How to See Venice on a Budget

Before I dive into it, thanks to Kaley for featuring me here on her blog! I was laughing pretty hard at her post about things that are different about her life in Spain—I love when things differ in those unexpected ways, but yeah, whenever I go to a gym abroad, I definitely still find greeting people in the locker room to be so awkward! So glad to hear I’m not the only one.

Venice is a beautiful city with a fascinating layout. It’s full of impressive buildings, delightful museums, and wonderful food. Unfortunately for most travelers, it’s a very expensive city to visit, and it often gets a reputation for being out of the reach of budget-minded tourists. But there are definitely plenty of ways to get into the culture without breaking the bank. Here are our top ten tips for doing Venice on a budget:


  1. Be smart about your flights. Depending on where you’re coming from, flying directly into Venice may not be your cheapest option. Instead, look for flights into larger European cities like Rome or Paris and then figure out how to get to Venice from there. A word of warning: it used to be that the train was generally cheaper to get around Europe, but with so many budget airlines these days, you’ll likely find that flying is not only faster but cheaper!
  2. Take a free walking tour. The spread of free walking tours is definitely a boon to the budget-minded traveler. It used to be that if you wanted to take a city tour, you would have to pay a ton of money for a tour that might or might not be decent. With a free walking tour, though, you pay the guide a tip according to what you can afford and what you think the tour was worth. Looking to travel with fewer people or more flexibility? Grab the Venice Map and Walks app for your smartphone and you can be your own guide.
  3. Get that canal experience for less. Most people planning to go to Venice dream of taking a scenic cruise along the canals, but an hour’s gondola ride could set you back €80-100! Instead, catch the traghetti across the Grand Canal or one of the vaporetti (water buses) to travel along the canals. At €0.50 for a single ride on the former or €7/single on the latter, you’ll find they’re much cheaper. In fact, even a week’s ticket for the vaporetti is usually cheaper than an hour’s ride on a gondola!Venice2
  4. Think about getting a tourist card. Seeing the sights in Venice can get pricey. Many of the churches and most of the museums charge entrance fees—and if you plan to see a lot of them, it’s all going to add up fast. Of course, there are always the free exceptions: for example, you can see the historic St. Mark’s Basilica for free, although not the museum or the bell tower. But if you plan to see a lot of the churches or museums, you’ll probably find it’s much cheaper to spring for the Chorus Pass or Museum Pass.
  5. Get out of the city. Venice is one of the most-visited cities in Italy, and this fact is reflected in the prices. Although the city is undeniably a very attractive place to spend time, heading out into the countryside or to smaller towns is just going to show you more of Italy’s magic. Near Venice, you have a number of other beautiful and history-rich places like Padua, Treviso, Verona, and Bassano del Grappa, all of which are easily accessible by car or train.Venice3
  6. Hit the beach. You could also take a day out to the beach for an alternative to the city. Take a day relaxing on the Adriatic and scoping out all those hot Italian bods or working on your own gorgeous tan. There are plenty of options for beaches in the area, many of which are easy enough to get to using public transportation.
  7. Enjoy Italian cuisine. Italian food is often considered some of the best food in the world—with pizza, pasta, Paninis, pastries, and plenty more. Of course, eating out for every meal can get expensive, but with a little savvy and some planning, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a little bit of everything at budget restaurants. Look for places a bit outside of the normal tourist area and you’ll generally find much better prices—and remember that many restaurants will charge you a little extra for sitting at a table rather than standing at the counter. When in doubt, follow the students: they’ll usually lead you to some good, cheap food.Venice4
  8. Don’t be afraid to be a tourist…in moderation. There are a ton of debates out there about the virtues of being a traveler rather than a tourist, but there’s nothing wrong with being a tourist—after all, there’s a reason places like St. Mark’s Basilica or the Doge’s Palace are famous! That said, don’t feel like you have to be doing something cultural at every minute; its fine to take a night to relax and catch up on your favorite shows. (But remember that you’ll need to use a virtual private network when you’re travelling abroad: usually sites like Netflix or Hulu have certain geo-restrictions, but a VPN will hide your true location and get you access to those sites as though you were back home.)
  9. Don’t spend all your money on accommodation. One of the most expensive parts of your trip will likely be your accommodation. Especially during peak tourist season, you’ll find that hotels in Venice aren’t cheap. But rather than blow all your money on a fancy hotel, you might look at hostels instead—they don’t just offer dorm rooms anymore! Instead, you can likely find a small private room for much cheaper than at a hotel. Or if you’re really looking for a budget place to stay, try AirBnB or Couchsurfing.
  10. Don’t pinch pennies. Travelling on a budget is one thing, but missing all the important sights and activities in a city is another thing entirely. You’re going in Venice to get the true Venetian experience; don’t spend your whole trip worrying about how much things cost. Sure, even the museum pass is expensive—but do you really want to only see the exteriors of all the buildings? Find a balance between cutting costs and getting immersed in the culture and history.

Although it is entirely possible to spend fortunes on a trip to Italy, it is equally possible to do the country on a budget without losing out on all the charm. From the plazas to the canals, Venice is a lovely city, of equal interest to the romantic, the photographer, the historian, the ethnographer, the family, or whoever else. Your time in Venice will absolutely be worth the cost—but better if you do a little prior planning and minimize that cost!


Hi, my name is Jess Signet. My parents were travelers since before I was born. Even in the womb, I was able to travel all over the place! Boy, did things NOT change as I grew older!
Knowing there’s more to the world than the bubble I live in made me want to travel even further. Traveling is my drug and I’m addicted. (Please, no intervention!)

The Immigrant Experience—A Spaniard in the U.S.

Guest post by Mario, first in Spanish (translation follows, for all you monolinguals or just those who don’t speak Spanish):

Mario in YosemiteMario in Yosemite

Al poco de llegar a los EE.UU., Kaley me pidió que, por favor, escribiera una entrada para su blog en la que comentase algunas diferencias entre los EE.UU. y España que hayan llamado mi atención. Me lo ha recordado unas quinientas veces, aproximadamente. Ahora que lo pienso, creo que esta semana no me ha dicho nada; probablemente, me haya dado por un caso perdido. No es que haya estado remoloneando todo este tiempo, sino que necesitaba la inspiración y, por estas cosas de la vida, las musas me han visitado mientras veía el sexto partido de la primera ronda de los playoffs de la NBA entre los San Antonio Spurs y Los Angeles Clippers (lo bueno de vivir en los EE.UU. es que no tienes que trasnochar par ver los partidos de la NBA). Como las musas son caprichosas y nunca se sabe cuándo van a volver, voy escribiendo notas en el teléfono mientras que con un ojo sigo el partido –bastante ajustado en los dos primeros cuartos, por cierto.

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Visa Woes—Part 2

After filing the I-30 and other relative forms, the next step was to wait. I was curious about how long it was all going to take, so I started googling. And, similarly to when you have strange symptoms and take to Google, it did not get my hopes up. In fact, I began to worry that perhaps I should have begun earlier. Much earlier.

I started to read Betsy’s blog about her struggles to get her English husband to the U.S. They weren’t living together, so I felt for her even more. From her blog, I found Sara’s. Sara still isn’t finished with the process after one small error caused her wait to become even longer.

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Getting a U.S. Spousal Visa—Or How the Immigration Process Nearly Killed Me

You’re going to want some snacks, because I have no choice but to make this post about eleventy billion words long. Maybe I’ll even break it up into parts … Yes, yes, it will make me seem more important and generate me $0.05 more in ad revenue. (I’m rolling in the dough with all my ~~sponsored posts~~.)

Sometime around Christmas 2013/January 2014, I started to gather up a mountain of documents for the first step in getting Mario a green card. Oh, to be so young and naïve and full of foolhardy hopes and dreams. If only I knew. If only I knew, I would have started before I even met Mario! (Wait. Is that even possible?) I began to mention to Mario that we should probably send our paperwork in soon, that I was reading rumors online about how the process was taking up to nine months. He was less sure, but eventually he acquiesced, and we sent in our packet full of everything we’ve ever done with our lives. I walked twenty minutes to our nearest post office (Madrid, did I tell you I don’t miss not having a car?), I paid the few euros extra to have the mail certified, and I crossed my fingers. Literally.

That’s the story behind the first step. But what about the nitty gritty details? What do you need to do to get your IR-1 Visa?

First of all, you need to be married.

The State Department would like very much to clarify what marriage is. They clearly have not watched The Princess Bride or this would be clearer. Remember: If you’re living it up, Big Love style, only the first spouse qualifies for immigration. Important.

You must fill out Form I-130.

In this form, you are establishing your relationship to “certain alien relatives” that you wish to schlep to the U.S. (but not in your suitcase). Instructions for the form can be found here.

You can also fill out Form G-1145, if you live in the 21st century and would like to be notified electronically (i.e., email) when USCIS accepts your application. Acceptance is not approval!

What does Form I-130 entail?

Short answer: A whole lot of stuff.

Long answer: Ooooh, boy, here we go.

First off, the filing fee for this baby is $420. Get used to it; the payments will start piling up! You pay by check or money order. This may be a bit of an issue if you’re living outside of the U.S. I got the money order before I left after Christmas break.

In addition to filling out the form, which isn’t actually very long, you need to establish that you are, indeed, a United States citizen. You do that by sending them a copy of your birth certificate issued by a civil registrar, vital statistics office, or other civil authority. This may cost money. You also need a copy of your passport.

Next, you need to prove you are related to your spouse (or other relative, but in my case, a spouse). I had to submit the following documentation:

  • A copy of our marriage certificate
  • A passport-style photo of myself and of my spouse taken within 30 days of the petition (so no old photos!). There are actually very specific requirements, which you can check out on this PDF.
  • Completed and signed Form G-325A for both of us, which was “biographic information.”

In addition to those requirements, I was told I “should” submit one or more of the following to help them see our marriage as bona fide:

  • Document showing joint ownership or property (e.g., if we had owned a house)
  • A lease showing that we were renting together
  • Documentation showing that we had shared financial resources (e.g., a bank statement)
  • Birth certificate of children born to us (not our case, again)
  • Affidavits sworn to by third parties with knowledge of our relationship. We had my mom write one and sign it.
  • Any other relevant documentation.

Of course, many of these documents had to be translated, as they were in Spanish, like our marriage certificate. It’s not a problem, though. The U.S. only requires that you include a full English translation that the translator herself has certified as complete and correct. So I did my own translation!

Where do I file?

It depends on where your domicile is. You have to have established that you still are residing in the U.S. Since my parents live in Indiana, I was still receiving credit card statements and bank letters there. That was my “domicile.” So I filed with the Chicago Lockbox. However, you should see if you belong to the Phoenix Lockbox.

Helpful Links

I scoured the Internet for a long time before filing, trying to make sure I had done everything perfectly. The last thing I wanted was to wait five months only to be disappointed! Here are some links I found helpful during the process:


You will learn a lot of new fun terms! It’s just like elementary school, except sadder and more frustrating.

  • USCISUnited States Citizenship and Immigration Services. It is a part of the United States Department of Homeland Security. One of its purported goals is to “eliminate immigration case backlogs,” which makes me chuckle. Ironically.
  • IR1/CR1 Visa—”IR” stands for Immediate Relative and entitles the holder to 10 years of permanent residency in the U.S., which may later be renewed. CR1 stands for Conditional Residency and the holder is entitled to conditional permanent residency for two years.
  • Petitioner—The U.S. citizen spouse is the petitioner.
  • Beneficiary—The spouse in the foreign country.

It was a lot of work, but I felt a sense of satisfaction when I sent out the packet. I could not have anticipated how long the next steps would take!

To Be Continued …