Venice has a massive network of waterways connecting its different parts, smaller island, and all the attractions. The main cards in Venice are
- The ACTV Pass - Transport only card
- Unica Card - Good for long stays
- Rolling Pass - Great for youth
Buy the ACTV travel pass
For a typical trip to Venice my suggestion is that you should buy the ACTV card. It is a travel-only card that pays for itself pretty quickly because vaporetti or water buses in Venice can be expensive to ride on single trip tickets. And unlike other major Italian cities, walking too much around Venice is not a good idea as is just too long and confusing.
Other cards like Unica offer added on access to museums, wifi etc. but in my experience it is almost never worth it to pay the premium. For attractions, you should pay as you go, and keep it separate from your travel card in Venice.
Main card options in Venice
ACTV card - perfect for transport
Pays for itself quickly
As a tourist you will certainly find that water buses ("vaporetti") are extremely pricey compared to other public transport systems in Italy. Even a single trip can sometimes cost around €7.50. So if you are going to be using the vaporetti to get around, you should consider buying one of the many travel cards when you are in Venice.
The ACTV travel cards are used to access unlimited use of the water and land buses, and also to the islands on the lagoon. Without the card, you would be paying a single ticket price of €7.50 every time you used an transport system. This card offers cards that last for one (€20), two (€30), three (€40) or seven days (€60). You would save money if you are planning on using the vaporetti a lot during your stay, for example you would only have to take three trips to save money for a one day pass.
Valid across all islands
You would also have access to some of the other major islands like Murano, Burano and Torcello, so this would be good if you were planning day trips out of the city centre.
This card would be a good choice for someone staying about 3 days, as you could take advantage of the unlimited fares out to the lagoon, and you would have time to see more than just the main attractions that are usually within walking distance of major tourist spots.
This would not be worth getting if you wanted airport transfers included (these cost about €6 one way if you take a waterbus from Marco Polo Airport), or if you were not planning on taking many trips on the canals to get around.
Venezia Unica - good for long stays
Much more than just transport!
The City Pass Venezia Unica is a pass that is used for access to transport, museums, parking, Wi-Fi connections, and even access to public toilets! It also gives you a variety of savings depending on the season and what special events are on at museums.
These cards are customizable depending on what you are going to be doing during your stay and how long you will be in the city. You need to buy the basic card, and pre-load it with your choice of attractions. And you can also preload transport entitlements.
There are also pre-loaded Silver, Gold, and Platinum passes available. And cards are classified as Adult, Junior, and San Marco. It can get quite confusing.
But it can be expensive
One of the issues with this card is that it will make sense only if you are in Venice for a long stay and literally plan to see all the attractions that it covers. It is rare for typical visitors to see everything in Venice and so you might be better off buying tickets at the attractions you really want to visit. Another issue is that you have to buy it at least two days before you arrive in Venice, and the earlier you book it the more savings you can benefit from.
Due to these extra costs, the Venezia Unica card is good if you are coming to the city often or are going to be staying for a long time (the card has an option that lasts for 5 years once it has been activated). If you are only staying for a few days, then this card is probably not appropriate for getting around and visiting attractions.
Rolling Pass - great for youth
The Rolling Venice discount card is designed for 'youth' (aged 6-29). This is a three day pass valid for 72 hours from the first time it is used. The Rolling Pass gives unlimited rides on water buses and regular buses. If you pay for the slightly more expensive card, you can include either a one way or return ticket between the city and Marco Polo Airport.
The Rolling Pass also advertises many attractions, concerts, restaurants, shopping and bars that you can get reduced tickets for once you have purchased the card.
If you are in the right age bracket, the Rolling Pass would be good if you were planning on taking the water buses often, and were only staying for a short period of time. This particular card does not offer more or less than a 72 hour period to use the card, it only adds on rides to and from the main airport. If you do buy this ticket you will need to pay an initial fee of €6 for the card itself, and the card must be purchased in Venice (not online) and you need to show proof of age.
Firstly, in order to know what card you should buy, you must know what type of vacation you want. If you plan to wander around and explore the hidden corners of beautiful Venice, you probably shouldn’t buy a pass, except for the Museum one. If you hate walking or you get tired quickly, you need an ACTV pass.
In my opinion, Venezia Unica Card is the most complete and customizable.
Venezia Unica Card
Venezia Unica Card is one of a kind because it gives people the chance to combine museums with transportation. In addition, people who use this card get to see smaller museums, park for free, and have many other facilities.
If you want to use this pass, you must buy it online. Also, it should be purchased more than two days before you arrive in Venice. Just keep in mind that there is a fee just for buying the Venezia Unica Card.
You can also look at the more flexible Venice Museum Pass
Venice Museum Pass
Venice is full of museums, art galleries, as well as charming churches, and most people who visit the city are eager to see them all. If you are one of them and you plan to see as many attractions as possible, you must get the museum and chorus passes. This way you end up having the entrance to the main civic museums as well as the most importune churches covered.
If you prefer to relax, wander around the beautiful streets, spend your afternoon tasting the Venetian delicacies and you only plan to see two or three museums and churches, you should think twice before buying such a pass.
If none of the above appeals to you, you should buy the transportation pass
Tourist Travel Card ACTV
It gives you the chance to unlimitedly use all water buses in Venice and the buses in Lido. You can get to Mestre, and in Mestre you can use both the bus and the tram. In addition, the pass gives you the chance to travel to the islands Murano, Torcello as well as Burano.
The passes are easy to achieve. You can find them in any tobacco shop with the “ACTV” sign, at the ticket offices in the Vaporetto stops and on board, as well as in the ticket office located in Piazzale Roma. These are timely tickers and the period begins when you swipe the pass in order to validate it.
You can choose between passes for one, two, three or seven days and the price is between €20 and €60.
The ACTV Pass is definitely the easiest and most economical way to get around in Venice, if the stay is 3 days long. The card, which costs 40 euros, makes it possible to have an infinite number of rides available for the entire duration of the visit to Venice. It can be purchased in all ACTV sales points and also in some affiliated shops and tobacconists.
In addition, for young people, aged 9 to 26, it is possible to purchase the Rolling Venice Card, which allows you to move freely with the vehicles at an even cheaper price.
If, in addition to the ACTV Pass, you purchase VeneziaUnica you can also take advantage of admission at a discounted price in the museums and, by registering, it is also possible to have the credentials to access the city's Wifi network.