As Venice is unique so is its transportation system and getting around the city. After all, there are bound to be some changes to what one considers “common” ways of public transport when the streets are actually waterways.
It takes some getting used to, as well as adaptability and the knowledge that moving around Venice and the islands of the Lagoon doesn’t come cheap, but our top tips are here to help make it all easier. Here is what you need to know about Venice’s vaporettos, buses, tickets and everything in between.
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Walking probably remains the best way to get around the six sestieri of Venice. The city on the Lagoon is relatively small (going from the Santa Lucia railway station to Saint Mark’s Square will take you around thirty minutes on foot, for example). And its main sights are usually well-marked and easy to find – although you should probably arm yourself with a good GPS and a nice map.
Walking along the canals is definitely a unique experience in itself and will allow you to discover hidden corners and squares you might otherwise miss. There’s no need to worry about acqua alta – the city deploys walkways in case the streets get flooded, but it’s best if you have some rain boots ready to go if you plan to visit in autumn.
Vaporettos are one of the staples of the Lagoon. Where “normal” cities have buses (Venice included – in its mainland area), the Serenissima has what are essentially water buses. The vaporetto service is run by Venice’s municipal public transport system, ACTV, and it connects all main points of interest in both the six sestieri and the other islands of the Lagoon. There are several lines of vaporettos divided into four main categories, the most relevant to tourists being the “city center lines” 1 and 2 which sail along the Grand Canal.
Vaporettos are quite expensive (and it’s better to buy your ticket beforehand and validate it when you come on board to avoid the additional fee for purchasing onboard) – a single ticket, valid for 75 minutes, comes up at €7.50. You can also buy 24-hour passes for a single day, two days, three days or seven days for, respectively, €20, €30, €40 and €60.
It’s not widely known, but there’s a traghetto (ferry) service that allows people to cross from one side to the other of the Grand Canal – it’s much cheaper than a vaporetto and widely used by Venetians. The ticket costs €2 and there are several spots along the Canal where you can board the ferry to get to the other side – Santa Sofia, Riva del Carbon, San Tomà, Santa Maria del Giglio and Punta della Dogana. The service is active from around 9am to 6pm (it varies slightly from boarding spot to boarding spot) and is closed on holidays and city festivals.
Just like any other city, Venice has its own taxi service too – on water, of course. Water taxis are definitely a good choice if you want to reach your destination quickly, but keep in mind that they’re probably the most expensive means of transportation available (and prices go up even more at night). Water taxis can transport up to around ten people, so if there’s enough of you in your group splitting the fare might be an affordable solution.
More a quintessential Venice experience, gondolas are another key mode of transport © f11photo / Shutterstock
More than a proper way of getting around the city, the gondola is an experience and a tourist attraction in its own right. Routes and prices vary and are usually agreed upon on the spot with each gondoliere, but you can expect to pay about €80 for a half-hour tour by day and about €100 for the same time by night. Sharing a gondola is, of course, always a good solution to lower the prices – though they can’t carry as many people as a water taxi.
The ferry service consists of two main lines, 17 and 11, which connect Venice to the wider Lagoon area, starting with the Lido, moving south to Pellestrina (on Linea 11) and the beach area of Cavallino to the north (on Linea 17). The ferry is an excellent choice if you want to carry your own ride with you – prices start at €8 (plus the driver ticket) for cars and motorbikes.
The entrance to the city of Venice, Piazzale Roma is a major hub for trams, boats and buses © Petr Jilek / Shutterstock
Buses don’t circulate on the Lagoon, of course, and their main function is to connect Venice to Mestre on the mainland and then move around Mestre itself. Some lines, though, do reach into Venice and stop at Piazzale Roma, not too far away from the Santa Lucia railway station. Single tickets are €1.50, and you can buy a ten-ticket carnet for €14.
Venice has only two tram lines, which are a great option if you’re actually staying in Mestre rather than on the Lagoon. One of them, T2, moves only on the mainland, while the other reaches Piazzale Roma – just like the bus service. And just like the bus service, a single ticket is €1,50 while a ten ticket carnet for €14.
Accessible transportation in Venice
Travelers with access needs might not immediately think of Venice as a very user-friendly destination precisely because of what makes it Venice – canals, narrow streets, no buses. And yet the Serenissima is quite attentive to dismantling architectural barriers, even if there’s always room for improvement.
For those who wish to explore the city on their own without public transport a pool of experts, including people with disabilities who reside in Venice, have put together a collection of barrier-free routes that can be found on the city’s official website.
As for vaporettos, all should be equipped in a way that allows everyone to board – even though some issues may be caused by a particularly high tide. Most vaporettos can transport up to four wheelchairs, and tickets are €1.50 (while a companion travels free of charge).
Arriving in Venice
Marco Polo Airport Water shuttles and water taxis depart from the airport ferry dock. Buses run every 30 minutes (5.20am to 12.50am) to Piazzale Roma.
Treviso Airport Buses run to Piazzale Roma, or Tronchetto (for the monorail to Piazzale Roma). Buses run to Treviso train station for trains to Santa Lucia station.
Piazzale Roma (car parks and bus station) Vaporetti (small passenger ferries) to city destinations depart Piazzale Roma docks.
Venezia Santa Lucia train station Vaporetti depart from Ferrovia (Station) docks.
Venezia Mestre train station Transfer by train to Venezia Santa Lucia.
Venezia Terminal Passeggeri Docking cruise liners usually shuttle passengers into Venice; otherwise, taxis and vaporetti leave from the waterfront.
Gondolas are back in Venice