How to travel Lake Como on a budget

by Kelly

Lake Como is a dream destination that is well known for its luxury accommodation and beautiful lake villas and views. It can be a very expensive place to visit but it doesn’t have to be. This is how we visited Lake Como on a budget.

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Where is Lake Como and how do I get there?

Lake Como is in the north of Italy about two hours from Milan. Many people fly into Milan where it is quite easy to reach from there by train or private transport. In fact you can actually stay in Milan and do day trips to Lake Como!

You can also reach Lake Como from Switzerland. We travelled from St Moritz to Lake Como, the easiest way is with the Palm Express. This bus takes a scenic route and goes directly through Lake Como to Lugano.

Where to stay for Lake Como on a budget?

Lake Como has some very expensive accommodation but you can find some really good deals. These are the things you need to consider when looking for accommodation in Lake Como.

Book early

We always recommend booking really early. It makes such a difference. Booking as soon as you have your dates set will give you the best chance at the cheapest prices. We ran into this problem ourselves when we extended our stay on the spur of the moment and it was very difficult to find reasonable priced accommodation last minute. Ideally you would book months ahead.

The season matters

If you really want to travel in the high season make sure to book as early as possible. You may pay higher prices but you will have the best chance of beautiful weather.

Travelling on the shoulder season is cheaper. This can also mean running in to some rainy weather. We travelled here in May which is just before the high season starts and usually the weather is lovely. Sadly we ran in to unseasonably heavy rains for our stay, but this is something you can’t change and you just have to enjoy your time anyway! The shoulder seasons are between April – May and August-September. Yes you may have some rainy overcast days but you might also get lucky…and you will have cheaper accommodation options.

Best location for Lake Como on a budget

You will find better accommodation deals in Como city as it is larger and there is more competition. The three main places that people want to visit are Bellagio, Menaggio and Varenna. They are beautiful little lakeside towns and can get a little expensive. You can reach these three towns by boat from Como, it is a very full day if you try to visit all three on the same day so I would split them up over a few days. Make sure to also spend time in Como as there are tons of things to see there as well.

You can also check locations that are just outside of the main tourist places. There are loads of hotels in the tiny towns or just along the lake that are slightly cheaper because they are not as easy to get to. Having said that they are not at all hard to get to, you may just have to sit on a bus a little longer.

If you do want to stay in one of the three main towns then Menaggio is generally the cheapest one to stay. We loved staying at Hotel Garni Corona and another hotel that is beautiful and reasonably priced for the area is Hotel Bellavista.

Check out this map from that shows pricing for the whole Lake Como area. You can move it around and change dates to suit you. Consider some of the locations just outside of the main three areas which are close to the lake but cheaper in pricing. We always use as they have great pricing and properties. They also have a great reward system with free breakfasts or upgrades.

What to eat in Lake Como on a budget

Food can really add up and is a huge part of travelling on a budget. We always look for accommodation with a kitchen facility or at the very least a fridge. Shop at local supermarkets or stores to cook our main meals and choose one meal to eat out if there are no cheap eat options. We always look for specials and discounts in supermarkets but also in restaurants. Being coeliac it is the best way to make sure I don’t get sick but also a great way to save money. Also if breakfast is included in your stay then take full advantage of it and make sure you fill up at breakfast!

Want to eat local foods on a budget?

The problem with this is I LOVE FOOD! Some people are just foodies and I am one of them. I don’t want to go to Italy and miss out on anything…and you shouldn’t! This is how I make sure I don’t feel like I missed out.

We buy snacks out. In general they are cheaper to buy and you can taste more of the delicacies of the country without breaking the bank.

We search for the cheapest pizza place with the best reviews in the area we are staying. The reviews count because you don’t want to waste your meal out on a bad experience. We usually get takeaway (no service charge and no pressure to order more or extras) and find somewhere beautiful or somewhere we can people watch to eat. I love it. I really enjoy taking my meal and making it part of the experience of being in the location. Maybe that is in a local square to people watch, a lake view location, a park with beautiful flowers and plants. We bring our own drinks if we want any from the supermarket, some times buying a bottle of wine and glasses to enjoy with the meal.

Our best budget food finds on Lake Como

The cheapest pizza in Como was at Peach Pit. It may not look like the fanciest and it is only open in the evening but it is cheap and excellent quality!

In Varenna there is a little shop called La Bottega di Varenna. It has cheap drinks and snacks. Mike bought some beer here and we walked down to the little piazza near Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie to sit and enjoy while people watching. There are big shady trees, tons of restaurants and gelato shops here.

Drinks are easy as there are so many bars and restaurants that offer aperitivo. It is my absolute favourite thing to do, order an Aperol Spritz and you will receive some free nibbles such as chips, nuts or olives. We found the cheapest one at Varenna just near the ferry ticket booth. La Cambusa has 4€ aperol spritz with free nibbles!

Transport for Lake Como on a budget

There are a few ways to get around Lake Como and they all vary in their prices.


The boat trips on Lake Como are one of the most popular activities to do in the area. If you are staying at Como you can take a boat from there to Menaggio and then take ferries from there to the other villages. The Lake Como boat costs about 10€ and takes about three hours. You can book on the website where you will see all the options for boat ferries on Lake Como.

There are also private boats that are very beautiful but they are more expensive. If this is something you really want to do then I would take a look at the Get Your Guide tours as they offer reasonably priced tours with loads of reviews which will help you decide on the best tour for you.


Buses are easy to catch around Lake Como. Actually it really is faster to get on a bus in Como and go to Menaggio. From there you can visit Menaggio and take the small ferries from there to Varenna and Bellagio. This is the fastest and cheapest way to see the small villages here. The bus is only 3€ and takes about 45 minutes at the most.


You can catch a train to the top of the lake but it is not the most convenient way to get around the lake. I would choose bus and boat options first. The train is one of the best ways to get to Como from other major cities.

How to visit the villas in Lake Como on a budget

Is it possible to visit the villas on Lake Como while travelling on a budget? Yes it sure is. This is a list of six of the best villas and their costs. Choose the ones or one that suits you best and go for it! They are a must do while in Lake Como and you don’t want to miss visiting at least one (Tip- check out the last one on my list!)

Villa Balbianello (Tremezzina)

Located at Via Guido Monzino 1, Tremezzina – Tickets cost €23 for full entry ticket. Visit for incredibly beautiful views and gardens. It was used in Star Wars and James Bond movies. Very close to Villa Carlotta so could visit both in one day.

Villa Carlotta (Tremezzina)

Located at Via Regina 2, Tremezzina – Tickets cost €15 for the entire property, villa and gardens – Visit for botanical gardens and museum inside the villa.

Villa Melzi (Bellagio)

Located at Via Lungo Lario Manzoni, Bellagio – Tickets cost €8 – Visit for a mix of beautiful landscape and architecture. Garden pathways are stunning but the internal villa is not open to public.

Villa Monastero (Varenna)

Located at Viale Polvani 4, Varenna – Tickets cost €13 for full entry ticket, €10 for gardens only – Visit for iconic views from the gardens. Beautiful landscape and lake views, easy accessed in Varenna.

Villa Erba (Cernobbio)

Located at Largo Luchino Visconti 4, Cernobbio – Tickets cost depends on the event attended – Visits are only possible when there is an event being held. The villa has beautiful gardens and is worth a visit if there is the possibility.

 Villa Olmo (Como)

Located at Via Simone Cantoni 1, Como – Tickets FREE for the gardens – Visit for the stunning gardens and as it is free you can tick visit a villa in Lake Como off your bucket list while travelling Lake Como on a budget!

If you prefer to do a hassle free visit to villas you can also do a tour like the ones below.

We hope this helps you plan your Lake Como trip! We loved our time here and hope to come back soon. We only had three days here and could have spent five to really see everything on our list. If you have any other questions please leave them in the comments and we will get back to you. We love being able to help plan your adventures!

Where to next:

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Jane McSweeney January 24, 2024 - 4:24 am

Hi this blog is so helpful. Did you stay in any hotels in Milan? If so can you recommend one. Thanks

Kelly January 24, 2024 - 9:10 am

Hi Jane, I’m so glad it helped! Milan is pretty expensive, I would book really early, if you are on a budget then it’s easier to find better prices slightly outside the centre. This one is good or we have always loved staying at Ostello Let us know how your trip goes!


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