Highly anticipated arrival of the biggest European low-cost giant Ryanair has been greeted in Zagreb with excite of all of us that have been eager to jump on our first flight since the pandemic. In this article you’ll find more information about the inaugural flight, flying experience in the ‘new normal’ and a few budget advices on the destination from the perspective of a student.
Flight and airport experience
Arrival to the Zagreb International Airport, as usual, by the Croatia Airlines shuttle bus directly from the main bus station, as the cheapest and most convenient option with departures every half hour. Check-in opened 2h prior to the departure with no big crowds. The only new thing so far is that even the passengers who have completed the online check-in and carry hand luggage only, still have to come at the check-in desk due to inspection of the necessary documents prior boarding (depending on the destination and current restrictions; ours was negative antigen Covid test not older than 48h to enter Italy). Why is it so important to check-in online and everything you need to know in case you decide to fly Ryanair read in the following paragraph about Ryanair!
After the check-in duties were completed, followed the usually less pleasant part – the security check, however alongside the boarding control it went smoothly and with no complications. That left us with over an hour to enjoy the duty-free shops and wait for the landing of our airplane that was at the time leaving Milan for the first time towards Zagreb! Our recognizable flight FR6000 is not only one of the first Ryanair's flight from Zagreb but also the first the first flight from Zagreb to Milan ever! Boarding went followed by relative distancing and surgical face masks that were required for the flight by Italy. Our Boeing 737-800 wasn't really full – especially regarding the promotional prices of the flight. Window seat paid off since the views were amazing! Panoramic view of the runaway and the capital at the background upon takeoff was followed by the views of: Karlovac, mountains of Croatia, Istria peninsula along with the surrounding islands, Venice and the entire lagoon, lake Lago di Garda, while on the other side the Alps! Since our entire row of the seats was empty, I managed to catch the views from both the sides.
Landing to Milan i. e. Bergamo was a bit steeper and bumpier due to hilly approach since the vicinity of the Alps. Upon landing we could see a lot of Ryanair’s aircrafts parked which is no surprise since Milan Bergamo Airport is Italy's 3rd busiest airport and the most of its traffic is Ryanair itself. Unpleasant surprise was the fact that all of the documents required by the country that needed to be submitted online (Ryanair app walks you through it) were not valid and we had to fill them again in written form with the help of the staff that did not know a single word of English. Afterwards we finally entered the country and our vacation could start!
Return flight from Milan to Zagreb Airport
A pleasant surprise was that on our return trip, at the Departures terminal the staff was fluent in English and with short instructions I was able to complete the self baggage drop-off within just minutes. This process allows you to admit to flight your already checked-in baggage yourself and with no long queues. All you need to complete this process is the QR code from the boarding pass on your app (or printed out). Scanning the code prints your luggage tag which you proceed to the self service drop-off desk with. Within just few minutes your checked-in baggage is on its way and you can pass through security check and boarding control. Both went smoothly and so did the boarding for our flight FR5999 which was crowdier this time.
Flight time is around 45 min. In-flight service doesn't include giving out the magazine anymore so if you'd like to buy something mid-air you'll have to download the magazine from their app before the flight. All the payments are cards only (or the NFC option from the smart devices).
Things which you should know about Ryanair
Ryanair is the largest European budget airline by scheduled passengers flown and has carried more international passengers than any other airline. It offers flights that can take you for just a few euros to the other side of the Europe. In order for prices to stay as low, they use hidden fees to make extra money. What you need to keep in mind in case you decide to book one of their flights is to do online check-in and have your boarding pass with you either in printed form or digitally. Their app is user friendly and especially useful these days with the changing restrictions that it notifies you about. If you wish to do the check-in at the airport’s desk, you'll have to first pay around 50€ fee!
Also, the lowest fare has only the small bag (a rucksack) included, for everything else you'll have to pay extra (10€ and higher). In case you wish to book a specific seat (window one for instance), you're looking at few euros more to spend, otherwise you'll be randomly allocated 2 days prior the departure. Big advantage of these flights is that their price doesn't change in case you book one-way which gives you bigger freedom when it comes to your travel itinerary and which I'd used up to max on one of my adventures but more on that soon!
Milan as a weekend getaway
Weekend getaway in Milan has exceeded our expectations. One of the world's fashion capitals is, as expected, a city with high standards. However, instead expensive 5 star hotels, choose the private accommodation option (such as Airbnb) somewhere a bit outside of the strict city centre and there's already huge difference in budget. The city is well-covered by public transportation which offers one or more daily tickets to save up even more. Just do not buy MilanoCard since it's not working (you’ll get the refund eventually). Furthermore, just a bit outside the strict centre the prices in restaurants also become affordable with pizza prices as low as 7€ and gluten free options for 8€. Due to medical reasons, my diet is exclusively gluten free but in Italy that is not even a slightest inconvenience despite the fact that pizzas and pastas are everywhere. Just look for the restaurants with the sticker AIC (Associazione Italiana Celiachia) – Italian Celiac Association that are approved, and luckily most of them are! Enjoy your safe pizza!
TOP 5 MUST-SEE:
Duomo cathedral- World's biggest gothic cathedral,
galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – mesmerizing blue window ceiling shining over the passage among some of the most luxurious fashion stores and restaurants,
Tower Bosco Verticale – self-sustainable skyscrapers in the wealthiest neighborhood, filled with trees,
Naviglio Pavese – the channel filled with restaurants and bars on both shores and amazing atmosphere perfect for warm summer evenings out on the open,
Starbucks Reserve Roastery – the biggest Starbucks in the Europe with the entire process of coffee making visible for all the coffee lovers.
Keep in mind
Though in Italy law doesn’t require face masks out on the open anymore, due to the severance of the first wave in northern Italy, people still wear masks all the time! In closed areas and public transportation face masks are obligated and don't misbehave since just lowering your mask down from the nose can result, if not in high fines then heated arguments with the locals. On all the flights departing to and from Italy it is required to have a surgical face mask!
Milan Bergamo Airport is in fact located in the city of Bergamo. It is approx. one hour ride to Milano by the shuttle bus or train. Both options depart roughly every half of hour and cost just a few euros.
Covid passports in Italy still aren't fully running, which means that you'll still need a negative antigen test not older than 48h to enter from Croatia with no further restrictions no matter if you own a Covid passport or not. Once when active, you'll be able to get the passport even after the first dose, 15 or 22 days upon receiving it, depending on the vaccine type. To return to Croatia, you'll just need your Covid passport in theory, in practice not even that!
More advices and fun facts about this trip but also my other adventures you can find on my instagram profile @preparefortakeofff.
Text and photos: Marino Kurilj