Ah, Venice! The city of love and romance; a city so beautiful and special that no other place in the world is quite like it. Ah, Venice! The city that has burned a gigantic hole in many-a-traveler’s wallet. As wonderful as Venice is, it’s a place where your money can flow out of your wallet like the water flowing down the Grand Canal. Here are a few tips to surviving Venice while still having a good time.
1. Arrive during the day
Whoever planned Venice was an asshole. The city is a mishmash of crooked alleys, narrow alleys, alleys that end in dead ends, and very short, tunnel-like alleys. Yes, the entire city is alleys. It’s really, really hard to find out where you’re going if you’re not very familiar with the city, and this is exacerbated at night-time. You see, for the gratuitous amount of money from tourism that the city makes, it doesn’t seem to like investing said money in street (alley) lights. So not only is the city a bunch of alleys, it’s a bunch of dark, scary alleys at night (although I’m told that the city is actually very safe). Arrive early, find your way to the place you are staying, and drop your stuff off.
2. There’s no free WiFi in the city
I really have no idea why this is, but it seems to be pretty common throughout Italy. The city of Venice has no free WiFi; it’s an absolutely atrocious reality. At the train station, they charge 6 euros per hour. If you want to know how to get to wherever you’re staying, it’s a great idea to bring/buy a map. Otherwise, you can also use offline maps. See the next section for details.
3. Use offline maps
Offline maps are the way to go in Venice. There’s quite a few apps for iPhone/Android, but the cheapest way to do it is to use Google Maps. Simply set your zoom level and map area and then type “ok maps” into the search bar, and it will prompt you to save the offline map.
4. Pack light
Moving around Venice, with its tall, arched bridges and uneven cobblestone streets, is a recipe for disaster for wheeled suitcases. Pack light and bring a backpack, or at least a roller suitcase with backpack straps. This will be extremely useful when you are climbing 80 stairs to get over a bridge. I’ve seen too many people struggle with unwieldy luggage. It doesn’t have to be this way. I packed 68 things for a trip around the world, so I’m sure you can pack less for a weekend in Venice.
5. Take the water bus down the Grand Canal
The water bus, or vaporetto, is relatively cheap (20 euros for a 24-hour pass… yes, this is relatively cheap for what you get in Venice), comes often, and is a relatively quick way to get around the city. It’s also a great way to see the Grand Canal. You can buy the bus pass by getting on a water bus and asking one of the workers onboard for a pass. It is valid 24 hours from the time it was purchased, so even if you buy one late at night, you can still use it until the next night. Water buses come often to various stops all around the city—most of them being down the Grand Canal—but there are some stops on the perimeter of Venice and other islands as well.
6. Don’t forget to validate your water bus ticket
That being said, don’t forget to validate your water bus ticket each time you get on. There are ticket readers that you hold up your card to, and they will turn green to show that your card is validated. There are plainclothes ticket enforcers who check boats randomly, and if you are caught without a valid ticket, the fine is 59 euros.
7. Nightlife? Hah!
Nightlife in Venice is pretty much nonexistent. There’s one club (disco) in the city, and it’s been called one of the worst nightclubs most people have ever seen. However, there’s a few places that serve wine and beer near Rialto Bridge at night. It’s a good place to meet Italians and other tourists. That being said, it’s also fun to grab a water bus or gondola at night and see the grand canal in the twilight minutes after the sun has set.
8. Get a museum day pass
If museums are your thing, get a day pass. They’re a fantastic way to see some of the great museums that Venice has to offer for a discounted price. The cost is 16 euros, but you’re able to get into four museums, the most interesting being the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace). The Doge is the duke of Venice, not the doge meme. But no matter how many times I tried to remind myself of this, I could not unsee doge everywhere.
9. Spritz is the drink of Venice
The famous drink to drink in Venice is a “spritz.” It’s a combination of white wine, bitters, and sparkling water, and I absolutely hate it. I think it’s one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever had in my entire drinking life. However, it’s the drink that Italians drink when they come to Venice, and they seem to love it, so you should try it. It’s pretty cheap, and you shouldn’t pay more than 3.5 euros for a glass.
10. Stay closer to Piazza San Marco
It’s just easier. Piazza San Marco is the main heart of the city, and it really is much easier if you stay around there. It’s about a 20 minute water bus ride down the Grand Canal to Piazza San Marco, and everyone knows where it is. Plus, most of the interesting things in the city are around there, and it’s a lot of fun to get lost (during the daytime) in the alleyways around there. Also, the main square looks beautiful at night, and there are usually a lot of tourists, so it’s generally a lot safer.
11. Once you figure out how the city works, wander
Some of the most beautiful things in Venice happen by chance. Tripadvisor is great, but sometimes it feels much more interesting and special to come across a restaurant that you never would have gone to, or to have a drink at some place at the end of an alley.
Venice is one of the most beautiful, unique cities in the world. However, it’s not the most straightforward, and sometimes it’s easy to get lost. With these tips, I hope your stay in this amazing city will be easier. Sound off in the comments if you have anything to add!