Gondolas are an integral part of Venice, and some say you simply cannot visit Venice without taking a gondola ride. However, the price of gondola rides in Venice is really expensive, so if you are wondering if you can afford a gondola ride then this post will all the questions you might have about gondolas, including how much is a gondola ride in Venice, and how to ensure you get the best deal on your gondola. However, cheaper may not always be better, so I’ve also shared my tips for getting the best gondola ride in Venice for you, no matter what your budget!
What is a Gondola?
A gondola is a narrow wooden boat which was traditionally the main means of transport for Venetians. However, since the invention of the motorboat, gondolas have become a symbol of Venice and a popular tourist attraction. Gondolas are 11m long, weigh 600kg and are hand-made using 8 different types of wood. The Gondolas you will see in Venice are painted black, often with intricate decorations and luxurious furnishings. There are also brightly coloured gondolas which are reserved for festivals or sports competitions. Gondolas are controlled by gondoliers, who wear their ‘uniform’ of a red or black and white striped shirt and black trousers, often with a boater hat and ribbon to match.
There are around 450 working gondoliers in Venice. Although women are allowed to be gondoliers, currently there are no female gondoliers currently working in Venice. One woman rows a similar boat, but only she and one other woman have completed the training and passed the exams required to become a gondolier.
How Much is a Gondola Ride in Venice?
The council has fixed the price of gondola rides in Venice at €80 for a 30-minute ride during the day, and €100 for 35 minutes in the evening from 7 pm till 8 am. You will find an official price list at every gondola station, so if a gondolier tries to charge you more for a standard gondola tour, just walk away.
Bear in mind though that if you ask for anything extra such as a specific route, any singing or for a longer time then they will charge you more money.
The price is per gondola and covers up to a maximum of 6 people per gondola. When you arrange a gondola ride directly with a gondolier, don’t expect to share – you will get a private gondola ride with you and your group. However, if you do want a shared gondola ride to help reduce costs why not club together with people at your hostel or hotel? If there are 6 of you sharing it will be cosy, but at only €13.33 per person that is much more manageable if you are visiting Venice on a budget!
Can You Negotiate the Price of a Gondola Ride?
You can certainly try, but at busy times don’t expect a discount. If you visit Venice during the off-season when it is quieter, or at a quiet time of day then you may be able to haggle with a gondolier to reduce the price. Your best bet with this is to find a quiet gondola station in one of the smaller canals away from the key tourist areas.
How to Get the Best Gondola Ride in Venice
There is no need to book a gondola ride in advance, you just choose your gondola station and talk to the gondolier. However, in order to get the best experience from your gondola ride, follow these tips to make sure you’re not disappointed:
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Choose your Gondola Station
Choose your gondola station carefully. Many visitors want to take a gondola ride close to the busy areas of St Mark’s Square or Rialto Bridge, to see specific sites like the Bridge of Sighs. However, this means the gondola stations here are often busy and you might have to wait in line before getting a gondola. Quieter areas around the Jewish Quarter of Cannaregio, Doursoduro or Campo San Barnaba may be quieter, although you won’t get to go underneath the Bridge of Sighs from here.
Talk to the Gondolier
Have a chat with the gondolier to make sure you get along. Some might share stories and facts about Venice on the way around the canals, whereas others are more content to talk on their phones or shout to other gondoliers as they pass by. A good gondolier can make or break your gondola ride, so take time to find one you like.
Confirm the Price
Be upfront about the price, let them know that you know how much it should be (€80 for half an hour during the day).
Discuss the Route
Discuss the route that you will take to make sure you include any specific sights you want to pass by. Different gondola stations take different routes around the canals, so if your chosen gondola station doesn’t offer what you want to see, you could try at an alternative gondola station.
Don’t Pay in Advance
Do not pay in advance, as you might find you end up with a shorter ride than you agreed on. Bear in mind that sometimes a gondola ride may be shorter than 30 minutes due to traffic on the canals – a gondola jam can cause problems!
Bring the Exact Change
Make sure you have the exact money to give to the gondolier to avoid awkward moments where they don’t have any change to give you. Remember that you don’t need to tip, €80 is certainly adequate for 30 minutes’ work!
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Prepare for the Weather
Bear in mind that a gondola has no shade or protection from the sun (or rain!). Gondola tours in the evenings are more expensive but they are much cooler. Alternatively, try to take your gondola ride early in the morning before the midday heat gets too much, and the canals are quieter. In the winter, it will get chilly so bring a jacket.
Consider Booking a Private Gondola Ride in Venice in Advance
As I mentioned, there is no need to book a private gondola tour in advance, however, understandably some people prefer to book something, so they know what to expect. Although I didn’t do this, I found various reviews on Tripadvisor recommending a specific gondolier called Luca, who you can pre-book for gondola rides around the old Jewish Quarter of Venice. According to the reviews, Luca charges the same standard fee as other gondoliers but also gives lots of information, and a song if you’re lucky. They list his contact email as email@example.com.
Accessible Gondola Rides
Unfortunately, Venice isn’t the most accessible city, but if you need an accessible gondola, Gondolas 4 All operate wheelchair-friendly gondola rides from a pier at P.Le Roma. Please note I haven’t used this company myself so make sure you do some more research before you book. Their website is here.
Top Tips for a Cheap Gondola Ride
Using the tips above, you should be well equipped for arranging your own private gondola ride. However, if you feel that the price of a private gondola ride in Venice is too high, there are some alternatives you can consider:
Book a Shared Gondola Ride in Venice
If you don’t have any friends you can share a gondola with, there are some services which offer shared gondola rides. There are also tours which combine a walking tour with a shared gondola ride, maximising the money you spend. If you really want to ride a gondola in Venice but are on a budget, this could be the best option for you, although make sure you carefully read the reviews and details of the tours before you book.
Take a Traghetto Ride for €2
Traghettos are similar boats to gondolas and work as a short-distance water taxi service across the Grand Canal. There are several Traghetto stations along the Grand Canal, including next to Rialto Bridge, by the Rialto market and close to the Peggy Gugenheim Collection. They run daily from around 7.30am to 6.30 or 7.30pm, depending on the season. The crossing only takes a minute or two but could be enough to get your gondola fix for a fraction of the price.
Take a Vaporetto for €7.50
Vaporettos are waterbuses and although they are nowhere near as picturesque or romantic as a gondola ride in Venice, they are much more practical. Seeing Venice from the water really is one of the best things to do in Venice, and a ride on Vaporetto 1 from the bus station at P.Le Roma to St Mark’s is a fabulous route which will take you all along the Grand Canal, including underneath the Rialto Bridge. A one-way ticket costs €7.50, or included in the 24/48/72hr transport tickets.
Get a Photo in a Gondola for Free
If you really want a photo ‘for the Gram’ or to show off to your friends back home, you can get a photo in a gondola for free! There is a gondola moored outside the Acqua Alta Bookshop which you can sit in and take a photograph, although it is polite to leave a donation for their pet cat’s food. While you’re there, take a look at their thousands of second-hand books too.
Learn to Row a Gondola
If money isn’t your concern, but are looking for something more rewarding than simply floating around the canals, why not learn to row a boat yourself? Row Venice offering rowing lessons in a traditional Voga, which is not quite a gondola, but very similar. Their private rowing classes cost €85 for up to four people and last 90 minutes.
The instructors will teach you how to row like a gondolier as you explore some of the canals and go out into the Venice Lagoon, which is a lot more bang for your buck than an expensive gondola ride! They also offer Cichetto Rows, where you row to a Venetian Bacari for drinks and snacks, or an evening rowing class when the temperature is cooler, and the canals are quieter. Check their website for details here.
Where to Stay in Venice
Hotels in Venice are notoriously expensive, but if you stay in nearby Mestre on the mainland, the prices are dramatically lower. I’m the #WombatsTraveller ambassador for wombat’s City Hostels, and they are opening a brand-new hostel in Mestre on 10th July. I went to check out the hostel to see how it is coming along and you can find more information about the hostel’s progress here.
Booking is available online for private rooms and dorms and there are some special offers on for July, August and September. Having stayed in wombat’s London, Budapest and Vienna, I have no hesitation in recommending wombat’s Venice Mestre as an excellent place to stay in Venice once it’s opened.
Have you taken a gondola ride in Venice? I’d love to hear your experience – do you think the price of a gondola ride is worth it? Please leave your comments below.
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