Safety during your Venice city trip – A visit to the lagoon city Venice stands on top of most travellers´ bucket lists. Romantic lanes, mysterious waterways and many other sights offer a variety of adventures.
However, you also hear about tourist traps, pickpockets or floods. So should you avoid visiting Venice? Of course not! You should only be well-informed and follow some hints.
Do I have to avoid certain areas?
In general, there are no specific areas that should be completely avoided. Nevertheless, there are places in Venice bearing a higher risk of becoming a victim of a theft. Many tourists are robbed at the central station, Santa Lucia. Passengers who do not travel by train are well-advised to avoid this station located in Cannaregio.
There is also a higher likelihood of getting robbed around sights and tourist attractions than in quiet alleys. This particularly applies to places like Rialto Bridge, Piazza San Marco or Canale Grande at peak times, when a large number of tourists visit these sights.
Increased caution concerning pickpocketing!
In Venice, there is no higher safety risk for visitors than in other popular holiday destinations. Pickpockets pose the biggest threat to tourists in Venice. Events of pickpocketing substantially increased within the last years. Pickpockets chiefly choose their victims in public means of transport like buses, trams or water buses. As already mentioned, they linger in places where many people come together. Wallets stored in trouser or jacket pockets are an easy catch for these professional thieves.
They are very inventive while being on the prowl. One quick jostle and your mobile are gone. In this case, the thieves often collaborate with accomplices to whom they pass on the swag. So the theft cannot be proven since the stolen goods are no longer in the hands of the perpetrator. This kind of crime is called relay theft. You wouldn´t expect a woman with little kids or pushing a pram to be a pickpocket. But this can happen in Venice. These people distract you skillfully and disappear with your money, credit card or mobile phone.
People sunken in their roadmap are easy victims, too. Such a huge map is very helpful when it comes to hiding a crime. And there are bolder scams: The day-ticket for the water taxi, mobile phone or cash are snatched from you if you don’t pay attention. In busy areas, you will find more police. But you cannot really count on their help. Tourists and locals equally complain about the reserved reaction of patrolling policemen (to avoid attracting attention).
Nevertheless, you will get back all your stolen goods if you catch the perpetrator red-handed and there’s a police officer nearby. Despite being a car-free city, Venice is a popular place for thieves who are looking for valuables in parked cars. Although most parking lots and garages are monitored, pilferers will find a way to get to their swag in cars.
Tourist traps in Venice are similar to the ones in every other typical tourist city concerning number and nature. However, you should watch out for hidden costs while visiting a restaurant. Although a fee for place setting (Coperto) is usual in many Italian restaurants, you will frequently find it in small print on the menu. Restaurants advertising that they are disclaiming on that fee, mostly offers much more expensive dishes than the ones including this „Coperto“.
The musical accompaniment to a cup of coffee at Piazza San Marco is charged additionally. Many people become aware of this fact as late as they receive their bill. This fee comes to approx. 5-6 € per person. Of course, many tourists prefer enjoying their beer outside and restaurants, as well as bars, make them pay a high price. People ordering and settling their bill inside definitely pay less. This can lead to pizzas amounting to 17 € on the terrace whereas the regular price on the menu is only 10 €.
Dishes offered in restaurants close to sights are often overpriced and of inferior quality. Restaurants in alleys located a bit away from tourist attractions are definitely worth a visit. And all these special tourist menus aren´t worth the money, either. And if you get a recommendation by your waiter, ask for the price first. Otherwise, your bill can be very expensive. And before your payment, you should ask for the bill in order to avoid a too high price.
You will find a lot of information about the culinary Venice here.
Hints for your safety
To avoid becoming a victim of pickpockets, you should carry as few as possible valuables with you and you shouldn´t put your wallet into your trouser pocket unless you secure it with a lanyard as I do. Nevertheless, it is always better to wear your bag or rucksack at the front. In public institutions, don´t leave jackets containing valuables on the back of a chair.
Leave original documents in the hotel, a copy of your ID card is sufficient. Most pickpockets are exclusively interested in money and valuables. In case of a stolen or lost bank or credit card, always block all cards with a contract in your home country via a central interlock number.
Venice and the floods
On a few days every year (usually in autumn and winter), there is water not only in the canals but also on public places and alleys in Venice. This is because the sea level strongly increases due to phenomenons like currents of the Adriatic Sea, the gravitational force of the moon and the sun as well as low pressure. Subjacent areas get flooded, whereby Piazza San Marco is the first place to get hit. The greatest danger concerning “Acqua alta”, as the flood is called, is the fact that Venice quickly sinks by several centimetres in case of groundwater extraction. In the meantime, the city got the problem under control by construction measures. In case of a flood hazard, sirens will sound like an acoustic warning signal. This happens prior to an increase of the tides and allows the people to find out the height of the tide in advance.
In order to warn locals and tourists early enough, the centre for weather forecasts and flood warning publishes flood predictions several times a day. The data can be retrieved via their website and other ways of communication like social media channels. They are valid for the day of release and the following 2 days. Mainly we are talking about floods of only a few hours and centimetres.
In the meantime, the Venetians have accepted the floods. The doorways are protected by barriers of tin. Already for centuries, pavements and grounds are raised in layers. Tourists staying in Venice during flood periods should bring a pair of rubber boots or buy them on-site if necessary. So they can fully enjoy their holidays, even in case of floods.
The water buses, called Vaporetti, keep on running. There may be small changes on some routes. Thus, access to the urban area is largely secured. In addition, elevated footpaths and fixed footbridges enable access to the most important sights. Acqua alta, therefore, has little or no impact on tourism in Venice. Some even describe exploring the city in rubber boots as a special experience.
The fog of Venice offers wonderful photo motives
In autumn Venice it can happen that the whole city is covered in a thick fog. In this case, the visibility is partly less than 100 metres and for many people, the lagoon city is lacking its famous glamour. At first glance, this weather has little to do with romantic, either. Some tourists even find it frightening. But there is no real danger in the fog. Of course, there is a residual risk of falling into the canal when you take a wrong step. However, this is rather due to one’s own carelessness.
Increased caution when walking is certainly appropriate, but no one needs to be afraid. Ultimately, the risk is no greater than on a foggy day in Germany. In return, you can enjoy a very special atmosphere. In the fog, it is rather quiet and only a few people stroll through the alleys. The sights offer a completely different perspective. The city appears almost spooky but beautiful during fog. This offers fantastic photo motives that stand out from all the usual holiday photos. Like the high tide, the fog can provide a special experience. Another advantage: fewer crowds mean more difficult conditions for pickpockets.
A brief summary
Please read this text as the loss of wallets, documents, money cards and smartphones is more than annoying. It is less bad if you make mistakes concerning local rules of conduct or tips.
You can find my advice on rules of conduct & tips in Venice.