How to Use Venice's Vaporetto Transportation System

What you should know about the canal city's water buses

venice vaporetto photo
Hans-Peter Merten/Photolibrary/Getty Images

In a city with canals in place of roads, it only makes sense that public transportation consists of watercraft. Known as the vaporetti, Venice's water bus system is the city's major form of public transportation. These buses (vaporetto is singular, vaporetti is plural) take visitors along the main canals, to the outer islands, and around the lagoon. Although often crowded, they are by far the least expensive way to get around (other than walking). If you're visiting Venice, sooner or later you'll find yourself on a vaporetto.

The word vaporetto means "little steamer" after the city's original system of steam-powered motorboats. Today these famously punctual vessels run on diesel and are wide and flat to ensure the best views from their bows. Smaller, faster versions are called motoscafi, while double-decker boats or motonavi are used to ferry riders to outlying islands and to the Lido.

Vaporetto Tickets & Fares

Vaporetto tickets are one price, regardless of the length of the journey. If you want to save money, purchasing flexible travel passes is highly recommended.

  • Fares: A 75-minute ticket costs €7.50 and entitles you to unlimited travel during that period, which starts at the time of validation. If you plan to use vaporetti a lot, it makes sense to buy a 1-day (€20), 2-day (€30) or 3-day (€40) pass. One-week passes cost €60 each. These budget-friendly tickets allow the optimum in flexibility and ease-of-use. Holders of the Rolling Venice Discount Card for youth (ages 6-29) can purchase a 3-day package for €28. Children under six years ride free. Discounts are also available for seniors (65 +). 
  • How to buy: You can purchase tickets online or at ticket offices located at Piazzale Roma, Ferrovia, Rialto, and San Marco. You can also buy them at tobacco shops (tabacchi), newsstands (edicole), or wherever the ACTV logo is displayed.
  • How to use: Validate your pass by "swiping or tapping" them on machines located at the boarding entrance. Failure to do so could result in a hefty fine. Price includes one piece of luggage not to exceed 150 cm (50 in)—the sum total of its three dimensions. Vaporetto Routes

Essential Information About Vaporetti

  • Hours of operation: Main routes operate 5 am to midnight and three nighttime routes run from 11:30 pm to 5 am on the Grand Canal between Piazzale Roma and the Lido. Note: expect restricted service during times of acqua alta (high tide).
  • ​​​Key routes: The leisurely No. 1 on the Grand Canal is the main route, running from one end of the iconic waterway—with its parade of historic palazzos—to the other. The line stops at six neighborhoods (sestiere) before going out to the Lido. No. 2 operates in a loop on the Grand Canal, connecting the Tronchetto (parking lot) with Santa Lucia train station, Piazzale Roma, the Lido (summer), and Guidecca. Route N is the night boat, which follows No. 2's path, but skips the Giardini stop. Routes 4.1 and 4.2 go in a circle around the outside of Venice (Giracitta), stopping at the railway station, Piazzale Roma, Guidecca, and then out to Murano. Routes 5.1 and 5.2 are like the other Giracitta, except they go to the Lido instead of Murano. Route 12 takes you to Murano and Burano islands from Fondamente Nuove.
  • Note: Separate tickets must be purchased to and from the Marco Polo Airport (Alilaguna line), from Chioggia to San Zaccaria (No. 19), and from Le Zattere to Fusina (No. 16). For more information about bus routes, timetables, and an interactive map go to ACTV.

Other Transport Options

Walking is by far the best way to experience Venice's evocative back streets and alleyways, but there are other alternatives for getting around this waterlogged municipality.

  • Water Taxis: If you have a little cash to spare, the fastest means for getting from point A to point B is by water taxi. There are more than a dozen taxi stands sprinkled about, including one at the airport and another on the Lido. The taxis are operated by three companies: Consorzio Motoscafi, Serenissima, and Veneziana Motoscafi, which add to the already dizzying high price a fee for luggage as well as a surcharge for nighttime pickups (between 10 pm and 7 am).
  • Traghettos: Less reliable than vaporetti, but still affordable is a traghetto (gondola ferry), which takes riders back and forth across the Grand Canal quickly. Catch one from the eight docking points along the canal marked by bright yellow signs with a gondola symbol. Note: Venetians stand during crossings, but if you haven't found your sea legs, sitting down is permitted.
  • Gondolas: On everyone's Venetian bucket list should be a romantic gondola ride, piloted by an iconic gondolier in his traditional black-and-white striped shirt. You will pay about €80 for a 30-40 minute ride (€100 after 7 pm). Splitting the cost by sharing a boat with other passengers (maximum capacity of six) is a great way to cut costs. Although most gondoliers speak a little English, don't expect them to be super chatty as they will need to focus their attention on expertly maneuvering their flat-bottomed boats through the slimmest of passageways. Also, despite the cliche, most gondoliers do not sing while they row.

Accessibility on Vaporetti

  • Lines 1, 2, and the Giracitta are accessible to wheelchairs and have reserved spaces on board.
  • Patrons in wheelchairs pay €1.50 for a 75-minute ticket.
  • Water taxis are not suitable for wheelchairs and those with mobility issues should try to avoid them.
  • Go to Accessible Venice to download the "Itineraries Without Barriers" map or get one at a tourist office. It provides excellent info about how to reach sights by vaporetto or by land.

Tips for Getting Around Venice

  • For the short trip across the Grand Canal, take a traghetto.
  • For heading from the train station to your hotel (or vice-versa) with luggage, take the vaporetto.
  • A boat's route number is painted in white, red, green or navy circles. Ignore the large black numbers on the sides of the boats.
  • If taking a gondola, keep in mind they don't have awnings to shade you from the sun. In hot weather, take a ride in the early morning hours or after sunset.
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