The Venice depicted in photographs is usually what comes to mind when people refer to the floating city. However, the lagoon is actually just a part of the city of Venice, as there are other surrounding islands and even a mainland referred to as Mestre.
Venice lagoon is comprised of smaller islands with hundreds of bridges linking them to each other. It is pedestrian-friendly making it easy to wander through the neighborhoods without worrying about cars, bikes, or cross lights! While walking is my preferred mode of exploration in Venice, don’t disregard the value of water buses or vaporetto if it will get you to your intended destination faster than by foot!
However, only water transport (e.g. vaporetto) can take you to surrounding islands like Lido, Murano, Burano, Torcello for a change of scenery and additional photo opportunities. Each of the tiny islands are full of streets and alleys where a turn could lead to a small courtyard or a secret passageway leading to a canal.
More details on water transport options and other important tips below!
Types of Water Service in Venice
Keep in mind that Venice by way of water is quite costly. A one-way trip on the water bus costs 7.50 Euro which is valid for 75 minutes. A one-day travel card will cost about 20 Euros. However, don’t let the fare discourage you from traveling; plan your trip carefully so you don’t pay more than necessary.
Research your travel costs while preparing for your trip to Venice. Your first day might consist of exploring Venice on foot so you may not need to step onto a vaporetto at all. You will save at least 7.50 Euro!
Water Taxis provide private direct rides and able to pick up and drop off at a more convenient location for you as they are smaller and more compact than a vaporetto.
They are good for several reasons: traveling in a large group, hauling a lot of luggage, or time constraints.
However, for short rides around the lagoon, water taxis are not cost effective as the base fare is 13 euro and 1.80 euro per minute of travel.
The image of riding a gondola through the canals is the embodiment of a Venice vacation. While it is a unique experience along the Grand Canal, do not confuse a gondola ride as your main source of transportation to get around Venice. Note that one ride will set you back at least 80 Euro for 40 minutes. The rate is set by the city of Venice so it will be difficult to negotiate a lower cost with the gondolier. However, you can split the fare with other willing travelers to lower the cost per person!
ACTV Vaporetto- Venice public transport
You will find a dozen vaporetto lines traveling the canals on different routes around, through, and across the lagoon to surrounding Venetian islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello. The most popular (and most crowded) line is #1 as the route flows through the Grand Canal and stops at major areas like Piazza San Marco and the island of Lido.
How to Purchase Vaporetto Tickets:
A) Online: Purchase online first. When in Venice, find an authorization location or self-service kiosk to obtain your ticket using the QR code or a PNR along with your purchase confirmation voucher.
B) In-person: Check the website for Point of Sale locations and hours throughout Venice. Pro-tip: Purchase your ticket(s) at the airport if you have time upon arrival. You can ask for help to your destination and the best travel options for the duration of your trip.
Recommendation: Purchase in-person versus online so that you have help from those behind the counter. Remember you don’t want to pay for more than you need! Another reason to purchase in person is because it is not uncommon to encounter difficulties when trying to trade in the online voucher for the physical ticket.
ACTV Transport Ticket
There are different travel cards available depending on the length of your stay, with choices ranging from 1 to 7 days of pubic transportation (water buses and land buses) including the option of airport transfer (Alilaguna) if needed. (Read more about airport transfers here)
Reminder #3: Do not purchase more days than necessary! You can cover most of the neighborhoods by walking.
Pro-tip: 3-day “Rolling Venice” is a highly discounted travel card available for tourists between the ages of 14 and 29. You could save 11 Euro, so don’t miss out if you fit the conditions!
How to Use:
Activate the card upon first-time with the white electronic reader found at each water bus stop. Tap the card against the reader, it will beep if the scan is successful. Remember that the usage countdown will begin upon activation.
Validate subsequent rides using the same tap method above before boarding. Check how much time is left by tapping the reader and pressing the question “?” button.
How to Read the Timetables:
The number located in the colored circle represents the line or route. The direction is indicated by the arrow in the small black circle right below the sequential stops (traveling clockwise direction in the image above). Note: There are two directions for each line, so if your stop isn’t listed – the bus is not going that way! Head over to the other jetty stop a few feet away with the same route number listed. It should now display the name of your intended stop.
The night service (Line N) runs from midnight until 5am. Line N makes less frequent stops and only covers the more popular routes.
How to Ride:
Each bus stop has a floating platform called a jetty, the point of exchange where people either board or disembark the water transport. Take caution and don’t stand too close to the opening as the arriving vaporetto will collide into the jetty causing a sudden jerk which rocks the platform back and forth. (It’s fun .. until you fall into the lagoon!)
If you need to confirm a stop on the line, politely articulate the name of the stop to the boat operator and they will quickly reply yes or no. Unfortunately, there’s no time for them to answer specific questions as they are working quickly to secure and belay the rope for safe boarding and unloading of passengers. You may ask while in transit, but keep in mind that they may not be fluent in English to answer specific questions.
There you have the three major water transport options in Venice. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions!