Mar202017

Ramada Sofia Bulgaria trip report

For my February trip to Sofia, Bulgaria I booked three different hotel stays for the same dates with reservations for Radisson Blu Sofia on a 2-for-1 rate, Starwood’s Sofia Balkan Hotel on a Cash & Points rate and Ramada Sofia City Centre on Wyndham Rewards GoFast rate.

Why did I choose to keep the Ramada reservation over the other two hotels?

Ramada Sofia

Ramada Sofia, Bulgaria

Radisson Blu Sofia, near Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, is a location close to several of the major city sights as well as near a neighborhood with trendy bars and restaurants. I passed by the hotel on a Sunday night, my second night in Sofia, but I did not go inside the hotel. The neighborhood around the Radisson Blu seemed like one of the most happening restaurant/bar scenes I found during my three days in Sofia.

I booked a King Bed for 54.50 EUR per night on Club Carlson Gold elite member 2-for-1 weekend rate. This discount rate was eliminated by Club Carlson on January 30, 2017 after many years of providing great 2-for-1 and 4-for-2 rate discounts.

Loyalty Traveler – Club Carlson 2-for-1 and 4-for-2 Gold elite booking links gone (Jan 30, 2017).

While there was potential for an upgrade as a Club Carlson Gold elite member, that is not common in my stays and I also did not expect free breakfast at this hotel.

Rad Blu Sofia

Radisson Blu Sofia

Sofia Alex Nevsky

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia

Sofia Balkan Hotel, a member of Starwood Hotels Luxury Collection, seemed like a phenomenal deal at 2,000 points + $35 per night for a hotel room in a historic building in the heart of the city. Rates were over $200 per night those dates.

I have no status with SPG, so I figured I would get exactly the 325 square foot Queen bed room I booked. Breakfast would cost extra too.

Sofia Balkan Hotel is located in one of the key three buildings referred to as The Largo, a set of immense buildings designed in 1950s Socialist Classicism style, also known as Stalinist Architecture, located above Serdika Metro city center underground station.

Sofia Balkan Hotel

Sofia Balkan Hotel, Starwood Luxury Collection

Sofia Serdika night

The Largo complex viewed from outside Sofia Balkan Hotel.

 

Ramada Sofia City Center Hotel

Ramada Sofia City Center Hotel is located near the central train station for Sofia, about 1.5 km from Sofia Balkan Hotel and 2.5 km from Radisson Blu Sofia.

The Ramada location was less desirable as a tourist base than the location for the other two hotels. Basically, I had to walk 1.5 km to Serdika Metro station area and Sofia Balkan Hotel to reach the main tourist district of the city. Although, I enjoyed walking around the neighborhood near the Ramada Sofia and found some great shopping deals there in the more working class market stalls and second hand stores. Ramada Sofia was the hotel farthest from the airport of these three hotels I booked. Since I arrived by plane and not train, and never needed a train in Sofia, the location did not have any advantage over the other two hotels.

King Non-Smoking Suite with complimentary breakfast on Wyndham Rewards GoFast rate for 3,000 points + 23 EUR per night is the reason I kept the Ramada Sofia reservation and canceled the other two hotel reservations for Sofia Balkan Hotel and Radisson Blu Sofia.

Then, about ten days before my trip, I called Wyndham Rewards to get 12,000 points redeposited to my account from a hotel booking for Ramada Amsterdam Apollo I canceled the week before. One of the deals with Wyndham Rewards is hotel stays must be canceled over the phone. I had canceled my Ramada Amsterdam reservation for 4 nights on a GoFast reward stay, but the 12,000 Wyndham Reward points were not credited back to my account.

While on the phone with Wyndham Rewards customer service, I explained the situation about not getting the Ramada Amsterdam points credited back to my account. The agent placed me on hold. After a few minutes she came back on the phone and said my reservation was canceled and my account had been credited 9,000 points.

A little confused, I said it should have been 12,000 points for a 4-night reservation. Then, I learned she had mistakenly canceled my 3-night Ramada Sofia hotel reservation. Online at the same time, I saw there was no longer a suite available with the Wyndham Rewards GoFast rate. The agent was unable to rebook the suite either.

That was how I discovered Wyndham Rewards had just changed their website and part of those changes were to eliminate higher category rooms for reward stays at nearly all hotels. The option to book suites using the standard number of points at many hotels had been one of the little known features of Wyndham Rewards rarely mentioned on travel blogs and a feature I had taken advantage of for several years.

Loyalty Traveler – Wyndham Rewards GoFast Rewards increase copay, reduce room types (Feb 12, 2017).

Ramada Sofia rez

Ramada Sofia GoFast reservation for a suite at 3,000 points + 23 EUR per night.

There was no getting the suite reservation back for my Ramada Sofia stay. As a consolation, a Wyndham Rewards manager credited my account 9,000 points I had redeemed for the Ramada Sofia 3-night GoFast reward stay. I also got the 12,000 points back for the Amsterdam Ramada canceled booking, the original purpose of my phone call.

In the end, I stayed three nights at Ramada Sofia in a standard room with complimentary breakfast for 23 EUR per night.

Ramada Sofia sign

Another issue arose when I arrived at Sofia Airport to see a text message from my wife stating she had missed her Norwegian Airlines flight at London Gatwick to Oakland. I had left my wife at the Amsterdam train station six hours earlier. Now she was stranded in London Gatwick Airport without a hotel room or a flight home to California and needed help with her travel plans.

To make a long story short, I arrived at Ramada Sofia, went to my 12th floor room and spent the next 90 minutes booking a room for Crowne Plaza London Gatwick for , an American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flyer ticket for 22,500 miles + $170 for London Heathrow to Monterey, California for the next day and the Hyatt Place Phoenix Airport for 5,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points for an overnight stay before her flight to Monterey two days later.

In short, I forgot to take photos of my room during my three night stay.

Ramada Sofia TV Elizabethtown

Cameron Crowe’s movie Elizabethtown, dubbed in Bulgarian language, played on Ramada Sofia old style tube TV with kind of snowy reception as I planned my wife’s emergency travel home.

My hotel room was hot. I turned off the heat and opened the window wide to pull in colder outside air in the upper 30s, as well as city smog pollution, into the bedroom. The bathroom remained about 75 F. degrees for my entire three day stay.

Ramada Sofia window

At night the bed springs pressed into my body. The bed was a bit irritating. The bed was not terrible, just not particularly comfortable. Everything else was fine in the room. There was a refrigerator with space for my store-bought beer. Bathroom facilities worked fine. The room had plenty of space with a table, two chairs, coffee maker.

Ramada Sofia view2

Ramada Sofia 12th floor view.

Ramada Sofia Lobby

While my room was nothing special, the Ramada Sofia lobby, restaurant and bar and especially the spa facilities were upscale 4-star quality.

Ramada Sofia lobby1

Ramada Sofia lobby2

The lobby has a store and business center with guest computers and printer.

Ramada Sofia store

Victoria Spa in Ramada Sofia Lobby

The fitness center and a large indoor pool are located in Victoria Spa, accessed in the hotel lobby.

Victoria Spa Ramada

The prices for a massage were some of the lowest I have seen in Europe. If I recall correctly, something like $30 for an hour.

Ramada Victoria Spa

I saw the fitness room and it looked nice with modern equipment.

Ramada pool

The indoor pool is definitely a hotel highlight. The hours were 7am-10pm as I recall and throughout the day there are some group activities scheduled for parts of the pool. My photo is taken standing near the pool bar.

Ramada Pool Bar

Prices were reasonable for drinks at the hotel with beer about $2.50 to $3.00 for a pint compared to $1.25 to $2.00 at city pubs and restaurants.

Breakfast on the Meridien (Mezzanine).

Ramada Restaurant hours

Ramada Sofia Restaurant Breakfast 6:30-10:30am.

Breakfast was basic buffet with kind of funky scrambled eggs.

Ramada Buffet-3

There were sufficient vegetables to make a salad, fruit, bread, bacon, beans, sausage.

Casino Princess

Ramada Sofia City Centre adjoins Casino Princess with a doorway from the hotel lobby into the casino. I am not interested in gambling and never went inside the casino.

Casino Princess Sofia

Casino Princess entrance is about 100 feet from Ramada Hotel lobby entrance.

Ramada Sofia City Centre

This hotel is currently priced at 24 EUR + 3,000 points for a GoFast reward night or 15,000 points per night for a GoFree reward night.

Room rates are as low as 50 EUR night.

My 3-night stay was priced at 135 BLN, which worked out to 23 EUR or about $24.40 USD per night.

Feb-March Trip Report: San Francisco, London, Amsterdam, Sofia, Athens, Warsaw, Gdansk, Stockholm, Oakland

  1. Kensington, London touring Pubs and Thrift Stores
  2. My Square Foot–Holiday Inn London Kensington unkingly quiet
  3. Amsterdam Winds and Windows
  4. Park Plaza Amsterdam Vondelpark 66 stairs to room 36
  5. First impressions of Sofia, Bulgaria
  6. Free Sofia Tour Walk Winter Night
  7. Rocking out in Sofia
  8. Best Western Bonum Gdansk, Poland $39 suite
  9. Trip Report Aegean Airlines Gold elite status progress
  10. Cool Gdansk, Poland is hot tourism destination
  11. Flygbussarna connections to Stockholm’s four airports
  12. IHG Accelerate 2017 Achieved 44,323 points on 2 stays for $317
  13. Club Carlson 70,000 points earned, $470 hotel spent on 8 nights
  14. My London flight plan cranks up wife’s stress level to 11 after she misses flight
  15. My Aegean Miles+Bonus Blue Card arrived

 

 

 

 

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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Comments

  1. Whoa…the city view from your room is quite depressing. I’m glad you posted the other pictures of the city!

  2. Well you got a good price and you got the full Wyndham experience it seems. From jacked up reservations to poor quality rooms. I hate to be so negative but Wyndham is not a good program. Sure there are exceptions. You can get free breakfast at a lot of low end hotels but that doesn’t make them well located or good. Sorry I’m bitter but I’ve had bad experience with them.

  3. @bluecat – My neighborhood was definitely not upscale. I should post my photos of houses and streets around the Ramada. Helps as a reminder that Bulgaria is the poorest country in Europe.

    @DaninMCI – I use Wyndham very selectively. I have had some wonderful hotel stays using my points. More nights on points were simply the best deal I could get for my needs. Generally the hotel is not in the best neighborhood, but within walking distance to where I want to be.

    The issue with Sofia is I canceled my Radisson and Starwood reservations before my suite at the Ramada was mistakenly canceled. It was not like I could switch back since those hotels were no longer available too.

  4. @Ric, Glad you clarified about the neighborhood. I find that many reviews of hotels that I read will concentrate on the facility itself, while just as important to me are the surroundings: noise level, street life, greenery, proximity to the action, etc.

  5. I have never been in this Ramada hotel , but of all the hotel chains that operate in Sofia this is one of the worst property. The building is probably 50 years old and probably the last renovation is from 20 years ago.
    From all three hotels you booked , the best one is Radisson the location and the rooms are very good. ( this hotel will be intercontinental from late 2017 ), few years back when i was there as gold i received a suite overlooking the Parliament with big terrace. Also the breakfast was one of the best from all hotels i have been in Sofia. But the breakfast was inc. in the rate , i dont thing they will give it for free.

    The SPG Balkan hotel was sheraton several years ago ( i thing a big sheraton logo is still on the building. This one is also old hotel , but in better condition then ramada with better beds . The rooms a with hi ceilings which is nice.

    If you take aside the location and look at the quality of the rooms i think Holiday inn and Novotel are one of the best hotels in Sofia ( i exclude non chain hotels ), both are new build from scratch.
    Holiday in is 7-9 years old, but the rooms are in perfect condition with big bathrooms.

    The Novotel is probably 2-3 years old and the room have the new Novotel hotel design.
    As platinum you can expect upgrade to Executive room.

    Hilton is also a good choice excellent location, lounge and the rates weekends are around 60 euro the same is the cost and for Holiday Inn , SPG , Novotel, weekdays are much more expensive.

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