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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.