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!)

Ribadesella, A Gem on the Asturian Coast

Recently, while going through my Instagram, Mario commented sardonically, “You didn’t like Asturias much, did you?” True enough, there are six consecutive photos of Asturian scenery, along with one delicious tomato and sardine salad we enjoyed during our two-day stay there. I couldn’t help it! Asturias was everything I adore: beaches inspiring awestruck silence and wonder, mist-covered mountain ranges, the sounds of bleating sheep and barking hunting dogs, dangerously tortuous mountain roads, and the ringing of autochthonous cows’ bells while they munched happily on the local vegetation. So sue me—I loved Asturias!

Ribadesella (Asturian: Ribeseya) was one of our first stops after our brief pause in Burgos.

Asturias Ribadesella

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Chinchón—A Plaza Mayor to Rival Salamanca’s

As far as as Plaza Mayors go, I’ve always had a clear favorite: Salamanca. Now, not to hate on Madrid (though I don’t have a problem doing that at times), but for me, nothing rivals Salamanca’s gorgeous Plaza Mayor. It’s where I met up with Mario on our first dates (we met, as do most couples and friends, debajo del reloj), it’s where I picnicked on sunny days with my guiri friends, it’s the square I crossed daily on the way to my internship.

Last autumn, though, some friends of ours invited us to visit Chinchón, a small village about 50 km southwest of Madrid, with a population of roughly 5,000 people. They too are a couple like us: one Spaniard, one guiri from the Midwest. They got married in this town, and I immediately saw why they were drawn to it.

Chinchón Plaza Mayor Madrid

Its Plaza Mayor, Main Square in English (though I never translate this phrase), is a classic medieval construction. All around the outside are houses and buildings with balconies. Many of these have been converted into restaurants, so you can sit outside on the rickety (or so it seems) wooden scaffolding and enjoy your menu del día.

Since its construction, the square has been home to various events: royal fiestas, comedy shows, jousting, bullfights, religious sacraments, executions, and even home to a movie set or two (Around the World In 80 Days, for example).

Chinchón Plaza Mayor MadridChinchón Plaza Mayor Madrid

Chinchón is also known for its eponymous beverage, a form of anisette, made from aniseed macerated for half a day in a hydroalcoholic solution (usually wine). Later it’s distilled in copper stills for different amounts of time, leading to distinct varieties, including:

Chinchón Anis Sweets
The liqueur is also used to make many sweets (Source)

  • Sweet, useful for cooking at 35% alcohol
  • Dry, no sugar and 43% alcohol
  • Special Dry, a stronger variety at 74% alcohol

I actually hate aniseed, so we passed on trying this libation.

Chinchón Plaza Mayor  Madrid

Chinchón Plaza Mayor  Madrid

Chinchón Madrid

Which villages have you visited around Madrid? What’s your favorite?