How to Travel in the Dolomites on a Budget. Ten Easy Ways to Save Money, and Get Extra Impressions

To travel in the Dolomites on a budget means that you have decided about the trip, but you have limited amount of money, so you think about how to save it. It’s okay, you are not alone, the vast majority of people in the world travel like this. In this article, I will tell about first 10 easy ways of traveling to the Dolomites with a limited budget. Each of these ways I passed by myself.

Ivan Kuznetsov
Outdoor journalist, editor and writer from the Dolomites and Karelia

Do Self-guided Travel
Plan a Trip in Advance
Travel With Friends
Ask Advice on the Internet
Learn Italian Language
Choose Low-season
Travel by Low-Cost Airlines
Use Public Transport
Travel to the Italian Part
Go Non-Touristic

1. Decide About Self-guided Travel on a Budget

The fact: it is always cheaper to travel independently than with the help of some travel agencies or private guides. You have the widest possible choice in solving certain issues, which nobody limits: how to get to the Dolomites, where to live, what to eat and drink, what to spend money on…

The “minus” of such traveling is planning. It is up to you from the beginning to an end. To plan a trip in a home region is easy, but to another one, where you had never been before — no so.

“Minus” — in quotation marks, because, in my opinion, it is not a minus, but a plus. It is fascinating to plan and look for opportunities to save money. And as it often turns out, the journeys that you have planned yourself, as you wish, are more intense than those where you trust others to plan.

Self-sufficiency means freedom, doesn’t it? And isn’t freedom equal to traveling?

2. Plan a Trip to the Dolomites a Few Months in Advance

There is no need to plan a trip to the Dolomites in a year, but in a couple of months, it is a good idea, especially if you go far away. So you do not have to solve all the possible questions two days before the trip, especially — on the spot, when it is easy to overpay for the cost of certain services without knowing their real value and where they are cheaper.

Make a comparison table in Google Sheets with the cost of all items during your trip. It will help you to organize your expenses.

For example, you can give up expensive hotel accommodation and catering in restaurants in favor of cheaper B&B and supermarkets, but spend an extra couple of days in the Dolomites. Or vice versa — do not save on good housing, if it will give you discomfort. I usually do so — I decide before the trip, which is more important for me this time and in general.

No trip is perfect, even to the most beautiful mountains in the world. To make sure everything goes well, but at least a couple of months on planning.

In a creative hiking in the Pale di San Martino, Dolomites, in September 2018, we were 13 people (!), so we have got a lot of discounts in a mountain huts, restaurants and public transport © Ivan Kuznetsov
In a creative hiking in the Pale di San Martino, Dolomites, in September 2018, we were 13 people (!), so we have got a lot of discounts in a mountain huts, restaurants and public transport © Ivan Kuznetsov

3. Consider Traveling With Friends and Colleagues in the Dolomites on a Budget

Independent travel does not necessarily mean traveling alone. You can easily go to the Dolomites on budget with friends, colleagues, or new friends who you will meet on your way to the Italian Alps — for example, in Venice, where almost every second trip here begins, or in Verona — maybe every third.

Traveling in the company is not only fun but also more economical. First of all, we are talking about housing — the biggest expense item. The cost of rent can be safely divided by the number of people in the group. Two people — it is twice cheaper, three — three times, and so on…

For example, a room in the B&B in the Dolomites costs 50 euros. If there are two of you — it does not change. You can ask for a second bed in the room. Groups of three, five, and more people are often given discounts or just treated with free food and alcoholic drinks (almost certainly).

This is what a budget trip to the Dolomites is like! “I wanted to save money, and got many times more than I expected”. It often happens to me here.

4. Read or Ask Advice on the Internet

One of the mandatory activities in preparation for your trip to the Dolomites is to read or ask advice from those who have already been to the Pale Mountains. After all, they already know what it costs and how to save. A former traveler, and even more so a local is a treasure trove of information. Travelers and locals know many times more than the managers of travel agencies, especially outside of the Dolomites.

Of course, in 2020 it will be easier to find a contact online. You can search for groups on Facebook (e.g. Dolomitici), contact one or two bloggers (blogger one, blogger two), find people close in the spirit in communities of popular hiking and cycling applications like Windy.app, Komoot, All Trails or Strava, write to someone in a personal email (I don’t mind).

Do not know a language? It is not a barrier. Use the Deepl online translator. It translates many times better than Google.

In other words, if you want to save money, be open, polite, and do not hesitate to communicate with other travelers and locals before the trip, and continue on the spot.

Even after the 7 years of hiking in my home mountains of Pale di San Martino in the Dolomites I look for advice before every new trip © Irina Kudres
Even after the 7 years of hiking in my home mountains of Pale di San Martino in the Dolomites I look for advice before every new trip © Irina Kudres

5. Learn at Least a Bit of Italian Language

An online translator like Deeple and grammar tool like Grammarly are a great help in virtual written communication. With its help, you can communicate quite successfully at a distance without knowing the local language. But it is almost useless in the real world. So before you travel to the Dolomites on budget, be sure to learn a couple of words and phrases in Italian. (Oh, yes, I forgot to say that the locals almost do not speak English.) I use Lingualeo and Easy 10 for iOS apps.

At the same time, every time and everywhere locals appreciate it when a foreigner speaks their language, even with very limited vocabulary and grammatical errors. They like what you are trying to do, they are interested in seeing how you do it. Sincerely.

From local people, you can find information that is not on the Internet. I believe that in 2020 the most valuable knowledge and experience are still passed on from mouth to mouth, as it was centuries ago.

Plus you will save not only money but also time to translate information. You see an inscription that some buses will not come at the right time — and you immediately understand it in Italian. But more importantly, you can easily find new friends in the country. A real friend is always better than by correspondence.

6. Choose Low-season for Traveling to the Dolomites on a Budget

Everywhere in the world, there are two tourist seasons: they are called “high” and “low”. The season time can be different, depending on the region, country, part of the world, and continent.

The high season is almost always summer (at sea), but in the case of the Dolomites, it is also winter, because it is one of the best places in the world for skiing and snowboarding. The summer season in the Dolomites lasts exactly three months: from mid-late June to mid-late September. Winter season — a little longer: from November-December to March-April (4-5 months) in different parts of the mountains.

In winter and summer the Dolomites attract the most tourists: the prices for almost all tourist services, except standard ones, are usually higher, although I do not notice a sharp jump in prices, as in the case of other countries where goods and services cost several times. Accordingly, in the low tourist season in the Dolomites, everything is a little cheaper, or there are discounts and sales in stores. The difference in prices also depends on the popularity of the place: it is clear that the more popular it is, the more expensive it is.

In both cases, we are talking about private companies. The cost of travel and other public services does not change from season.

Small ski resort Monte Avena, 1400 m, near the city of Feltre is another example of budget travel in the Dolomites. It has just a couple of slops, but it is inexpensive to do skiing © Ivan Kuznetsov
Small ski resort Monte Avena, 1400 m, near the city of Feltre is another example of budget travel in the Dolomites. It has just a couple of slops, but it is inexpensive to do skiing © Ivan Kuznetsov

7. Travel by Low-Cost Budget Airlines and Buses

I don’t like cheap airlines like Ryanair with all these “one euro tickets”. Instead, I am looking for discounts and promotions from regular airlines. When it comes to savings, there is nothing you can do — you have a budget for travel in the Dolomites.

Nowadays you can fly to Venice or Verona for 200-300 euros in both directions from almost anywhere in Central, Western and Northern Europe, including the European part of Russia. Seven times out of eight I flew to the Dolomites from here — from Moscow or St. Petersburg — and never paid more than 200 euros one way (from Russia tickets are more expensive).

It is even cheaper to travel around Europe on buses like FlixBus, EcoLines, and other bus companies. They have huge maps of routes, which capture almost all major and medium-sized cities. The bus from Munich to Verona cost me 50 euros a week before departure. A month before the trip the price was 30 euros.

Yes, the bus ride is longer (from Munich it takes 7-8 hours), but outside the window, there are beautiful views.

Traveling on a bus or a train, the anticipation of Dolomites lasts longer than during an air flight. We started to travel too fast on planes, but it’s great not to rush.

8. Use Public Transportation on Place

Traveling around the Dolomites can be continued in the same way as you can get here — by buses or trains, or hitchhiking, rather than by transfer, or a car.

Public transport in Italy is inexpensive compared to other Central and Western European countries. For example, the cost of travel from my village to the nearest city is 2.50 euros (15 km, 30 minutes). In the six years that I live in the Dolomites, it has changed by 30 euro cents.

There are almost no trains in the Dolomites (only a few railway lines), but buses go to almost all settlements, including very tiny mountain villages. So public transport is not only a budget way to travel through the mountains but the only one.

Public transport is an even more environmentally friendly way to travel than in a car.

Dolomites buses are already on the route every day, regardless of you driving or not. But the car will go on purpose © Ivan Kuznetsov
Dolomites buses are already on the route every day, regardless of you driving or not. But the car will go on purpose © Ivan Kuznetsov

9. Travel to the Italian Part of the Dolomites

The Dolomites can be divided into two approximately equal parts. The first one, eastern, is in the province of Belluno in the Veneto region of Italy and the neighboring region Friuli Venezia Giulia; the second, western, is in the autonomous provinces of Trentino and Bolzano / South Tyrol in the region of Trentino — Alto-Adige, which used to belong to Austria.

The first, Italian part, for some reason, is less associated with the Dolomites, so it is less tourist and — less expensive. If you travel to the Dolomites on budget, then I would come here. Plus this part is located closer to the two tourist capitals of Italy: Venice and Verona, a couple or three hours by train and bus.

There is no need to be afraid that it is less beautiful and you will not visit the real Dolomites. It has the same fantastically beautiful mountains as the former Austrian part of the Dolomites.

And also, in my opinion, it is more interesting to travel here. In the Italian part, you feel not a tourist, but a traveler.

10. Choose Non-Touristic Town and Villages

In both parts of the Italian Alps, there are more or fewer tourist towns and villages. In the Austrian part is more expensive, the Italian is less. And we are talking about all goods and services, except for public transport.

Examples of expensive towns and villages: Bolzano, Trento, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Fiera di Primiero, less expensive: Belluno, Feltre, Lamon, and Sovramonte, Castel Tesino. Very inexpensive should be in places you haven’t heard or read about in articles like this one, although in the places that I recommend it is cheaper to travel.

Regardless of my or other advice, you can safely choose any small town or village on the map — it will be as beautiful and interesting as in larger, more populated, and more tourist places. And it will be even better here.

I like to repeat that there are no ugly places in the Dolomites, but they are inexpensive.

This is the first part of a big article about saving money while traveling in the Dolomites. Read part two. There will be more parts. Bookmark this page and return later.


Cover photo: Arina, a manager from Saint Petersburg, traveling in the Dolomites on a budget © participant of the creative hiking in Pale di San Martino in September 2018.

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