On our Europe trip – Review of travel cards ,hotels and more
I shared the story of our planning a Europe trip in my previous article. Now comes the execution part. How can you save money on your Europe trip, that too in a peak season, and in the expensive cities like Amsterdam, Paris, Madrid etc? So this blog is basically structured into 3 parts – review of the hotels/hostels I stayed in, review and technique of using your travel cards to the best of use, and some tips about food that you can have(this last part is curated towards Indians).
Part 1 – Hotel Review
Here are some details and my review of the hotels we stayed at, the modes of transport that we used, the travel cards we bought and the food we ate while in Europe.
Except for Antwerp, where we booked a couple room in a youth hostel at city center, everywhere else we stayed at IBIS hotels at an unbelievable price range of Rs.5000- Rs.6000 including food.
Disclaimer – We are not IBIS affiliates and we paid for each and every hotel we stayed in. All affiliate links are from Booking.com
IBIS Budget, Amsterdam City South
We got a fantastic view of quintessential suburban society from our room on the 14th floor, about 13 km from the city center. But the tram/metro station was just 50 meters away and thanks to the super-fast public transport we could reach all the important places in the city within 20 minutes. This was the costliest at approximately Rs.7400 per night, but so were all the hostel options in Amsterdam during the peak Tulip season.
I loved the quaint neighborhood, away from the crowded city center, the tiny waterbody outside and the greenery all around. Restaurant space was quite large and the breakfast spread was good.
The breakfast menu included bread, butter, cheese, choice of jam, cold-cut chicken, ham and beef(i guess), lots of fruits for vegans, boiled eggs for non-vegetarians not to keen on cold-cuts, muffins, three types of breakfast cereals, croissant, fruit-juice, muffins and some choices of hot-drinks
#What I loved – The view 😍
#What I didn’t – The cost, nothing specific to the hotel, it’s just the cost of living in Amsterdam
#Tip for first-timers– What I came to know from my friends living in Amsterdam, the tap water is absolutely safe and that is what they drink every day. So keep calm and save money 🙂
Read about our epic trip to Amsterdam (or watch the video to know it all)
Verdict – 4/5
Book your rooms at IBIS budget city south
Browse other hotels below Rs.8000 per night here.
Antwerp Central Youth Hostel
2.5 km from the Antwerpen Centraal railway station, this large beautiful hostel is located at the heart of the city at the fashion-district, close to all the major points of interest at Antwerp. Loved the fun ambiance, spacious double-bed room and delicious breakfast spread here. Slightly noisy at night, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay. Breakfast was great, almost the same stuff as in Amsterdam (it was quite uniform across Europe in fact).
#What I loved – A rack filled with free local guide-cum-map of the city of Antwerp, Brugge, Brussels, and Ghent. A gem for any backpacker
#What I didn’t – The noise at night, but my husband slept like a baby, so maybe it was just my fever that kept me awake 🙁
#Travel Tip – Towels are to be rented at a nominal price, you can save by just carrying one
Read about our epic ZERO budget Antwerp Experience 🙂
|Room at Antwerp hostel|
Hotel IBIS, DeHaan
This one looked and felt like a resort, with spacious rooms, beautiful garden, outdoor dining, and even a swimming pool. Amazing place to relax and rewind in the lap of nature, at the price of any budget hotel in Europe. The only problem is reaching the place as there is only one tram every 30-45 minutes leaving from Ostend to DeHaan
#What I loved – Everything! So much that we forgot to take pictures of the beautiful room and dining space at the garden 🙁
#What I didn’t – Nothing actually. Maybe the initial worry about how to reach the place
#Tip – Book this if you want to spend time in DeHaan and not in Brugge and use only public transport. If you rent a car then it will be easily doable.
IBIS Style, Montmartre (B&B)
Excellent location close to metro station, 300 meters from the glamorous Moulin Rouge and 1.2 km from the spiritual Sacre Coeur. The hotel room was too small to qualify for IBIS Style and the breakfast space was congested, although given the location advantage and complimentary breakfast the price was perfectly reasonable.
Breakfast spread was full of sweet-dishes – different varieties of croissants, muffins, and cake. No eggs, only cold-cuts meat and the rest of the spread was pretty much the same as others. Oh well, fruit juices were DIY, which I liked as you could make fresh fruit juice on your own. If you stay here, don’t worry about food at all, the place is full of amazing restaurants and cafes which are open till late at night.
#What I loved – The throbbing night-life, which makes it safe and normal to return to the hotel at late night
#What I didn’t– narrow corridors and congested restaurant
#Travel tip – Walk and explore Montmartre, it has this beautiful chaotic charm in itself.
IBIS Style, Casteldefells
2km from the beach,12-minute walk from the RENFE train station, and an additional 30 minutes on the train to Barcelona, this place is clearly not for someone who wants to spend all day at Barcelona. But Casteldefells itself is a gorgeous city famous for being home to Barcelona football stars like Messi and Suarez.
#What I loved – The spacious room here and also the location in an upscale society near a Carrefour supermarket and a large shopping & entertainment complex.
#What I didn’t – Distance from the station
#Travel Tip– Keep some time to explore Casteldefells by bike or walk, it is beautiful. There is a castle which we took pictures of but couldn’t go to.
Verdict – 4.75/5
IBIS Budget Calle, Madrid – Located in a busy part of the city very close to the metro station, restaurants and even a Carrefour market, this was the last hotel we booked, almost a month after we had booked everything else. Prices by that time had already soared and all other hotels in the same budget were booked. The room was minimalist as expected, but what we really disliked was the absurd restroom arrangement.
Verdict – 3.5/5
Things that we didn’t get in any of the above hotels/hostels-
– No electric kettle or tea bags in the room. Yeah, that’s something we have come to take for granted in any hotel in India but you don’t get it here at that budget. So if you plan to carry ready-to-cook noodles or soup, plan accordingly
– No dental kit or moisturizers
Things that we got in all the places
– Free Wifi with unlimited high-speed internet suitable for even for video calling, accessing social media and maps with ease, even watching short videos. You can even top up the speed with extra payment.
Related: Most beautiful hotels in 2019
City Travel Cards Review
Iamsterdam city card – Our Review
Available in denominations of 24hours up to 120 hours, this is just one small card that gives you unlimited free access to all public transport within the city and free entry to most of the important attractions in and around Amsterdam- more than you’d have time to see.
|The goodies that came with Iamsterdam Card|
Paris Pass Our Review
- The Bateaux Parisiens River Cruise €15
- 1 Day ticket for hop-on-hop-off Big Bus tour €35
- Aquarium de Paris – a state of the art aquarium wit over 500 species €20.5
- Guided tour of the iconic Opera Garnier €15.5
- 56th Floor, Montparnasse tower €18
- Louvre Museum – €15 for 1 day, with Paris pass you can visit it as many times you want in 2 days + save at least 1 hour with skipping the line
- Orsay Museum €11
- Rodin Museum €10
- Notre Dame Crypt €6 and Tower €8.5
- The roof of Arc De Triomphe €12
Here’s your ultimate guide to a perfect evening at Paris for a first-time visitor- A Perfect Evening in Paris
Barcelona card – Our Review
- The train fare from Barcelona airport to Casteldefells would be about €4, and the daily rail fare from our hotel to Barcelona was €2.5 – €3.
- Also include bus fare to Tibidabo, La Rambla and other places within Barcelona, we had easily saved at least €40 only on intra-city travel.
Add to that the discounts we took on the places we visited using the card, we easily surpassed the value of the card by over €20.
- Skip line and Free entry to CCCB – A dynamic visitor attraction which organizes a wide range of exhibitions and activities every day. saved €8 for two exhibitions
- Skip line and Free entry to National Art Museum of Catalunya – saved €12
- 50% off on Casa de le Punxes – saved €5
- 20% off on Barcelona bus tourists, the hop-on-hop-off tourist bus of Barcelona – saved €8
- €4 off on a funicular ride to Tibidabo amusement park – saved €4
- €4 off on a 40-minute cruise in the Mediterranean sea from Barcelona port
- We also got a ridiculous discount at Subway and McDonalds that reduced our joint expenditure on food to less than €15 per day
Madrid transport card
Well, I did spend a hell lot of time and effort in scanning all our cards and trying to recalculate the expenses and savings we did with those. Hope it helps someone in planning their travel.
Budget Food Options in Europe Tour
I don’t think I can be a food blogger, because when food is served to me, there’s only one thing that comes to my mind – eat it. I browsed on my phone to check if I took any photos of the food, turns out that was only once. Food in Europe is expensive, but that doesn’t mean that you should become a camel – gulp everything in the Breakfast buffet and store it for the rest of the day. No – you are in Europe to enjoy yourself not starve. So here are my rapid-fire review and pointers for food in Western Europe-
– I LOVED Amsterdam the most, but.. please don’t take offense when I say this is the worst food destination. Crazy expensive, not so great.
- At Amsterdam, the only place where we found cheap food was the kebab and sandwich shops in the red-light district. The ambiance there resembles those small crowded roadside egg-roll outlets of Kolkata or kebab shops in Delhi. This was the city where even McDonalds was costlier than other cities, but that is a safer, relatively cheaper option here.
- Spain was the best food destination. Relish on the local cuisines – Tapas and Paella while pouring yourself a glass of Sangria, if you drink. The food in Spain is cheap and the local cuisines are more palatable for Indian taste-buds (spicy gravy and well-cooked meat). Good news for vegetarians, they have good vegetarian versions of their food as well, as from what I understood, there are many vegans in the country
- Speaking of vegetarians, Antwerp would delight you all – the growing Jain Indian community has a strong influence on the diamond city’s changing eco-system so you will find good Indian vegetarian restaurants there are budget rates.
- Well, we are a “strictly non-vegetarian couple” as my husband says, so we ate delicious prawn pizza in the afternoon and Chinese (cooked in Indian style, if you know what I mean) at Wok the walk.
- Now how can I give my honest opinion about everyone’s heartbeat – Paris 😏. As I said the breakfast spread was a bit too sweet, in fact, Paris is indeed a hub for mind-blowing desserts- we’re talking macrons, pastries, and chocolates. But when it comes to breakfast, lunch or dinner, the local cuisine may not be loved by Indians. But worry not, as Paris has innumerable Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi restaurants all under the uber category of Indian Restaurants. We had an absolutely wonderful Indian meal for dinner near Montparnasse on one day and another at Montmartre. So just look out for Indian restaurants in these two areas. There are some fantastic vegan places too if you want.
- When in Paris, avoid easting near Eiffel tower if you are on a budget – it’s tempting, but not rewarding enough. Of course, if you want a luxury experience you should try the restaurant in the second stage of the Eiffel tower or on the 55th floor of Montparnasse.
- Now, some generic pointers for Indian budget travelers-
- When in doubt, go to McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC or Subway (my favorite). Subway, in fact, is the most healthy option of all the above. There are standard rates and tastes as expected
- Buy water, muffins, cold drinks etc. from the nearest Carrefour if possible. Yeah, that’s one place where you might as well get things cheaper than in India without compromising on quality.
- If I am to believe the locals (which I do) the tap water is the most common source of safe drinking water in Holland, Germany, Belgium and most of France (Paris being one of them). Always ask the hotel receptionist whether the tap water is safe for drinking, because packaged water is not provided for free in hotels or hostels, and they are pretty expensive.
- If you have to buy packaged water, as I said, go to Carrefour or any supermarket, do not buy it from the hotel. (I wish I knew this before spending about 10Euros on the packaged water in Amsterdam😞)
Please tell me in the comments and pin the image below for your next trip. If you like it share it 🙂
Read the first part for a guide to planning your first Europe visit!
Also read travel stories from our Europe series on Prague, Toledo, De Haan, and others.
|Pin it and read later|
This is so useful! I'm going to forward this to my friend who is planning a trip to a few of the cities you've mentioned! Thanks for the great post.
Wow honestly all of these places look great! Especially that hostel! My only hostel experience was absolutely awful, so this gives me a little more hope for hostels around the world lol
An awesome and informative post about some of my favourite cities! Really liked the foodie section and tips – couldn't agree more about Spain, we loved the food there too! Nothing beats paella and sangria. So true about eating far away from the Eiffel Tower too, the restaurants are so pricy around there!
I love IBIS hotels for what you get for the cost too! When I was in Amsterdam about 4-5 years ago, I stayed at IBIS city south as well! I’m not sure if they still do this, but when I stayed there they had bikes that you could rent, so I just rented bikes from the hotel and bikes to the city centre and everywhere I wanted to go. Your photo and description of IBIS de haan sounds so lovely that now I want to visit de haan just to stay at the hotel lol. Great finds all around!
What a super informative article, love it! It would come in handy to anyone organizing a trips to these fantastic European cities! Totally agree with you about Amsterdam being very expensive, I had the same feeling when visiting it a few years ago!
Looks of great information here for first time visitors to Europe. I didn't know Indian visitors had so much trouble with food in Europe – I thought you would be keen to try lots of different things. Bit of a shame you had to resort to Burger King and McDonald's – that would have been enough to send me home! Hopefully next time you come back the food situation has improved, a lot.
I am glad that I visited your page. You see, am saving for my own version of Euro trip and doing many research for the places I want to visit. I will take note of using these travel cards plus the use of guide books and maps because sometimes Google Map isn't working.
Thanks Diana. Indeed, IBIS city south still have the facility of bike renting.. only if i knew cycling 🙁
I'm so glad to hear that Spain was your favorite food destination, as I am on my way there in one week! Plus, I'll be hitting both Barcelona and Madrid — two of the cities you covered here. Yay! I'm glad to hear the vegetarian options were plentiful as well — that's perfect for me. Regarding the Paris Museum Pass, I'd just add that it's also great for avoiding time spent in lines, so that's another useful reason for it. Thanks for sharing these tips!
This is quite an informative post. I actually loved all the hotels and hostels that you stayed in. What I liked most is that you have suggested vegetarian options in foodie section.
That's a fantastic summary! I hadn't bothered about DeHaan, but now after reading your post I will definitely go.
Yes, dental kits aren't in rooms. But are mostly available free of cost upon request. I asked about it and they said, most customers don't use it so they end up discarding too many unused dental kits (coz, electric toothbrush is common here and people carry their own in travels!).
It can be tricky to afford a holiday in Europe when travelling about quite a bit, especially if the trip includes a long-haul flight as well. Your suggestions about finding the most affordable modes of transport, and budget hotels and dining, are definitely the way to go. A lot of cities now do those travel passes for visitors, which are often a great deal, we like the ones that also give entry to some of the attractions, and the one we used in Ghent even included a canal boat excursion.
I really don’t think that traveling through all of Europe is either practical or desirable in one go. Just discovering France properly could take a lifetime. Or the UK or Germany. Or Norway.
You are right. But if everyone has the same goal then people would travel within their own country all life 🙂
Not saying that’s not awesome to explore a single country thoroughly, but everyone has different styles. There’s no one right way of exploring the world
A beautifully detailed and helpful post. You touched so many important points. Hotel, tourist attractions and their price, public transport and of course food. It will come in handy for anyone planning a trip.
Thank you so much for your kind words. Glad that you found it useful!
What a wonderfully detailed post on all the little things that go into planning a Europe trip. Even though you clearly like the IBIS hotels, not all of them measured up to your expectations. I really appreciated your breakdown on the city passes and whether they were worth it. I’ve had mixed results so I liked the breakdown for example in Paris on how much you would have spent without it. I agree that food in Europe is so expensive and hard to plan for!
Thanks a lot for your comments 🙂
What a super informative article! I especially liked the breakdown on the city passes and whether they were worth it was awesome. You sure gathered some useful information for first-time visitors in this article!