Budget Travel Tips for the Most Expensive City in Italy
Venice is apparently the most expensive city in Italy. This was echoed by our Airbnb host in Florence when we exclaimed how things seemed to be cheaper in Florence than in Venice. So I’ve decided to put together some Budget Travel Tips for Venice so you can benefit from this. Looking back, it seemed like a wise idea to pick the most expensive city to start our Italian holiday.
Being a smart traveller, I had done sufficient research to prepare us for our expensive Italian holiday. We went there with full anticipation on the high cost of living and the unfavourable Euro currency against our Singapore dollars. Despite my budget travel tips, I consider our holiday not exactly like the budget of a backpacker, but more like a young working adult.
Budget Travel Tip #1: Take the bus from the airport
At first, I was overwhelmed by the many (expensive) transport options from the airport to Venice city. This was actually a deterrent and almost made me skip flying into Venice. After researching further, I realised the cheapest option to get from the airport to Venice city was simply the ATVO bus! Sure people will tell you to take the water bus but no I am referring to the bus with wheels.
There are two buses that take you there and one is an Express bus operated by ATVO while the other by ACTV Aerobus 5. ATVO also offers a bus service from the Treviso Airport. The ATVO express bus from Venice Marco Polo Airport costs €15 (Return) and €8 (Single) with a discounted fare if you buy for 2 persons or more. The Treviso bus costs more due to the further distance. Read more about my transfer from Treviso to Venice city.
The ACTV Aerobus 5, being an urban bus line, is not as comfy and may have limited luggage space. But the advantage is that you can purchase a combination ticket of this bus ride + a vaporetto transfer at €14 (valid for 90min). All buses will take you to the final destination at Venezia Piazzale Roma – the only bus terminal in Venice city. No other land transport goes beyond this point.
If you pick an accommodation near this bus stop or Venezia Santa Lucia train station, then you will simply need to walk with your luggage to your accommodation. However if your accommodation is elsewhere, then you will need to transfer to a water bus (or vaporetto) to get to your accommodation. If you took the ATVO bus, this will set you back further by €7,50 for a one-way fare on the water bus.
Budget Travel Tip #2: Stay in an accommodation with a kitchen, near the train station
This was a very important part of my planning. I knew Venice to be expensive and one of the best ways to save money is to have access to a kitchen s you can cook. I was weighing between a cheap tourist hotel versus an Airbnb and was left with very little options on Airbnb. Finally I picked a nice apartment which came with an elevator (important!) and very modern.
Another important factor was that this apartment was near the train station so we could leave just by walking, without spending extra on the water bus. We also could walk from the bus terminal to the apartment as it was relatively close. We only had to struggle with one big bridge with stairs – Ponte della Constituzione and the rest was on level ground.
Weigh the importance of where you’d like your proximity to be against available accommodation to make your decision. We paid a bit more (S$205/night) for a comfortable modern apartment but saved on transfers. The apartment gave us access to a fully equipped kitchen. There were hotel options close by for about S$30-40 less per night but they did not come with a kitchen, were smaller and older.
Despite our little fiasco of coordinating with the host before we arrived and the apartment’s toilet seat being broken (non-existent during our stay), I did not regret our decision to stay there. It was truly a comfortable and modern (luxurious) apartment. Also take note that hotels and some apartments will charge you a tourist tax per night of your stay (up to five nights). The price goes up when your hotel has more ‘stars’. Some apartments may not charge this as they may have already included it in their price.
Budget Travel Tip #3: Shop at COOP & cook your own meals
Of course we would indulge on some days, especially during lunch but you can definitely save for breakfast and occasionally dinner. Apart from our own instant noodles, biscuits, etc which we brought from Singapore, we bought ingredients when we see a supermarket. COOP was the best choice in terms of supermarket and they have many stores in Italy.
If you come from a country that gives plastic bags freely when you shop, do not assume the same in Italy, or in most supermarkets in Europe I believe. Bring your own bags, be it a plastic bag or a recyclable tote. Or pay for the plastic bags at check out.
We found fruits and vegetables stalls along some Venice streets but did not attempt to buy anything there. Prices seemed a little high (or no price displayed) so we bought our stuff all from the supermarkets. So I guess another budget travel tip for you is to buy from the supermarket for fair prices!
It was white asparagus season so a great chance for me to buy them fresh (and cheap) along with some nice Italian vine tomatoes. These were considered premium ingredients in my home country. So cooking in Italy gave me the opportunity to enjoy fresh local ingredients at great prices that I will not get back in Singapore.
But if you are a traveller who does not like cooking on holiday, then of course you can splurge and eat out everyday. But sometimes all you really want is a nice home cooked meal, despite being on holiday. You can even afford to splurge at the supermarket and buy the best ingredients to make a nice meal with wine to boot.
Budget Travel Tip #4: Pick affordable dining places
In Venice, I will have to admit that you do get many options for dining out. Many bakeries and simple take out places that sell pizzas, sandwiches and Cicchetti especially during breakfast and lunch. However there were also family restaurants that offered affordable meals for lunch and dinner. Many of them have “Tourist Menus” displayed outside where you see a 3-course set at a good price. Some of them even include coperto and do not charge you extra.
Look around and check out the menus displayed outside to be sure before you decide. Occasionally you may find restaurants that charge a very low coperto of €1. After a while, we got used to it and did not even bother asking. We just decided based on what their menu had as I was quite particular about the pasta selection.
We also encountered a cafe type of restaurant that seemed to sell many items “frozen” as they had indicated on their menus. Not feel very comfortable with paying for frozen heated up food, we decided to leave without ordering.
I would recommend walking into the small lanes to look for something special. Usually the good ones are hidden from the main streets. We mainly avoided restaurants that had touters at the door step. We found them very annoying and a turn off when it comes to restaurants.
On days when you want to splurge, there are many fine dining and gourmet restaurants available. All in all, I would say I was quite surprised at the variety of options in Italy when it comes to dining out. It was not as bad as I thought!
Budget Travel Tip #5: Walk everywhere
This only works is you like to walk and explore Venice. It also works very well if you do not want to spend €7,50 on 1 way of ride on a vaporetto. Enjoying unlimited vaporetto rides for a day will set you back by €20 for a 24 hour pass; €30 for a 2-day pass; €40 for a 3-day pass. It might actually make sense if you are staying in Venice for 3-4 days to buy a 2 or 3 day pass. We only bought a 24-hour pass on the day we planned to head out to Burano and Murano.
If you think you’d rather walk to explore Venice, then go ahead and do that. But walking will take a lot of time and energy. You will end up losing your way and walking in circles. Somehow we kind of did that and ended up missing a huge part of San Marco because we were too tired to go beyond the Rialto Bridge.
On hindsight, I probably would buy a 2-day pass and enjoy a bit of the vaporetto rides within Venice. Unfortunately the frequency of the vaporetto isn’t as high as the metro so you really need to take note of the schedules and ensure you head back in time to catch your ride.
Considering the price of their transportation, Venice is truly expensive. I won’t even consider paying for a single ride. They make it such that you will be tempted to just buy a full day pass. At €20, that is equivalent to 16-20 rides on a bus or train in Singapore. Details on their fares here.
Budget Travel Tip #6: Take the traghetto for a 3-min gondola ride
Okay I shall admit that I never got to do this one. Someone told me about it but I did not research much and also did not deliberately seek this one out. People would probably say you cannot go to Venice and not go on a gondola ride. Well we didn’t…. I guess it just wasn’t on our priority list.
A gondola ride will cost you €80 for a 40-min experience and this is a standard charge for all. It can seat a maximum of six people so if you really want to do it cheap, share a gondola with strangers so you can split the cost. This will work out to be about €13 per person which makes it quite reasonable.
Alternatively there is a traghetto option which costs only €2 but lasts for about 3-min. This is also a gondola but larger and without the fancy decorations or cushioned chairs. These traghetti are passenger boats that cross the canal at seven points between the railroad station and St. Mark’s Basin. It might be fun just to do it once. A pity we did not chance upon it or we would’ve done it just for fun.
Budget Travel Tip #7: Visit a free attraction with a bird’s eye view of the city
We accidentally stumbled upon this one – it is actually a luxury department store housed in a historic building called Fondaco dei Tedeschi. Dating back to 1228, this was a trading hall for German merchants in the heart of the Rialto market area. Accented by red carpets lining up to red painted escalators, this DFS department store, Fondaco dei Tedeshi, was a hit with the Chinese tourists that flooded Venice.
We walked in, took photos inside and found our way to the top floor where an entrance flanked by guards led us to a panoramic skyline of Venice and its waterways. Access to this area is free and you just need to make your way in an orderly manner. No one will stop you from taking all the selfies you like. Despite its modest height of six storeys, this 360-degree view is likely the best you can get in Venice.
Another budget travel tip here is that this luxury store gives you access to clean and free toilets at the basement level (near the tax refund counters). You can even rest your tired feet at the sofas while you wait there.
* * *
I hope my budget travel tips will come in handy for you as you plan your Venetian holiday. If you have more budget travel tips to share, please send them to me and I may add on your suggested budget travel tips here.
Proud member of Weekend Wanderlust travel blog community: