See: Why hire a car in Milan ? | Why not? | Ratings | Summary | Comments
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Milan is in car rental price band: 4/10 (1 = cheapest car rental location)
General comment - based on price alone, is it worth renting a car in Milan?
Sometimes. Car rental is slightly cheaper than global averages.
Can you expect big swings in car rental prices in Milan between the peak and the off peak season?
5/10 (0 = stable prices)
Driving score: 8/10
Non car score:10/10
(0 = car hire not advised / 10 = rental car essential)
General comment -
Why? Visiting Milan using a hire car
Why do you need a car in Milan ?
- Europe’s Great Lakes District – especially Lake Garda, Lake Como and Lake Maggiore, are all within an easy drive. If you rent a car in Milan (or at any one of the three airports), you have the flexibility to travel at your own pace, rather than being constrained by train timetables.
- Great northern cities – when you rent a car in Milan, you have the flexibility to explore at your own pace, and northern Italy has many great cities within a short drive of each other. Milan is the natural base from which to explore Turin and Genoa to the west, or Venice and Verona to the east, together with numerous smaller towns and cities that aren’t so easy to explore by train.
- Driving standards – as a general rule, standards of driving in Northern Italy are much more careful than their southern Italian counterparts, although as with anywhere, the usual precautions should still be taken, especially when driving in and out of airports.
- Alps – Milan is a great gateway to the southern Alps, both in summer and winter, but train services to many Swiss resorts are much better when approaching from Zurich to the north. This is why a car might well make more sense.
Driving v transit
- Public transport is disjointed. However good some train routes may be (see below), the rail system in and around Milan is still not well connected.
Whereas Rome and most other major cities in Italy have one central terminus, Milan has several. Although Centrale is by far and away the biggest, especially for long distance services, the Malpensa Airport shuttle is split between here and Cadorna, and other regional services may also terminate at Garibaldi.
Meanwhile, suburban trains in Milan are usually routed through the Passante rail tunnel, which avoids Centrale Station completely. To change between the two systems, you will need to take the Milan metro via Repubblica.
- Slow speed Rail – High speed rail links direct from the Malpensa airport terminal look tempting – for example, services reach Florence is just over 2 1/2 hours. Except that this service only runs twice each day. So the chances are that you will have to change twice in Milan to reach other destinations. Also, if you fly into Terminal 1 with easyJet, you will also have to wait for a transfer shuttle to get to the Malpensa Airport railway station – this is the Italian plod!
Why not? Visiting Milan without a car
Why don't you need a car in Milan ?
In and around Milan
- Transport Hub – it might not quite be as efficient as those you will find just above in Switzerland, but public transport in northern Italy is still good by European standards, and the main focus is still on the hugely impressive Milan Centale station, on which Washington D.C.’s Union Station was modelled.
- Orange Trams – maybe not quite as famous as those in San Francisco, Milan still has a network of famous orange trams, supplemented by one of Europe’s most extensive metro systems outside a capital city.
- Milan city – of course, the city of Milan itself needs no introduction, and needless to say, there is no need to get a hire car for travelling around within the Milan area.
- Turin by train – why not hop on the fast train to Turin, and you can be there in just over an hour.
- Other great Italian cities – various options are available, either for extended day trips (Florence is around 2 hours by high speed train), or for multi city touring, with Venice also being within easy reach. Or why not experience Italy’s two largest cities in the same trip – fly into Milan, take the train down to Florence, and then continue down to Rome?
Lakes & Mountains
- Northern hub – in many respects, Milan is Italy’s most important city anyway, not least because it is a huge centre of fashion and of commerce in general. This is reflected in the high quality of public transport links in and around the city.
- Lakes by train – many of the scenic areas mentioned above can be visited by train, or better still by a combination of train and ferry. Having a car with you can add greatly to the cost of any ferry journey. On the other hand, going by train can be a much more enjoyable way to appreciate the scenery, and to stroll around the many towns along the way.
- Ticino – Milan sits right below the two trunk railway routes into Switzerland, and this is where you will find the Italian speaking canton of Ticino. The “Cento Valli” (A Hundred Valleys) route from Locarno is a personal favourite. These lines can easily be enjoyed in a day trip from Milan.
Ratings: How does Milan compare?
Is it worth hiring a car in Milan? TBC
This is based on a rough consideration of the costs of renting a car in Milan, and how this compares with the costs of using public transport. The answer to this varies hugely from one destination to the next, based on a wide range of factors. It's based on renting a car at the airport (TBC), and driving for an average of 2-3 hours on open roads on most days.
How does this compare if:
You are travelling:
Solo / As couple / small family / larger family / senior couple etc
Does car rental make sense on different budgets?
Do you need to hire a car in Milan? TBC
This is based strictly on whether or no we think it's possible to visit Milan (and the surrounding area) without using a car. Of the three key questions, this one is the most likely to be a "no".
Should you rent a car in Milan? TBC
This is a balance of all factors. Remember this is an answer to the question for people who are already asking it. That's why the answer might still be a "yes", even when public transport is good.
See global comparisons
Hiring | Driving | Parking
Trains | Buses | Local travel
Car hire basics:
Public transportation basics:
Regular bus services: YES
Coach (inter-city): YES
High Speed Rail:
Rail type (end stub / through / junction / hub):
As you start ....
Does Milan airport have a direct rail link?
(Yes - within terminal / adjacent / short walk) (Yes - bus transfer / other) No
Has our advice for Milan car rental changed over time, or has it been pretty constant?
2017 - 4
2019 - 4
2021 - 3
Average score - 4
Conclusion – Should you rent a car in Milan? A car is great for visiting the scenic lakes to the north and east of Milan, but I think that it is even better to enjoy these by train and ferry. For many of the cities in northern Italy, a hire car can be as much of a hindrance as it is a help, especially as public transport in and around Milan is far superior to what you will find in Rome, or anywhere else in Italy for that matter,even if it is disjointed.
If you rent a car in Milan, it will give you some flexibility to access one or two places that are out of reach of the trains, but it may also be more trouble that it is worth in many more places. Public transport in and around Milan is far from perfect, but there is certainly plenty of it, whether you want to visit great cities, lakes or mountains.
Verdict – no
Do you or don't you need a car in Milan ?