I managed to visit Venice for 3 days (4 nights) spending only €140, including accommodation, transport, museum visits and lunch. Here are my top tips for visiting Venice on a tight budget.
- Visit out of season – Avoid the summer months when the crowds and mosquitoes descend on the city and when the weather can be unbearably hot. But remember that during the winter the weather can be unpredictable and flooding may occur. Also, cruise ships visit Venice on a regular basis all year round, when I visited in October there were 6 huge liners docked at the cruise terminal, plus the large Star Clipper sailing vessel and another river cruise boat. The number of tourists from these ships can severely increase the foot traffic in the city.
- Stay on the mainland – If you want to stay in Venice itself then you have to pay the price. Also, Venice is a car-free city so you will have to pay to transport you luggage across town or be prepared to drag your suitcases through the narrow streets and up and down the numerous bridges which cross the canals. For motorhomes there are not many options. The parking area at Tronchetto is extortionate with a view of the multi-storey car park or the oil refineries; Camping Fusina is expensive and the vaporetto to the centre is not included in the daily travel pass, but it does offer views of the lagoon, when not blocked by cruise ships or freighters; Punta Sabbioni involves a 60 km drive to get there and then a 30 minute vaporetto journey to the centre; Mainland campsites tend to be close to the motorways or under the airport flight path. I chose to stay at Camping Serenissima (€18 per night) on the Brenta Canal with a 30 min bus journey into town for €3 or included in the daily travel pass.
- Walk – The best way to see Venice is on foot, winding your way around the maze of alleyways and crossing tiny bridges with views along the canal network. The main destinations are well signed (San Marco, Rialto, Academia, P. Roma, Ferrovia and Vaporetto) and the churches and campos act as good reference points.
- Visit the Islands in 1 day – A 24 hour travel pass costs €20 and so visiting all the islands for one day is not only cost effective but also gets you out of the city and away from the crowds. Plan your route carefully and remember that it takes about 40 mins to reach the outlying islands of Torcello and Burano.
- Pick up a free events guide – Each month a bi-lingual booklet of events in Venice is published and available at the tourist information offices. It also contains useful information about all the museums and a timetable for the vaporettos.
- Buy a Museum Pass – for the cost of only €24 you can visit the Doge’s Palace and 10 other varied and interesting Civic Museums in Venice. This includes the Museo Correr, Archaeological Museum, Biblioteca Marciana, Ca Rezzonico, Ca Pesaro, Palazzo Mocenigo, Museum of Natural History, Carlo Goldoni’s House, Glass Museum (Murano), Lace Museum (Burano) and is valid for 6 months. The individual entry costs for these museums totals €80.
- Use museum and vaporetto toilets – Public toilets in Venice cost €1.50 so make the most of your Museum and Travel Passes by using the toilets on offer at the Museums and on the vaporettos.
- Take a packed lunch and don’t sit down for a coffee – A good way to save money is to picnic in the various small parks around the city (e.g. Giardinetti Reali – between the Museo Correr and the San Marco Vaporetto stop; Ca Rezzonico Garden). Be aware that prices advertised in restaurants and cafes are for counter service only and that if you sit down for a drink you will be charged extra.
- Visit churches early or just before a service – 16 of the main churches charge an entrance fee (€3 each or a combined ticket for €12) but if you visit early or just before a service you can gain entry for free. However, you should still be respectful and refrain from taking photos and disturbing local people who are there to pray.
- Gondola Rides – if you really must ride in a gondola then take a short hop across the Grand Canal in a traghetto for €2. There are several places where you can use this service to get from one side to the other. A 30 minute tourist trip in a gondola will cost €80 but it can seat 6 people.
And finally – Avoid taking a backpack as you will be asked to check it at the cloakroom for every museum and also the Basilica.
A note about Acqua Alta – Venice is prone to flooding during winter at high tide and although duckboards are often put out to help you get from A to B it is advisable to take precautions or you may end up having to buy some expensive wellington boots from an enterprising local. Pack two black bin bags and some string so you have some cheap and easy protective legwear or sit out the high tide in one of the museums.