A guide to backpacking Venice on a budget
Venice; arguably the most beautiful city on the planet; home to canals, gondolas, bridges, and famous sights such as the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge, the Palace of the Doge and the Piazza San Marco.
Alas,great beauty attracts great costs, and Venice is also arguably one of the most expensive cities on this pale blue dot.
But while it might seem impossible, backpacking Venice without going bankrupt is possible - you’ve just gotta know how.
That's why we put together our 'how to' guide to backpacking Venice.
SURVIVING VENICE ON A BACKPACKER BUDGET
WHAT TO BUDGET FOR VENICE
We're not going to lie, if you're backpacking Venice on a budget, things will be a little tough.
Given the nature of the city, things are simply more expensive.
If you are backpacking Venice on a budget and follow our suggestions in this travel guide,
you shouldn't need to spend any more than €50 – 70 a day.
HOW LONG TO STAY IN VENICE
Venice is wondrous, and if we're honest, we could have stayed there forever. Unfortunately for us, and for you, reality exists!
So how long should you stay in Venice?
Overall, we suggest spending at least three nights in Venice. This will give you a day to slowly meander, a day to really sightsee and a day to visit the outer lying islands such as Burano & Murano.
WHERE TO STAY IN VENICE
Yeah, we get it; the whole point of visiting Venice is to stay in a palatial room on the grand canal. But that backpacker travel budget probably means you’re not even going to get a room in the janitor's closet.
Fortunately, there’s a solution! If you're backpacking Venice, we recommend staying back on the mainland in the suburb of Mestre or on one of the outer lying islands such as Guidecca.
While you're not right in the thick of it, you still can be in and out of town in 10 minutes, and there are a huge array of hotels, hostels, and pensions for about a quarter of the price of anything you’ll find on the main island. There are also supermarkets where you purchase so you’ll be making friends with the locals in no time.
#1 HOSTELS & HOTELS
While there are a number of hostels in Venice, there are not many that fit within the backpacker budget.
The best hostel option is:
Generator Venice | Fondamenta della Croce, 84-86, Giudecca, Venezia
They're pretty much the best hostel chain in Europe and their dorm is relatively cheap (if you're keen on a dorm).
For hotels, you're going to push that budget of yours right to the edge, but if you're after a little more privacy, it might be worth the extra euros.
As always, AirBnb is a brilliant alternative to hotel or hostel accommodation. You can find a range of Airbnb rentals outside the city centre for as low as €35 for a private room if you book early. Prices are usually much higher during peak season.
Another alternative to keep those costs down is camping. While no campsites exist on the main islands, there are a few on the outer lying islands that offer. There are few campsites outside of Venice that offer beds in a two person tent for around €10+ per person. If there are two or more people, a more cost effective option is a private bungalow/chalet for around €25.
The two best camping options are:
Via Padana 334/a, SR 11 (Padua-Venice)
Cheap, includes kitchen facilities and is a short 20min shuttle to the centre of Venice.
Via Orlanda,16 Campalto, Campalto
Cheap and only 10 minutes from Venice by bus. This property doesn't have a kitchen.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN VENICE
Along the well-worn paths of Venice lie many restaurants that do the Italian culinary industry no favours. Terrible, overpriced food is plated up, the service is second-rate, and the cover charge just to sit at their sticky tables is so outrageous you’ll throw up your half-cooked lasagne in no time. If you're backpacking Venice and want great grub for cheap, go where the locals go.
A Bacari is a cheap, hole-in-the-wall style establishment, of which many are dotted all around Venice - generally away from the tourist hubs. Here they serve cicchetti, colourful small plates of food (basically the Venetian version of Tapas) often accompanied by red or white wine, or an Aperol Spritz. Best of all, each plate costs around €1.50. You'll find the cheapest and best Bacari around the Cannaregio and Ghetto area.
We all know that Italy = Eataly, so you'll be spoilt for choice in Venice, IF you know where to look. We found the best and cheapest restaurants were off the beaten track, in areas such as Cannaregio and Castello.
If you’re on the mainland (Mestre, Marghera), follow the locals to their favourite haunt. Meals there will set you back around €10pp which no doubt fits within a tight budget.
Be wary of any restaurants on the well worn tourist path - they tend to be pretty average and overpriced.
If you're sick of eating in restaurants every night, grab some bread, cheese and prosciutto from a mercato or supermarket and enjoy an impromptu picnic as you people watch along the canals.
We recommend doing this around Mercato di Rialto. The views are stunning and the food readily available.
#1 Be aware, sitting down in a restaurant will add a service fee of around 10-15% per person. Grab your food to go and sit in one of the many squares or piers.
#2 You can buy fruit off street vendors which look delicious, but can be quite expensive. It's best to grab your fruit at a supermarket before you go into town.
#3 If you love your coffee, get used to one a day, at most. Coffee is expensive here (and read tip #1 - never sit down!).
#4 Gelato is bountiful and beautiful in Venice. Never pay over the odds though - €1.50 for a scoop or move on.
#5 Always ask for tap water at restaurants
#6 At most supermarkets and mercato, food is sold by weight. The more you eat, the more you pay!
THE BEST CHEAP/FREE ATTRACTIONS IN VENICE
Any backpacker will tell you that the key to surviving a tight budget is sourcing all the free/discounted things you can - particularly when in Europe!
Thankfully, the travel gods smile at travellers in Venice, and there are a few things here that are free, which means your hard-earned will stretch that little bit further.
Ironically, the ridiculously beautiful 1100 year old architectural wonder nicknamed the ‘church of gold, the Basilica di san Marco is one of those places. Marvel at the gold mosaic, precious marbles, and stonework arches safe in the knowledge that you can still afford that extra plate of pasta tonight. Between April and October you can also get a free guided tour by the diocese discussing all things mosaics and theology. When you're done, stroll around the magnificent Piazza San Marco.
One of the Grand Canal's most iconic landmarks, the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, also has free entry. This Roman Catholic church was commissioned by Venice’s plague survivors to offer their thanks for salvation and is now said to have healing properties. Free AND healthy... these Venetians really know what they’re doing!
The stunning Rialto bridge is also free to enjoy, although you'll need to fight through the hoards of tourists and pesky touts to take in its real beauty. OR you could do what we did and get up early, and have it to yourself.
If art or photography are your jam there are also a bunch of admission-free galleries like Galleria Traghetto and Galleria La Salizada, which showcase contemporary Italian art and photography.
Or you could...
WANDER THE STREETS
If you want to see a lot of Venice as cheaply as possible, lace up those sneakers! It’s a surprisingly large city to explore on foot and in its winding alleyways you will absolutely, definitely get horribly lost at some point.
But the secret is, that’s actually the best way to see Venice. All it takes is a couple of wrong turns and you’re off the tourist path and in amongst beautiful canals and bridges, historical sites, hidden squares and bustling neighbourhood markets, all for the cost of walking off your lunch!
We totally recommend hitting up the Jewish Quarter, Castello and Dorsoduro districts.
Free walking tours do exist in Venice and are a cheaper alternative to your usual tours. Note, free does not actually mean free - be prepared to 'tip' your guide anywhere between €5 & €10.
MUST SEE VENICE ATTRACTIONS (IF YOU WANT TO BREAK THE BANK)
#1 GONDOLA RIDE
A must do or lame? Romantic or kitschy? Either way, gondola rides have lured tourist for generations. Only you can decide whether €80 for a 40min gondola ride through the canals is worth it, however all we can say on the subject is Venice is more amazing from the water. We'll leave it at that!
#2 THE PALAZZA DUCALE
Formerly the Doge's residence and the seat of Venetian government, today, it's a museum complete with stunning artworks. The very symbol of Venice and a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, The Palazza Ducale is worth the €19 admission fee.
HOW TO GET AROUND IN VENICE
OUTSIDE OF VENICE
If you’re backpacking Venice and planning on staying in Mestre or the outer suburbs, there are many transport options to get you into town, including train and bus services.
Trains from Mestre takes about 10 minutes, and they leave every 15 minutes, and they cost about €1.50 - less than a beer!You can catch almost every train through Mestre to Venice but just be sure to double check before jumping on a train.
The first services leave around 5am so early birds can still catch the morning sunrise and if you decide to head home a little later in the evening, the last train leaves just after midnight.
Buses from outer suburbs into Venice leave regularly and cost around €1.50 if pre-purchased.
Otherwise, if you purchase on the spot, they cost €3.
The first bus service leaves around 5am and the service concludes just after midnight.
See above! Walking really is the best way to get around Venice; get lost, roam free and best of all don't spend any money.
Probably the cheapest alternative to walking, Traghetti rides cost around €2 for non residents. They operate the Grand Canal route and stop at seven points between the railway station and St. Mark's square.
Venice's main public transport is the Vaporetto. Rides cost €7 one way (valid for 75 mins) or a 24hr pass costs €20. In our opinion, unless you're heading out to the outer islands, just use those legs and walk.