros (1 day) to 60 euros (7 days).

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 validate 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, entitling the user to journeys on vaporetto and buses to and from the mainland costs 40 euros. A seven-day pass costs 60 euros. You may want to add-on the various sites that you hope to visit to your pass. Pre-loaded cards can be purchased on the Venezia Unica website.
Gondoliers on the Grand Canal

Gondoliers on the Grand Canal

Discounts and Packages in Venice For Young People Age 6-29

The range of different packages can be quite bewildering. Take time to research before deciding which provides the best value for your needs. Then purchase online.

  • Several different Junior City passes are priced from 21,9 euros to 34,4 euros (2022). The passes give access to many of the main visitor attractions in Venice (Doge's Palace, museums, churches, art galleries, tour of the Fenice Opera House). Buy one that covers the places you plan to include in your visit.
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A special pack for the 6-29 age group, the ACTV 3-day Transport ticket +ROLLING VENICE pass costs 28 euros (2022). It provides for 3 days discounted travel plus entitlement to take advantage of the many discounts and special offers from participating local businesses and major cultural attractions and museums in the city. Other passes are available for 5 or 7 days transport.

  • Junior City Pass @21.9 euros+Transport Pass inclusive of Rolling Venice Pass @28 euros = 49.9 euros for 3 days.

The Best Time of the Year to Visit Venice

I visited in May—pleasantly warm during the daytime but not too hot for sightseeing, and 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 showers several times.

High summer in Venice can be unbearably hot for sightseeing.

There are frequent mists in the autumn and winter months; and,sometimes, horrendous flooding.

Average Daily Temperatures in Venice

venice-on-a-shoestring-budget-top-tips

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.

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 baggage in the hold).

Regular shuttle buses run to the Piazzale Roma coach station from both airports.

The aerobus from Marco Polo to the Piazzale Roma bus station in Venice runs every thirty minutes

In Venice, the only alternatives if your chosen accommodation is not within walking distance are a private water taxi or a vaporetto (public transport waterbus). 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.

What to Pack for a Trip to Venice

  • 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. (Venetian culture includes the importance of making a good impression). The dress code for the Fenice is on the website.
  • There will be a lot of walking 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.
The Grand Canal

The Grand Canal

The Grand Canal Viewed From Space 2001

The Grand Canal Viewed From Space 2001

Visiting the Doge's Palace in Venice

The Doge's Palace, situated in St.Mark's Square, is a 'must-see' when visiting Venice. If you allow 2 hours, you still will not have seen everything.

Combined tickets for entry to the civic museums of Venice are available in advance of visiting, at a greatly reduced price on the Palazzo Ducale official website. Alternatively, include the entrance cost in a City Pass (but entrance times using the Pass are restricted to 12 noon -4.00 p.m).

  • It enhances a visit if you read a little about the history of the Palace in advance.
  • Arrive early to beat the long queues. We got there at 8.45 am and gained admittance 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 on my first visit, having recently had knee surgery), 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!

When in Venice, it's Worth Paying for a Guided Tour of St. Mark's Basilica

If your visit to Venice is once-in-a-lifetime, it is worth splashing out on a pre-booked place on a guided tour of the Basilica of St. Mark. Tours, starting at 12 noon, are timed to coincide with lights being switched on-which is for only one hour each day. This is when the gilded mosaics can been seen in all their indescribable glory.

Alternatively, if the budget is tight, queue for free entrance. (You could pay 4 euros to skip the queue).

Tour the Fenice Opera House

The Fenice was one on the highlights of my visit to Venice.

If, like me, 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.(The chorus was rehearsing during my visit so the sound of live opera was in the background).

  • Full price 12 euros. Concessions 8 euros. Buy tickets at the door from 9 a.m. onwards, or include the entrance fee in a Venezia City Pass.
  • 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 an insight into the city prior to visiting, then I recommend the DVD collection of Francesco da Mosta's series for British television, Francesco's Venice. Francesco, a Venetian whose family have lived in the city for many generations, is an architect, takes his viewers on a fascinating tour.

After a day exploring take a rest and enjoy a substantial early evening snack at Enoiteca Al Prosecco as the locals gather in the square to socialise

After a day exploring take a rest and enjoy a substantial early evening snack at Enoiteca Al Prosecco as the locals gather in the square to socialise

Spend a Leisurely Evening With the Locals in a Venetian Campo

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.

Campo San Giacomo

Campo San Giacomo

Giving Tips for Service in Venice

The American service economy expects customers to be generous with tips, but Italians aren't big on tipping. A service charge is often added to the bill in restaurants. If is isn't, between 5% and 10% is about right.Or round up to the nearest five or ten euros.

In attended lavatories, it's usual to drop between 50 cents and 1 euro in the saucer.

No need to tip for service in bars and cafes but if you feel that service was particularly good, and are feeling generous, you might leave a few cents of your loose change.

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 Michel Thomas method 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.

Alternatively, if you just want a few basic phrases to make your visit easier, the Collins easy learning Italian is available cheaply as an audible download with associated downloadable PDF.

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. If your visit allows time to visit more than this then a City Pass that includes up to 11 civic museums is worth consideration.

The major gallery in Venice is the Gallerie dell Accademia. Tickets can be booked online.They are not included on a City Pass. Prices vary if there are special temporary exhibitions, but usually are only 2 euros for students age 18-25. Children are allowed free entry with an adult (price 12 euros). Arrive here in the early morning if visiting in the summer months as the indoor temperature quickly starts to climb.

If you prefer modern art a visit to the Peggy Guggenheim Gallery in her former home overlooking the Grand Canal is worthwhile. Ticket price 16 euros for adults with reductions for students and seniors. The gallery is not included on a City Pass but tickets can be purchased on the City Pass site for an extra charge. There is a light and airy cafe attached to the gallery, which offers tempting dishes at reasonable prices.

The Guggenheim is fairly close to the Accademia gallery and it's quick to get there if you catch a Vaparetto at the Accademia stop. Both are in the Dorsoduro area of the City, which I loved. I particularly enjoyed strolling in the narrow streets lined with tiny specialist shops.

A day that starts early morning at the Accademia gallery, followed by lunch at the Guggenheim cafe and a visit to the house gallery, then a stroll in the shopping lanes, is do-able for those with plenty of energy.


Official Tourist Site for Venice

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. The accommodation was a very spartan, impeccably clean, apartment and the buffet breakfast, though adequate, was uninspired. Hot food, not unusually for this type of accommodation, was not offered.

If You Want the Bells and Whistles, Be Ready to Pay

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 Airbnb website.

It's cheaper to stay on the mainland. Mestre is a small 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

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.
  • Visit the market in the morning with a packable insulated cool bag to buy the components for a picnic lunch. Eat it in one of the city parks.