Why is it that the most charming cities are always so expensive? If the thought of having to sell your car to finance a trip to Venice bumps you right out of the romantic mood, never fear. Just read on for our tips on how to enjoy the floating city without sailing away in debt.
Venice Budget Tips
Looking down from St. Mark's Basilica. The inside of the church is free to visit.
We always recommend stopping by the tourist office as soon as possible. All offices carry tons of information and pamphlets detailing special events, free concerts, and art festivals. One convenient APT tourist office is located at Piazza San Marco, directly opposite the Basilica; doors are open daily from 9:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. There is a second office at San Marco Ex Giardini Real, which is open daily from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.
The spot for tourist information at the main train station is found between the station's large front doors. It is small and understaffed. However, if you get into Venice early in the morning, you can beat the long lines before they start forming. They are open from 8 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. daily. There is also an office in the arrivals terminal of the Marco Polo Airport which is open from 9:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. every day.
The Accademia Gallery is well worth the €6.50 admission.
Museum Prices and Passes
Happily, admission to museums in Venice is reasonably priced. Always check for reduced ticket prices for children and seniors. Before you go to any museum or attraction, double check admission hours. Venice is infamous for its capricious museum admission hours.
Admission prices for popular museums in Venice:
Campanile di San Marco (Bell Tower): €8 (adults); €4 (reduced)
St. Mark's Museum: €4 (adults); €2 (reduced)
Accademia Gallery (Web site in Italian): €6.50 (adults); €3.25 (reduced)
Peggy Guggenheim Museum: €12 (adults); €10 (seniors); €7 (students under 26); free (children under 10)
Doge's Palace: €16 (adults); €8 (reduced)
The Venice Card is an odd beast. The deals it offers are not obvious, but it has the potential to simplify a stay in Venice. It comes in two forms: a standard card (€29.90 for those under 30 and €39.90 for those older) and a reduced-benefit "San Marco" card (€24.90 for everyone). The standard card provides free admission to thirteen museums and discounted admission to others, as well as two free entrances to the city's public toilets. The "San Marco" card allows only four free museums and no free entrances to public toilets. Tickets are valid for seven days.
Another budget option for younger travellers is the Rolling Venice guide. For €4, travellers aged 14-29 can receive a guidebook to the city, a discount card for various participating stores and attractions, and the opportunity to purchase a three-day unlimited ACTV ticket for €18 instead of €35.
Visit the Venice Card Web site for more information.
Never underestimate the entertainment factor of walking around Venice. Street corners, bridges, canals, water taxis, and clock towers are all beguilingly gorgeous.
Before Lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter) Venice is host to Carnival, one of the most visually fantastic Mardi Gras celebrations in the world. Put on a mask, find a feathered frock, and join the legions of folks who gather around the town squares to celebrate in style.
Some of the more famous free sites include the Basilica di San Marco, or St. Mark's Basilica. St. Mark's is the edifice on the famous square in Venice, familiar from thousands of photographs. The good news is that entrance into the main part, the general basilica, is absolutely free. Entrance to the Treasury and St. Mark's Museum both carry a small admission fee.
The church of Santa Maria della Salute (Web site in Italian) also provides free fun. This 17th century Baroque masterpiece is located on an invaluable piece of real estate. Almost directly across from St. Mark's, it sits where the Grand Canal empties into the lagoon. Gaze at volutes, scrolls, and 125 statues.
Senior discounts can be found in Venice. However, to obtain some discounts, membership in a particular association may be required. Members of the AARP get discounts on hotels, airfares and car rentals. They can be reached in the United States at 1-800-424-3410 and online.
The International Student Identity Card, ISIC, the most widely accepted form of student ID, provides discounts on sights, accommodations, food and transportation. Many museums in Italy offer admission discounts of 20-50% to ISIC members. All cardholders have access to a 24 hour emergency helpline. In the United States call 1-888-920-5985 or click onto the ISIC site. Applicants must be degree seekers of a secondary or post-secondary school and must be at least 12 years of age. The cards costs US$25 and is valid until the end of the year issued.
For non-students 25 years and younger, the International Youth Travel card, IYTC, also offers many of the same benefits as the ISIC. The card costs US$25 and is valid for one year from the date issue.
Travelers with student cards such as ISIC and IYTC qualify for big discounts from travel agencies. Most flights from budget agencies are on major airlines, but in peak season some may sell seats on less reliable chartered aircraft.
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Photos © EuroCheapo.com.