Lake Como is an absolutely incredible place to go in Italy, but it’s not one that’s renowned for being cheap. However, if you’re careful with it, you can get the most out of your visit to Lake Como while on a budget!
1. Lake Como Accommodations on a Budget
The first key for Lake Como is to figure out how to get your accommodations while on a budget. AirBnBs are plentiful in the area, with some more expensive than others (as with all things). One key for any place is that you can frequently get discounts of 20% or more if you’ll stay for either 5+ nights, or a whole week. And yes, you can easily spend a whole week there!
2. Choose a Cheaper City in Lake Como
There are definitely expensive spots in Lake Como, and cheaper spots. The lake itself is very large – it’s an upside down “y” with Lecco on one side and Como on the other side. The Como side tends to be a bit more visited than the Lecco side.
Bellagio, Varenna, and Menaggio are the cities that people tend to visit most (or hear about most). The accommodations are likewise expensive.
When you’re visiting, realize that the trains from Milan only go to Como and Lecco. If you want to get to Varenna by train, you’ve got to transfer in Lecco. The ferries do not run super frequently, so it’s not easy to time an arrival from Milan in time to grab the ferry to Bellagio or Menaggio.
Lecco tends to be the city with the cheapest rates in Lake Como. Some people say that’s because it’s the “ugliest” city in Lake Como. Let’s be real- that’s like being the ugliest woman at Miss America – you’re still far prettier than 99.99% of everyone else! Lecco is also well-connected with the train to Varenna, and with ferries everywhere else.
3. Don’t Rent a Car in Lake Como
This is part of choosing a cheaper car, but one key way to cut down on costs is to not rent a car when visiting Lake Como. You will not be able to see as much, of course. And you will have to walk a good amount. But if you’re trying to do Lake Como on a budget, this is the way!
4. Decide if the Lake Como Ferry Pass is a Good Deal
It is unlikely the ferry pass is a good deal for you. The ferries are generally fairly slow, and if you’re in Lecco and wanting to go around the lake, you’re going to be passing through quite a few zones. So the ticket you’d need for “free pass all day” is about 23 – 25 euro.
Your better plan is likely to be to take the ferry EITHER to or from Bellagio, then take the ferry from Bellagio to Varenna, and then take the train back to Lecco.
But if you’re in Como and wanting to go around, do the math of whether separate tickets make sense. It’s unlikely you’ll have time for more than 1 – 2 stops per day, and likely to just be cheaper to buy individual tickets.
5. Don’t Rush Through Lake Como
The whole lake is gorgeous, and everywhere you go is to be enjoyed. Part of the magic of Lake Como is going at a slower pace and simply enjoying life. And that’s one way to save money – the less you do, the less you’re paying for! (And if you’re simply rushing through things, is it worth it anyway?)
The gardens at the villas are worth meandering through. It’s worth grabbing gelato and enjoying it slowly next to the lake. Wandering through the shops is incredibly enjoyable. And most of these things are insanely expensive.
6. Make Use of the Aperitivo
Happy hour in the north of Italy tends to have free or greatly-reduced food with it. If you’re an early eater, consider making use of this. You can get a drink for a good rate, and then frequently get free (and tasty!) snacks to go with it. This is a great time to just slow down and enjoy life, and reflect on the day!
Looking for more advice on Italy?