The canals of Venice are some of the most famous waterways of the world. Most visitors aspire to spend some time sailing on the canals, usually by way of the beautiful gondolas. These traditional Venetian boats float about the city, providing spectacular views which can't be witnessed from land. The gondola rides however are shockingly expensive and while I'm sure that it's an experience of a lifetime, with tours starting from 80 euros for less than an hour of sailing time, it simply wasn't affordable.
For budget minded travellers however, this doesn't mean that you can't enjoy the floating city for less. There's a public water transportation system using a small boat known as a vaporetto, allowing a cheaper way to travel via the water. These small boats are basically water buses, transporting passengers along various routes to get from one section of the city to another.
In my case, this was my second trip to Venice and I wanted to visit the San Marco Square once again. I didn't want to walk as I did the first time, so I made my way to the vaporetto station and bought two one way tickets for a price of 7 euros each. These tickets can be purchased from the small Hellovenezia ticket booths which are usually located within close proximity to the vaporetto piers, and they're valid for a period of 1 hour. Travel Cards can be bought for different timeframes such as 20 euros for 24 hours.
Located on each vaporetto pier is a large map of the different routes and stops on the vaporetto circuit. I studied the path which led to the San Marco Square and took note of which number vaporetto I needed to board. When my boat came around, I jumped on and secured a seat near the front of the vessel, which offered an awesome vantage point.
The vaporetto slowly backed up, turned about then headed off! While on the water bus, everything looked photo worthy. We passed under many bridges, sailed by other boats on the water and even overtook a few gondolas! The vaporetto made several intermittent stops before I got off at the station for the San Marco Square.
After I toured the area for a while, it was time to head back. I returned to the pier and waited for another vaporetto to arrive. I found the system to be very efficient, and before I knew it I was on my way to the Venezia Santa Lucia train station.
There's something I should mention which future passengers should be aware of. The vaporetto tickets must be stamped before boarding, which starts the period of validity. In other words, you can buy the single use tickets in advance, and they'll only become expired an hour after being validated.
Using the vaporetto system to get around the canals of Venice is a far cheaper alternative to a gondola ride. Both methods offer visitors the opportunity of sailing along the water channels. If romance and luxury aren't as important as the cost factor, then explore the city via vaporetto. I highly recommend it!