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Hiring porter service in Venice is like buying a yacht: If you need to ask the price, you can't afford it.
Not too many years ago, luggage porters or portabagagli were almost impossible to find in Venice. Today, they're in generous supply, but with a catch:
Rates for hauling your bags are stratospheric, in part because getting from point A to point B in Venice is a slow, painful process for the men who wrestle luggage trolleys down narrow streets and over the steps of Venice's 400+ bridges.
During the main tourist season or on busy weekends, it's easy to find baggage porters in front of the Santa Lucia Railroad Station (near the water) or in Piazzale Roma, where airport buses and land taxis arrive and depart.
Porters are also found--though not quite as reliably--in other busy locations around town. For locations with phone numbers, scroll down to "Porters" on this page (Caveat: We can't vouch for the accuracy of the information, since it's undated and written by an anonymous author.)
Porters in Venice's historic center aren't regulated as they once were, and rates for independent baggage porters can be hard to pin down. Depending on distance, you could easily pay 50 euros or more to have several bags hauled from the railroad station or the Piazzale Roma to your hotel.
If you want a rate quotation in advance, we suggest placing an inquiry with the Cooperativa Trasbagagli Venezia, a.k.a. the Venice Baggage Transportation Cooperative, which has a contact form on its Web site.
Does your trip involve a cruise? Easy Luggage offers preset rates per bag for transfer between the port and the railroad station, the port and Venice Marco Polo Airport, or the port and hotels in Venice or Mestre. (Luggage storage in the port is also available.)
A little advance planning can save you a great deal of money and hassle. Here are some tips:
Limit yourself to a rolling suitcase of moderate size (preferably a two-wheeled model, for easier handling on bridge steps) and a small backpack.
If you can't avoid traveling with multiple bags or large suitcases, pack what you need for Venice in a small bag and park your bigger cases at a "left luggage" office.
If you arrive at the railroad station, please be aware that the porters by the water are not official station porters (a.k.a. "redcaps," as we used to say in the U.S.). And while most are just honest porters looking for work, you may encounter scumbags who take advantage of unwary visitors.
We recently received this e-mail from a reader, and we thought we'd share it with you:
"I would like to recommend that you include something regarding the unscrupulous porters at Santa Lucia train station. They cleverly position themselves at the water taxi jetties / piers and 'discuss' a price with a water taxi driver 'on your behalf,' cleverly fooling you into thinking that both they and the water taxi are all part of the same service. They then offer you a price to your hotel, commonly €60 and then offer to collect your luggage, in our case this was at the station with family members.
"What they don't tell you is that the collection of your luggage is not included in the water taxi fare. They charge €15 for the first piece and then €5 for each additional piece. This only becomes apparent after they have dropped it off at the water taxi.
"When we refused to pay, as they had not informed us of this or quoted a price to us, they threatened to transport all our luggage back to the train station. We had a number of large bags with us having traveled to the Tuscan region for a wedding. After much haggling we agreed to pay half of what they wanted to avoid an increasingly nasty situation from escalating any further."
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