Welcome to Venezia:
If Venice is on your itinerary, you need a travel guide for how to visit on a budget. This wonderful city offers plenty of easy ways to pay top euro for things that won't really enhance your experience.
When to Visit:
Opt for the off-season if at all possible. I visited in early March and spent about 40 percent less for a budget room than the July rate. The room was centrally located between the Rialto Bridge and the Piazza San Marco.
It's possible the room would not have been available at any price in July. The March air was brisk, but probably no more uncomfortable than the heat of Summer. Do beware of autumn, when annual flooding sometimes closes key attractions.
Where to Eat:
Highly touristed areas like Rialto and the Piazza San Marco are packed with expensive and somewhat impersonal eateries. These are the kind of places where ill-prepared tourists drop big bucks for a light meal and then complain about it for years. Instead, gravitate to where the locals eat. Venice's Dorsoduro section (main vaporetto line to Ponte dell' Accademia) is filled with neighborhood trattorias that are festive and cheap. Here or in San Polo, you dine with the natives for a fraction of the cost the tourists are paying in slightly more convenient locations.
Where to Stay:
Look for rooms closest to the places you want to visit--even if those lodgings are a bit more expensive.
You'll save money and precious time on commuting. Reasonable rooms in Venice tend to be very small and sometimes at the end of several steep stairways. Sacrifice the room with the view and lace bedspreads; don't sacrifice safety or cleanliness. Search for hotels in Venice
Gondola rides are romantic but very expensive -- at best a one-time experience.
It can be argued effectively that gondolas should be skipped altogether. Do plan on using Venice's system of vaporettos, a sort of floating bus service. Standard vaporetto fares start at €7.50 for 75 minutes of unlimited trips. But the best values are a 24-hour ticket for €20, a 48-hour ticket for €30, and a seven-day pass is €60. If you pay in advance, discounts are possible through VeneziaUnica.
Head for the Islands:
Murano Island is known for its glassblowing artisans. It tends to be a bit touristy, but well worth a look. The demonstrations are free, but some end in the showroom, where often there is not-so-subtle pressure to buy. Burano Island is known for its fine lace and for pastel-colored houses that fishermen at sea could spot as landmarks. A 40-minute ferry ride is required to reach Burano, but the trip is a nice change of pace after hours of navigating narrow Venetian streets.
Put Down the Guidebook and Explore:
Time is money on vacation, so don't waste either commodity. Many first-time visitors spend time trying to follow guidebook recommendations for restaurants and shopping. The problem: Venetian addresses are confusing, even to the locals. Add a language barrier to the equation and it can become nearly impossible to find that little restaurant that serves perfect pasta.
Make your own discoveries by following one simple rule: leave the tourist zones and explore on your own. Get 10 step by step tips for saving money in Venice.
More Venice Tips:
- Plan to picnic. Little groceries are filled with fresh meats and cheeses, and the vistas for enjoying such delicacies are numerous. Best of all, it comes at a fraction of the cost for a sit-down restaurant meal.
- Allow time to walk aimlessly. Walking tours cost nothing, and often turn up the most memorable places in a city like Venice.
- About the touts at the docks or train station: Sometimes the budget hotels that are perfectly fine send aggressive sales people out to find patrons. It rubs some of us the wrong way, but listen to their pitch if you don't have a room. Much of the time, their offers are legitimate. Insist on seeing a map that shows the location. Some places that are sold as centrally located are miles from where you want to be situated.
- Learn a few words of Italian. A few simple phrases like please, thank you, how much?, excuse me and "do you speak my language?" do wonders for public relations. Strangers are more apt to show some kindness when visitors make the attempt to speak in local language.
- Use the tourist office to book tours and other activities. Hotels offer this service, but the prices and arrangements are sometimes less pleasing. Contact the APT and get impartial answers.
- From About's Go Italy Guide: Visit nearby Padua. It's a short train ride from Venice, an interesting town in itself, and often much more reasonable for overnight stays. Check out more Go Italy tips.