There’s something about being in cities with canals that sends me to unadulterated nostalgic bliss even though I’ve never been there before. Now that I’m indefinitely living in Europe, I plan to take advantage of my stay here to visit as much of them as possible. And if there’s one city that exemplifies the concept of canal cities, it’s definitely Venice. The moment I set foot on its islands, I was smitten right away. Every corner was postcard-perfect. As if it wasn’t beautiful enough, the turquoise canals and the labyrinth streets were in their prime in early spring. It’s a major tourist hotspot all year round but at this time of the year, we beat most of the crowds.
If you read my blog, you know I’m a budget traveller. I knew our Italy trip would hurt my wallet but it has been on my bucketlist since forever. I tried to stick to a budget but without missing out, of course. So here I am sharing some of the things we did to enjoy Venice without breaking the bank.
1. BUY PLANE TICKETS AHEAD OF TIME. We searched regularly through Google Flights and even downloaded Skyscanner and Hopper app to receive price change notifications. It’s cheaper to fly in and out of Rome so we booked a return flight from Málaga (Spain) for 130€ with Ryanair.
2. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ITALY’S CITY-TO-CITY LOW COST TRAINS. For around 10 euros, we got to book a one-way high-speed train ticket from Florence to Venice (Mestre). Thanks to our main man, Italo.
3. BOOK A ROOM WITH AIRBNB. We stayed in this lovely room in Mestre, mainland of Venice for 23€ per night.
4. BUY A VENEZIA UNICA PASS. We only spent 2 days in Venice so time was an issue. Of course we had the most pleasant time meandering the narrow streets and bridges but sometimes both our lower body strength and sense of direction failed us so we had to take the vaporetto (Venice’s badass water buses). Buying the 48-hour pass for 30€ was worth it for us whereas a single vapo-ride costs 8€ plus 3€ single trips back and forth between Mestre and Venice.
5. JOIN A FREE WALKING TOUR. This has become a staple for us whenever we visit a new city. The tour guides usually have an interesting take on their city’s history and culture. Elena, our English-speaking Italian guide, wasn’t an exception. She took us on a slightly off the beaten track tour of Venice that lasted about 3 hours. We didn’t see the hotspots like Piazza San Marco or Rialto Bridge, instead we listened to stories while we walked around the Jewish ghetto, a couple of churches and the narrowest street in Venice!
6. INSTALL THE YELP OR TRIPADVISOR APP TO LOOK FOR BUDGET-FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS. We mostly relied on reviews on the best eats depending on our budget and location. Venice is not known for affordable meals so you might need to adjust. Our budget for lunch ranged from 8€-13€ and dinner from 15€-25€. Avoid places with touts and pictures of the food outside, they’re usually overpriced and of average quality.
7. IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO RIDE A PRIVATE GONDOLA, TEAM UP WITH FRIENDS OR FELLOW TOURISTS! My fellow Filipino auxiliar buddies Lia and Nice and their friend were also on a separate Eurotrip and our itineraries overlapped in Venice for a day. We took advantage of the occasion to experience this “must-do” for 20€ each since there were 5 of us.
8. IF IT’S STILL TOO EXPENSIVE, RIDE THE TRAGHETTI FOR ONLY 2€! We found out about the “cheapskate’s gondola” after getting on the 40-minute gondola ride so we didn’t feel the need to avail this one. It’s bigger than a normal gondola rowed by two gondolieri and the ride lasts 5-6 minutes.
9. BEWARE OF PICKPOCKETS AND SCAM ARTISTS. Like any other touristic city, Venice is also full of preying pickpockets. We were on a crowded bus on our way to the Venice islands when I felt that the woman beside me was stealthily slipping her hand into my purse. She didn’t know she was barking up the wrong tree. I grew up in Manila and I know how to outsmart these thieves. My hands were already inside my purse too holding onto my wallet for dear life. Realizing she met her match, she got off at the next station.
10. SOME OF THE BEST MEMORIES YOU CAN HAVE IN VENICE IS FREE. Chasing the birds in St. Mark’s Square. Catching the sunset on the Grand Canal. Getting lost in its maze-like streets and finding yourself in the process. HAHA. I know, such a cliché. The truth is I wasn’t trying to romanticize everything when we were there and even now, looking back in retrospect, but I just remember that we, for a lack of a better word, had a really good time.