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How to get around Venice: An Essential Guide to Public Transport in Venice

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View of waterbuses and boats on the Grand Canal in Venice

So you’ve decided to visit Venice and are wondering what’s the best way to get around the city. Don’t fret, we’re going to give you a detailed overview of public transport in Venice. You will also find information about private transfers, how to get to Venice, and useful tips so you can get the most out of your trip to the city. We’ll simplify the different transport options, and how to use them so you’ll know how to get around Venice. Let’s get started.

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Overview of the layout of Venice

Before we delve into the best ways to get around Venice and how to tackle public transport in the city, it’s vital to get a quick overview of Venice’s layout. So, first of all, the historic center of Venice is made up of 118 islands.

Around 400 bridges bind these islands together, forming an amalgamation that’s divided into six large administrative districts (sestieri), three on each side of the Grand Canal (Canal Grande) – Venice’s main artery.

How to use public transport in Venice

Although it might seem complicated, Venice’s public transportation system is really easy to use. Travelers have the option of two types of public boat options – vaporetto and traghetto. 

The one downside of using public transport in Venice is that tickets can seem pricier than they should be, so it’s important to know all your transport options in order to get the most for your money.

Getting around Venice by Vaporetto (Waterbus)

A vaporetto (public waterbus) in Venice.

The vaporetti (plural of the word ‘vaporetto’) are the public waterbuses in Venice that are the city’s major form of public transportation. As Venice is best seen from the water, the vaporetti provide a scenic way to get from one side of the city to another.

Pro Tip

Keep in mind that the vaporetti principally serve the Grand Canal, the outskirts, and the outer islands around the lagoon. So, taking a waterbus is usually the quickest way of getting between far-flung points but in many cases it’s actually much faster to get around the center of Venice on foot.

Hours of Operation

Usually, most lines that serve Venice run from 4:30 am until a little after midnight. A nighttime route runs from 11:30 pm to 5 am along the Grand Canal, Giudecca and Lido. All of the outer lying islands (Murano, Burano, Torcello, etc) have round-the-clock vaporetto services.

The vaporetti are famous for their punctuality, and many Venetians boast they can set their watches by them. The main routes run every 10 to 20 minutes until the early evening, then at slightly less frequent intervals. 

Vaporetto Tickets & Fares

ACTV self-service ticket machines in Venice. PC: hoanggppham/Shutterstock.com

Although often packed, the vaporetti are by far the cheapest way to get around (other than walking of course). Tickets for the vaporetti are the same price irrespective of the length of the journey.

A single Vaporetto ticket costs 7.50 EUR and is valid for 75 minutes from the time of validation. If you intend to use the vaporetto and public transport more, it’s worth investing in a 1-day (20 EUR), 2-day (30 EUR), 3-day (40 EUR), or one-week pass (60 EUR). The day tickets are also valid on the buses in Marghera and Mestre on the mainland.

Transportation is free on the vaporetti for children up to 6 years of age. Discounts are also available for senior citizens (65 +).

Tickets for the vaporetti are available at most boarding points, Hellovenezia/ACTV offices, newsstands, and some bars, shops, and tobacconists displaying the ACTV sign. 

Vaporetto stations have easy-to-use self-service machines, which have clear instructions in several languages and accept both cash and credit cards. You can also pre-book your ticket online, which I found to be most convenient.

Important Vaporetto Lines

For most travelers to Venice, only two vaporetto lines matter: #1 and #2. The #1 is the slowest of the waterbuses and the one you’re likely to use most often. It starts at Piazzale Roma and travels the length of the Grand Canal stopping at every boarding point.

For the ride of a lifetime, try and grab the front-row seats on Vaporetto #1 to ensure that you don’t miss out on the best sights and views of the must-see sights along the Grand Canal.

The #2 is in effect a speeded-up version of the #1, as it makes far fewer stops on the Grand Canal. Both #1 and #2 are accessible to wheelchairs and have reserved spaces on board.

You can find details of all the main Vaporetto lines in the ACTV timetable

Before Boarding

Please note that vaporetto tickets need to be swiped against the automatic machines on the boarding points before each journey. Look for the white electronic card reader on the dock that leads to the vaporetto platform.

Place your ticket on the circular panel until you see a green light and the flap barrier gates open. You can see how it is done in the video.

Boarding the Vaporetti

Sorting out the different directions of travel of the vaporetti can be confusing. Most stops have at least two boarding platforms and some of the larger vaporetto stops like Piazzale Roma, Rialto, San Marco, and Ferrovia (main train station) have multiple boarding platforms. 

At times when it is crowded, it is all too easy to board a boat traveling in the wrong direction. Make sure you use the correct stop to avoid taking the long way around to your destination. If in doubt, confirm your destination by looking for an electronic sign on the boat or just ask the conductor.

Getting around Venice by Traghetto

A group of people aboard a traghetto on the Grand Canal in Venice

Traghetti (plural for traghetto) are large, unadorned gondola ferries that shuttle people from one side of the Grand Canal to the other in under a minute. Given that there are only four bridges running across the 4km (2.5 miles) long Grand Canal, traghetti provide a handy service for pedestrians and tourists looking to save time.

There are traghetto stations at eight different points along the Grand Canal where it isn’t easy to cross by bridge. Yellow street signs lead the way to the traghetti, illustrated with a little black gondola symbol.

A traghetto ride costs 2 EUR (not covered by any transit pass), which you hand to the gondolier when boarding or exiting. It is a great option if you want to ride a gondola without paying full price. Of course, you won’t get the gondolier in the classic beribboned straw hat and it won’t come with the tourist services. 

It is customary (but not obligatory) to do as the Venetians do, and travel the short distance standing up. Keep in mind that traghetto services are seasonal and they typically operate from 9 am to around 6 or 7 pm, although some routes finish by noon.

Private Transfer in Venice

Private transfers in Venice come in the form of gondolas and water taxis (taxi acquei or motoscafi).

Getting around Venice by Water Taxi

A private water taxi in Venice

Water taxis are by far the fastest way of getting around Venice. Unfortunately, their use is confined to all but the owners of the deepest pockets.

A trip within the historic center of Venice can easily cost 40 to 70 EUR, depending on distance, time of day, and whether you’ve hired the water taxi at a pier or requested it by telephone. However, water taxis can usually fit up to 10 people, so if you’re traveling as part of a large group, you can keep the costs more palatable.

Although private water taxis will cost you a pretty penny, they are certainly the most comfortable way to get around Venice and for some, worth every cent. They operate at all times and offer the closest access to and from your destination. 

Water taxis may prove handy when you’re running late or have lots of luggage.´ There are, however, extra charges for luggage, waiting, night service, and booking a taxi. 

Unfortunately, water taxis are not suitable for wheelchairs and those with mobility issues should try to avoid them.

You can book a water taxi from Consorzio Motoscafi. However, you can also hire a water taxi in Venice from one of the numerous water taxi ranks around the city. 

Given that Venice is usually totally overcrowded, even a water taxi is often hard to find. Thus, I strongly suggest hiring a water taxi in advance. 

Pro Tip

Licensed water taxis have a yellow stripe with a license number so make sure to only get into one of those as many unlicensed taxi operators are lurking around preying on unsuspecting tourists.

Getting around Venice by Gondola

People riding gondolas on a quiet canal in Venice.

The iconic gondola is the most romantic and quintessential way to see Venice from the canals and the lagoon. Gondola rides are, however, more of a leisurely tourist activity than a practical way of traveling between two points and the prices reflect that.

The official tariff of a 30-minute ride on a gondola is 80 EUR. The price goes up to 120 EUR from 7 pm to 8 am. If you are traveling with family or friends, the cost per person will be cheaper – five is the maximum number of passengers.

Despite the cliché, most gondoliers do not sing while they row. If you want the gondolier to sing or to play an instrument during the ride, you will be charged extra! 

Pro Tip

Even though the gondola tariffs are set by the local authorities, it’s been known for gondoliers to try to extort even higher rates than these – if you do decide to go for a ride, agree a price with the gondolier before setting off.

There are a number of gondola ranks throughout the city with plenty of gondoliers in striped vests and beribboned straw hats waiting for business on bridges and squares. However, to avoid wasting precious time looking for a gondola, book a gondola ride in advance.

Despite its watery character, Venice is an ideal city to walk in. It is one of Italy’s most pedestrian-friendly cities, not least because there are no motorized vehicles and bicycles permitted on the streets.  

Pro Tip

If you’re going to explore Venice on foot, we strongly recommend wearing comfortable footwear as a day’s sightseeing can be wearisome. Also if you’re visiting Venice in July and August, when temperatures are at their highest, make sure to carry a broad-brimmed sun hat and a good sunscreen.

Venice is also a deceptively small city and it only takes approximately 45-60 minutes to cross from north to south on foot (provided you do not lose your way of course). In our opinion, walking is also the most reliable and enjoyable mode of transportation in Venice. 

Pedestrians can take delight in strolling Venice’s myriad avenues and the warren of winding passageways. Exploring Venice on foot enables you to see the main sights and stumble upon the city’s hidden gems.

Pro Tip

Exploring its labyrinths of canals and alleys is part of the charm of discovering Venice. But, in a city where getting lost is the rule, not the exception, this can prove frustrating to those travelers who are pressed for time. Venice’s layout has few straight lines, and addresses seem nonsensical, labeled by just the street number and neighborhood. A good map is an indispensable resource so either buy one or keep your GPS on. However, Venice’s confusing layout bewilders even the best navigators. Venetians are extremely polite when asked for directions, so if you become worrisomely lost, ask for help.

Getting around Venice on Bike

Cycling is strictly forbidden in the historic center of Venice, but the Lido, Pellestrina, and other parts of the Venetian lagoon are perfect for exploring on bicycle. 

You can rent bikes there or on the mainland in Marghera and Mestre and take them by ferry. However, you can’t transport bikes on the vaporetti, only on ferries to or from Lido.

Getting around Venice by Monorail

The People Mover monorail in Venice. PC: Alexandre Rotenberg/Shutterstock.com

Venice’s People Mover monorail connects the car parks on Tronchetto with the cruise-ship terminal (Marittima) and Piazzale Roma. The wheelchair-accessible monorail is the most convenient way of getting into Venice itself if you are driving to the city or arriving by a cruise ship.

Riding Venice’s People Mover is very straightforward as there’s only one route. The fare costs 1.50 EUR regardless of where you board or get off. 

The People Mover operates year-round from 07:00-23:00 (Monday-Saturday). On Sundays and holidays, it runs from 08:00-22:00 (April-October) and 08:30-21:00 (November-March).

How to get to Venice

There are several options for getting to Venice. If traveling to Venice by air, the nearest airport is Venice’s Marco Polo airport, located 10 km (6.5 miles) north of the city. Venice is supplemented by the smaller Antonio Canova airport at Treviso, 40 km (29 miles) northwest of Venice. 

It is also possible to reach Venice by train from a nearby city such as Bologna, Milan, Verona, or Florence. Check Trenitalia to book tickets in advance to get the best fares.

If you’re coming to Venice by car, you should know that parking in the city is prohibitively expensive. The closest car parks to the city center are at Piazzale Roma or on the Tronchetto, linked to Venice by boat and bus. Garage San Marco or the public ASM Garage at Piazzale Roma are probably your best bets.

Getting from Mestre/Marghera to Venice

Many people who visit Venice stay in the boroughs of Marghera and Mestre on the mainland due to the cheaper accommodation rates. There are a number of ways to get from these places to Venice. 

By Land Bus

ACTV buses at the Piazzale Roma bus stand in Venice. PC: Vereshchagin Dmitry/Shutterstock.com

Both Marghera and Mestre have direct bus connections to Venice (Piazzale Roma). Check the ACTV website for more information about the different bus routes. Tickets for the bus in Venice can be purchased from the self-service machines, which have clear instructions in several languages and accept both cash and credit cards.

Remember to always validate your tickets when you board the bus. This can be done by placing your card on the white electronic card reader until a green light flashes and you hear a beep.

By Tram

A public tram in Venice. PC: dimbar76/Shutterstock.com

It is also possible to commute from Marghera and Mestre to Venice (Piazzale Roma) by tram. The tram is a very comfortable and easy way to get from these places to Venice. Trams run at least every 10 minutes during the day (every 15 minutes on Sundays).

The fare between Venice and Mestre is only 1.25 Euro per one-way ticket. Similar to the buses, tickets for the trams can be purchased at the self-service machines at the tram stations. 

It’s not possible to purchase tickets on the tram. Remember to always validate your tickets as soon as you get on the tram. 

By Train

It’s also very convenient to get to Venice (Santa Lucia Railway Station) from Mestre and Marghera by train. Trenitalia, Italy’s state railway, runs an extensive and efficient network throughout the Veneto region. Trains run frequently, are mostly punctual, and the cost of travel is very reasonable. 

The fare between Venice and Mestre is only 1.35 Euro per one-way ticket. Similar to the buses and trams, tickets for the trains can be purchased at the self-service machines at the train stations. You can also purchase your tickets online by visiting the Trenitalia website

All train tickets must be stamped on a device on the platform before departure. Otherwise, the ticket is invalid.

Getting from Marco Polo Airport to Venice

There are four options for how to get from Marco Polo Airport to Venice: the public Alilaguna waterbus, a private water taxi, a land bus, or by car transfer or taxi. 

By Public Water Bus

An Alilaguna waterbus in Venice. PC: Mark Zhu/Shutterstock.com

The public boat service from Marco Polo Airport to Venice is the Alilaguna. Alilaguna operates several routes to Venice. The slow, scenic journey to Venice takes about 1-1.5 hours depending on your destination. 

Although they use the same docks and ticket windows as the regular vaporetti, Alilaguna boats are not part of the ACTV vaporetto system, so they aren’t covered by city transit passes.

The cost of the Alilaguna ticket from Marco Polo Airport to Venice’s historical center is 15 EUR one way and 27 EUR for a roundtrip. This includes one suitcase and one personal bag. Additional luggage costs 3 EUR per piece. Children under the age of 6 can travel for free. 

Alilaguna tickets can be purchased from the public transportation desk in the arrivals area, from the ticket booth by the dock at the airport, or from the adjacent ticket machines.

By Water Taxi

If your budget allows it, private water taxis operating from Marco Polo airport to Venice take about half the time and will take you directly to your hotel. 

This is handy if you have more luggage but will cost well over 100 EUR. A cheaper yet convenient alternative is to take a shared water taxi that will also drop you off directly at your hotel.

By Land Bus

People boarding the a bus at Marco Polo Airport to Venice. PC: Sorbis/Shutterstock.com

Marco Polo Airport also has a direct bus service to Venice’s Piazzale Roma (the closest point to Venice’s attractions accessible by car or bus) that takes about twenty minutes. This is a quicker and cheaper alternative to the lagoon crossing.

By Car Service or Land Taxi 

It is also possible to book a car transfer or hop in an ordinary land taxi from Marco Polo Airport to Piazzale Roma or the cruise port. The journey takes about 30 minutes and costs about 60 EUR for up to 4 people with one piece of luggage each. Land taxis can be found along the sidewalk after exiting the airport arrivals hall.

Getting from Treviso Airport (Antonio Canova Airport) to Venice

The two best options for getting from Treviso Airport to Venice are the land bus, and car transfer or taxi.

By Land Bus

Treviso Airport has a direct bus to Piazzale Roma which takes approximately one hour. In order to avoid queuing at the airport, I strongly suggest booking a ticket in advance.

By Car Service or Land Taxi 

It is also possible to book a car transfer or hop in an ordinary land taxi from Treviso Airport to Venice. The journey takes about 40 minutes and costs about 80-100 EUR for up to 4 people with one piece of luggage each. Land taxis can be found along the sidewalk after exiting the airport arrivals hall.

Where to stay in Venice

Venice is an expensive place to stay and can hardly be said to have a  “low season.” You can’t go terribly amiss in terms of “good” areas in which to stay in Venice. 

The area in and around the district of San Marco is the most touristy and almost always more expensive. If you want to stay in less-trafficked surroundings, check out convenient but more tranquil locations in the districts of Dorsoduro, Santa Croce, and Cannaregio.

Once you get your bearings, you’ll find you’re never far from anything. You may, however, want to consider how close your hotel is to a Vaporetto stop.

For those on a budget in Venice, substantial savings can be had by staying in a hotel in Mestre or Marghera, or near the main airport, but you must count on at least 45-60 minutes each way until you get into the city center.

Hostel: Anda Venice Hostel, a hugely popular hostel in Mestre, located just two minutes on foot from the train station and within walking distance from the city center

Budget: San Lio Tourist House, unpretentious choice within 5 minutes of St. Mark’ Square and the Rialto Bridge

Mid-range: Four Points by Sheraton Venice Mestre, a reasonably-priced 4-star hotel in Mestre. A great option if you’re visiting Venice by car as the hotel offers free parking

Splurge: Palazzo Venart Luxury Hotel, sumptuous top-choice pick in the district of Santa Croce overlooking the Grand Canal

Further reading for your Venice Visit

That summarizes our definitive guide to how to get around Venice. We reckon you’ll find the following resources useful for planning your trip to Venice!

About Mihir

Hi there, I'm Mihir! I was born in India, raised there and in Australia before spending nearly a decade in Finland. I suffer from chronic fernweh and am always looking forward to a new adventure. Besides traveling, my other loves are my beloved cats, architecture, art, craft beer, classic movies, history, cricket, and Australian Rules Football. Oh, there's also my partner in crime Jacky who's not too bad either 😉

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