Venice Tips and Warnings

Don’t let avoidable mistakes and hazards spoil your stay! With good travel advice, you’ll easily ‘get it right’ in Venice – one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Here’s our list of top ten dos, don’ts and things to remember:

Stay in the right place!
This sounds obvious, but a lot of booking websites list hotels and apartments in “Venice” which aren’t really in Venice. Many are in Mestre, the rather ordinary neighbouring town on the mainland. So check the location carefully before booking – unless Mestre is where you want to be.
If you’ve come to see Venice and stay for several days, it is better to find a place in the historic city. There are many advantages, even if the cost is often slightly higher. You can immerse yourself in all those fascinating moments that Venice offers from dawn to late at night, and avoid expensive and time-wasting daily commuting.
Venice has comparatively little crime and is safe and quiet, as cities go, but, as in any tourist destination, you should take sensible precautions against pickpockets in the most crowded places.

Take care near canals. It is very dangerous to go down the steps of the canal banks to take or pose for a photo. The green parts, the algae, are very slippery and it often happens that people fall in the water, risking injury or worse.

No wheeled transport
Apart from the arrival point for buses and trains from the mainland, the Venetian streets are not passable for cars. Bicycles, skates etc are all strictly forbidden throughout the city. This makes Venice a uniquely peaceful experience, but be prepared to walk a lot.
Consider this when booking accommodation. How close is it to public transport? Will you have to drag your bags over numerous bridges to get to it? If you’ve already booked, check on the Searchable map of Venice.

Getting lost in the maze of narrow “calli” (streets) is a constant hazard – or for many people a pleasure, as it can lead you to unexpected and beautiful parts of the city away from the tourist crowds. A good map or a smartphone with geolocation is all you need to find your way back.

Street etiquette
Don’t annoy the locals! Respect local street etiquette by keeping to the right, as is done on most of the world’s roads. And leave space for the local Venetians to get past you – they have a different pace from ambling tourists. Try not be ‘those tourists’ occupying the entire narrow carriageway, preventing the easy passage of others.
Sitting on the steps of bridges and churches may annoy everyone, not just the locals, and can result in a fine.

It is strictly forbidden to sit on the ground or eat snacks (other than in cafes) in the whole area of Piazza San Marco (Piazza San Marco, Piazzetta San Marco, Piazzetta dei Leoncini, Molo). Besides this, eating in Piazza San Marco risks a close encounter with hungry seagulls, which can be particularly aggressive if you are eating.
The nearby area of the Royal Gardens (Giardini Reali) is a place to picnic and is equipped for this purpose.

Flood Risks
Occasionally, especially in October and November, high tides may partly cover low-lying areas including Saint Mark’s Square. If this happens, it’s usually brief, and most people treat it as part of the ‘Venice experience’! But take care. Avoid taking off your shoes because the water from the canals is not very clean, and there are rats, commonly called pantegane. It is better to use those disposable boots that they sell in tobacconists, or use the raised wooden walkways that are quickly erected during floods. On these catwalks, remember not to stop in order not to impede the progress of others.
Can be troublesome in the warmer months. Just bring a good roll-on mosquito repellent.
Tourist traps
Restaurants, cafes and shops around Piazza San Marco are much more expensive (and even more crowded) compared to those found in the more peripheral areas of Venice. Reports of tourists being charged hundreds of euros for a simple meal are not uncommon. So make sure you know what you are ordering, and ask for an itemised bill if you aren’t given one.

Note that nearly all cafes in Italy have ‘al banco’ (at the bar) prices and higher ‘al tavolo’ (at a table) prices if you sit down. This is not normally a ‘tourist trap’ but accepted practice in Italy. However, in San Marco, the difference in price can be considerable. The same is true of the ‘coperto’ charge in restaurants. Tourists are often not aware that this charge per person may be added to the bill.

Costs and ways to save
Some visitors regard gondola rides as expensive tourist traps; for others it’s the ultimate romantic ‘must do’. For an experience at only one thirtieth of the price, try a public traghetto. Larger than normal, these ferry gondolas are the cheapest alternative to the expensive gondola: with just € 2.00 you can get from one bank of the Grand Canal to the other, experiencing the thrill of a real gondola – albeit less romantic perhaps and a shorter ride. Try one of these in the Rialto area:  Santa Sofia, near Ca’ d’Oro – Rialto Pescaria (Rialto Market) or San Tomà – Sant’ Angelo.

Tickets for vaporettos (public water-buses) are more expensive than public transport in most cities, and entrance fees for museums etc mount up. So if you plan to use these services a lot, consider buying a Venezia Unica City Pass Card. Completely customizable, it allows you to easily access the museums of the city and nearby islands, use public transport freely (except for airport transfers) and take advantage of numerous discounts at bars and restaurants.

A small but very eco-friendly saving, especially in hot weather, is possible thanks to the city’s 100+ water fountains and the quality of its water. Venice water – from taps and public fountains – is not only drinkable but comparable to mineral water in taste and purity. Many Venetians never buy bottled water for this reason. You can fill up a single water bottle as you go, thus helping to reduce plastic garbage.

Long waits at popular sites
An hour’s wait standing in the heat without shade is not uncommon for visitors who have neither booked ahead nor timed their visit wisely. Simple solutions include coming early before the lines build up, buying a skip-the-line ticket in advance online, getting a city pass that includes these popular sites, or choosing alternative activities in less crowded areas instead of the obvious ones.
Strictly Forbidden in Venice
Because Venice is such a popular destination, with vast numbers of visitors, the following local prohibitions are enforced, often with very large fines for ignoring them:
• Circulating in a bathing suit or bare-chested in the city
• Washing at public fountains.
• Sitting in public areas not designed for the purpose
• Throwing or abandoning waste.
• Failure to follow recycling rules (e.g. if staying in an apartment)
• Using bicycles, roller skates or similar means (except on the Lido and other islands with roads, such as Sant Erasmo);
• performing dangerous or troublesome sports or games.
• Using high-volume sound diffusion devices or instruments e.g. ghetto blasters.
• Bathing in the inner city waters (very dangerous, like lying down on a busy road!)
• Climbing on trees, poles, railings, buildings, monuments, public lighting.
• Lying down on benches.