Gondola Ride in Venice, Italy: Expensive or not?

Canal Grande, Venice, Italy

Initially my friends and I hadn’t planned to do a gondola ride in Venice. I’d heard all sorts of stories about how expensive it was and I didn’t feel it was worth breaking the bank. It’s the kind of thing you reserve for a romantic holiday with a husband/wife/partner/lover, and I wasn’t on one of those holidays. I didn’t quite imagine my first gondola ride to be with two Aussie mates I met backpacking in Europe. As it transpired, that was what happened.

Gondolas on the Grand Canal, Venice, Italy

When we arrived at Camping Fusina, we met a group of backpackers who said they negotiated 60 euros for 20 minutes. They split it between 5 of them, so it was just over 10 euros each. Impressed that it didn’t cost hundreds of euros, we realised that maybe it was actually something we could afford to do.

Gondola Ride in Venice, Italy

The thing is, when you get to a city like Venice, you start to think “I might only be here once. I’d regret it if I didn’t”. The reality is I probably will go back at some point, but then again I could also get hit by a bus tomorrow. I’m very much of the attitude that you should seize the opportunity while you can. Plus when you step off the ferry in Venice and you see those gondolas gliding down the Canal Grande, you can’t help but want to go on one.

Empty parked Gondola on a canal in Venice, Italy

So how much does a Gondola ride in Venice cost?

‘Official guide price’: 80 euros for 40 minutes

What we paid: 90 euros for 30 minutes

The ‘official’ fares are listed on the official website for gondoliers www.gondolavenezia.it

According to the website, a 40-minute gondola ride should cost 80 euros for a maximum of 6 people. For each additional 20 minutes it costs 40 euros on top of that. Evening gondola rides after 7pm cost 100 euros for 40 minutes and 50 euros for every additional 20 minutes.

The reality is that gondoliers will try to charge you a lot more than this. The three factors you need to think about when choosing your gondola are 1) the length of time you want your ride to last 2) the sights you want to see 3) the price you want to pay. Make sure you are aware of exactly what you’re getting for you money. If you want your gondolier to play the accordion or sing songs, you’ll have to pay more.

You can find gondolas all over the city, but initially we went to the main gondola pier on the river next to Piazza San Marco and asked how much it would be. Being the most expensive part of the city- a complete trap for tourists- they quoted us prices all well over 100 euros even for the shortest rides. Astronomically high compared to what we had heard and compared to the ‘official’ prices. We tried negotiating down, but they were happy to let us walk away.

So on we moved to one of the small canals off the main drag. We were trying to haggle on the price, but the gondolier was very insistent on the prices and wouldn’t budge very much. I forget the prices now, but we were trying to negotiate on 20 minute or 30 minute rides. 20 minutes just covered some of the small canals, whilst 30 minutes covered the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge.

In the end we did the whole ‘pretend to walk away’ technique again and he said he’d do a gondola ride for 90 euros for 30 minutes, including the Rialto bridge and the main sights. Now in retrospect, we clearly paid more than the ‘official price’, but this was the best deal we had after talking to 3 or 4 different gondoliers. Venice was so busy, it was getting late in the afternoon and it’s so easy to get lost that we didn’t feel like walking around any longer.

At the end of the day, we were comfortable paying it and the boat was one of the nicer ones with flowers and very well maintained. As a rule of thumb, if you’re comfortable with the price, do it, if you’re not, then walk away. That was 30 euros per person between three of us in peak season in the middle of Easter holidays when Venice was rammed with tourists.

Gondolier in red and white stripy top in Venice, Italy

Our gondolier was really good and told us a lot of information about the sights we were seeing. He took us down some small, quiet canals and Venice is seriously a different world from the water.

At this time of year, fighting our way through tourists on the streets was stressful, noisy and hectic. Gliding down the water was quiet, peaceful and calm. For this reason it was so worth taking a gondola ride to relax and catch a moment of tranquility. It is funny to watch the gondoliers ‘kick off’ from the wall  and shout to each other in Italian as they pass by other gondolas.

Gondola ride down small inner canal, Venice, Italy

Our gondola then emerged from the quiet canals onto the busy Canal Grande, with the Rialto bridge behind us. The gondolier pointed out several famous buildings for us, including the building that featured in the end of the James Bond movie Casino Royale.

Me on a Gondola with the Rialto Bridge in the background, Venice, Italy

I felt it was definitely the highlight of my visit to Venice and a gondola ride isn’t just reserved for romantic dates. Since the canals are Venice’s roads, you’ll be sharing them with other boats and gondolas. But it’s so worth it to rest your weary feet and see Venice from a different perspective, to the quiet sound of the paddle hitting the water.

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6 Responses to Gondola Ride in Venice, Italy: Expensive or not?

  1. Erik June 1, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    Before spending a decent amount on something, I usually ask myself “Is this a singular experience?” The times I’ve answer yes and spent the money, I’ve rarely been disappointed. I certainly wasn’t in my gondola experiences.

    • victoria June 5, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

      You’re right Erik, if it’s a one-off and something special, then I don’t mind paying the money so much.

  2. Olga June 1, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

    Wow, after this I am surprised because we got a gondola ride on the main pier for 75 euros [15 each for our group] for a ride at sunset. We were offered 60 euros earlier in the day. Maybe it depends on the season? This was in April. Great article!

    • victoria June 5, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

      It was in May for me and Easter time when a couple of cruise ships had docked… I know people have got cheaper, but for some reason that day we couldn’t get any of them down on the price!

  3. Hock July 19, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    We were on an European package tour and stopped over in Venice. Venice being very well know for its singing gondoliers etc etc and gondola canal rides was a long awaited visit.

    In the course of our travel, six of us packed into one gondola at at price of 120 Euros for an hour the standard price for an hours ride for six persons. Guess what.

    The gondolier was sort of an abusive old man shouting out only in Italian when I boarded the gondola as if I, the only male in the group, was an intruder. All the other passengers were females. The gondolier spoke no English at all and was silent throughout the entire hour ride, did not say a single word about the canals we went through, parts of the canals had a terrible stench. Later we learnt that the gondoliers do give brief comments in the course of the tour. We heard the word Marco Polo from one of the passing gondoliers. Apparently, Marco Pola stopped over at this point of the canals. Seemed that a lot of gondolas go through the same canal passage.
    The town center was very busy at the Rialto bridge. Everyone seemed to be going there at noon time, it was so crowded and everyone was pushing rudely. Maybe we went at the wrong time -noon in early July.

    For something refreshing, go for the boat ride ( not taxi) which costs only seven Euros for a hours ride. You see clean waters, the harbour and waters surrounding Venice which is so refreshing and clean compared to the canals. Also visit the three islands 0cost twenty Euros. Venice has many outlets for reasonably priced leather goods.

    If you do need to rest your feet and go for a gondola ride, ask for someone who speaks your language and has some manners. We are money paying customers.


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