Lake Como is the perfect place for your vacation if you’re looking for a picturesque place to relax and explore without the stress, planning, and physical effort of some of Italy’s more popular coasts. Surrounded by lush green hills, snow-capped mountains, and charming towns that have attracted visitors for centuries, this area is unlike any other. Though it’s beautiful, it’s not quite as black-and-white about how to get around this gorgeous lake. To find out what’s the best route for you, we’ve created a guide to the best ways to get around Lake Como.
We hope you don’t get seasick because lake life means getting around by boat – everywhere! While there are taxis in the area, boats, ferries, and water taxis are the most efficient mode of transportation here. Once you’re exploring a new town, get your walking shoes on! The only ideal way to navigate each town is by foot. In many historic areas, much is blocked off to cars anyway.
HOW TO GET TO LAKE COMO
In order to reach this area of Italy, we recommend flying into Milan. From there, head to the central train station (Milano Centrale Train Station) to about a 40-minute train from Como and an hour from Varenna which are both the perfect launching pads to other Lake Como destinations. If you’d like to rent a car, remember that you will only use it for a little while visiting.
HOW TO FERRY AROUND LAKE COMO
The ferry is the best form of public transport in Lake Como.If you’re trying to plan in advance, we used Rome2Rio as our most helpful travel planning tool when it came to planning timeframes around ferry schedules. Unfortunately our favorite boat app, FerryHopper, doesn’t work in Lake Como, so we really relied on Rome2Rio for timetables!
You cannot buy ferry tickets in advance either, you must by the tickets in person at the ticket booth in each town. The ferry runs on a seasonal schedule, so make sure to check closer to your travel date of scheduled times. For minute-by-minute ferry times while you’re in destination, you can find the schedule here.
For a semi-private experience, there are water taxis at virtually every town along the lake that can take you shorter distances at a bit of a higher cost than ferries but a lower expensive than a 2-hour private boat tour. You don’t need to book these in advance as you’ll typically see them at the docks, but if you see the number for one at the port, save the number and send them a message or a call via WhatsApp to ask about time frames for the future. For additional tips for navigating Italy like this, check out our blog about what we wished we knew before traveling in Italy.
RENTING A BOAT FOR A SELF-GUIDED LAKE DAY
There are many options for renting a private boat around Lake Como. Whether you’d like to test your driving skills for an hour or make a day out of it for a full day on the lake, there are too many companies to list which offer exactly what you’re looking for. Prices typically start at at least $120 per hour for a private boat rental without a captain, and for most of these boat rentals, you don’t need a boating license
You can book in advance with wonderful companies like Taxi Como Lake and Boat2Go or you can wait until you’re there and you’ll find signs like the photo above which details how and where you can rent a boat from from 1-hour to 2-days. We recommend renting a boat for at least 3 hours if you plan on driving yourself. This gives you just enough time to sightsee, relax, and swim to enjoy the water. Anything less and you’ll be wanting more time!
HIRING A PRIVATE BOAT & CAPTAIN IN LAKE COMO
If you’re looking for a truly luxurious experience while exploring Lake Como, you’re in luck! This stunning location offers a variety of ways to enjoy the beauty of the lake in style. One of the most popular options is to be chauffeured around on a classic wooden boat, and Lake Como Travel is a great option for this. They offer 2-4 hour tours that allow you to sit back and take in the gorgeous views while someone else does the driving.
For a different boating experience, consider booking a sailboat tour through Airbnb. This fun and unique experience will have you sailing across the lake for 2 hours, taking in the stunning scenery and feeling the wind in your hair. And if you’re looking for a more laid-back option, there’s a relaxing boat tour available through Airbnb as well. This private tour is perfect for those who just want to soak up the sun and enjoy the peaceful surroundings of Lake Como.
WHERE TO STAY IN LAKE COMO
While there are plenty of vacation rentals and hotels to choose from, we know you want nothing but the best in this spectacular destination. It’s important to know now that this is not a budget-friendly backpacker destination. This place comes with luxurious service, amenities, and views and the price tags reflect the destination. Prepare to budget at least $300 a night for a basic room, with a more realistic budget being about $500-$700 a night for a nice hotel. For the dreamiest hotels, plan to spend about $1,200-$1,800 per night.
We normally recommend 4-star level properties with all the modern amenities within the range of $200-$600 per night. That being said, for Lake Como, it’s important to know how far your dollar will go before you book the flight! Your average mid-range luxury price tag is steeper here – but the views and vibes are absolutely worth it.
How long should you stay in Lake Como? As there are many stunning towns to leisurely explore, we recommend planning to stay 3-5 nights. Two nights is just enough to scratch the surface. Three nights is ideal if you’re spending a little over a week in Italy and visiting one other destination. If you’re looking for a relaxing Italian holiday, stay for five nights in Lake Como and two or three nights in Milan. So where should you stay? Here are our top picks for the best hotels in Lake Como:
- BEST FOR: 5-star gorgeous hotel featuring a lakefront pool, lido, and lakefront views
- LOCATION: Tremezzo
- BEST FOR: 4-star Hilton property hotel with friendly staff, amazing breakfast, and great amenities
- LOCATION: Como
- BEST FOR: 4-star elegant hotel with a scenic views and charming design
- LOCATION: Bellagio
MONEY TIPS FOR EXPLORING LAKE COMO
Italy uses the euro. If you’re wondering if you should bring cash or card, the answer is yes – both! Most nicer restaurants and larger stores accept cards. Still, you’ll almost always need cash for more local shops and smaller purchases of less than $30. I recommend using my favorite currency converter app to check the exchange rate when you go. This tool was also helpful when visiting smaller markets and asking the vendor, “how much?” (quanto? in Italian) They can type the number into the app like a calculator, and you can easily see the conversation rate there.
A helpful note about taking out foreign currency in cash:
The best practice (and cheapest) for having cash on hand in a new country is to go to your bank 5-10 business days before your trip and ask them for the new currency. Depending on your bank, this transaction will either be free or just a few dollars.
If you’re like us and realize the airplane tires hit foreign soil that we forgot to do this, then find an ATM to take out euros in cash! Yes, you can do this even with an international debit card and even some credit cards. There will typically be a small transaction fee along with the exchange rate. It’s still cheaper to take out cash this way than to go to a money exchange or Western Union.