If your itinerary allows it, stay at least 3 days and 2 nights in Venice. This will allow you plenty of time to visit the popular sights as well as wander through streets and across canals.
Make sure your passport doesn’t expire within 6 months from the last date of your travel.
Photocopy your passport and carry around a copy with you. Leave the original in a safe if you have one where you are staying.
Call your phone company and price international data plans or buy a throw away phone with a local SIM card once you arrive in Venice. If you are connecting with your place of lodging or a restaurant, this is necessary as well as for an emergency. You can go with a minimal plan and disable cellular data until needed and use wi-fi most of the time. Use a wi-fi connection that requires a password to avoid logging on to an unsecured network.
Pack only what you can fit into a carry-on. Don’t waste a minute checking luggage and standing at a baggage claim conveyor belt.
Pack electrical power plug adapters for Italy.
When sightseeing, carry a small day pack with only the essentials.
Food and Drink
Most restaurants are starting dinner at 7 with locals eating around 8:30-9:30.
Sparkling water for around €1 is a normal start to any meal. Why have tap water with an incredible meal when you could have something better?
If you go to St. Mark’s Square to enjoy the orchestras, be aware that there is a significant cover charge to sit down at a table in front of the restaurant. You could easily spend €12-15 for a coffee and cover charge, or you can stand in the square and walk from orchestra to orchestra enjoying the music.
The best gelato (probably in all of Europe) is at Suso’s Gelatoteca. Plan on visiting more than once. You’ll need to try most of the flavors.
Travel with a chip and pin debit and credit card. Notify your bank and credit card company of the dates and places you will be traveling. Ask about your debit and credit card foreign transaction fees. 3% is high. No foreign transaction fee is the best. You can save hundreds of dollars when booking airfare, lodging, and paying for meals when you have no added foreign transaction fees. Find out your ATM withdrawal limit and your bank’s emergency phone number to call collect in case of an emergency or lost card. This shouldn’t be an 800 number.
Do NOT exchange money. The exchange rate is horrible and a complete rip-off. You will lose a huge percent of your money.
Use a bank ATM to withdraw cash with a debit card. Do not use ATMs located away from a bank as they may have no security cameras and a higher risk of card skimmers that will steal your information. Get 200 Euros in 20 bills. If given the option, do not choose “dynamic currency conversion”. All this will do is add a surcharge to convert the amount of Euros to dollars on your receipt. Choose the local currency (Euros) as if you were a local.
Wearing a money belt is a good idea to carry a copy of your passport and extra cash, but I also preferred to wear a crossbody purse to have easy access to small amounts of cash, vaporetto pass, phone, etc.
Always have cash on hand in case a store does not accept credit cards. Cash is easier for smaller purchases.
Some places require a minimum amount of Euros to be spent when using a credit card. If you are short on cash, be prepared to spend €15 on gelato for 2 people. 8 scoops of gourmet Suso’s gelato for lunch is a decision you won’t regret.
Buy a vaporetto pass with unlimited use. This will quickly save you money as individual tickets are pricey, and you will hop on and off the vaporetto a lot as you explore Venice. For travelers who are ages 14-29, you can buy a Rolling Venice discount card at the same time as you buy your vaporetto pass. The Rolling Venice discount card will cut the cost of your pass almost in half.
Be aware that Line 1 is slow and stops at every stop. Line 2 is faster and only stops at certain stops. Maps are located on the dock before boarding the vaporetto so you can determine direction and stops.
Give yourself 2 hours to take the vaporetto and bus from Venice to the airport. You can take a water taxi straight there in 30 minutes, but that will cost you more money.
If you take a gondola ride down the Grand Canal, plan on spending $80 (day) or $100 (night). If this is out of your price range, hop on a Traghetto. This gondola will shuttle you from one side of the canal to the other. This short ride will cost you just a couple of Euros.
If you want a magical, inexpensive cruise down the Grand Canal, take the Line 1 (slow) vaporetto at night. Start at the Ferrovia stop and cruise all the way to the San Zaccaria stop. Snag the very front seats and start Rick Steves’ audio tour for his ‘Grand Canal Cruise’. Did I mention that this is magical?
Use travel apps like Google Maps and Google Translate. Google Maps will pinpoint your location without a cellular connection or wi-fi. You will never end up lost since you can see where you are and if you are headed in the right direction. Google Translate uses your phone’s camera to translate text from French to English. Simply open your camera app and hold it over a menu, historic plaque, etc.
Get an early start. You will at least be able to avoid long lines at your first stop of the day.
On days you are touring churches and cathedrals, wear long pants and carry something to cover your shoulders if wearing a sleeveless top. You don’t want to wait in line at St. Mark’s Basilica only to be refused entrance because of bare shoulders.
For audio tours you can save money by purchasing a Y jack to share audio tours and split the audio between 2 sets of earbuds. Download Rick Steves’ audio tours for free.
Buy Rick Steves’ guide book and read it! The walks outlined in his book make you feel like you have a personal travel guide. The step by step walks make the city come alive and points out landmarks so you don’t miss a thing.
Places You Must See in Venice
- St. Mark’s Square – Here you will find St. Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace, Campanile (bell tower – ride to the top), and 3-4 dueling orchestras in the evening.
- Bridge of Sighs
- Rialto Bridge
- Rialto Bridge Market
Once you are in Europe, traveling to other cities and countries is relatively inexpensive and easy. After your stay in Venice, why not take a short plane ride to Paris and spend a few days there? Click below to read travel tips for Paris.
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