Venice is the world's only pedestrian city, is easily walkable, and the absence of cars makes it a particularly pleasant experience. Walking and standing all day can be exhausting too so acclimatize yourself. The Rialtine islands - the 'main' part of Venice - are small enough to walk from one end to the other in about an hour.
If you want to get around a bit more quickly, there are numerous vaporetti (water buses) and water taxis. The vaporetti are generally the best way to get around, even if the service route map changes frequently. If you are going to be in Venice for a few days visiting, it is a lot cheaper to get the vaporetti than to get private water taxis. If you want to have a romantic ride along the canals, take a gondola ride.
ACTV runs the vaporetti and other public transport services both in the lagoon and on the terra firma. Travel cards are extremely useful since the basic fare for one vaporetto journey is typically €6.50 whereas a 1 day travel card costs €18, a 3 day costs €36 and a week costs €50 and there are other versions (including discounts for youth under the age of 29).
The Venice Connected website of the Comune di Venezia makes possible to book online (at least 7 days in advance) most services controlled by the town administration (public transportations, access to the civic museums, access to the public restrooms, car parking tickets, entrance to the Casinò and access to the municipal WiFi network which will cover all of the historic centre); the online prices vary according to the projected number of visitors but are always cheaper than the current on-site prices (and cheaper than with a Venice Card).
One can also get a Venice Card, which has various options that you can choose when you buy it (public transportation, cultural entrance, toilette access, Alilaguna and so forth). There is a 'Junior' version of the Venice that is available at a slightly reduced rate for those between 5 and 29 years of age. Note, however, that a Venice Card is not recommended for those with less than 3 days in Venice, as most of the top attractions are not included in the Venice Card. If you'll be staying in Venice for a week - get the Venice Card and enjoy travelling from island to island and exploring the various museums and churches it offers access to.
Maps are available at the vaporetto stops in the ticket booths. The map is quite reliable, and is free when getting a Venice Card (€2 otherwise).
Keep in mind, though, that there are long lines when taking the Venice Card from the ticket booths. The Venezia St. Lucia ticket booth that offers Venice Cards is the one most on the right when you exit the train station.
Otherwise, take a walk! The city is not that big, and you can walk from one end to the other in a few hours. But it would take months for a fit person to discover every path in the city. Along the way you will discover marvelous art, superb architecture and breathtaking urban landscaping. Exploring the city randomly by walking is well worth it but also be prepared to get lost easily!
Routes 1 and 2
These two public transportation routes connect the Tronchetto (route 2 only), Piazzale Roma and Ferrovia S. Lucia terminals to the city centre, with waterbuses (the "vaporetti") cruising along the Grand Canal to St. Mark's Square and the Lido (Route 2, only in specific seasons).
Trip duration and schedule:
- a waterbus following route 2 from Tronchetto to St. Mark's Square along the Grand Canal requires about 40 minutes to complete the trip, 30 minutes from Piazzale Roma. Buses leave every 10/20 minutes, depending on the season and the time of the day;
- a waterbus following route 1 from Piazzale Roma to St.Mark's Square takes about 40 minutes to complete the trip, and leaves every 10 minutes throughout the day.
Route 2 makes it possible to reach St. Mark's Square (specifically, S. Zaccaria) also by cruising along the Giudecca Canal. The duration of the whole trip from Tronchetto to S. Zaccaria is about 28 minutes, and the waterbuses leave every 10 minutes throughout the day. From 20.30 to about 23.30 waterbuses leave every 20 minutes.
Routes 41, 42, 51, 52, 61, 62 and DM
These are the so-called "Giracittà" routes, as they cruise along a circular route that goes through the Ferrovia and Piazzale Roma terminals and link the city proper with the islands of Murano (Routes 41, 42, DM), Giudecca (Routes 41, 42) and Lido (Routes 51, 52, 61, 62). The boats used on these routes are called "motor boats" and can transport fewer passengers than the waterbuses.
They leave about every 20 minutes in either direction throughout the day.
These routes connect:
The Cavallino-Treporti coastline to Venice, and viceversa: there are routes 15 (direct link) and routes LN (that goes to the Lido too), whose trip takes from 30 to 40 minutes;
Venice's historic centre to:
- Murano, Burano, the Cavallino-Treporti coastline (route LN);
- Murano, Vignole, Sant'Erasmo, the Cavallino-Treporti coastline (route 13);
- San Servolo and San Lazzaro degli Armeni (route 20);
- Chioggia (route 11), starting from the Lido; this is an integrated (bus + ferry-boat + motor-ship) link that goes almost through the whole of the Lido island and the whole of the Pellestrina island, with its terminus in Chioggia.
- Torcello (route T) from Burano; the trip takes 5 minutes.
These services are offered using ferries that allow transportation of people and vehicles between: the island of Tronchetto and the island of Lido (route 17), between the Lido and the Cavallino – Treporti coastline (route 17), and between the Lido and the island of Pellestrina (route 11).
The airport is connected to the Historic Centre by bus (route 5) and cruising links, the latter managed by Alilaguna, a company controlled by Actv (routes BLUE, RED, ORANGE).
During the night (roughly from 23.30 to 4.00) it is possible to move by public transport thanks to:
- integrated night services connecting the Lido to the Historic Centre and the Historic Centre to Mestre, leaving on average every 20/30 minutes.
- the Notturno Murano service, connecting the Historic Centre to the island of Murano, departures every 30 minutes;
- The Notturno Laguna Nord service, connecting the Historic Centre to the islands of Burano and S. Erasmo, as well as the Cavallino-Treporti coastline, with departures roughly every hour.
New ACTV pass validation rules
On April 1st 2011, new rules entered into effect regarding the validation of all electronic ACTV transport passes such as the time based Tourist Travel Cards purchased through the //venice>connected site. It is compulsory to revalidate your ticket every time you board an ACTV water bus or a bus, independently of the time period of validity remaining on the pass.
Turnstiles are being installed at a number of the more trafficked boat loading docks (Lido, San Marco Giardinetti, Pietà and Burano) requiring you to swipe before the turnstile allows you to pass, and all tickets must be validated before any boarding. Anyone caught without a re-validated ticket will be fined 6 euros (plus an administrative fee).
These measures will further reduce the presence of "freeloaders" that ride without valid tickets, and to collect complete data to better organize the services.