Wednesday, June 9, 2021

My Upcoming Trip to Venice!

Recently, one of my kids, I forget who, asked me "If you could have any job in the world, and it didn't matter what degrees you had, and you didn't have to worry about money or any technical things, what job would you want?" It didn't take long for me to answer "Travel Blogger". And then I added that luckily, I almost do that. I blog about living frugally, but now I also write about my frugal travels when I manage to go on such trips.

Of course, it doesn't help that Covid got in my way, and also made me worried that I would never be able to travel internationally again on a budget, because I worried that all the frugal airlines would go out of business and I'd be priced out of international travel. But fortunately, my fears were unfounded.

I went into the year of the Covid lockdowns having just come back from my trip to Austria, mostly based in Vienna, but also taking a one day trip to a place on my bucket list- the Alps. (I definitely plan on going back to the Alps and for longer, but that was a delightful day trip.) To be honest, it made it much easier for me to tolerate the year of more or less being stuck at home after having been abroad for a week and a half just prior to that.

But more than a year after that, the travel bug has returned. And fortunately, with it, ease of travel restrictions to other countries.

I was looking into what countries have more liberal travel policies and thought about going to Greece (despite having been there already- but I was looking at a different Island than Crete), because most other places I was thinking about were requiring a 2 week quarantine in the country once you arrived, and for someone who wanted a short trip that simply wasn't something  I would even remotely consider.

However, after learning that a friend was going to Rome once she found out that the quarantine requirement was lifted, I decided to put Italy on my list of options. When I plugged it into Skyscanner I found that the cheapest flight to Italy was literally to Venice, one of the top places on my travel bucket list, since forever. (The other places on my bucket list are more expensive for me to travel to- Vietnam, Japan, India, and Thailand.) Venice has been such a dream of mine that when I went to Belgium I made sure to take a day trip to Bruges, the "Venice of the North"

I ended up paying for a trip to Venice, direct flight, for only $55, and that includes paying extra for a flexible ticket (since both I and the friend coming along with me are single moms, and you know, life). (I did not pay for a carry on- we'll each be with one personal bag- a backpack, and make do.) We'll be arriving there Sunday, July 4, in the afternoon, and leaving Thursday, July 8, in the morning. That means we needed sleeping accommodations for Sunday through Tuesday night, since Wednesday night we'll be in the airport, as we have to arrive in the middle of the night anyhow. Venice is known to be one of the most expensive places to visit and to stay, but I found a private room in a hostel for $147 for 3 nights for 2 people, which works out to be only $24 per person per night. And it is in Venice proper, not mainland, which allows us to walk around a sightsee at night, which is highly recommended. At that price, I'd even be willing to stay in a dump, but pictures of the place look quite beautiful. (Who knows what will actually be, but as I said, I'm happy with even a dump at that price.)

Speaking of Venice being expensive, all the forums I posted in, pretty much, said it is impossible to do Venice on a budget, but they don't know me! I manage to do things on a budget even in places where people say it is expensive.

I've done some research and found a few different free walking tours in Venice (free means you tip at the end, and I generally tip 5 Euros, which is accepted for backpackers) and I'd probably do more than one because, as I found in my trip to Vienna, different guides give very different tours, even in the same cities.

I also found a few sites with lists of free and cheap things to do in Venice. For example, I will not be taking a gondola ride, despite how iconic it is, but I found out how you can enjoy gondolas anyhow- free posing for pictures on a gondola in a specific spot, gondola spotting, and taking either a vaporetto- a water bus or traghetti- a short ferry via gondola.

I do not plan on eating out, other than one time maybe, and instead am planning on cooking in the hostel where we will be staying.

In addition to Venice, I want to go on a day trip (or two) to cities or places that are near Venice. I am currently narrowing down options, but am specifically aiming at places that have free tours, because that is the best way to see a place on a budget. 

One of the places I'm considering is Padua, also known as Padova, which is a short 30 minute ride away from Venice via public transportation. It is a place with a rich history, including the University of Padova where Galileo lectured. It is the setting of most of Taming of the Shrew.

I've thought of visiting Verona, the setting for Romeo and Juliet, as well, on the same day as going to Padova. It is an hour away from Padova and an hour and a half away from Venice. I've seen morning tours in one place and afternoon tours in another so we could theoretically do both the same day.

Anther considerations are the picturesque Lake Garda, specifically Peschiera del Garda on the lake itself. This is an hour and a half by fast train away from Venice. I'd love to see if I can find a beautiful hike along the lake, where I could view the Italian Alps.

Trieste is the last place I'm considering (though I am open to more suggestions). It is 2 hours away by train and is on the border of Slovenia and only relatively recently became part of Italy- first it was part of Austria and then it was its own city state after World War 2. There are free tours there as well.

See the thing about Italy is its so old and picturesque that there's no shortage of places to go and things to see. But we only have 3 full days in which to see stuff and we have to see how much we want to pack into them. We'll be flexible about the itinerary and play it by ear, depending on how things go during the trip. (If you're wondering the "I" mentioned throughout the post despite the fact that I'm going with a friend, its because she's leaving all the planning up to me...)

The biggest expense for my trip won't be the airfare or the hostel or even the attractions. The biggest expense will be the PCR corona test that I'll have to take in the airport before I go home, which costs 100 Euros. I also will also have to take a test before I leave my country and when I arrive home, but they are cheaper than the 100 Euro test. Of course everything can change and it may be that by the time the trip comes around this won't even be necessary because the Covid situation is getting better and better in both my country and Italy (I guess it pays to be one of the first countries to be majorly hit by the pandemic, I'm looking at you, Italy) but we'll see. And worst comes to worst, if things get bad again for whatever reason, the tickets are transferable.

I'm really excited about this trip, especially after having been "stuck" in my country for the last 15 months. (It's kind of ironic how after having been in the same country for 9 years with only having left once for a work trip staying in the same country for over a year seems weird to me, but my frugal vacations have done so much for my mental health that I made them a priority and tried to go on one once or twice a year...) I did go away twice in this past year, once camping with my kids and once for a weekend away, but they don't give me the same breath of fresh air like I do exploring a new country.

One last thing- transportation within Italy. I have been comparing public transportation costs, and it seems like renting a car for the days I want to go out of the city are actually quite reasonable, and comparable with taking a train, which gives me that many more options. Eeek!!!

Anyone been to Venice and can give me some good frugal tips for while I'm there? Places I have to make sure to see? Also, regarding the day trips- what would you pick? Is there any place that I haven't mentioned that you'd consider going?


  1. I have not yet been to Venice, but planning a trip in September. My son and his wife are stationed in Vicenza, with the Army, which is just 40 minutes from Venice. We have not been able to see them in 19 months (stupid COVID!). But now travel from the US is opening up. They have been able to do some travel - they did a trip last summer (when the country opened up for a bit) to Lake Garda and raved about it. The have also been to Padua multiple times, and Verona. I know they prefer Padua, but both are beautiful. You will love it and I can't wait to be able to visit also!

  2. In Venice, avoid buying, eating, drinking anything in Piazza San Marco. You will pay a cover charge for the orchestra (around 6 euros each) if there is music. If you go around the corner, prices are cheaper. If you want a quick cup of coffee, drink it standing up at the bar, like the locals do. Coffee at the bar is usually 1-2 euros instead of 3-5 at the table. Buy your souvenirs in the Rialto market. Your highest costs (after food and travel) are likely to be food. Restaurants in Venice are overpriced and mediocre, so avoid if you can. (We always rent a flat in a quiet area and I bring frozen kosher meat and cook almost all our meals.) Don't be afraid to ask for prices if you are in a cafe or restaurant. In addition to the price on the menu, you will likely pay the coperto and servizio, so be prepared. About gondolas -- yes, they are way overpriced, around 86 euros for a 40-minute ride and the price goes up at night. However, if your dream is to ride a gondola, remember that a gondola holds 6 people and the tariff is a lot less when it is split 6 ways. But a traghetto is an affordable option, as you mentioned. I have been to Verona, Padua, and Lake Garda. All beautiful but Venice is magical. Something about being in a place with no cars. The cheapest thing to do is just walk around and get lost in the calle (you will get lost -- GPS does not work very well there!). Enjoy your trip and hang on to your wallet!

  3. It sounds like a dream! I look forward to your trip posts.

  4. This sounds incredible. Have a wonderful time! I travel vicariously through your posts.


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