The Carnevale di Venezia is one of the world’s most famous carnivals, with this years’ festivities having begun January 31st! Every year, it attracts thousands of visitors with its promise of fantastic costumes, masked processions and exciting events.
Unfortunately, Venice Carnival is also well known for breaking the bank – after all, Venice is a pricey tourist destination as it is, and during Carnival season accommodation and restaurant prices can soar. Add to that the festival’s reputation for attracting the rich and famous with its €500 masquerade balls, luxury palazzos and eye-wateringly expensive water taxis, and it’s little wonder many people write off visiting Venice Carnival as not something no budget travellers can achieve.
Fear not though – it can be done! I visited for a long weekend as an undergad, and managed to survive on a student’s budget. Here’s how:
Most of the events are free
Although Venice Carnival is renowned for its costly costumed balls, most events of the Carnival programme are actually free to attend, from the ‘Flight of the Angel’ and costume competitions to water parades and fireworks. Check out the complete events list here for more information.
Soak up the atmosphere
Put simply, Venice Carnival is a people-watcher’s paradise. Expect costumes ranging from elaborate period pieces to bunny rabbit onesies, and everything in between. While dressing up isn’t compulsory, it would be a shame to be there and not get involved – whether this means bringing your own costume, donning a traditional Venetian mask or renting an outfit from one of the costume shops in Venice is up to you. Once suitably attired, explore the labyrinthine streets before braving the crowds in San Marco Square for the very best spectacle. (Don’t buy a drink in one of the bars or cafes here though, unless you want to spend all of your money in one go.)
Venice is a city that can only really be explored by boat or on foot – on foot being the more budget-friendly option. Luckily, Venice is so small that everything is within easy walking distance (if you discount getting lost in the winding alleyways or fighting your way through the crowds, at any rate), and there are plenty of well-placed bridges for hopping across the waterways as needed.
Of course, you should travel up the Grand Canal by boat at least once during your visit. While water taxis and gondolas are appealing, the price tags attached are not; if your budget is tight, opt for a vaporetto or traghetto instead. Visit the ACTV website for more information on Venetian public transport.
Look to the mainland
Although it lacks the romance of its watery counterpart, Mestre – Venice’s modern mainland suburb – is significantly cheaper, making it well worth considering as a place to rest your head. It’s just 10-15 minutes away by bus or train, but the savings made in terms of accommodation and eating out are not to be sniffed at. You might not be able to see the Grand Canal from your window – but you should be able to buy breakfast without wincing. Mestre is also a more likely option for finding last minute, affordable bookings.
Venice Carnival 2015 is running from 31st January to 17th February. Click here for more details.
Have you been to Venice Carnival on a budget? Let us know how you got on below.