Last Updated on 01/02/2024
Lake Garda is very large. Its northern and southern parts are very different, and getting from one end to the other is not so easy: the roads are slow and congested. The north is more nature-recreational, the south is tourist and entertainment. This topic provides general orientation to the area: Lake Garda buses, tickets, ships, roads, beaches.
Lake Garda beaches
I read in some blog that the shores of Lake Garda are one continuous beach. This is, to put it mildly, an artistic exaggeration.
There are a lot of Lake Garda beaches that are inaccessible for various reasons:
they are fenced off and on private property,
or they are in such a state that you don’t really want to go there (especially in the south),
or they are next to the road, but there is absolutely no way to park without breaking the rules. The last problem is the most significant.
The water is cleaner and colder to the north. There is no sand anywhere, there are small pebbles, large pebbles, and cobblestones of different sizes. In the south, especially between Sirmione and Peschiera, these stones are covered with a limestone suspension, which can be seen even on satellite maps. To feel comfortable, it is better to have swimming shoes. If you go to a “swimming supplies” store somewhere in a not very touristy place, you can buy it for 10 euros.
In August, in good weather, the lake is no worse than the sea – the water is warm enough that you can hang out in it for a long time.
Lake Garda with a car
Anyone who tried to get to Italy on an August Saturday via the Brenner highway has the warmest feelings for the Italian “service”. This narrow road decorated with rusty bumpers without normal places to rest and eat is simply a symbol of mockery of people for their own money.
The reason for the crowding is the resort system “book from Saturday to Saturday”. 230 km in 6 hours (total 40 km/h average speed on the highway), five tow trucks with broken cars were seen. And this is not a record yet, since we still successfully avoided the first traffic jam on Vipiteno. Any exit from the highway causes a global traffic jam.
There are two decent approaches to Lake Garda:
the northern part via the Rovereto exit
and the southern part via the Affi exit.
From Affi there is a free expressway to Desenzano and to the city of Garda (purple route on the map). Since it’s free, it drives rather than stands, except where it meets the highway exit at Peschiera, where the Brenner highway slows it down.
Most roads along the lake goes through cities. Therefore, any circle, traffic light or car parking causes a slowdown. Average speed is between 30 and 40 km per hour. We got to Gardone Riviera on the west bank from Sirmione Colombare in an hour and a half, and to Torri del Benaco on the east bank, thanks to the expressway, in 40 minutes.
There is a direct road to Verona. It’s not fast, but if you don’t drive at the most popular times, you can get by without traffic jams. To speed up, it is better to turn right after the highway onto the expressway (Tangenziale in Italian, blue route on the map). On this road (shortly before the highway, if you drive from the lake) there is also a large Mega shopping center. During rush hours, it is better to choose the highway rather than this route.
Lake Garda buses lines and train maps
Bus lines are drawn schematically and may differ slightly from reality. It shows no route lines in Verona, see the timetable for specific stops. Mostly buses go to the historical center.
Lake Garda buses, trains and ships
Lake Garda boat trips
Website for water transport on Garda lake: www.navlaghi.it
There are two ferry crossings on the Garda lake: Toscolano – Torri and Malcesine – Limone.
Lake Garda boat trips are relatively convenient. On the one hand, it will be faster than some bus or car routes. On the other hand, it still takes a long time to travel, and not all boats are comfortable. Ours, for example, floated like a truck over potholes, so almost everyone got seasick within an hour, which we, in general, are not prone to. The rocket ships float to the opposite end of the lake in two hours, but you must sit indoors, as in all rocket ships.
Lake Garda buses
Now let’s talk about buses. There is no need to talk about the railway, since there are only two stations near the lake: in Peschiera and Desenzano.
You need to look for buses on the public transport websites of a specific region. And since there are several regions (Trentino, province of Verona, province of Brescia), there will be several sites. The sites have translations into English and/or German, but this translation is partial. For example, the foreign version of schedules did not work on the Verona transport website. So I’ll tell you how to find the right page in Italian, and then you can choose another language and, if you’re lucky, you find there also text in your language.
Buses in Trentino
Let’s start from the north. This is the Trentino region. Website: https://www.trentinotrasporti.it
You can find the schedule in the Viaggia con noi / Extraurbano section.
Lake Garda includes regions 2 and 3. A map is provided for each line, and if you click on a stop, a schedule for that stop is provided.
Buses are relevant for the sights of the north:
B332, B204, B205 – they go from Trento by different routes to Riva
B332 goes through Rovereto
В205 goes through Drena
B211 goes deep into the mountains, stopping at Tenno
Around the northern end of Lake Garda, there are three city buses running between Riva and Arca on different routes. We are looking for them in the Urbano section.
The fourth bus stops close to the Varone waterfalls. In principle, you can walk to Tenno from there, but do not forget to study the map.
Tickets in Trentino
You can buy tickets from vending machines, kiosks, a mobile application, at bus stations and from the driver. However, to the driver you will have to pay extra because it is considered that you have plenty of opportunities to buy the ticket earlier.
- prepaid cards carta a scalare for 2-6 people. When entering the bus, you need to press the number of people and hold the card to the machine. The card is purchased for 10 euros and can later be “reloaded” with 5 euros
- tickets in the agglomeration Riva – Arco
1 euro (70 minutes, Biglietto singolo validità temporale 70 minuti),
1.30 euros (120 minutes, Biglietto singolo validità temporale 120 minuti)
or 2.50 euros for the whole day (Biglietto giornaliero).
with a carta a scalare there is a small discount on a 70-minute ticket
- single tickets biglietto di corsa semplice urbana for 2 (within the city) or 3 euros (suburbs).
- on intercity buses the price depends on the distance. From 1.10 for a distance up to 4 kilometers to 5.80 euros for a distance up to 100 kilometers. The prepaid carta a scalare is also valid in this case
- free with Trentino Guest card (see below)
Buses in the Verona region
Website of a bus company serving the eastern shore of Lake Garda: https://www.atv.verona.it
On the website we are interested in the line schedule: Linee ed orari / Extraurbano. Next, it is very inconvenient: you must select the letter of your city, find it in the list and open all available schedules for it to find out which buses go through it.
A map of routes along the lake can be found in Servizi turistici / Lago di Garda e suo entroterra and then specifically search for the schedule by number. Some routes will not be shown to you in cold season, because they are only served in the summer. For example, bus 476 to Spiazzi (Madonna della Corona) or bus 185 to Verona.
Lake Garda buses routes relevant for the eastern shore:
484 – along most of the eastern shore from Riva to Garda
483 – the rest of the east shore from Malcesine to S. Benedetto (this is between Peschiera and Sirmione)
162, 163, 164, 165, 185 (summer), express Х05 (winter), 482 (summer) – buses running from Garda to Verona on different routes.
You can get into one of three pools if you carefully choose the schedule:
Cola – Parco Thermale del Garda
Ospedaletto – Aquardens (with change from bus 165 to 173)
Cavaion – Riovalli
or to the safari zoo near Pastrengo
From Peschiera there are free navettas to Gardaland and other amusement parks. You find information about them on the parks’ websites.
Tickets in Verona region
The section is called Biglietti ed abbonamenti. Local transport is apparently spoiled by tourists, because children are no longer considered children after 4 years of age (as opposed to the standard 6 years of age) and they want extra money for luggage. Thus, travelers with children will pay a pretty penny.
biglietto extraurbano – single bus ticket outside Verona. Cost from 1.50 to 6.80 euros. A ticket to the airport costs 7 euros.
pass gioarnaliero – day ticket for all buses in Verona and the region for 11 euros
pass 3 giorni – 3-day ticket for 22 euros
pass settimanale – ticket for 7 days, 44 euros
Buses in the Brescia region (part of Lombardy)
More important routes:
LN026 Brescia – along the lake shore with a stop at the old town of Sirmione – Verona
shuttle centro storico – city tourist shuttle from Sirmione Colombare to the entrance to the historical center Link
LN027 Desenzano – Riva – bus along the entire western shore
S202-1 Brescia – Salo – to the middle of the western shore
LN007, LN006 – lines from Desenzano to Salo in different routes
LN034 theoretically goes to Castellaro, but practically goes there a couple of times a day with an inconvenient schedule
S202-2 runs from Salo to Vestone, where you can change buses to Lake Idro
LN012 runs regularly from Limone up to Pieve and Tremosine. Sometimes (very rarely) it starts the route in Gargnano.
LN013 Bus from Brescia via Vestone then along Lake Idro (Anfo) to Bagolino. From Lake Garda you need to change at Vestone to this bus.
And one line 46 from the transport company APAM Peschiera – Vallegio – Mantua
Tickets in Brescia region
First, good news for families: the Brescia region is not as greedy as the Verona region. Children under 14 years old travel with an accompanying person for free! And one more generosity: one small suitcase per traveler can be taken for free.
Pricing is based on the zonal principle: departure zone A, then you need to count letter by letter to the arrival zone. That is, if there are two zones between the departure zone and the arrival zone, then the tariff will be according to the letter D.
Find zone maps here
And there at the end of the page there is a link to a PDF with all the tariffs by zone.
Single tickets: biglietto di corsa semplice. Please note that tickets on board (a bordo) are significantly more expensive
Day ticket: biglietto OneDay costs 10 euros in the province of Brescia
Day ticket (as well as for 2 days, 3 days, week) for travel throughout Lombardy: viaggio Ovunque in Lombardia (IVOL): for 17.50, 29, 35, 46.50 euros respectively.
Lake Garda guest cards
Trentino guest card / Garda Trentino guest card
Cards are issued free of charge to those staying at certain hotels/campsites, etc. They offer to book an overnight stay directly on the website. Great idea to compete with booking.com.
Some sources report that the card can be purchased at tourist offices for 40 euros for 7 days. I did not find confirmation of this. It looks like that Trentino (like Ticino), has switched to only the “free” form in exchange for overnight accommodation in the right places.
It is not possible to obtain the list in printable form. As far as I can find, the Trentino guest card has a much wider list (in particular of museums) than the Garda Trentino card, but the latter does have attractions nearby. The terrain does not allow you to easily drive around the sights throughout whole Trentino, so from a large list only selected places will still be relevant.
The clear win is free transport, but from the information above you can understand that you will have to travel not along the lake, but to the north or between Riva and Arco (which is inexpensive even without a guest card).
Some of the things on the list are meant to blind your eyes with big names. For example, visiting the thermal baths is not free at all. There’s just some 10 percent for cosmetic procedures. For the ropes course – 20 percent. On boats: day ticket for 10 euros in the triangle Limone – Malcesine – Riva. And at natural attractions, discounts are not indicated at all (discount on parking? nature itself is free).
Thus, we carefully consider whether you need it, comparing housing prices and the amount of possible savings.
Valeggio Guest Card
Small nice discounts for those who spend the night here.
Tremosine Welcome Card
Also local small discounts for those staying in Tremosine.