It is always nice to have some insight when you are landing in a foreign country. I want to outline some important considerations for arriving and departing from Malpensa Airport in Milan. Things that I always like to know are location of the airport, unexpected wait times in customs or passport control, transportation leaving/returning to the airport, and lounge availability.
1. Location. There are two major airports that serve the Milan area. They are Malpensa and Linate. We flew into Malpensa airport from Miami. The airport is located a significant distance outside of Milan (about 50 minutes to 1 hour in regular traffic) in a northwest direction. There are a few options for getting into Milan. They are bus, taxi, and train. For our arrival, we took the train into Central Station. If you don’t have an outrageous amount of luggage, I would definitely recommend this option. It is easy to follow signs to get to the train from baggage claim. You can purchase your ticket from a kiosk or person in the airport, and there are plenty of people to help. We stood in line to purchase our ticket and knew ahead of time that we wanted to travel into Central Station. Something that not all of the employees were telling people is to validate your ticket after purchasing it. There is a green box before you take the escalator down to the train. You put your ticket into the box and it will validate. The train is approximately a 45 minute trip to Central Station. The stops are not well announced and you do have to pay attention to know when it is appropriate to get off. From Central Station, we walked to our hotel which was 0.6 miles away. You could get a taxi once you arrive or use their metro system to get closer to your hotel.
For traveling back to the airport, we chose to take a taxi because we had more luggage upon departure. There are luggage racks on the train with plenty of room, but we felt it would be difficult to manage and get to the station itself. There is a flat rate (we were told) to the airport of 95 Euro. What we did not find out until arrival is that if you travel before 7am that rate is actually 105 Euro. The hotel was able to get a minivan taxi for us with plenty of room for our luggage. If you choose a taxi, keep in mind the time of day you are traveling and traffic considerations. When we were driving back to the airport to return our rental car after our travels outside of Milan, on Friday afternoon, traffic was significant. Allow this into your commute or ask hotel staff what they anticipate. Upon departure, we went back to the airport very early in the morning on Tuesday, and there was no traffic on the road.
Linate airport is closer to central Milan and a little east of the city. From our hotel, it was only about 5 miles. Finally, there is an airport near Bergamo as well. It is Orio al Serio. This airport is northeast in relation to the city center. Bergamo is a beautiful city and only a short drive from Milan via car.
2. Car Hire. When we arrived in Malpensa, we decided to rent a car to explore Como, Lake Garda, and Franciacorta. After collecting your luggage, you will start to see signs for Car Hire. Follow these a short distance and you will walk outside and enter the garage area. Here you will see signs of Car Collection point. We rented from Hertz and have the Presidents Circle. Therefore, we were able to go immediately to the car collection point in the garage without first stopping at the desk. In the garage car collection point, we did have to stand in a line to claim the vehicle. We rented an Audi automatic station wagon for a very reasonable price. It did have snow tires (it was November) and also a navigation system. Overall, I thought that the process for collecting the car was not difficult. I would recommend getting the navigation system. Despite the fact that it was in Italian, I thought that it was really invaluable without having our phone to use for navigation. We made very few wrong turns and had little trouble searching for destinations in the system. Also, after listening to her speak directions to us in Italian for several days, I definitely added some new phrases to my vocabulary. Finally, make sure that you have an International Driving permit to drive in Italy. See my travel planning tip in the Franciacorta Wine Region read for more details on obtaining your permit.
3. Customs. Upon arrival, it did not take long to go through immigration. They do have machines that scan your passport and take your photo. Then, following this, an individual will stamp your passport. We were some of the first people to exit the plane, and the line was not long when we arrived. Any advantage we had from going through the line relatively quickly stopped at the baggage claim. It took quite some time before the bags were on the carousel. Expect this to take up a chunk of time unless you are arriving only with carry on luggage.
4. Departure. When arriving back to the airport, we had several receipts to drop off at Global Blue and Planet, the other tax free window. There are two companies and they are directly adjacent to each other in terminal 1 labeled as point 12. The airport is user friendly and has kiosks available to “call” someone to assist you. I pressed the button and someone was able to tell me in English that tax free was at number 12 and American Airlines was at number 21. I expected to see an extremely long line at tax free and this has slowed me down significantly at other airports in Europe. Early in the morning, the line was not long. I am certain this is flight dependent so plan accordingly. You have the option to do everything at the airport for a Global Blue refund. However, we started the process at La Rinacente department store on the 6th floor. This made things a little easier once we arrived at the airport. If you do purchase things at the department store, you can use their kiosk without difficulty and swipe your credit card for the refund. I was told that I would need to drop things into a “box” at the airport, but this was not the case. The desk attendant did everything. The refund can be given in cash or will go back onto your credit card within 5 days. I chose to have it go back on my credit card. The second company was Planet and also user friendly. I did everything at the airport with them.
**If you make purchases above 150-175 Euro, make sure you ask for tax free. I ended up getting a significant amount of money back!! It made a huge difference. If you are buying luxury goods, this is the place to do it! Dependent upon the exchange rate, it could possibly be even more in your favor. There are two different companies that I came across: Global Blue and Planet. For Global Blue, I received the refunds back onto my credit card almost immediately. This was not the case with Planet. They state per their website “within thirty days”. After emailing them and checking on the status multiple times, I finally received my refund. It was well over the 30 day mark. Although this was frustrating, I ended up getting all of my refunds and saving a significant amount of money on luxury goods. Keep the paperwork that you have from them once you arrive back in the States so that you can regularly check the status on their website. If you have to file a complaint, you will need the paperwork and the reference number.
5. Lounge. Malpensa Airport does have a very nice lounge for members with Elite Status. Since we are executive platinum, we had access to one of the premium lounges. Also, if you have a business class ticket you can gain access to the lounge. They had an endless array of drink options including beer/wine, liquor, soft drinks, coffee, etc. For food, they had a number of sandwiches and quiches. Also, they did have some dried foods and tasty crackers that you could bring along with you for snacks on the plane. You can easily pass a few hours in this lounge without difficulty.