A student budget guide to Venice

The Floating City, the City of Water and the City of Canals.

Spread over 118 small islands separated by canals and connected by bridges, Venice is a labyrinth just waiting to get lost in.

Venice gondola
Gondola rides though Venice when it’s so hot you get off looking like you’ve just run the London marathon.

Whilst Venice is many things; beautiful, enchanting, touristy and a floating paradise, one thing everyone can agree unanimously that it is not, is cheap.

Venice bridge and canals
One of the many bridges connecting the 118 islands of Venice together.

Make sure you visit Venice having already come to terms with having to open your wallet and spread your pennies slightly further than you would normally. We visited in the middle of June and a two-night stay in a (very) small hotel room cost us more than our 4 nights in Budapest… Reasonable? I think not.

But don’t let that deter you! Venice is a fabulous destination with plenty on offer and as it is predicted to be submerged under water by 2100, well, I wouldn’t say time is running out in our lifetime, but if a city is slowly sinking is there ever a better time to visit than the present.

So, getting to the point, you can still do Venice on a “budget” provided you plan ahead.

Where?

We managed to stay in Venice itself rather than Mestre which is on the mainland. Mestre is a lot cheaper than Venice; we’re talking about half the price and it only takes 20 minutes via bus to get onto the island. The hotel we found in Venice was a bargain for (believe it or not) £289 for a two-night stay at Hotel Caprera.

Yes, the room was only just big enough to store our suitcase, and yes, the air-con was terrible in the 38C heat, however, it meant we were able to stay in the hub of Venice and step straight out of our room and into the hustle and bustle.

Venice colourful houses
Colourful canal side houses and summer days in Venice.

When?

Obviously, it doesn’t take a genius to point out the further you dive into peak summer time, the more expensive it will get. So avoid the weekends where possible and you can get a 4-day return flight for £72 in the middle of July. Winner winner.

Venice, St Marks Basilica
St Mark’s Basilica and gondolas. Could this shot be anymore Venice if it tired?

Food 

(The most important part obvs)

As in all cities, there are incredible restaurants which cost a fair amount and then there are those which are touristy that don’t quite deliver and are just as expensive. It’s difficult to find that in-between hot spot .

Now for the life of me, I can’t remember the names of places where we ate, but what I can remember is that we had the most amazing gelato by the side of one of the many canals… We also had the best pizza from a “buy by the slice” hole in the wall vendor.

Venice canals, Italy
Imagine hoping into a boat from your backdoor as part of your daily commute… Only in Venice.

We did try to find a “cheaper” restaurant one evening and after wandering the winding streets aimlessly we plumped for a slightly run-down establishment which was graced with air-con (thank god) and looked like it had a below average atmosphere – can you tell we were skint and very hungry?

After the waiter clocked our age and realised that we weren’t likely to spend as much dough on pizza as the middle-aged couple sat next to us he proceeded to ignore us for the remainder of the evening. Now, I’m definitely not a snob when it comes to restaurant service but this guy was taking the piss, he even held out our plates of food and just stood there until we took them from his hands. Safe to say, we did not leave a tip.

We did actually get a taste of the swanky dining scene in Venice one night. This was the evening of my 21st birthday where I was surprised with a private water taxi (speedboat) across to the island of Giudecca for dinner at Cips Club. Our table looked out to the incredible views of Venice across the water just as the sun was setting. This was definitely a one-off treat as it was a bit of a splurge considering we were still students at the time!

Venice at sunset
Evenings spent watching a golden sunset over the canals of venice were perfect.

I guess my point is, although you could pay the price of a small car for a couple of lovely meals in gorgeous settings, you also don’t have to forgo quality in order to enjoy the classic food Italy is so well known for. So whether it’s pizza from a hole in the wall or an Aperol Spritz in a small cafe whilst watching the world go by, find those gems and you’ll fall in love with Venice just as hard.

Venice canals
Th green water of the Venice canals are simply captivating, although it does make me wonder where the greenish tint is coming from.

If anyone has been to Venice let me know what hidden treasures you found – I’d love to go back again so any tips would be greatly appreciated!

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