Thursday, February 23, 2017

How to See Venice on a Budget

A few weeks ago, I was sitting around feeling overwhelmed about packing to move to the US. I turned to Samuel, who happened to be writing a paper for school, and said, "Hey, what about our one last trip in Europe before we move?"

Samuel sighed and got up and pointed to the calendar, "These three days I am free. You can plan a trip if you want, but just try to make it cheap."

About an hour later, I had booked flights and a hotel in Venice.

Even on the plane we were thinking, "What are we doing?! We don't have time to be taking this trip!"

But as soon as we stepped into the city, we knew we had made the right decision.


We had such an awesome time, that now I want everyone to be able to enjoy the beauty of Venice. The colors of the buildings, the way the water of the canals reflects on the bridges, and the quiet mornings with only the sound of seagulls and church bells chiming the hour breaking the silence as the sun rises are something that everyone must experience once in a lifetime. And here's how you can do it:

1. How to find cheap flights to Venice

I always use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights for our trips. Here's how I do it.

1. Enter the country you want to fly out of (simply enter "United States" for example) and enter Venice as the city you want to fly into.

2. If you are flexible, enter "cheapest month" for the date.

3. Pick the cheapest city (Miami is usually cheap, for example) and then do a new search to see how much it would cost for you to fly to that city in time to catch the flight to Venice. Add the two flights together and write it down.

4. Now it's time to cross check that what you have found is the lowest price. Enter the city that would actually be easiest for you to fly out of (let's say you live in Denver for example). Then enter "everywhere" as your destination. Again, if you are flexible, enter "cheapest month" for the date.

5. Choose the cheapest European cities that appear from this search. For example, you can find flights from Denver to Belgium, Denmark, or Luxembourg each for about $370 in March.

6. Now do a new search. One at a time, search the cost of flying out of each of the European cities you have found to Venice. You will have to search for the specific dates when your international flight would be arriving and departing. For example, you saw that a flight from Denver to Brussels, Belgium is $370 which arrives on March 14 and departs on March 21. Then you do a search for Brussels to Venice for those dates and find that it is only $28. Make sure you check that you would have at LEAST a few hours between flights so that you don't risk missing your flight.

7. Add these flights together and compare to the price from your previous search, and then book the cheapest one!

Note: Remember, these cheap flights usually don't include a check-in bag. I would advise that you just try to travel light with only a carry on. You don't want to be hauling a huge check-in bag around Venice anyway!

2. How to Find a Cheap Hotel in Venice

I think I just used to find our hotel. Once you find your hotel, check out the hotel's actual website to make sure you are getting the lowest price. I prefer booking on the hotels website just because it's much less complicated that way.

The biggest advice that I have as far as finding something cheap is to go off season. Not only is that already probably when you found the cheapest flight, but the hotels and restaurants will also be cheaper if you don't go at peak season (not to mention you will avoid the huge crowds so you practically have the city to yourself!). We went in January and as you can see from the pictures it was very sunny and mild compared to the winter we were used to here in Berlin  (I think there was a high of 48ºF in Venice while we were there). I even got slightly sunburnt sitting on the steps of the Rialto Bridge!

We stayed at this hotel and it was amazing. It was only 36 euros a night and was right in the best part of the city (only about a minute away from St. Mark's Basilica). The best part was that it had a rooftop terrace where we could eat our (free) breakfast with a beautiful view of the city. Who wouldn't want to sip a cappuccino in the morning with this view?

3. What to eat in Venice

I always pack lots of snacks when we go on a trip. Some PB&Js, granola bars (here is my go-to recipe!), beef jerky, and fruit can save you from having to eat out for every single meal. Getting a hotel that will serve you breakfast and coffee in the morning will also save you a few bucks.

If you want a cheap lunch, there are lots of little stands where you can get a big slice of pizza for about 2.50 euros and you can also get some super thick hot chocolate there too (at least we could in the winter). Then there's always the gelato, but a lot of that was closed because we were there off season.

Be aware that at restaurants, the tip is usually included in the bill. One way to save money is not to order drinks at a restaurant. Remember that in Europe, you will generally be charged for water (I'm so used to this now that I will probably continue to request "no water" for a few years after we move back to the US). Order wine with your meal if you want to splurge, but you can also just buy a decent bottle of wine for five bucks at a kiosk in the city and take it back to your hotel and drink it on your roof top terrace, or while dangling your feet over the water of a canal. Our hotel had wine glasses we could use too.

If you want to eat where the locals eat, try to find a cicchetti bar (the Venetian version of a tapas bar). We didn't end up doing this, mostly because we didn't happen to wander into one, but we didn't try too hard because I'm assuming there wouldn't be a lot of gluten free options there for me.

Speaking of gluten free, pretty much any restaurant you walk into will probably offer gluten free noodles. Like I mentioned when I posted about our Rome trip (here), Italy is very good for celiacs.

Some foods to try in Venice include spaghetti in squid ink, seafood risotto, tiramisu (which actually originated in the area), and polenta.

4. Transportation in Venice

One of the best things about Venice is that there are no cars. This small detail gives the city such a peaceful atmosphere and makes you feel like you've gone back in time.

The best way to get around in Venice is by foot. Venice is the best city to get lost in. Ditch the map, forget about trying to get anywhere and just lose yourself in the beautiful streets.

The only time you will need transportation is getting to and from the airport. If you are arriving at Marco Polo (which we didn't do, but in retrospect I kind of wish we had), you will want to take the Alilaguna ferry to Venice which is 25 euros for a round trip.

If you arrive at Treviso, you will take a bus for about 50 minutes to get to the city. On the way there we paid about 12 euros each for an airport shuttle. On the way back we decided to save a few bucks and take the train (about 6 euros each) and then a bus from there (about 2 bucks each). In the end, I think that it probably is worth avoiding the hassle to just take the airport shuttle.

As far as the gondolas go, as beautiful as they are to look at, we decided it wouldn't be worth it for us to ride one. It's 80 euros for a ride, and is just a huge tourist trap. If you really want the experience, you can ask random tourists to go with you and split the cost. It's 80 euros per ride, no matter how many people are in the boat, and I think about 8 can fit in the boat.

St. Mark's Basilica

5. What to do in Venice

One of the best parts about Venice is that all of the best attractions are free. The only thing you might want to do is go inside Doge's Palace and a few other museums (for about 20 euros). There's really enough to see without going into the museums, in my opinion (we didn't do it anyway). 

You can mark the places you want to make sure you see on the map, but the truth is, you'll probably stumble on pretty much everything as you wander the streets anyway, which makes everything even more fun. 

Here is a list of free things you'll want to make sure you see:

St. Mark's Basilica 

This basilica is truly magnificent as is the huge open square in front of it. Make sure you check the opening hours here if you want to go inside.  

Doge's Palace

This is a museum next to the basilica. We didn't go inside, but it's beautiful from the outside. 

The Bridge of Sighs

This bridge connects the interrogation rooms of Doge's Palace to the prison. It is called the bridge of sighs because condemned prisoners would sigh as they caught their last glimpse of Venice through the windows of the bridge before being locked away.

Bridge of Sighs

Rialto Bridge

This is the oldest of the four bridges that cross the Grand Canal. It's big, beautiful, and, of course, free to walk across. 

Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute

Another smaller basilica that is also beautiful and free to enter. Check here for opening hours. 

Liberia Aqua Alta

This is an awesome book shop where the books are shelved in old bath tubs and gondolas and there is even a staircase made of old books. We didn't see it because we were all about getting lost in the city and didn't happen to wander in, but if you want to see it, check the opening hours here

Basically, you will just want to wander around. You never know what you'll find. Like when we turned a corner and found ourselves in this beautiful courtyard, alone except for this guy who was serenading us with his lute...

And that, in summary, is how we had a perfect and cheap little vacation in Venice. I hope you do someday too!

If you liked this post, check out my other travel posts here. And don't forget to Follow Yammie's Noshery on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest or join the email list by entering your email address in the top right hand corner!


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