Venice is a dream destination and certainly on most people's 'must-see' travel list. The Italian lagoon city has an unparalleled artistic heritage and is a global focus for beauty, history, and culture. Full of fantastic sights and totally unique, it's also one of the biggest tourist traps on earth. Avoid some of the hassle and cost with our handy 'Venice on a shoestring' guide.
The Venice Connected website has made booking a holiday in Venice much cheaper and easier. It's now possible to book and buy all public tourist services in Venice on-line before you arrive. Available tickets include public transport in Venice, islands, and airport; parking; civic museums, including the Doge's Palace; and public toilets believe it or not!
To make the best savings decide what you want to see before you go anywhere, then get the best bulk buy discount card you can afford. The options are endless and confusing at best. The museum pass (€18) gets you all civic museums, while the church pass (€9) offers entry to the main churches excluding Doge's Palace, the rolling Venice card (€4) for under-29s offers concessions on most things including transport, if your short on time, the much touted Venice Card (3 days €73/7 days €96) may prove too expensive for what it offers in terms of benefits and reductions anyway. All prices based on mid-season and vary depending on season.
Public transport in Venice is prohibitively expensive if you fail to plan ahead. Simply do not board a boat until you have bought some type of bulk, discount ticket. A single hour-long ferry ticket can set you back around €6.50, so it will certainly pay to get an upfront 1/3/7 day all-inclusive transport ticket. If you're on any kind of budget avoid water taxis: they start at around €17 per trip.
Although it is tempting to take the budget airline route to Venice, be aware the airport serving the low-cost carriers, Treviso, is a good 45 min trip by bus or train at additional cost. Better to find a cheaper flight with an airline serving Venice's main Marco Polo airport. If you've been smart you'll have bought a 1/3/7 day travel card and it will cost you nothing to transfer to the heart of Venice.
Venetian hotels are expensive. To cut costs stay on the outlying islands of Burano, Murano, or the Lido, but for sanity's sake, not mainland Mestre. If you're staying for a minimum of three nights, take advantage of the huge variety of apartments and cut accommodation costs substantially. Plus, you'll be in the heart of the city and have access to your own cooking equipment (find the large market store by Piazzale Roma).
Avoiding the tourist restaurants
Budget dining in La Serinissima, as Venice is known, can be a disheartening experience, so simply avoid eating out in the central area, especially around San Marco. Although there are some great restaurants, it will take some searching and you'll certainly pay for the privilege. For better food and a more authentic experience, head for the restaurants around the San Polo quarter or any outlying areas. Your reward? Friendlier service and a friendlier price.
Some of the best drinking spots in Venice can be found around Campo Santa Margherita in the Dorsoduro district. Inexpensive and full of locals, it's here Italy's most famous sparkling wine, the locally-made Prosecco, flows freely in the many wine bars, or Enoteca, lining canals.
Avoid high season
Avoid the high season prices and crowds by steering clear of festival and major event dates, notably Venice Carnival (10 days leading up to Shrove Tuesday in February), the Vogalonga Rowing Regatta in June, all of July and August when visitors top 100, 000 a day, Redentore Festival (mid-July), Biennale dates, Valentine's, Christmas and New Year.
The familiar catch cry of the city's gondaliers is always enticing but savings here aren't possible as prices are fixed and with the lowest rate at around €80 for a 40-minute ride. The good news? You can always negotiate a more enjoyable experience. Ask the gondalier if he's happy to explain the route beforehand and give commentary during? Opt for a quieter, more genuine circuit, avoid the Grand Canal (it's too choppy for a gondola anyway) and don't ride with any dealmakers. You may pay less but you'll be ripped-off on time and quality. If you're really counting the pennies, some gondolas can take up to six people, so sit and split.
Explore the Lido
Only a short Vaporetti ride from St Mark's Square, the lido resembles a relaxed beach resort. Hire a bike and explore this low-priced, welcoming strip of distraction between the lagoon and the Adriatic Sea where you'll find the Venetian Film Festival's Palazzo del Cinema. On your return to bustling 'Venice', visit Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore for the best views in town (free with church pass).
Have you been to Venice? Tell us about your trip and any tips on getting the best value for money.