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Getting from Venice Marco Polo Airport to Venice (and Vice Versa)

milanvenice2Since I’m always telling people – whenever they’ll listen – that flying into Venice to start your trip in Italy is a great idea, and since Venice is the entry point on my perfect 2-week Italy itinerary, it’s probably about time that I write up an article about how to get from Venice’s Marco Polo Airport into Venice itself, eh?
You might think it’s pretty straightforward getting from the Venice Airport into Venice, but as my own personal experience on my first visit to Venice is a testament to, it’s easy to be led astray and end up paying way more than you anticipated for a trip across the lagoon.
Two things should be noted at the outset, because they’re not necessarily obvious.

  1. Yes, Venice has an airport – but it’s not on the islands. It’s on the mainland.
  2. There are non-boat ways to get from the mainland airport to the Venetian islands.

All options for transportation out of the Venice Airport are listed below. And all of these tips work for getting from Venice out to the Venice Airport, too. Just proceed in reverse. Sort of.

How to Get from Venice Marco Polo Airport to Venice

Taking a Water Bus from Venice Airport to Venice

vairport_alilungaMost buses in Venice are actually boats – because once you get past the city’s one and only island parking lot, there are no wheeled vehicles anywhere. So it stands to reason that there’s also a water bus that transports people to and from the Venice Airport.
The water buses that run between Venice Airport and the Venice islands are operated by the Alilunga company, and you can get a one-way ticket from the airport to the islands – or vice versa – for €13 (if you know you’ll be flying out of the Venice airport and you’ll be making the return journey on the Alilunga water bus as well, you can get a round-trip ticket for €25).
There are a few line from the airport into the center of Venice – Linea Blu (blue), Linea Rossa (red), and Linea Arancio (orange) – and the line you choose depends on where you’re going in Venice. Your best bet is to ask the hotel or hostel where you’re staying which Alilunga line to take from the airport, and which stop is closest to them. For reference, both the blue and red lines stop at the Piazza San Marco but not the Rialto – only the orange line stops at the Rialto (but not at San Marco).
The journey varies in length depending on where you get off, but this isn’t a speedy trip. You’re looking at roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes to get into the center of Venice from the airport. Don’t fret, though, because that means there’s plenty of time to relax, take a deep breath, soak in the fact that you’re in Venice, and pull your camera out of its case for awhile to capture a few images.
You’ll find the Alilunga boats – which are big (not small private boats) and bright yellow on the bottom – a short walk (10 minutes or so) outside the arrivals area of the airport. You can buy tickets in the arrivals area of the airport, on the boats themselves (if you’re about to miss one and you’ve got cash in hand), or online ahead of time at (scroll down and click on “Alilunga Tickets” with the picture of the big yellow boat).
When you buy online, you’ll get a voucher for your ticket by email and you’ll present that to the people at the #78 ticket booth at the airport. So while you’ll still have to make a stop at a ticket booth, you’ll get to bypass any line of people waiting to buy tickets. Just hand over your voucher and you’ve got your ticket. (There’s more information about this on the VeniceLink site, click on the “Info” button on the top menu.)
As an aside, getting to the Alilunga water buses at the Venice Airport can be the somewhat tricky bit. This is where I made my mistake on my first visit. I was following signs for the water buses, but then when a nice Italian man asked if I was looking for the water buses, I let him lead me to his private (and very expensive) water taxi. Not speaking enough Italian at the time, and being jetlagged and groggy, I just went with it – and had a lovely ride to within a short walk from my hotel. But still, it cost me a pretty penny. There’s a guide for getting to the Alilunga pier with photos and step-by-step instructions on this site, which is lovely in its detail if not completely frustrating in its requirement that you click through to a different page to get every single step. (Seriously, why can’t it all be on one page? But I digress.)

Taking a Bus from Venice Airport to Venice

milanvenice4Water buses aren’t the only buses that run from the Venice Airport into Venice, however, and since the wheeled variety is cheaper it’s worth considering if you’re on a budget.
You have two bus options to get to/from the airport – the ACTV buses (run by the city’s public transportation company) and the ATVO buses (which are a private company). ACTV’s buses are more standard city buses, but they do have space on board for luggage. ATVO’s buses are more accurately described as “coaches.”
ACTV BusesACTV bus line #5 runs between Piazzale Roma and the airport. The first bus leaves Piazzale Roma from Monday-Saturday at 04:40 and the last bus leaves at 24:40 (on Sundays and holidays the departures begin at 05:40 and end at 24:40). The first bus leaves the airport bound for Venice at 04:08, and the last bus of the day departs at 01:10. The journey is about 25 minutes one-way and the cost of a ticket is €5 one way (€9 if you’ll be making the round-trip). You can buy tickets at the self-service machines at Piazzale Roma and the airport.
ATVO Buses – These “Venice Express” buses run between Piazzale Roma and the airport. The first bus leaves Piazzale Roma at 05:00 and the last bus leaves at 20:50. The first bus leaves the airport bound for Venice at 07:50, and the last bus of the day departs at 23:50. The journey is about 20-30 minutes one-way and the cost of a ticket is €5 one way (€9 if you’ll be making the round-trip). You can buy tickets in the baggage area of the arrivals hall at the automatic machines (they’re blue with a yellow ATVO logo), at the ATVO ticket office in the arrivals hall, or at ATVO machines just outside the airport where the buses actually depart from.
Venice Express buses also run to other destinations in the Veneto area, so if you’re not actually going to Venice itself check the Venice Express website to see if the bus will get you easily to where you want to go.

Taking a Water Taxi from Venice Airport to Venice

vairport_watertaxiThis is by far the most expensive option, but if you’re traveling with a group of friends among whom you can split the cost, it’s at least worth thinking about. For one thing, you may end up with enough people splitting the fare so that it’s comparable to each of you buying a ticket on the Alilunga water bus. And for another thing (and more importantly), you’ll be taken to precisely where you want to go – really handy if you’ve got more luggage than you want to carry and your hotel or hostel isn’t located right near a water bus stop.
Taking a water taxi from Venice’s Marco Polo Airport into Venice isn’t cheap, there’s no denying it. The cost will vary depending on where exactly you’re going in Venice, how many people you’re squeezing into the boat, and how much luggage you’ve got, but you can expect the cost be €100-150 on average. You’ll pay a higher rate if you’ve got lots of suitcases (another reason to pack light), or if you’re making the trip super-early in the morning or particularly late at night.
You can request a water taxi at the taxi desk in the arrivals area of the airport, and you’ll find the water taxis along the same pier where the Alilunga water buses depart from (hence the confusion I had upon my first arrival). It’s important to settle on a price before you get into the boat, because unlike normal taxis these water taxis don’t have a meter. The price you’ll be quoted is supposed to represent the distance you’re asking to go, plus any “extras” – like a large group or a large amount of luggage. If you think the price is too high, you can try to negotiate, but be sure to agree on a fee before you set foot on the boat – and be absolutely clear whether the price is per person or total (some have reported a quoted fare of €80 for a trip, only to be asked to pay €80 per person upon arrival).
The VeniceLink website offers “tickets,” if you will, for private water taxi transfers from the airport to the city center for €100 if you don’t want to negotiate upon arrival (there’s a €190 round-trip “ticket,” too). See this page for more information.
And if you want to share a water taxi but you aren’t traveling with friends who can help you split the cost, VeniceLink also offers the option of buying two seats (or more) on a water taxi, which they’ll then fill with other people in your situation. Those tickets are €30 per person (€60 round-trip). Information about that is here.
I’ve read that you shouldn’t tip the water taxi drivers, as they own their boats and make plenty of money as it is, but Venice resident Nan McElroy tells me that if they’re doing something particularly nice or that you perceive to be “extra,” above and beyond what you negotiated for at the outset, then a small tip is okay. “We like to reward good behavior,” says Nan. She also points out that the water taxis, although convenient, “really tear up the small canals.” She suggests that visitors who are trying to travel greener go for mass transit (the water buses) instead.

Taking a Train from Venice Airport to Venice

vairport_trainI am in love with traveling by train, but this is one of those times when I’ll tell you about an option to get from the Venice Airport into Venice that involves a train – and then I’ll tell you to ignore it.
The same company that operates the Venice Express bus from the airport to Piazzale Roma, ATVO, also operates a bus that runs from the airport to the Mestre train station. It’s a €3 ticket and a 20-minute trip, and once again it’s a nice big coach where you can store your suitcases underneath.
Now, the Mestre station is the last mainland train stop before trains make their way across the lagoon to the real Venice train station, Santa Lucia. The train trip from Mestre to Santa Lucia is barely over ten minutes, and a ticket from just Mestre to Santa Lucia will cost you a few euro. So if your ultimate destination is the Venetian islands, do yourself a favor and take the ATVO Venice Express all the way onto the islands (or take an Alilunga water bus), but don’t bother getting on and off the bus only to get on and off the train.
If you’re headed elsewhere in the Veneto, on the other hand, the Mestre train station is much more well-connected than the ATVO regional buses. So taking an ATVO bus from the Venice Airport to the Mestre station is an excellent option – provided you’re not actually going to Venice.

Taking a Regular Taxi from the Venice Airport

There’s one taxi company (of the wheeled variety) listed on the Venice airport’s website, so if your destination in Venice isn’t on the islands and doesn’t require you to go to a watery location or a train station, you could consider taking a regular taxi as an option. This could be especially handy if your arrival is late enough that the buses aren’t running.
RadioTaxi Venezia is available 24 hours a day at the airport, and their minimum charge to/from the airport is €12.45 during the days Monday-Saturday (€15.34 at nights, Sundays, and holidays). There are extra fees per piece of baggage, among other things. Consult their fares page here for the latest tariff information. Their airport office number is +39 041 5416363, and the 24-hour number is +39 041 5952080.

Driving from Venice Airport to Venice

vairport_driveYes, there is a road that connects the Venice Airport with the island city. But under no circumstances should you pick up a rental car at the Venice Airport and drive it to Venice. Just don’t do it.
If you’ll be spending more time in Italy after your stay in Venice, then pick up your rental car at the airport as you’re leaving the city to drive around the countryside. That’s perfectly acceptable, and even possibly recommended. But there’s no point in driving a car from the airport to the Piazzale Roma parking lot just to leave it parked there while you’re walking and taking boats around a road-less city.

Now that you’re in Venice…

thingsveniceThere are lots of links in my overall Venice travel guide to help make your visit to the canal city easier, more enjoyable, and less expensive, but here are a few in particular that you don’t want to miss:

photos, top to bottom, by: PeWu, Nick Bramhall, gwenael.piaser, Son of Groucho, Aube insanite, LOMO Zemme, llamnudds