The TripAdvisor Money Machine

Planning a short sight-seeing trip to a foreign city isn’t easy – you want to see the best sights in a short time and at an affordable price.  You don’t know your way around the city – there are so many hotels on offer, but what are they like? Are they conveniently situated? what facilities do they offer?  As soon as you start Googling, you are bombarded with websites offering you all sorts of temptations. Rather than making it easier, they make it worse.

We visited Venice for a special occasion and chose our hotel and flight through TripAdvisor.  The first misleading part is that they say they don’t charge a cancellation fee.  Maybe not, but the hotel you have booked probably does! To be fair, we managed to get a decent hotel, but it was on the mainland, rather than the island of Venice itself.

Then, of course, you want to visit some attractions.  Immediately you are offered ‘skip the line’ tours.  Neglecting the Americanism, which should be a warning, you book a tour ‘to avoid the queues which can be up to two hours long’.

When you get there, the queues are quite short and you discover that the prices on the door are really cheap, compared with what you have paid for a ‘guided tour’.

As one simple example of the tour issue, the only way to get around is by ‘vaporetto’ literally ‘steam-boat’.  They don’t tell you, but you can get a 72-hour (3-day) travel pass at any tobacconist shop (smoking does not yet appear to be condemned to the same extent as in Britain) offering unlimited travel by bus and boat, for £40 (in essence, the sterling pound has now dropped to parity with the euro).  (For comparison, a one-day travel card  from Epsom to London – a distance of about 13 miles – costs £21.70).

If you book a half-day ‘tour’ to the main Islands of Venice, this costs at least £18 per person, and doesn’t include getting to the boat, which would cost you a lot more.  Plus, if you really want to see the islands, you need a whole day.

Whilst you can walk everywhere in Venice, it’s not easy as the whole city is criss-crossed with canals – some wide, many narrow.  As a result, few of the streets are straight – you turn left and right along tow-paths, over bridges and through passages.  Moreover, the narrow streets mean that sat-nav in mobile phones is not always reliable, telling you to turn this way and that.  More than once, it told us that we had arrived at a destination when we could not see it anywhere.  Eventually, we realised that quite often we were at the back of the property, but with no obvious way to get to the entrance! This is except when a place had decided to call itself by a misleading name, so we were at the sat-nav destination, but miles from where we actually wanted to visit.   A good street map is advisable.

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