This question is probably on people’s minds when they think of visiting the luxury destination that is Lake Como. Is it actually possible to go there if you’re not loaded with cash?… Well in this post I hope to shed a bit of light on that question once and for all by breaking down what costs what.
Obviously this massively depends on where you are flying from… However if you’re flying from Europe, then flights are very cheap! We flew from London Gatwick to Milano Malpensa Airport, 2 people return, including hold luggage, for £130 total, so £65 per person. This may sound cheap, but if you just took hand luggage and choose a different time it’s possible to fly from London to Milan even cheaper than this, likely for £50 return! Great right, this is because there are so many flights flying this route, maybe around 3-4 per day.
Unfortunately, my experience of getting from Milano Malpensa Airport to Menaggio (the town we stayed half way up the western shore of Lake Como) was a tricky one. There is very little information on actually getting from the airport to the different towns around the lake. We ended up getting two trains and a bus over the space of around 4 hours, it should be possible in 3 hours but still with two trains and a bus. This will cost you ‘roughly’ 40 Euros for the three tickets, but don’t quote me on the exact amount, it’s roughly in this ballpark. Which isn’t too expensive but also isn’t the cheapest… A taxi however will be well over 100 Euros, more towards 200 Euros and above, which is obviously ridiculous. Therefore in hindsight, probably the cheapest way to get to where you’re staying will be by renting a car (see transport section below).
Just do a basic browse of the hotels around Lake Como and you’ll see it’s very expensive to stay there. However, you can stay there relatively inexpensively. We stayed in the ‘Lake Como Hostel La Primula’, one of the very few hostels around Lake Como (so book in advance!) and we’d recommend it for location and quality. We were in a private double room with en-suite bathroom, and breakfast included, costing 59 Euros per night, which between 2 people works out at just under 30 Euros per person, not too bad! Dorm rooms start at roughly 20 Euros per night. So for one of the most luxury locations in the world, that’s pretty awesome! Once side note though, although yes the hostel was cheaper, it is a hostel, which means you may get loud people outside the window and a very basic room. If that doesn’t bother you though, happy days.
Food & Drink
This obviously depends on where you eat and drink. If you want to eat out in local restaurants, most of the time a meal with main course and a drink each will set you back 30-40 Euros in most restaurants. We went to an excellent high quality restaurant with a lakeside table, and the same was roughly 50 Euros, so still not too silly. If you’re there to sightsee and save money on food, the hostel does pizzas for under 10 euros, and also large 500ml beer for 3 Euros, and coffee for less than 2 Euros for guests. This is probably the cheapest drink you’ll find, as Lake Como is generally a bit more expensive for alcohol. Luckily ice cream is reasonable, and you can get a scoop for 1-3 Euros depending on where you are. As a note, if you go to Switzerland, stock up at a local supermarket for snacks, Switzerland is very expensive!! We spent nearly 30 Euros for two sandwiches and two coffees at a train station in St Mortiz.
Transport was probably what used up a lot of our budget, as the Lake is big (2 hours to drive up one side), Switzerland is next door, and just generally there is SO much to see you’ll want to travel to. If you’re travelling around the centre of Lake Como visiting the towns such as Bellagio, Menaggio and Varenna, you’ll be taking the ferry. Each single trip costs roughly 4 Euros per person, so a return to just one town will be 8 Euros. The bus fares aren’t too cheap but aren’t a rip off either, if you’re travelling an hour then the fare should be roughly around 10 Euros. If like us, you’re using public transport to get around everywhere, these costs can soon add up. So in hindsight my advice would be, if purely from a money perspective, hire a car. You’ll likely be able to get one for under 100 Euros for a week (petrol and insurance not included), and it may save you a bunch if you’re travelling around a lot. I didn’t regret not having one though, having to navigate around ourselves in various forms of transport was part of the fun and adventure. Not to mention Italian’s have a reputation for being slightly aggressive drivers, and the roads are VERY narrow in places with limited parking, so driving might be cheaper, but it will definitely be more stressful!
There are a variety of activities you can do around Lake Como. For example visiting the famous Villa del Balbianello with an all inclusive ticket will set you back around 20 Euros each. There are also lots of different tours you can do, cooking classes, boat rentals, bike rentals etc. If you’re on a budget then you can hike for free around many of the beautiful hikes in Central Lake Como, and just take the ferry to and from where you’re staying, or there is a mini golf in Menaggio for 5 Euros per person! We did an Italian cooking class including food and wine for 35 Euros per person too. If you want to visit Switzerland to travel on the Bermina Express train, we did it by public transport which cost a lot. We did take 3 trains, 2 buses and 1 boat throughout the day to make the round trip but the total cost was well over 100 Euros for two people. The tour price was around 57 Euros, but as I understand you didn’t travel for as long on the train, so I can’t vouch for if it’s as good. All in all though, the money and adventure was well worth it! I saw some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve ever seen.
Summary – Can you travel to Lake Como on a budget?
Yes. Yes you can. Cheers to that!
You’ll need to stay in a hostel, limit the amount of times you eat out, walk if you can rather than get public transport, and cut down slightly on the booze, but it is possible. Flights and accommodation are the easy money savers, it’s the spending money you’ll really need to watch out on. For example a day visiting another town the costs soon add up. See the example as follows: return bus 15 Euros, lunch and drink 20 Euros, villa entry 10 Euros, ice cream & snack 5 Euros, dinner and drink 20 Euros, total 70 Euros. So if you’re looking to budget, food and drink are the places to plan and try and cut the costs on.
I hope you found this post useful, I personally ended up spending a lot of money staying in Lake Como but wasn’t budgeting strictly. I would massively recommend the hostel we stayed in, (Hostel Lake Como La Primula) as they have so much information on activities and cheap food and drink options, it’s really essential if you’re wanting to stay there cheaply and need advice on things to do and see. Anything I’ve missed or any questions, pop them in the comments below.
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