Getting to Venice...
Airfare is never inexpensive, but search carefully, and you can save considerable money. If time is not a consideration, you might drive to a nearby big city that’s an airline hub. That may save several hundred dollars.
Also consider finding the least expensive destination in Europe and taking a train from there to Venice. Check the Venetian calendar for festivals and national and local holidays, such as Carnival, which lasts for 10 days before the start of Lent.
If you’re planning to be in Venice during such times, expect crowds, so be sure to make airline and hotel or campground reservations well in advance. And you may also expect higher prices than usual. September and October are not as crowded as summer months, and you may find less expensive airfares then.
Be sure to consider the weather in the different seasons; you may need to bring rain gear or an umbrella.
Getting to Venice, continue...
Watch for baggage fees; in addition to a carry-on daypack, it’s best to put all your belongings into one large backpack, wheeled suitcase, or duffle bag, and check it free. A hefty fee is usual for a second bag.
You’ll likely land at Venice Marco Polo Airport, on the mainland, about 5 miles north of the city. It is connected by bus lines, across the causeway, to the train station and the bus station in Venice.
Another smaller airport, Treviso, about 20 miles north of the city, provides access to some of the budget air carriers.
Accommodations in Venice...
Once you arrive in Venice, if not before, decide on your accommodations. Depending on your budget, consider the following options:
Stay in inexpensive hotels.
Check area hostels.
If you’re really scrimping, go camping.
I prefer camping because you can easily get to know fellow campers, many from around the world. Several campgrounds are available on the mainland, some on the western side of the lagoon surrounding Venice and several more on Punta Sabbioni, on the Adriatic coast to the east of Venice’s lagoon. All of these have restrooms with showers, and some even provide bidets.
For example, if you’re taking the train out of Venice west toward France or Spain, you’ll need to catch your train early in the morning, earlier than the shuttles from campgrounds can get you to the railroad station, so you’ll need to stay overnight in the city.
Accommodations in Venice continue...
You can make reservations ahead of time for hostels, inexpensive hotels, B&Bs, and even some campgrounds by going online. In some hostels, you may share bathroom facilities with other visitors, you may find yourself in dorm-room type facilities, and some of these may even place both genders in the same dorm room, so you’ll want to check ahead to ensure the accommodations are acceptable to you.
Also check the websites of monasteries, as many welcome tourists. Another option is to go to the train station, out on the steps, where many men are milling through the crowds peddling inexpensive hotel rooms for a night. Most speak English, carry business cards, and will walk with you to the hotels they represent, usually down narrow calli (the alleyways between canals).
A hotel may not have an elevator, may require you to go up a back stairway, and perhaps even provide a room that’s separated from its private bathroom by several hallways. But the accommodations are often very clean and quiet in quaint old, luxurious hotels with fine furnishings and may be very convenient to the train in the morning at a surprisingly low cost.
Don't give money to the "guide" but to the desk clerk when you decide on a hotel. The hotel will tip the guide. Take a look, and if you’re not pleased, tell your guide what you don’t like, and he can help you choose another or find you someone who can.
Transport Around Venice
Transport around the city is readily available. Of course, walking is the least expensive and perhaps the most pleasant way to see the sights. Bridges over all the waterways provide routes, as well as lovely views. For public transportation, check the official tourism website of the City of Venice.
On it, you can purchase a City Pass Venecia Unica for public transportation only, or you can include entrance to many tourist sites in the city, such as churches and museums, and even book special tours. Tailor the card to your preferences; prices vary. Much of the travel in the city is by vaporetto, the large, slow but dependable water buses, which take thirty or so people through the canals to their destinations. Remember, no cars, trucks or other motorized vehicles are allowed.
Water taxis are small power boats in the style of classic speedboats; they're made to carry two to eight passengers, but they are rather pricey.
Gondolas are fun and romantic but much too expensive for most budget travelers.
Dining in Venice...
Food is another aspect of your trip on which you can save money. Of course, Venice is famous for its cuisine, but you can find restaurants in differing price ranges. If you choose to splurge on a traditional Italian meal overlooking the Grand Canal, of course you’ll pay a premium.
But you can leave off the salad, the wine, and the dessert and not break the bank. Many other options exist, including small neighborhood bars with light snacks, local pizzerias, and fast food.
Almost any time and place that you eat in Venice will likely be crowded, with a waiting line. If you’re willing to share a table, you have an advantage. If a party that’s already seated has spare seats at its table and you look friendly and willing --or if you go up and ask--you might be invited to join them, allowing you to be seated much earlier than waiting for your own table.
Conversely, if you are seated and have spare seats, watch for others that you’d welcome to your table and just motion to them or have your waiter ask if they’d like to join you. Sharing can enhance your dining experience and prevent your feeling guilty for lingering over your meal while others are waiting.
Dining in Venice, continue...
Yes, McDonald’s and Burger King have set up shop in Venice. You’ll find basically the same menu as at home, with comparable prices. No, not glamorous but dependable. And their public restrooms are important. Not only Americans but people from around the globe are drawn to these icons.
Or stop by one of the small markets in the city and buy a loaf of crusty bread, some cured meat, cheese, fruit, soft drinks or wine, find a small bench, a stairway, or low wall to sit on while you eat a satisfying meal.
Gelato is renowned as the favorite dessert in Venice. Many gelaterias serve tasty but standard fare, some from mixes imported from large cities, but a few are handmade and quite pleasing to the connoisseur without much damage to your budget.
Gelato is similar to ice cream--good, rich, really smooth, with many flavors -- and especially tasty after a long day of hiking around the marvelous, ancient city.
Touring is the main impetus for the crowds in Venice...
If you’re on a tight budget, you can still visit almost everything listed in the guidebooks but see only the exteriors, not the interior, avoiding the entry fees. The churches and museums are among the most exquisite in the world, and they’re almost all within walking distance of San Marco Piazza, the cultural center of Venice.
It’s easier to understand why the city contains so much elaborate architecture and extravagant décor if you realize that Venice was one of the most powerful and wealthy city-states in the world during the Middle Ages. The area around San Marco Piazza will be very crowded at midday because the big cruise ships drop off thousands of passengers at a time. If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy seeing the crowds and sharing their enjoyment.
But if you go early in the morning you’ll avoid the rush...
Study the History of Venice Before you Go
Your visit will be more interesting if, before you leave for the city, you become acquainted with the history of Venice, the geography and ecology of its surroundings and its economy.
But whatever you do, just GO! "I wish I hadn't gone to Venice," says no one ever!