The vaporetto is a water borne bus system in Venice. Here is what you need to know.
Individual rides cost €7.50, but single and multi-day passes are available that allow unlimited rides. If you get caught not paying, you get fined €60.00, and charged for the ticket you should have bought.
A 24hr pass costs €20, 48hr for €30, 72 for €40, and 7 days for €60.
For €100, you can get a Venezia Unica card. It lasts five years, and is good only for one person (pictured on the card). Once you have one, you can load it with individual rides for €1.50, or a calendar month for €37. A whole year will cost you €370.
The Visit Venice web site has useful maps and schedules for each of the lines individually.
The #1 goes from the train station, through the Grand Canal, and to the Lido. At each end it turns around and goes back. From one end to the other it takes an hour and five minutes.
The #4 and #5 go around the island in a circle. The .1’s go around counter-clockwise, and the .2’s go around clockwise. The #4 goes to the island of Murano. The #5 goes to the Lido.
The #3 and #7 serve Murano. The #3 from the train station, and the #7 from San Zaccaria. If you’re at Fondamente Nove, the #4.1 or #4.2 is the best way.
The #12 takes you from Fondamente Nove to Burano and Torcello.
The #2 makes fewer stops that the #1, and is much quicker going between the train station and San Marco. If you aren’t careful, you could get on it going in a direction you do not intend.
Once you get onto the embarcadero, (floating water bus stop) you will see a diagram of the route you will be taking. In this example, the Giglio stop serves the #1 line in both directions. The time it takes to get to each stop is indicated below.
Many of the stops have two embarcaderos, one for each direction. If you are at one of those stops, you will see an arrow going in the direction of the boat that docks there. The other direction will be gray.
Going by taxi is a more expensive option, but one that can be useful. The fare depends upon how far you are going, not how many people take the trip. For somewhere between €40 and €80, you can get where you are going efficiently. If you are heavily laden with luggage, this could be a very good option. From the airport to my house it costs €120.
Murano, Giudecca, and the Lido are only reachable by boat. On foot, you can get anywhere else in Venice. There are many shortcuts, but there is one long, wide, and (relatively) straight path through Cannaregio: Strada Nuova. In recent years, vast improvements have been made in signage and street lighting.
Pro tip: study a map before you come. Once you have spent some time here, try to recreate your path my looking at satellite images on Google Earth or equivalent.
My preferred way of getting to and from the airport is by using the #5 (terrestrial) bus. A terrestrial taxi €40, between the airport and Piazza le Roma is faster and more private, but only saves you a few minutes.
Alilaguna runs a vaporetto-like service from the airport. ACTV tickets don’t work on Alilaguna. It costs €27 for a round trip. From Arsenale to the airport it takes about an hour, and drops you off at the boat terminal, ten to fifteen minutes away from the main terminal. There are moving walkways, so you’re not walking the whole time.
A water taxi might be efficient for a larger group of people.
While it is possible to get to the airport for a very early morning flight from the island, several of my guests have found it much easier to stay in a hotel in Mestre the night before departure. If you have to be at the airport at 6 a.m., you don’t really get to enjoy Venice that morning. If you stay in Mestre you get an additional 90 minutes of sleep. The Hilton Garden Inn is convenient and inexpensive in the Winter, but pricy in Summer. There are plenty of options along Via Orlanda. If you have a 7:30 am flight, the Alilaguna will pick you up at arsenale at 3:59 and drop you off at the airport by 5:10. If you’re close to the airport you leave your hotel at 5:20.
Gondola trips are taken purely for the experience, and begin and end at the same place. Theoretically, you could negotiate a one-way trip in one. Let me know if you do.