"Should I take a gondola ride in Venice?" Here's an inside look at the pros and cons of every Venetian mode of transportation.
We emerged from the train station and approached the water bus 'stations' with enthusiasm and confidence. Not only would we ride to our hotel in comfort, we'd also have a classic Venetian sightseeing experience for a fraction of the price of a gondola! Brilliant plan, right?
Alas, our brilliant plan wasn't as unique as we imagined - everyone else had the exact same idea! It was peak time (early afternoon) in peak season (a weekend in August) - and those boats were PACKED. We let the first water bus pass, alarmed by the amount of passengers bursting its seams, certain the next boat would be better. Ha!
When we safely arrived at our destination and successfully wrestled and wrangled our way off the boat, my knees were weak with relief. What were we thinking? But as you'll see below, my water bus, or vaporetto, experience was the exception to the rule - most people really do enjoy it. So where had I gone wrong? I called on some travel writing friends to weigh in with their advice on surviving and thriving with Venetian transportation and had them address some pressing travel questions, like should you hire a gondola ride in Venice and can you take you children on a gondola and vaporetto.
Rocky start aside, we LOVED Venice - and I think you will too! Here's some fanastic insider's advice on making the most of your time.
Option 1: Traghetti, the ferry of the Grand Canal
The secret discount gondola
Margherita, http://www.thecrowdedplanet.com/ Read more about her experience here.
PS: This article has fantastic detailed information on the traghetto experience, including different piers, how to stand on the gondola, and more!
Even locals love the traghetto!
Option 2: Vaporetto, the water bus.
Miracle on the water bus!
Sid, http://www.sid-thewanderer.com. Learn more about their experiences here.
Another vote for water buses.
And another vote for water buses!
No gondola? No worries!
Vaporetto for kids!
Vaporetto passes to see further afield.
Noel, http://travelphotodiscovery.com/. Read more about his experience here.
PS: Here's a great article detailing how to buy vaporetto tickets and passes.
Option 3: Gondolas by group tour.
Glorious gondola group tours!
We had decided before we arrived that we would take advantage of the vaparetto to explore the waterways rather than pay the excessive fee for a gondola. However Venice had other ideas!
On our second day we were happily wandering round exploring a when we joined a queue in a little side street. We wondered what everyone was waiting for – as there was nothing on the map in that area – and decided we could wait a few minutes and see what all of the fuss was about. Two minutes we were led to the waiting gondolas where we even got put in the 'love seat' beneath the gondolier! Turns out we had unwittingly ended up in the middle of a tour group! Nobody questioned us or said anything, and when we got back to the landing point there was a hat for tips. The other guests were only putting in Euro coins and wary of blowing our cover but putting in a higher amount, we only put a Euro in too! It was an awesome experience and I wouldn't change it for the world!"
Vicki, http://maketimetoseetheworld.com/ Read more about her experience here.
Option 4: Gondolas for private rides.
Gondolas are family friendly!
Nichola, Globalmouse Travels. Read more about their experience here.
Romance and realism
Go early or late for the best experience.
Option 5: Row yourself around town.
Why not take control of the gondola yourself?
Jennifer, http://luxeadventuretraveler.com. Read more about ithere.
Another vote for Row Venice
Option 6: Hail a water taxi.
I think a water taxi would be a good idea if you were already planning a splurge on a gondola but decided to redirect that money instead to do double duty and pick you up at the airport. I also think it's a good idea if you have a large number of people with you, as the cost is per trip, not per person. And if you're arriving in peak season and the vaporetto is bursting at the seams and you're willing to consider the cost an investment in your Venice experience, take a water taxi to your hotel. Just do you research first. It really pays to know what kind of fare to experience and what services official providers offer. Here'sa good summary of what you need to know.
A personal look at taxi pros and cons
PS.... Really want to indulge?
For the ultimate splurge
Option 7: WALK! (Or do a little bit of everything.)
- There's nothing wrong with walking. Venice is compact and, despite all the stories of how easy it is to get lost, it's really not that bad!
- Your water bus experience will depend in large part on peak seasons and peak times - just like public transpotation systems everywhere. Early morning rides come highly recommended.
- If you're going to splurge on transportation, make the most of it - find someone to split the bill of your gondola or taxi ride. Both are priced per ride, not per person.
- Whatever your choose, do research in advance so you feel confident you're getting the best experience for your money.
Venice is a beautiful, magical city - and hopefully your boat rides will only enhance your experience!
If you enjoyed this article, you'll also like:
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PS: Looking for food recommendations in Venice? My friends Justin and Lauren have a guide to vegan food in Venice (that all food lovers will enjoy). My friend Sue (who also experienced Row Venice, above) did a great piece about 'happy hour' in Venice and an epic quest to find an incredible hidden bar. Let me know if you try any of the restaurants on their lists!