Vaporetto time ticket or no vaporetto time ticket. That’s the question.
In case you’re a good “runner” and only want to spend one day in Venice (to see the main attractions, the Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge) buying a time ticket is, in my opinion, not profitable: the minimum is a 1 day travelcard for 20€/person – means you have to use the vaporetto (waterbus) at least 2 times – and as the vaporettos are only passing the larger canals (the Grand Canal, the Giucecca Canal, …) and, in the end, you always have to make it by foot to your “final destination”, you should definitely decide in advance what you want to see and if buying the time ticket is worth it. In case you wish to do an island tour (Murano, Burano, Torcello) a time ticket is always worth it.
You should also consider that a vaporetto is slower than a normal bus, as a lot of time passes during docking, getting off, hopping on, departing. A single ride ticket (valid for 60 minutes) brings you for example from Piazzale Roma to Piazza San Marco (30min-60min), Murano and (in case you are fast and know where to change) Burano.
In case you’re not sure, you’ll find all the departure schedules and a map (showing you the different vaporetto lines and their destination) on the ACTV homepage. You find the link at the bottom of this article.
Tickets and fares
First of all you have to decide between two types of ticket: Navigazione (Vaporetto) and Rete Urbana (bus & tram in Mestre/Lido). The travelcard covers both: Navigazione and Rete Urbana. That means that it can be an advantage for those staying in a hotel in terraferma (Mestre) to buy a time ticket. (Since December 2013 a third network is operational: The People Mover that connects the Tronchetto with Piazzale Roma and is too included in the time ticket. A single ride costs €1,50.)
Attention: The ACTV tickets (travelcard and single ride Navigazione/Rete Urbana) are not valid on the busses from/to Aeroporto Marco Polo! The ticket to the airport has to be purchased apart and costs €8 (return journey 15€).
Unfortunately, Venice is not very family friendly when it comes to transport fares: children use the public transport for free (till their 6th birthday); afterwards they pay the standard fare. There are no family tickets, but teenagers and young tourist (14-29 years) have the possibility to purchase the Rolling Venice Card (4€) that grants them a nice discount on the 3 day time ticket (20€ instead of 35€). A great deal!
*public transport in Venice/Mestre
[Update: September 2015]
Please always check the fares online, as they may change.