Guest Post by Alexandra Martyanova, Foster School Undergraduate Student.
Travel – The easiest way to reach any of the three airports in Milan (Linate, Malpensa, Bergamo) is to take the metro or tram to Central Station and hop on a shuttle bus. It’s quite affordable (8-12 Euro depending on which airport) and probably offers the least amount of hassle. When initially arriving in Milan you will most likely fly into Linate or Malpensa; Malpensa is quite a ways out of town and even further from the Arco dorm residences. I highly recommend taking the shuttle from Malpensa instead of the train into town as it is cheaper, faster, and it’s much easier to load your luggage in a bus bay then on the train. The shuttle buses go to Central Station and you can catch a cab from there to Arco for about 20 Euro – between the travel and luggage, it beats attempting to navigate the public transportation system right out of the gate.
I encourage everyone to take the train in Italy at least once (to Venice, or Rome, or Florence) for the experience. We don’t really have the same train infrastructure back in the states and it can be a great way to see the countryside. However, depending on the destination, it can frequently be cheaper to fly than to take the train if sticking to one of the myriad low-cost airlines in Europe.
Money – It’s best to arrive in Europe with a little bit of the local currency in cash form because it will make your life a little bit easier if paying for shuttles, or cabs. While many airport currency exchange kiosks can be a rip-off, it may be worth the fees/exchange rates so you have some 30-40 Euros on hand to hit the ground running. Prior to leaving Seattle, check with your bank regarding international and transaction fees: BECU charges only a 1% fee for withdrawing abroad or using the card at point of sale. Some banks will charge you a percentage in addition to a foreign transaction fee ($2.50/transaction with US Bank). I was able to easily get by in most cities in Europe with a combination of some local currency, my BECU Mastercard bank card for larger purchases and a VISA credit card that had no foreign transaction fees whatsoever.