How NOT To Get Ripped Off In Venice

April 2, 2015

Ah, Venice – the City of Water and Queen of the Adriatic Sea (also the city of many, many nicknames). To coin a Chandler Bing phrase, ‘Could there BE a more apt city to visit on a cruise?’ The answer has to be surely not. With water and boats at the heart of this bellisimo Italian city it’s sure to charm cruise fans (and be something of a busman’s holiday for their Captain – sorry, Capt!).

The perfect port stop for culture vultures and romantic lovers (those eye-gazers that make everyone else on the ship sick) alike, there’s only one thing that could spoil a stop off in Venice and that’s falling victim to a scam. At nothing makes us more mad than seeing our customers get ripped off, so here are our top Italian (Scam) Jobs to watch out for:

Venice bridge

Vaporetti Vipers

Even if you’ve been cruising for weeks and your sea legs are craving dry land, a boat trip along the canals of Venice is a must. Not to do so would be like visiting a theme park and then minding the coats while the rest of your friends ride the rollercoasters, or being designated driver on a big night out.

The Vaporetti is a water bus that travels up the Grand Canal. It’s an affordable way to have the gondola experience but without having to take out a second mortgage to pay for it or the cringe factor of doing the number one most touristy thing in the city. Plus, as the Vaporetti are much bigger and sturdier vessels than the narrow and wobbly gondolas the chances of taking a nose dive into the canal while climbing on and off are drastically reduced (although makes no guarantees to the clumsier among you!).

All sounds good so far (apart from the absence of a man in a stripy sweater singing ‘That’s Amore’) but there’s always one who has to spoil it for the rest. Cases have been reported of corrupt water bus ticket sellers (or Vaporetti Vipers, as we’ll call them) charging tourists double to ride the Vaporetti and pocketing the difference themselves.

This scam involves tourists being given 24hr tickets but being charged for 72 hours instead, so always check the dates on your tickets before you leave the attendant to avoid the venom of the ticket inspector from riding on a ticket that’s expired.

Gondola Grab

If, however, you’re light on your feet and really do fancy the full straw-hat-and-all gondola experience (maybe you’re hoping for a proposal or you just really fancy recreating that famous Cornetto advert), make sure that it doesn’t leave you light on the pocket too. When approaching a gondoliere (you can’t miss them – they’re dressed up like Where’s Wally) make it clear that you’re aware of the price of 60-65 euros, as helpfully fixed by the city authorities, and won’t be paying the 80-100 euros that some try to charge.

Venice gondolas

Chow Bella

You can’t say ciao to Venice without chowing down on some gloriously calorific Italian food, but be wary of the restaurant tricks designed to grab your cash and leave your Italian dining experience less bella and more bummer. There are several so pay attention!

1 – Tourist (Trap) Menu

Be aware that if you want to benefit from the ‘cheaper’ tourist menu that you will usually have to ask for it. However, doing so can be a false economy. Extra charges and taxes mean that this ‘fixed price’ menu can end up being anything but. Indulge yourself and order from the main menu – you’ll have far more choice and there’s unlikely to be much difference in the final bill. Heck, why not have a gelato as well? You are on holiday after all, and if you don’t return home at least a stone heavier then you haven’t enjoyed yourself enough!

2 – To Sit or Not to Sit

That is the question. While not technically a scam, it’s best to be aware of the fact that drinks and food taken at an outdoor table will usually cost more than those taken standing at the bar. Expect the difference in these two prices to grow in direct proportion to how good a view or position the café or restaurant has and forget about sitting outside beside a canal or in St Mark’s Square unless you’re happy to fork out for the infamous 10 euro cup of coffee. And you thought Starbucks was expensive!

3 – Pay Per Listen

So you’ve heard of Pay Per View but Pay Per Listen is likely to be a new concept (iTunes aside). Prepare yourself to get very familiar with this concept if you sit to enjoy a drink with your live music entertainment in Venice. It’s pretty standard that a music charge, per pair of ears, will be added to your bill, so make sure that you savour every sip of that costly beverage! Alternatively, just enjoy the music from a distance – they haven’t (yet) found a way to charge you for passing by, very, very, veeerrrryyyy slowly.

venice canal

Class Glass

Murano glass is a big deal in Venice and if you’re a fan of rainbow coloured glass figurines, jewellery that looks good enough to eat or vases that are far too delicate, beautiful and expensive to actually use then it’s likely to be a big deal to you too. Beware of Chinese fakes being touted as Murano by some unscrupulous sorts on mainland Venice. The best place to buy genuine Murano glass is at the Murano glass factory on the island of Murano (see a pattern emerging?). Skip the expensive tours. Get yourself there on the water bus and the factory tour is free. There you can see the glass being blown by hand (or, more accurately, by mouth), get the full story of Murano glass and then, if you can afford it, take away a piece of Murano glass art work that you can brag about to future houseguests with absolute confidence.

Of course, all the usual tourist scams apply just as much to Venice as they do anywhere else, so always be on your guard against pickpockets, vendors selling fake goods, unexpected bill additions and the usual tricks and cons designed to part us from our hard earned holiday spends as quickly as possible. But if you want to ride a gondola, buy glass and gain weight in Venice – and who doesn’t? – the scams above deserve special attention.

Venice is quite rightly ranked as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Stay scam savvy to make sure that your experience of it doesn’t leave you drowning in disappointment.

venice palace

Venice is certainly a sight to behold, if you’re interested in seeing this city in person, look into booking a Venice cruise!

Interested in more destinations? How about discovering the darker side to beautiful Barcelona?

Want more holiday advice? Check out our Cruise Guides for more great tips!