Discover Lake Como on a Budget
Lake Como is definitely touristic and it’s most definitely expensive. Located near the Swiss border, many flock to this stunning lake to see and explore the numerous quaint villages scattered all around the mountainous landscapes.
After two trips to the beautiful region of Lake Como, there are a few tips and tricks I’ve figured out to save and make that precious money go further - read on for my tips and recommendations for where to go, how to get there and where to stay on a budget!
1. How to get to and around Lake Como
2. How to choose which places to explore?
3. Where to stay around Lake Como?
1. How to get to and around Lake Como?
Arriving by Plane
If you are flying, then Bergamo Airpot is probably where you will land. Good thing too, because you can find lots of cheap flights (esp. with Ryanair) that fly to Bergamo. Once you have your bags, proceed to find the ‘LOCAL’ bus stop (Bus 1 from memory) that’s right outside the airport. You can buy cheap tickets at the machine for about 2 Euros I think and it’s a short 12-15 mins ride to the Bergamo Train Station. Ignore the sales people trying to sell you expensive tickets into town.
Getting to Lake Como by Train
From Bergamo Train Station, you can reach the city of Como within 2 hours or Lecco in about 1 hour. It depends where you want to go, but both pass through beautiful scenery!
Prices of Train Tickets from Bergamo:
- to Lecco Station: 3.60 Euros
- to Como San Giovanni Station: 8-9 Euros
Getting Around Lake Como by Ferry
The ferries can be both expensive and inexpensive. There are many ‘local’ ferries and some even take cars, vans and motorcycles. The pricing of the ferry tickets depend on the zone of your destination. You can buy unlimited day passes with different tier structures so you can choose to explore the middle part of the lake, the lower right part, the upper section or purchase a pass for the entire lake. Many people also just buy a One Way Pass costing about 5 Euros per person. Note: some routes run more often than others and the express ferries direct from Bellagio to Como are more expensive than the normal ferries.
From Lecco, you can easily reach many villages on the right branch of the lake by train. Probably the most cost efficient way to reach places like Bellagio and Menaggio, would be to take the train all the way to Varenna. From there you can take the Ferry for about 5 Euros (One Way) to the villages on the other side of the lake.
Whereas from Como, you would have to either pay for a more expensive ferry ticket (roughly 10 Euros for the slow ferry, which takes 2hrs) or a crazy winding bus ride to get to Bellagio (which costs around 5-6 Euros).
2. How to choose which places to explore?
There are many beautiful quaint villages along the shores of Lake Como and you could spend weeks here exploring each and every one of them. Many people (myself included) tend to flock to the well-known, more touristic places like Como and Bellagio, especially if it’s your first time and you only have a few days here. But I would highly recommend exploring the smaller, lesser known villages around the lake too.
From here, you are literally a stone throw away from Switzerland so it’s not surprising that everything here is generally much more expensive. In fact, you can reach the beautiful Swiss town of Lugano in less than half an hour! The first thing that I noticed about Como was how clean and well organised the city was. It’s really beautiful and there’s a beautiful park/garden by the waterfront that’s nice for a stroll.
If you feel like a little adventure, there’s a fantastic view point of Como up at Brunate. You can either drive up, walk up or take the Funicular. We took the Como-Brunate Funicular up for 5.50 Euros (return) and then walked over to Volta’s Lighthouse. It’s a beautiful village, full of cobbled streets and stone placed stairs - I really enjoyed strolling around.
Probably THE most popular destination on Lake Como and some would say for good reason. It is definitely one of the most beautiful places, but it’s location is what makes it so attractive. While you might be hard pressed to find regular ferries to other lesser-known villages, you will have no problem finding ferries to Bellagio! There are constantly ferries coming and going, so the best part is not having to worry about time because the next one will come in about 10 mins anyway!
You could spend a good half day or even a full day here to explore the cobbled streets and quaint little houses. There’s also a great swimming/jumping spot from the Observation Deck at Punta Spartivento and the water is relatively clean! Only tip for those on a budget is this: bring your own food because Bellagio is an expensive place!
Fun Fact: George Clooney has a house here!
If you are coming from Lecco (or Bergamo), then Varenna is a nice place to hop off at and explore. It’s quite small and a few hours should be enough to see the whole village, but it offers some really stunning views and photo opportunities. From here, there are regular ferries to Bellagio and Menaggio.
Super cozy town with nice market stalls down by the lakefront and the walk around the lake is very nice. Although the town itself is not as beautiful, I think it’s a great place to have as a base because you’ll find lots of necessities here and it’s an easy spot to get around the lake from.
Another beautiful village worth seeing is Lenno and the Villa del Balbianello, which is set amongst a large hilly forest. I’ve only seen it from the ferry but I know people who have been there and they said it was so beautiful - definitely worth the trip!!
3. Where to stay around Lake Como?
Ostello Bello - Lake Como
My brother and I stayed at this wonderful Ostello Bello Hostel in the town of Como and used this as our base while we travelled around and explored the lake. For about 20-25 Euros per person (per night) in a dorm room PLUS buffet breakfast and dinner included - this is an absolute steal! The rooms were super clean with charging ports and private locker/drawer large enough to store your big backpacks. There is a private bathroom and shower per dorm room so you are not sharing with so many people - very clean and modern!
If you want to cook, they also have a fully equipped kitchen for you to use and a lovely balcony/terrace for you to eat outside. The back garden is like a little oasis with hammocks and tables to read and chill outside, I really loved the tranquil vibes of this hostel. If you love to play music, they have a piano and guitars in the sitting room by reception :)
In the evenings, they often have activities planned, especially for the weekends. The hostel staff and managers are so friendly and fun, they do a great job organising everything. Probably the best hostel I have ever stayed at :)
You can view/book the hostel here: Ostello Bello Lake Como
Lake Como Peace Lodge - Menaggio
On my most recent trip to Lake Como, we decided to stay at Menaggio instead and found an excellent Lodge, just a few minutes walk from the ferry port. The Peace Lodge is actually an extension of the really cool Youth Hostel - La Primula, which is situated down below. Both offer amazing lake views, but the Peace Lodge is located another 5mins walk uphill, therefore offering a more expansive view of the mountains and lake. The staff at both receptions were super lovely and very accommodating.
The rooms at the Peace Lodge are more ‘Private’ and you have the option of having your own private bathroom and shower. The price includes a free buffet breakfast in the mornings and they have good lunch and dinner deals down by the Youth Hostel. We paid roughly 55 Euros per night for two people with a private bathroom, and we stayed for two nights because we liked it so much. If you want to cook, there is a fully equipped kitchen as well.
The Peace Lodge is a bit more secluded and you’ll find more ‘mature’ people and couples staying up in the Lodge, while the Youth Hostel down below is more your typical young backpacker crowd and there always seems to be more happening. If I was travelling by myself, then I would definitely opt for the Youth Hostel because I loved the vibes and the awesome workspace views - therefore I am recommending both :)
This article contains some of my recommendations in the form of Affiliate Links. Therefore, if you make a booking through these links, I will receive a small commission from the company but this doesn’t effect the prices for you at all. Just a little way to show support - thank you so much <3
Have you ever been to Lake Como? Perhaps you have some more questions or your own personal recommendations for what to see and do in this region? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below :)