Venice airport-city transfer

Clean, modern and well-equipped, Venice, Italy’s, Marco Polo Airport ( provides a convenient gateway to the city, but the transfer between the airport and your hotel certainly won’t be the highlight of your visit.

Any good, recent guidebook should detail the choices and direct you to the websites of the various service providers. During an October ’05 visit to Venice, my wife and I learned a few lessons that will help you know what to expect and make the right choice.

Before you leave home, determine your hotel’s location. Is it near a vaporetto stop or, even better, near the Santa Lucia train station or one of the Alilaguna water bus stops ( If so, you have an easier transit choice.

Unfortunately, many hotels are not so conveniently located. That means you’ll have to haul your baggage from the transit stop through Venice’s crowded alleyways to your hotel. If this is your first trip to Venice, you’ll make the unpleasant discovery that many Venice walks include bridges over numerous small canals — 10 to 12 steps up and then 10 to 12 steps down; there are no ramps for your wheeled luggage. Minimizing this walk should be a priority when selecting your transfer options from the airport.

There are two low-price options. 1) Take a bus from the airport to Venice’s Mestre rail station, then a train to the Santa Lucia rail station and then (unless you’re staying near Santa Lucia) a vaporetto to the stop nearest your hotel. (That’s a lot of connections, a lot of ticket buying and a lot of opportunities to make a mistake.) 2) There’s a much easier version of this bus option that skips the train and takes you directly to the Piazzale Roma vaporetto stop. However, we didn’t try either of those options but instead took a third, relatively low-price option: the Alilaguna water bus (€10, or about $12, per person).

The Alilaguna water bus provides easy and reliable connections to St. Mark’s Square and other destinations in the Venice area. It also offers a schedule that accommodates early flight departures from Venice. Be prepared for a (thankfully, flat) walk of about 200 meters along a covered walkway from the airport terminal to the dock.

Some writers have used words like “romantic” and “jetting” to describe the one-hour-and-15-minute Alilaguna ride into town. Maybe it was the gloomy weather during our visit, but it seemed more like a bumpy slog over water taxi wakes through the worst parts of town, to me. On board, keep an eye on your luggage since the crew will stack (sometimes more roughly than you would prefer) everyone’s luggage in an unsecured, large pile.

Remember the water taxi wakes? The water taxis leave from the same dock as the water buses. They were sleek and inviting-looking as they zoomed past us. The water taxis may be able to get you closer to your hotel and will get you there much quicker, and it won’t involve as much waiting as other options. The bad news is that they cost €80 ($96); however, that’s the total cost for everyone on the boat. Most water taxis looked like they could carry up to six passengers, depending on the amount of luggage, so the cost per person would be reasonable if you were with a group.

Here are some bonus tips about Marco Polo Airport.

When you leave Customs after your flight into Marco Polo, turn right and walk to the near right corner of the large arrival area and you’ll find, adjacent to a bank, an ATM. At least in my case, it didn’t charge a fee. (My ATM card, issued by Wachovia Bank, has a Visa logo on it and is officially a debit card but I use it only for ATM transactions. I’ve never been charged a fee by an overseas bank when I used the bank’s ATM.)

In the other direction (i.e., if you turn left after clearing Customs) is a set of clean rest rooms just past the rental car counters. If you rent a car, you’ll have a walk of 100 to 200 meters on covered walkways to your vehicle.

The road signs directing traffic toward and away from the airport leave much to be desired. (This is in sharp contrast to the excellent signage inside the terminal and on the airport grounds.) In a week of driving, our biggest navigational challenges were finding the correct highway as we left the airport and then returning to the airport on our return. This was a surprise, since it certainly looked simple on the map.

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