Before going to Venice I had been warned about the prices. Gondola rides cost € 80.00 for a boat, seating up to six people (so sharing is better cost-wise) and coffees in San Marco square can reach unimaginable prices. But it turns out that you can be a budget holidaymaker in Venice after all.
Venice has some amazing food, but some places offer average dishes with big price tags. During my visit, I experienced both. The pizza I had at a restaurant on the Grand Canal, next to the Rialto Bridge, was one of the cheapest things on the menu, but while the food around us smelt delicious, ours was only okay. However, we discovered that we didn’t have to travel too far to find something different. Tucked away was Taverna Del Campiello Remer, where during their happy hour (I’m not sure how long this lasts but we arrived at around 6.20pm) they served an all you can eat buffet of cicchetti- Venetian tapas- and a drink for €5.00. It was delicious and I was stuffed. After we finished eating, we took a drink outside and sat on the dock, from which you could see the Rialto Bridge. This was the experience we had been hoping for. We also had tasty, affordable lunches at Trattoria Ca’ D’oro alla Vedova (possibly the best meatballs I have ever tasted), Al Merca (small bread rolls stuffed with meats and cheeses) and Rossosapore (takeaway pizza slices).
As I’ve said, gondola rides could cost you around €80.00, depending on how many people you share with. If you’re looking for a romantic ride around Venice then, in all honestly, I cannot make any suggestions, however if you’re like us and simply want a gondola experience, we found ours for €2.00. Admittedly, it must have lasted for less than 2 minutes and simply took us from one side of the Grand Canal to the other, but it totally counts and we were very happy. There are a handful of these ports around the city and went to the one at Santa Sofia, near the Ca’ D’oro or Rialto Mercato vaporetto stops.
#3: Walking and transport.
The main island in Venice is actually not that big. We walked from the bus station at Piazzale Roma at the top to San Marco square at the bottom in about 45 minutes, more or less- I forget exactly but it can’t have been too long (depending on your point of view). The best way to see Venice is by meandering through the lanes and there are several bridges dotted around so if you don’t want to pay to use the ferry then you do have the choice of walking. Also San Marco square and the Rialto Bridge seemed to be very well signposted, so you can always find your way back to somewhere recognisable.
I should admit that I did get a 72 hour vaporetto pass for €35.00. Our hostel was on the island of Giudecca and the cost of using the ferry (€7.00) twice a day to get to and from the main island would have cost us more than getting a pass- so it is justifiable! Also, we were only there for a few days and we get lost very easily- although this is a good pastime in Venice as we discovered on our first night. If you do want to use the vaporetto frequently, a pass is a good way to go. It’s also cheaper than a standard gondola ride so you can get your sailing on the canals experience in a more practical way!
#4: Student card.
I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but if you are a student, bring your student card and ask if concessions are available. Not everywhere offers discounts but we often found that museums and galleries did so we were able to save some pennies. You can get an international student ID but our standard ones were always accepted.
#5: Free walking tour.
Not only are these a backpacker’s best friend but the one we did in Venice with Free Tour Venice was particularly good. It lasted between 2.5-3 hours and our guide taught us a lot about Venetian history. She also helpfully told us about several places to eat well and cheaply (and pointed them out- we would never have found them otherwise, Venice is impossible to navigate without a very good map) and told us about the €2.00 gondola rides. My only regret is that we did this on our second day and not our first, it was a great way of getting an insight into the city. Although they are technically free, these tours work on tips. However, this means that you simply give what you can afford and what you think the tour was worth so they are available whatever your budget.