Venice On A Budget 13

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Aaaah, Mi Amore!

The City of Bridges,

The City of Water

The Bride of the Sea


No matter what you end up calling it, Venice is on just about every bucket list ever written for European travel.  Maybe it is the idea that the city is slowly sinking into the sea and therefore has some soon-to-be-vanished appeal or possibly it’s just the idea of gliding along a canal with your loved one that has people longing for a taste of Venice.  If you can look past the hoards of tourists, the endless cruise ships and the smell of fish (in the summer) then it actually is a romantic pilgrimage for many.

There are some European cities that have a certain images ingrained in our minds.  For example, Paris is also supposed to be this amorious city with lovers around every corner.  But somewhere in the past semi-century, it seems that this charm has faded away.

But I will give Venice this: despite the flocks of people (and pigeons), Venice really has retained that alluring, charismatic atmosphere that we all hope to experience when lost amid cobbled streets.  And even better, when you can do Venice on a budget, it makes a destination that much better!


Flexibility of Venice:

Normally, I like to give a “3 days in Rome” or a “One Week in Ireland” type of itinerary, because, as a planner, I like to know what is a realistic time period for exploring.  However, Venice is do-able in anything from one to several days!  You can cram everything in or decide to take frequent coffee, gelato and people watching breaks and spread your time out.   Personally, I recommend the latter, but that is a benefit to the city: you choose what pace you want to go at.

Tip: Because there are so many cruise ships docking for the day, many people find that staying at least two days in Venice is ideal.  This way, you can linger behind on the canals and have the city all to yourself after everyone else leaves!


Staying in Mestre

It comes as no surprise to our regular readers that if we can save a few bucks, we will! (Want to learn more about saving while traveling, don’t forget to sign up for our monthly newsletter then!)  In Venice, this meant staying on the mainland (Mestre) instead of actual Venice (which is actually a group of small islands connected by picturesque canals and bridges).  We found rooms and hotels SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper on mainland than in Venice itself.  And I mean, hey, the more money I can save on lodging means the more I can spend on Limencello and Gillato, right??

Bus Into Venice

With the bus only taking about 15 minutes  and only a few Euro to get into Venice from Mestre, this was a great option for us staying on the mainland.

  • You can either use the ACTV timetables or just simply use Google Maps.  Type in the address of your hotel in Mestre and “Venice” as your destination (Santa Lucia is a good station to start out at, as Venice is best seen by foot anyway)
  • Be sure you’ve clicked on the bus or tram icon for directions and google will tell you exactly what public transportation lines to take from your location as well as times


Rick Steves

We all know about my (fake) love affair with Rick Steves and it’s really because of his freebies, like his free downloadable walking tours that I can’t get enough of his stuff! (Ok, I’m also a sucker for his corny jokes, too) Nothing beats not having to pay for something actually really valuable!  But also, I always just love having context and history to what I am seeing, as it gives a much more lasting impression.  He has several free MP3s for Venice and are the perfect addition when at any of the sites around Venice.


Venice is such a small, walk able place, so it is pretty easy to just pick and choose what you want to do each day, without too much stressful planning needed.  While somethings are close together, with the island only being about 3 km long, it’s not hard to get around or go back to an area already visited without feeling like too much backtracking (just take a different back alleyway and it will all seem new and different!).  Plus, just wandering is part of the fun in Venice!  However, if you insist on being a planner (like me!) here are a few ideas to get started with:

Looking for a whole 10 Day Italy Itinerary? Here is a great one for first-timers in Italy.

Day One:

St Mark’s Square/ Basilica (Free Rick Walk)

Channel your inner Mary Poppins’ “Old Bird Woman” and feed the birds (Can anyone tell me what a Tuppence actually is??)

There are PLENTY of pigeons and it seems the thing to do was to get them to land on you (EW!) Buuut might as well give it a try!  And if you are traveling in Italy with kids, your little ones will actually LOVE this activity!

Just one of the many things you "HAVE" to do while in Venice: Feed the pigeons

Doge’s Palace

Long Lunch

  • (Get away from the square though as this area is PRICEY!)

Grand Canal Cruise

  • (Rick Audio Guide)
  • Again, if you are like me and can’t stomach paying hefty touristy prices for things, skip the gondola ride all together and just take a ferry ride around.  Hop to the front of the boat and still see the city by water, a truly magical and fun experience (and for a fraction a cost of the gondolas- all you are really missing is a little bit of singing, and I doubt you’d get kicked off if you decided to serenade your loved one yourself??)
  • How to Do It: The Rick Audio Guide tells you EXACTLY what to do and is perfect to listen to as you drift down the canals.  Or, jump on the number 1 or 2 Vaporetto lines (no audio on the boat) and just sit back and enjoy.
Brilliant! Save money by skipping the Gondola ride and instead using the local ferry to see the Grand Canal

No need to pay big bucks to see the Grand Canal by water!

Gondola Ride

If you aren’t as big of a tight-wad as us, splurge for a gondola ride.  After all, when in Rome (er, Venice) right?

  • Gondola Tips: 1) Don’t hesitate to negotiate the price before taking the ride.  2) You often pay by time, not amount of people, so see if others want in on the ride for a slight price break as well

Gondoliers in Venice


Day Two:

Oh I  Wonder as I Wander 

Today is the perfect day to just wander around.  Your guidebook may instruct you to “Go ahead and just get lost!” Ironically enough though, one of the few times  we intentionally just wandered and attempted to “get lost” while traveling was the one time  that no matter what, we kept winding back to where we just were!  So much for getting lost!  However, it was still fun to try to take alternate paths to steer away from the crowds, even if many of them came to abrupt stops ending at the waters edge, turning us right back around to where we came from.

Rialto Bridge

Another popular tourist spot, but obviously a must when visiting Venice. is the Rialto Bridge.  If you can, time it to go in the evening or night when there are less crowds (but in return, the shops may not be open, if that’s your thing)


Many people want to take a ferry to head to the nearby islands of Burano and/or Murano.  I had read that Murano was slightly more touristy and that Burano was known for it’s wine.  Less people and more wine?  I think you know which one we chose!

Picture Perfect Burano Island

How picture perfect is THAT!?


Take the afternoon to head over to the nearby island of Burano, known for it’s local sweet white wine and homemade lace.  The ride is about 45 minutes, so plan accordingly in your day.  Personally, I think the best time to arrive is late afternoon (3 or 4).  You’ll still have a bit of time to window shop if you want, but by about 5, most of the tourists have already started to head back to Venice and it feels like you have the canals completely all to yourself.

Stop at a local restaurant and grab a pitcher of vino and just enjoy the island with the locals.

Delicious Burano Wine


Getting There: Take the Number 12 Vaporetto (goes to both Burano and Murano) from either the San Zaccaria stop (near St. Mark’s) or the Fondamente Nove stop


Dreaming of a Venetian Trip?

Don’t forget to research cheap things to do on TripAdvisor and book affordable Hotels at


Day Three


Lido Beach

If the weather permits and you want to get out of the city for bit, you can head to Lido Beach.  From Venice, you’ll just take a short ride on Vaporetto #2 (make sure not to accidentally hop on the “residents only” local waterbuses)  Here are some of the best beaches near Venice you can check out.

Museums or Murano

If you are into museums, there are plenty to go to in Venice.  Or, take the same ferry as Burano and head to Murano, known for it’s exquisite glass blowing artisans.


Other Tips

Getting Around:

Venice is extremely walkable.  Unless you plan on going to a lot of outer islands (Lido, Murano and Burano), you can just buy transport tickets as you need them (bus in/out of Mestre for example).  However, you can potentially save if you plan correctly (for example: do all the above outer islands within two days, for example, for 30 Euro- there are several time increment options, see link below).  However, if you aren’t doing them all, it might be cheaper to just walk everywhere in Venice and pay as you need for the other transports as needed.  (The travel card does include getting in/out of Mestre as well)


Pick Pockets

As with any major tourist area, there are plenty of people wanting to take advantage of your deep vacationing pockets.  Especially in high traffic areas, such as Saint Mark’s, keep your hand on your wallet (if in your pocket) or tucked away well in a bag.  Keep your valuables out of site and close to your body to avoid any invitations for a grab and go


Extra Charges

If you want to eat outside, along the canal, you may find an extra charge on your bill (and it can be QUITE hefty!).  Avoid this by sitting inside or getting off the tourist paths.

If you want to be like the locals, order your espressos at the bar.  For the same drink sitting at a table, you could be charged more.


Beyond the Vine

While Italy is known for it’s wine, enjoy some of it’s other local favorites such as a “Spritz” (Aperol and prosecco) or a Billini.  If you need something a wee bit stronger, grab a Grappe (I made the mistake thinking this was a cocktail, let’s just say it’s not and Andy needed to finish the rest of mine!).  Of course, nothing beats a homemade Limencello for an aperitif!


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LeAnna Brown

Author and Creator at Economical Excursionists
Former teacher turned blogger turned mom turned full time travel addict, LeAnna has never been one to live life by the rules. Whether she is moving to a farm in Switzerland to learn to make cheese (Yes, CHEESE), jumping off a mountain to paraglide over Cinderella castles, or taking her baby all over the world with nothing but a backpack on their backs, LeAnna designs and defines her OWN life. LeAnna, her husband Andy, and kiddo, "Lil B" love to live a minimal lifestyle, not only for the "thrill" of pinching pennies but in order to save for traveling the world. Considering over 40 countries and 90+ cities have been explored, we'd say they are doing something right!

About LeAnna Brown

Former teacher turned blogger turned mom turned full time travel addict, LeAnna has never been one to live life by the rules. Whether she is moving to a farm in Switzerland to learn to make cheese (Yes, CHEESE), jumping off a mountain to paraglide over Cinderella castles, or taking her baby all over the world with nothing but a backpack on their backs, LeAnna designs and defines her OWN life. LeAnna, her husband Andy, and kiddo, "Lil B" love to live a minimal lifestyle, not only for the "thrill" of pinching pennies but in order to save for traveling the world. Considering over 40 countries and 90+ cities have been explored, we'd say they are doing something right!

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13 thoughts on “Venice On A Budget

  • Julie

    Great overview of Venice! We are heading there in the fall during an European road trip, so we will definitely save some cash and stay (plus park the car!) on the mainland and just hop on the bus into Venice. Thanks for the tips!

    • LeAnna Post author

      I actually think the Gondola rides are more touristy now than anything else in Venice, but yeeeah the pigeons are a bit of a stretch for some people, but hey, it provided us with pictures to look back on and laugh (and cringe)

  • Kim-Ling Richardson

    Lovely post with some great tips! Especially the ones about staying in Mestre instead of Venice itself – accommodation is a bit pricier in Venice, but for the convenience of waking up in the beautiful city centre, we felt it was worth it. A friend of ours is heading there next month and I told her the same – price vs location. I think location won out for her too :p Good tip about the gondola rides. Negotiating is key! If you do want a ‘romantic’ gondala ride though, expect to pay through the roof! Sadly we got bunched up with strangers and were left staring at each other from across the boat while the other lovebirds we comfy in the lovers seat at the back!

  • Natalie

    Venice was one of the first cities I went to in Europe, and that is probably why it is forever etched into m heart. I totally agree with you about staying overnight. We stayed in Venice a few days and I think one of my favorite things was walking through the empty streets in the night and going to the bars with the locals. We also negotiated a price for the Gondola. So, that is another great way to save money like you said 🙂

  • Meg Jerrard

    Really great tips – the best thing about Venice for us was exploring the streets and just getting lost in the maze of alleyways. It was the best fun, and most of all, it was free! We did fork out for a Gondola ride, which while expensive and touristy, I personally think it was worthwhile just for the experience of having done it in Venice 🙂

  • Danielle Des

    I heard the Gondola rides are so expensive – do you know about how much they cost? I’m taking my mom to Italy later this year and she mentioned wanting to go to Venice, I want to make it memorable for her.

  • Trisha Velarmino - P.S. I'm On My Way

    I should have made a side trip to Burano whilst my stay in Venice! It looks so beautiful and quiet! Thanks for those tips. I’ve heard a lot of stories from different travellers about getting ripped off in Venice and it’s always good to be aware of these things and not fall into any tourist trap. That’s the brilliance of the internet and the dissemination of information. I just wish people would do adequate research before embarking anywhere to avoid unfortunate circumstances. Thanks for all the tips, LeAnna!

    • LeAnna Post author

      I think many high-tourist cities have the possibility of ripping off people. But I agree, if you know what to look for and avoid before hand, it can save you a ton of headache…and money!