Venice, the world's only pedestrian city, is easily walkable, and the absence of cars makes this a particularly pleasant experience. However, walking and standing all day can also be exhausting, so it is best to pace yourself. The Rialtine islands - the 'main' part of Venice - are small enough to walk from one end to the other in about an hour, provided you don't get lost (a common occurrence).
The area is -apart from going up and down the bridges- very level. Wheeled objects will not start moving of their own. Wind, however, might be a different thing.
All transport involves either walking or boats.
Bear in mind that most canals do not have any sort of railing and that tourist crowds might make progress very tedious at times.
Apart from the Lido (the island separating the lagoon from the Adriatic sea) and Sant'Erasmo, there are no roads after Piazzale Roma.
There are regular ferry services to the Lido to get your vehicle across (which is time consuming, so consider this carefully). Best check with your hosts, to evaluate this option.
You cannot ride bicycles in Venice (same as cars).
Exception: you will find rental bikes on Lido.
If you want to get around a bit more quickly, there are numerous vaporetti (water buses, sing.: vaporetto)
serving the Canal Grande, the larger canals through Venice and the surrounding islands (Lido, La Guidecca, Murano, Burano, and so on).
The vaporetti are generally the best way to get around for longer trips or for crossing the Canal Grande away from the bridges. Lines 1 and 2 go all the way along the Canal Grande and offer an easy sightseeing trip.
Some routes may change by the season and depend on weather and tide conditions.
runs the vaporetti and other public transport services both in the lagoon and on terra firma. Travel cards are extremely useful since the basic fare for one vaporetto journey is typically €7.00. There are other versions available, including those offering discounts for youths under 29. The vaporetti uses an honour system, meaning you are expected to validate your ticket at the stop before boarding.
Since 2009 the Venice Connected website of the Comune di Venezia makes possible to book online (at least 7 days in advance) most services controlled by the town administration (public transportation, access to the civic museums, access to public restrooms, car park tickets, entrance to the Casinò and access to the municipal Wi-Fi network covering the entire historic centre); the online prices vary according to the projected number of visitors but are always cheaper than the current on-site prices (and cheaper than with a Venice Card).
You can also get a Venice Card, which has various options that you can choose when you buy it (public transportation, cultural attractions, toilet access, Alilaguna, etc.) There is a 'Junior' version of the Venice that is available at a slightly reduced rate for those between 5 and 29 years of age. Note, however, that a Venice Card is not recommended for those with less than 3 days in Venice, as most of the top attractions are not included in the Venice Card. If you'll be staying in Venice for a week - get the Venice Card and enjoy travelling from island to island and exploring the various museums and churches it offers access to.
Maps are available at the vaporetto stops in the ticket booths. The map is quite reliable, and is free when getting a Venice Card ( €2 otherwise).
Venice Cards can be reserved on-line for a considerable discount. Keep in mind, though, that there are long lines when taking the Venice Card from the ticket booths. The Venezia St. Lucia ticket booth that offers Venice Cards is the one most on the right when you exit the train station.
Vaporettos can be crowded at times, so space is at a premium.
Also, getting on and off involves staff handling the mooring lines and operating the gates.
- keep the exits clear
- take off your bulky backpack as it consumes extra space and might end up in somebodys face when you excitedly turn around for some sight.
- place your luggage out of they way of doors. Use the luggage space provided.
- be considerate of people needing assistence
- observe the separate entry and exit lanes at stops
- always let people get off first and wait for staff to signal for boarding
by water taxi
Water taxis are the most flexible and most expensive travel option in Venice. They operate at all times and offer the closest access from/to your destination.
Prices inside Venice start from around 40-50 EUR (which will bring you a distance that is also easily walked) and depend on distance and time of day.
Boats hold up to ten persons including luggage (with a surcharge from the 7th person).
They can also be hired for special trips, such as individual sightseeing.
- not all canals are navigable by water taxis (if in doubt, check with your hosts beforehand)
- depending on the kind of landing and tides, you might have to negotiate (up- or down-) differences in levels between the landing and boat of 30cm / 1 foot or more or uneven and often slippery steps
- the boat will be wobbly, unaccustomed persons or those with limited abilities will need a hand
- boat captains must remain on their craft at all times, so they cannot give you a hand with luggage outside their boat
These days, gondolas are mostly used for scenic purposes instead of actual transport from point A to point B.
There are many stops dotted around the areas frequented by tourists and they are readily obvious, even when the gondolieri dress in something warmer then straw boaters and striped tops.
(Daytime) Prices start at around 80 EUR for 30 minutes and gondolas comfortably take 4 people, with a maximum of 6. Seated only, with some seats facing backwards.
Special arrangements can be made to serve your interests (special routes, photo shoots, etc.).
The traghetto is the cheapest way to cross the Grand Canal without using the bridges. These are public shared gondolas operated by two gondolieri and are a lot cheaper than paying €80 for a private one. It costs only 2 Euros per person (cash only, preferably coins!) for tourists (70 cents for locals) - you can then say you went in a gondola, even if it was only for a couple of minutes! There are 7 piers for traghetti along the canal. Simply look for straight lines across the canal in the map, or follow the "traghetto" signs. Bear in mind that you are expected to stand, especially when it's crowded and that luggage is usually not taken on.
Note that vaporetti at some stops offer special traghetto-tickets giving you a one-stop hop across the Canal Grande at 2 EUR instead of 7 EUR for a regular single ticket.
This is definitely the best way to experience Venice.
Venice itself is not a large city. Most destinations across the city can be reached within 20 minutes of walking, if you know your way and can stay clear of tourist congestions.
This beats most transport by boats.
Unless you are pressed for time, just start walking and let yourself get lost in the maze of alleys that is Venice. In time, you will always come across a familiar landmark or to a vaporetto stop to regain your bearings.
Along the way you will discover marvelous art, superb architecture and breathtaking urban landscaping as well as bars, cafes and restaurants to soak up the local atmosphere and rest your weary feet.
Major destinations, like Piazza San Marco, Rialto, Ferrovia (train station) or Piazzale Roma (bus terminal) are marked by arrows put up on the walls.
Be aware that addresses in Venice are of the form DISTRICT number (The Venetian word for district is "Sestriere"), not STREET number. To find a specific place using a map, make sure you know which district it is in. The numbers are assigned at the start of the district and increase as they move farther away from the Grand Canal. If possible, get detailed descriptions for your accomodation in advance, as doubling back across bridges with luggage in tow is quite bothersome.