A few times per year IHG releases a list of hotels that can be booked for only 5k IHG points.
Problem is, they’re usually in the boonies.
The ones that are remotely close to a desirable location or not in the boonies sell out quickly.
Last September I lucked out, as one of the hotels on sale was just outside Zurich, where I’d already purchased plane tickets to visit.
After an overnight American Airlines flight from Philadelphia to Zurich, we zombied through customs and into Zurich’s airport on a bustling Friday morning.
I usually wing it when it comes to the finer details of my travels.
This was to my detriment this time, as finding the train station part of the airport, then the correct platform, then buying train tickets without Wi-Fi or cell service turned out to be a challenge.
Looking back I should have printed out a Google Maps step-by-step of how to take the train to my hotel or figured out how to use my cellphone in Switzerland.
Instead, we took the train into downtown Zurich, thinking it’d be easier to find the right train to the hotel from there.
Once we got there we decided we should breathe some Zurich air before heading to the suburbs.
Once outside the sprawling downtown train station, well, the line of taxicabs was too tempting. How expensive could it be? It’s only 10 miles or so, right?
“How much would a ride to Affoltern Am Albis cost?” I asked a driver standing in front of a minivan.
“Oh I don’t know, we just use the meters,” the man explained in his German accent as he helped us with our bags.
As the taxi meter steadily ticked upwards, I gulped.
After a 15-minute taxi ride, the minivan taxi spit us out in front of our hotel, 117 Swiss Francs down. A Swiss Franc is pretty much 1:1 to a U.S. dollar currently.
Zurich is charming. But not cheap.
What I should have done
The ZurichCARD rocks.
I bought it for my last couple days in Zurich the following week, but I failed to buy it my first day.
It comes with unlimited public transportation access, including a scenic water taxi route around Lake Zurich, and free entry to the fascinating National Museum Zurich.
Importantly, it also comes with an info booklet that includes maps and schedules of the train and bus routes.
Also, if I’d hunted down some Wi-Fi I could have used Uber and paid about half of what I paid for the cab ride.
What about the hotel?
The hotel was nice.
It’s only a couple of years old I believe, so everything was fresh. Our taxi driver wasn’t familiar with it.
We got there a bit before noon, so of course our room wasn’t ready yet.
“It’s our nicest room,” they said. “Last night’s guest is still leaving, but we’ll get it ready as soon as possible.”
This was my first time trying out the elite status that came with my new IHG credit card, so I wasn’t accustomed to the room upgrades that would happen at every IHG stay on this trip.
IHG asks you what the occasion for your hotel stay is when you book.
I must have checked “Romantic Getaway” or something, because this is the room we shuffled into on the top floor:
They were fake rose petals, but still a nice gesture, especially considering they let us check in three hours early.
Like many Holiday Inns Express, this one had a business feel, so the suite was small but perfect.
With a nice view of suburban Zurich:
There’s a bike/walk tunnel right behind the hotel that takes you right to the train station:
Please forgive the iPhone photos. I was too tired to dig out the SLR.
Here’s the view from the end of the top-floor hallway:
A moodlit option and a normal option.
The breakfast was bomb.
That means it was good.
Fresh fruit, meats, cheeses, and breads, along with several different coffee options.
And every kind of bread spread option you could ever want.
Because it’s a Holiday Inn Express, breakfast is free, which is very helpful when in Switzerland and not wealthy.
Normally 20k IHG points or $120 per night.
How’s the proximity to Zurich?
It’s an easy, beautiful 30-minute train ride (~$15), or a very expensive taxi ride (~$120). Or a medium priced Uber ride (~$50).
The hotel staff recommended a nice Italian restaurant that’s next door, but we were about to drive through Italy for a week, so we opted to walk through the sleepy town and find a tasty Asian fusion restaurant.
Yep, all the usual, though no pool.
The Wi-Fi worked well.
The hotel doesn’t have a restaurant, but there’s a bar attached to the front desk that has some good German beers on tap.
I slept like a baby here. Twice. First upon arrival in the morning, then again that night.
All of the staff were extremely friendly and helpful.
If you do decide to take a taxi, make sure to specify the location, as the Holiday Inn in Zurich proper and the Holiday Inn Express near the airport are much more well known.
Did I miss anything? Let me know!