We’ve compared Birmingham’s new electric canal boats to a gondola in Venice – and it might be cheaper to go to Italy

Birmingham has long claimed to have more miles of canals than Venice and now that GoBoat’s electric boats have arrived there’s no excuse not to enjoy the thrill of the open water and see the native capital of the industrial revolution in a whole new way.

The only possible reason not to come out pretending that Birmingham is actually Venice in disguise is the cost. And if that’s too much, maybe you’d like to go to Venice for the real thing.

After all, two people can fly to Venice and back for less than the cost of hiring one. GoBoat on a Birmingham canal for just two hours.

Courtesy of GoBoat, we recently tested a two-hour trip on one of its brand new electric boats moored at Waters Edge next to Brindleyplace. As you can read in our review in the link below – or watch on our full FacebookLive coverage here – it’s fair to say we loved every minute of it. They really make a great day.

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Taking the (recommended) two hour option we were able to enjoy significant parts of the two main routes, one to the island known as the Port Loop (Venice has some 400 islands by the way) and the other partly towards The Vale. University of Birmingham site, accessed via Gas Street Basin and the back of the Mailbox/Cube at the start of the quieter Worcester and Birmingham Canal.

Of course, the financial cost of setting sail on a Birmingham GoBoat isn’t nearly as cheap as it was to hire an old-fashioned motorboat pumping blue smoke on a lake in the park. But the electric boat experience on the Birmingham Canal Navigations network is so much better. It’s super smooth and pollution-free, too.

And, as you can see in our photo essay here, there are more visual similarities between Birmingham and Venice than you might think.



Our canals offer radically different environments from park lakes, with people on the towpaths taking a great interest in what you are doing. The other sailors who pass by on narrow barges are all invariably cheerful given that they already know a great deal about the joy of using the waterways as a way to completely escape the hustle and bustle and sometimes the worries of the modern world.

The good news is that each GoBoat – made in Croatia from recycled bottles – can seat eight people around a sustainable wooden table. This means you can take your own picnic for about the same price as everyone else at the restaurant in Brindleyplace.

Brum v Venice – the price differences

Sure, if you’re just two aboard for a romantic Brummie proposal – say at the foot of the Utilita Arena if you first met there at a concert or at Gas Street Basin near the location where ITV soap Crossroads and Cliff Richard’s film Take Me High was filmed – then the price per person might seem quite steep depending on your disposable income.

GoBoat rental prices are £95 for one hour, £135 for two hours or £175 for three hours. This means that the cost for two people determined to go it alone for a romantic treat with a packed lunch of a bottle of Prosecco and Parma ham sandwiches topped with thinly sliced ​​tomatoes and fresh Italian basil – would be £47, £50, £67.50 or £87.50 per person.



The Rialto Bridge in Venice compared to the Horseley Ironworks Bridge in the Gas Street Basin
The Rialto Bridge in Venice compared to the Horseley Ironworks Bridge in the Gas Street Basin

So how much would a gondola ride on a canal next to the Adriatic coast cost? Well, they can accommodate six people so you can share the romance again.

But if you want to go out in pairs, the official fare for each boat of 80 euros (£68) works out to £34 per person for 30 minutes, with the price dropping after 7pm to 100 euros (£85) – or £42.50. per person.

For extra time it’s an extra 40 euros (£34) for every extra 20 minutes or after 7pm it’s an extra 50 euros (£42.60) for every extra 20 minutes. Again, these prizes could be split six ways or just between the two of you.

So the choice is yours – £47.50 per person for the first hour on a GoBoat or the equivalent of £68 per hour per person for an hour on a gondola with someone else doing the donkey work to take you from A to B.

Ah, you might say, but what about the cost of getting to Venice in the first place? Well, remarkably, Jet2 is currently advertising flights for less than £30 per person each way. So even if you just want to go there to see the gondolas in action from dry land, that means two people could fly round trip for under £120. Put another way in the world of channel economics, that total would be £15 less than two hours on a GoBoat.

All you need to remember is that the Birmingham or Venetian option will be unforgettable.

So that means it’s ‘Go’ for GoBoat and ‘Go’ for Gondola. Whichever option you choose, go for it, go for it, go for it!

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Earnest A. Martinez