One of the first things people will tell you about Venice is that it isn’t cheap and I failed to fully realize this before booking four nights on the island. After seriously stressing about money and considering changing flights, we decided to take Venice by its expensive horns and find a way to make it affordable. As it turned out, it’s totally possible to explore Venice on a backpacker budget, but no one really tells you how. I fell in love with this sinking city and I would hate for the high prices to take away from anyone’s experience. So here’s my guide for exploring Venice on a backpacker budget.
We immediately recognized that it was impossible for us to afford staying in Venice. Thankfully there are some little cities and islands nearby that offer more affordable prices. Since I will always and forever recommend Airbnb, we used it to book our stay.
We decided to lodge on a peninsula near Venice called Punta Sabbioni. Through AirBnB, we booked “Ca Surian,” a lovely bed and breakfast in the Venetian countryside. This retreat was located on a gorgeous plot of land, surrounded by trees, farms and gardens. We had a large bedroom, bathroom, breakfast, wifi and bicycles. There was even a beach nearby! Our host picked us up and dropped us off at the ferry terminal and provided us with plenty of recommendations and directions. Although the commute to Venice took between 20-40 minutes on the ferry, it was extremely simple and at the end of the day it was pleasant to come back to the peaceful countryside void of tourists.
Other affordable locations include the island Lido, a 5-10 minute ferry ride to Venice, or Mestre, a city northwest of Venice. Don’t be afraid to stay outside of Venice. It’s really not that bad.
Since we were staying in Punta Sabbioni, we definitely required ferry transportation. If you plan to stay in Venice, it isn’t as necessary unless you want to visit some of the surrounding islands. We tried and tried to book our ferry transportation online, but the transactions just weren’t processing for some reason. Later we were extremely grateful buying online didn’t work out for us. If you try to book your transportation through Venice Connected, there is no option for student prices. Thankfully, when we arrived at the ferry terminal the sweet ticket lady asked our age and offered us a student discount, which was half the price.
For a 72-hour pass, we paid the student price of €20 per person.
If you’re not a student, I recommend trying to purchase your tickets here, as you can still save money this way.
These are the online prices:
Twelve hour pass: €18 (if you’re staying in Venice, this is perfect for taking a day trip to the neighboring islands)
Twenty-four hour pass: €20
Thirty-six hour pass: €25
Forty-eight hour pass: €30
Seventy-two hour pass: €35
Seven day pass: €50
If you plan to arrive at Marco Polo airport, the most affordable and least confusing way to arrive to Venice is by bus. On this website, you can also purchase a roundtrip bus ticket for €11, which saves you €5 from buying it at the airport.
If you plan to arrive at Venice Treviso airport (the low-cost carrier airport), you can purchase a roundtrip ticket at the airport for €18.
Note that the transportation time to or from this airport is about one hour.
Antico Forno Pizza
970 Sestiere San Polo
From the street, you can order one large slice of pizza for €2.50.
There are many options to choose from and it’s seriously delicious!
Rossopomodoro Italian food
Calle Larga San Marco 404
Two large pasta platters, bread and a couple of spritz cost us €30.
It’s a very large, touristy restaurant, but still affordable!
Calle degli Albanesi 4255
Two main courses and a side dish for €13 per person, excludes drinks.
Open 12-3p.m. Closed Mondays.
Pizza or sandwiches can be purchased for less than €5 from most restaurants with a take-away window.
For a cheap lunch, pack sandwiches and eat on a bridge or along the canal.
There’s plenty to see around Venice, but these were some of my favorite free spots.
St. Mark’s Basilica
*Must dress appropriately (no shorts, tank tops) and large bags and backpacks aren’t permitted inside.
*If you have bags preventing you to enter, walk to Calle Spadaria (facing the front of the basilica, the street is on the left) and rent a locker for free. For one hour, your belongings can be kept here.
*The line to enter can look intimidating, but it moves extremely fast. Don’t let this prevent you from seeing the interior!
Scala Contarini del Bovolo
Corte del Maltese, San Marco 2906
*Definitely pin this on a map as it can be difficult to find.
*You cannot enter, but it’s a beautiful building to see from the exterior.
Libreria Acqua Alta bookstore
Sestiere Castello, 5176/B
*This can be difficult to find, so map it out.
*The more time you spend here, the more quirkiness you will find!
*This was a great place for a souvenir–I bought a print and a magnet.
St. Mark’s Square
*This is a beautiful sight at any time of day, but be sure to wander through the square at night to see the small, fancy live bands performing on the terraces.
*Be aware of your belongings… this is a pickpocket hotspot!
Campo de la Pescaria (near the Rialto Bridge)
*A fun market to find souvenirs or handmade pastas and pasta sauces. You can also purchase picnic food here.
I’m sure you’ve envisioned yourself floating down Venice’s canals on a gondola, but a 40 minute to one hour ride will cost between €80-120. If you don’t mind sharing the experience, you can split the ride with others, making it much more affordable. The gondoliers will provide you with information and history about the city.
This free walking tour is a great way to acquaint yourself with the city and learn some of its history.
The tour begins every morning at 10:45 at Campo San Geremia, near the train station.
Reserve your tour here and don’t forget to give your guide a tip at the end!
Ca’ Macana Venezia
Mask stores are found all around Venice, but most shops don’t allow photos and they definitely don’t allow tourists to play dress up. Ca’ Macana Venezia is not most shops. There is absolutely no pressure to buy anything, and they encourage you to take photos and try on as many masks as you’d like. Here you even have the option to paint and decorate your own Carnival mask.
Address: Sestiere Dorsoduro 3172
For a cheaper tour of the Grand Canal, take a water bus from any of the stations on the Grand Canal (try to include this on a day when your transportation tickets are valid so you don’t have to pay extra). This can reveal a great view of the Rialto Bridge!
Plan several hours and allow yourself to wander this labyrinth city without a plan!
This traditional, bright orange Venetian drink is made with prosecco wine, bitter liqueur and sparkling mineral water, adorned with an orange and olive. The typical cost is between €2-3.
These originated at Harry’s Bar in Venice! But don’t buy one there because it’ll cost you about €18.
Don’t get overcharged! The average price for one scoop of delicious gelato is €1.50. Do try to look for interesting gourmet flavors! I recommend the ricotta, honey and sesame seed flavor. If you want to stick to more original flavors, I recommend cherry or tiramisu.
Day trips to Murano & Burano
See the transportation section for information on reaching these islands.
Burano and Murano can be easily explored on the same day within 3-5 hours.
If you do anything during your time in Venice, make it a priority to see this colorful island! Legend has it, when the fishermen would return home from sea, they couldn’t identify their homes through the fog so they each painted their homes a different, bright color.
The famous Murano glass comes from this island. Walk around its canals to find interesting glass displays and glass shops.
*Since it’s near the water, Venice can be chilly at night! Bring a light jacket or sweater.
*If you really want to save money, don’t eat anywhere near St. Mark’s square.
*Public bathrooms cost between €1.50-3. I suggest using the bathroom every time you eat at a restaurant, or act natural and wander through a hotel and into their lobby bathrooms.
*Venice empties out in the evening. Once the sun goes down, wander around for a new perspective on the city.
*If you want to map out your Venice itinerary, which I highly suggest, try using Google Maps to find the locations, then pin it to your hand-held map!
*Bring water bottles with you. When you need to refill, you can fill up at any of the small fountains in the plazas.
*Be careful with your belongings because pickpocketing does happen.
*But most of all, enjoy this unique city because who knows how much longer it’ll be around!
Do you have any tips or advice on how to explore Venice on a budget? Share them below!