So we went to Venice this June and spent less than 50 Euros per day. Surprised? It is true that Venice being a giant tourist hotspot, can be super pricey for the pocket. The iconic floating city has practically no hostels or budget accommodations, the food in the prime tourist attractions is generally poor and the whole place is completely overrun with tourists. However, Venice in Italy is unlike any other place in the world and it is absolutely romantic. A great engineering feat, Venice is built on more than 100 islands in a marshy lagoon and it is one of the places, everyone needs to see at least once in their lifetime. The gorgeous Italian destination is also slowly sinking into the ocean and that is another reason why you should visit Venice before it disappears. The historic city is supremely enchanting with its winding canals, gorgeous mansions, and marble palaces and you do not need to break a bank to visit it. Despite having a reputation as the playground for the rich and famous (George Clooney and his wife Amal Clooney for example), it is possible to visit and enjoy Venice on a budget with these tricks of saving money on accommodation, eating and drinking, sightseeing and transport.
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Here’s how you can visit Venice on a budget for less than €50 a day
Opt for offseason visit
The most affordable time to visit Venice is the off-season. Venetian summers are hot and humid with and it is also the peak tourist season. So expect a very crowded city, with crazily inflated prices and lots of mosquitoes. Winters are generally cold in Venice, but the city empties out and rolling mists provide great photos. It is recommended to visit Venice in early March–mid June along with September-October being another comfortable window of time. In spring expect to spend about 40 percent less for a budget room than the July rate and the Italian March air is brisk. It is also more comfortable than the stinky heat of Venetian summer but beware of autumn, when annual flooding sometimes closes key attractions.
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Choose a family run B&B or rent a short-term apartment in or out of Venice
Though Europe is known for its not so cheap stays, accommodation in Venice is shockingly expensive. This is because space is at a premium on the historic unique islands and hotels with views over the Grand Canal are out of the price range for most budget travellers. There are practically no dorms or hostels on the actual island, which are useful for exploring Venice on a budget. The best value accommodations are just outside the city at the camping grounds and in Mestre on the mainland. These are most suitable for those visiting Venice on a budget. There are many budget hotels there and even cheaper campsite. Because of the space crunch, Venice hotels are also known for their small rooms and steep stairs, which are not value for money for the price they charge. So skip the large hotels and opt for a family owned bed & breakfast instead. There are plenty of them available at Guidecca, Mestre, Murano and even Burano. You can also look for cheaper optios in less touristy sestieri like Castello. Need help deciding which neighborhood to stay in? Check out my guide of the city’s sestieri.
Get a Venice Card
Whether luxurious or a visit to Venice on a budget, a jam packed itinerary is what most travelers have. Venice is so full of activities, sights and things to do, that most visitors keep returning to enjoy the city to the fullest. Except for the day trippers, if visiting Venice’s many museums or having excursions to the islands on the Venetian lagoon is on your mind, then it makes sense to invest in Hello Venezia’s Venice Card. This super sensible city card has many attractive offers including free and discounted admission to churches, museums and temporary exhibits. Prices range from €24.90 (0 – 6 years old), €29.90 (6 – 29 years old), €39.90 (30+ years old). Simply go online, do a bit of homework, and plan your itinerary ahead of time. Pick out what you want to see and purchase the pass suitable for your needs. You can also buy a Venice travel card which offers unlimited rides on the Vaporetto for certain amount of time. Options include $24 for 12 hours of unlimited rides, $26 for 24 hours, and $33 for 36 hours. The travel card can be integrated into the Venezia Card, if you have points and time left in it. These not only save a lot of money, but also offers you the luxury of exploring much more of the incredible city and beyond.
Check out: Venice Trip Planning Guide
Sightseeing in Venice on a budget
Music floating down from the iconic Cafe Florian in St Mark‘s Square, gondolier cheerfully belting out a throaty version of Quando Quando, sunsets tinging the floating marble mansions into a blushing rose pink and strings of lights twinkling into the canals after dusk: some of the best Venice sights come for free. The real magic of Venice lies in wandering the narrow lanes, crossing canal over little bridges and simply getting lost. Sightseeing in Venice on a budget is easy because its a great place to exlore by foot and the narrow lanes are always captivating. The compact size make it a walkers delight and the sestieri are so beautiful that you can spend hours strolling through them. Amble, stroll or wander through the narrow alleys to gaze into the tiny specialist shops, stare upto to boxes of blooming petunias staining the sky red, hole in the wall stores selling handmade gloves. Stare at old fashioned barber shop with full display of gentleman’s shaving apparatus and toiletries, watch artists sketch the silhouttes of of Canaletto and gawk at luxury fabric boutiques, that make fabulous gowns and masks for the carnival.
Enjoy the best and the free attractions of Venice
Some of Venice’s most famous sights are churches and most of them have no entrance fee. Just dress appropriately with shoulders and knees covered and enjoy the frescoes left behind by some of the world‘s best Renaissance grandmasters. Admiring the iconic Venetian views across the canals, to Rialto Bridge, the Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs and in St Marks Square are also all free. St Mark’s Campanile costs €8 to climb the bell tower for bird views of Venice and entrance to the city‘s most famous attraction, the sparkling St Marks Basilica is also free of charge. For more benefits and access to private museums and exhibitions, opt for a Hello Venezia pass. You can also go for free walking tours with Venice Free Walking Tour. It is a great way to explore and learn about the city from a local‘s point of view. Book ahead to reserve a spot.
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Save some serious money on food for visting Venice on a budget
The best way to save money on eating in Venice is on a budget is to go local. Go ahead and explore Venice or Mestre‘s local markets and stock up on delicious Italian cheese, ham, olive, bread and wine. Turn them into cheap picnic hampers or cook them as meals at your self catering accomodation. There are also loads of small eateries where you can get takeaway pizza, scoops of gelato or doner at reasonable prices. If you are looking for authentic Italian food, then step away from touristy areas and delve deeper into more local sestieri like Dorsoduro. It is recommended to steer clear of restaurants offering multi lingual menus and head to a trattoria or osteria instead.
Go local with fountain water and ciccheti platters
If you are in a super tight financial squeeze, then try making lunch your main meal. Many osterias and trattorias offer dish of the day for cheap prices and these are mostly targeted towards the locals. The tap water in Venice is safe for drinking and the city has many public fountains offer free flowing water for consumption. Simply carry a bottle and get it refilled to keep yourself hydrated for free. Venice museums and galleries also offer meals or refreshments which are both delicious and value for money. For the best money friendly food experience in Venice, try the Ciccheti at the city‘‚ wine bars or bacaros. The Italian version of tapas, cicchetis are appetizers of fish, cheese, meat and vegetables which range from €1 to €3, making a real Venetian meal after a few plates.
TRAVEL TIP – Coffee lovers can save some serious cash by having their coffee at the counter. Most Venice cafes charge extra if you sit down to have your coffee.
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Look out for these scams
Money saved is money earned and naive tourists end up losing an incredible amount of money by falling in for some kind of travel scam. Venice is a honey pot for wide eyed tourists and scamsters alike. Falling into the tourist traps there is quite easy there and watch out for the scamsters, especially near the main attractions like the St Marks Square. Though Europe is known to be very creative for its tourism scams, some of the most popular ones in Venice are simply brazen.
Beware of the pick pockets
Pick pockets prey on tourists in hordes in Venice and they follow the usual old school methods of distraction and crowded areas. The prime tourist locations like Rialto Bridge, St Marks Square are their favourite haunts and nowadays many pick pocketing incidents have been reported in the Vaporettos or the water buses. Be careful while waiting in a queue, keep a check on your belongings if the vaporetto is crowded and exercise extreme caution if there is a rush during exiting or entering the ferry. In Venice, “Back-Pocketers.” are a new menace known to target the tourists. These are extremely skilled crooks who easily free wallets from tourists’ back pockets by making a small cut on the rear pocket with a box cutter.
Look out for overpriced meals and drinks
Dinner with a view of the Rialto Bridge is one of the easiest ways to bust a trip to Venice on a budget. Don‘t get me wrong, the location is perfect especially during sunset or at night with twinkling reflections of the city lights, but beware of the inflated prices of the fancy restaurants there. Uusually, the tourists are tempted in by a suave Italian gent for an invitation to a special tourist menu complete with a free Bellini. Well, the view is guarenteed to be spectacular while the meal will be perhaps one of the worst you have eaten. You might also end up paying a hefty 133 Euros for it. Sometimes, these restaurants in the name of house specials and charming hospitality offer less than mediocre food which is not mentioned in the menu and charge exhorbitantly for them. This scam has even reached the islands of Murano and Burano. Be aware of friendly people inviting you in warmly to their best outdoor table and offering you their best fish of the day. Though, not all the restauranters in Venice belong to this category, it makes sense to keep the alert on high.
The romantic gondola ride may not just be what you were dreaming of
In the movies a gondola ride along Venice’s canals is incredibly romantic. It makes you crave for one ride yourself and you envision gliding along a quiet canal with a straw hatted gondolier in black and white stripes humming in Italian as you steal kisses with your lover. In reality, a gondola ride will make you fork out €80 for a 20 minutes thus turning your trip to Venice on a budget rocketing out of control. The ride will be along crowded canals where you are followed and following an unending string of equally excited tourists. Rather than being romantic, it gives you a packed ride at Disney World feel and the singing costs extra. The cheaper option is the traghetto which is gondola ferry which transports travelers visiting Venice on a budget across a canal. This not only saves money also gives an authentic, albeit brief gondola experience.
TRAVEL TIP – Venice has one rowing school for tourists and Row Venice supports Venice‘s original voga tradition by sharing it with the world. Voga alla veneta is the style of rowing, standing up, facing forward, native to Venice and has been made famous by the gondoliers. Row Venice delivers an experience in which not only will you row your very own gondola along Venice’s beautiful canals, but get a history lessons about being a gondolier. A 2-hour lesson costs €60 for singles, €40 per person for doubles, or €100 for a family (two adults and two children).
Coffee at St Marks Square can burn holes in your pocket
Four coffees in St. Mark’s Square come with a bill of €100. St Mark’s or San Marco in Italian is one of Italy’s most beautiful,and Venice‘s only actually piazza and the whole atmosphere of the cathedral, palace, mansions and pigeons is simply magical. But beware that this beauty attracts loads of crowds and occupying just about any of the outdoor tables in the piazza comes with a hefty price tag.
Buying over priced fake souvenirs
Murano glass items are one of the most popular souvenirs of Venice. These beautiful pieces are made in the nearby island of Murano which is a 20 minutes boat ride across the Venetian lagoon. However, if you shop for them in one of the stores in St Marks Square or Rialto Bridge, expect to be charged double or triple the original price and it may be a “Made in China” product.
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Explore beyond the city of Venice
There is more to Venice than the historic crowded overpriced truly magnificent city. Many travelers claim that the islands on the Ventian lagoon had given them more special moments than the city itself and exploring them does not affect the budget. When the city‘s grandeur starts overwhelming you, make a beeline for Lido, Venice‘s resort island. It is a short boat ride away and has a beach to chill out for the day. It is a great option for those traveling with children and if you have a valid travel pass, then the rides are free. You can also opt for day excusrions to the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello and enjoy some alternative sights off Venice on a budget. The large island of Murano is famous for making pretty glass, and Burano island with its colourful, brightly painted houses is a photographer‘s paradise. You may also indulge in Torcello to enjoy the peaceful nature reserve and the church with Byzantine frescoes and the San Michele, the Venice‘s cemetery island is very tranquil too. Though there are many companies offering tours to these islands, you can save a lot of money by simply doing them yourself. Just know your Vaporetto route, get on a water bus and explore on foot. As mentioned before, some of the best things in Venice are for free.
Do you have any helpful hints for avoiding being overcharged in Venice? Share them with me in the comments below.
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