People have commented in the past about how it seems odd to let a hotel determine my destination for a trip. I am not referring to a luxury hotel resort dream getaway or an historic hotel icon steeped in old world tradition and fantasy. I am talking about going to a place like Vilnius, Lithuania due to a $30 per night hotel deal at the Crowne Plaza or Holiday Inn Express West Pensacola, Florida as a consequence of booking an IHG Rewards Club PointBreaks promotional rate.
Yet, many of us snatch up mistake airfares to fly off to places we never even considered visiting until the moment there was an opportunity to buy an airline ticket at a significant discount bargain .
In my quest to plan a September trip to anywhere in Europe, I have stumbled across Belgrade itineraries that work for low airfares. Hey, Belgrade, Serbia is one of the few cities in Europe with a Hyatt Hotel for those spending newly purchased Hyatt Gold Passport points from today’s Daily Getaways. Not that I am one of you few.
You might not think that Belgrade, Serbia is a place you really want to get away to in Europe and visit for a few days and nights. Perhaps some readers who have been there and done Belgrade can enlighten those of us with no experience to Europe’s ‘party city’?
Several articles I have read on Belgrade, Serbia describe the place on the riverbanks of the Danube as not among the prettiest cities in Europe, but Belgrade definitely ranks as a ‘party’ capital of Europe.
- http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/europe/belgrade-has-risen-from-the-ashes-to-become-the-balkans-party-city-1651037.html (article is 7 years old now, but most authentic piece I read in my quick Google search.)
- http://thehungrypartier.com/ultimate-guide-to-the-nightlife-in-belgrade/ (USA traveler Drew, The Hungry Partier, has been to Belgrade twice and lists 10 club favorites for summer and winter season partying.
I have traveled through several party capitals in Europe, so what seems more appealing to this budget traveler is the low price index for food and drink, activities and transportation in Belgrade. Numbeo.com Belgrade Cost of Living Index at 37.8 compared to New York City is quite a price index spread. I look at data and see food in Belgrade is indexed at 32% of the cost of food in Monterey, California. Restaurants in Belgrade are 41% of Monterey prices. That makes me think I might even consider eating out in a restaurant unnecessarily if I were traveling there.
Numbeo.com Monterey, CA to Belgrade, Serbia Cost of Living comparison.
This kind of data tells me that it is quite inexpensive to be a tourist in Belgrade. My activities tend to be the same kind of things locals do around the city as long as I have access. A site like Numbeo tells me the disposable income of people in Belgrade is under $500 per month on average. I am not loaded with greenbacks, but I do figure about $500 per week for my travel in Europe. In places where I save on hotels due to having points available for room payment, then more of that $500 can go to entertainment and activities. That means I likely can spend more to be entertained in Belgrade for a few days than the average local.
The cost of living index for Belgrade really hits home when I look at Monterey, California compared to Vilnius, Lithuania. My trip earlier this month with five nights in Vilnius pleasantly allowed me to not consider how much I was spending each day to eat and ride around on public transportation and go to museums. Kelley and I started out in Amsterdam and trying to budget 50 EUR per day is challenging there, even with hardly any museums or activities costing 10 EUR or more. No eating in restaurants and using discount multiple day Amsterdam city transportation passes to avoid $3 one ride fares were budget savers. Then we went to Vilnius for six days and 50 EUR a day meant a restaurant meal for the two of us, all the beer we could drink in restaurants and markets, hot food in grocery stores and plenty of food in the hotel room each day. We even picked up souvenirs.
The data shows Vilnius is only 52% lower than Monterey for restaurants and 45% lower for groceries. A direct comparison on Numbeo.com shows Vilnius grocery store prices are 40% higher than Belgrade grocery store prices. I was buying whole cooked chickens for about $2.50 USD in Vilnius and spending about $20 per day to feed Kelley and I with fresh vegetables, fresh assorted fruits, hot chicken and packaged seafood (most expensive items), plus plenty of local beer. That tells me I can spend days in Belgrade on very little spend. To make Belgrade a short-list travel destination for me is finding a good value hotel that costs me very little in cash or points and possibly even earns some hotel loyalty points.
Belgrade in September is a travel destination I never considered before. I am not much of a late night person, but I do well in early morning. Perhaps I’ll be on California time for a few days if I go to Belgrade as my first destination in Europe and 3am Serbia will feel like 6pm in Monterey to me. I might be able to experience a day or two of Belgrade ‘party’ summer nightlife, before returning to my normal sleep pattern of early wake, early snooze – just in time to greet the morning folks heading home after a night on the Danube dancing.
Hyatt Gold Passport in Belgrade
Hyatt Regency Belgrade
Friday August 6, 2016
- Free night = 12,000 points.
- Cash + Points night = 6,000 points + $78, or $87.37 after tax.
- Nonrefundable advance purchase rate = $152, or $168 after tax.
- Standard rate = $189, or $209.55 after tax.
- 6,000 points saves $122 on Standard rate.
- Room night total cost over $150, if you happened to buy discount points today on Daily Getaways when 6,000 points sold for around $70.
- Belgrade probably has better deals (unless, like me, you are HGP Diamond with the opportunity to use a confirmed suite upgrade on Cash + Points stay and receive free restaurant breakfast each morning). Even then, there are probably better deals to be found in Belgrade if I searched more hotel rates.
Belgrade lodging suggestions are welcome.
Club Carlson in Belgrade
Radisson Blu Old Mill Hotel Belgrade has a higher TripAdvisor.com ranking is #3 of 79 Belgrade hotels with a lower price than Hyatt Regency Belgrade #4 on April 29, 2016.
Club Carlson Visa card members have complimentary Gold elite membership in Club Carlson and can book 2-for-1 and 4-for-2 rates in Europe.
Radisson Blu Belgrade is $66.31 per night on 4-for-2 Club Carlson Gold elite member weekend rate for Wed to Sun Aug 3-7.
- $66.31 Gold elite member 4 nights for 2 nights rate in Europe and earn points and promotion bonuses.
- $92.25 nonrefundable advance purchase rate and earn points and promotion bonuses.
- 38,000 Club Carlson points. Stay does not count for promotion bonuses.
- 10,000 points + $69.19. Stay does not count for promotion bonuses.
- High value is found in some 2-for-1 and 4-for-2 elite member discount rates when you can find them.
Radisson Blu Belgrade looks like the better value to me when compared to Hyatt Regency.
IHG in Belgrade
IHG has three hotels and three hotel brands:
Hotel rates August 4-7, 2016 (3 nights)
Club Carlson looks like the best deal to me, although a low Holiday Inn Express Belgrade rate looks good if you happen to be in the city during the current IHG Share Forever promotion running May 1- Sep 5, 2016.
Loyalty Traveler – IHG Share Forever 65K + free night takes too many nights May 1-Sep 5, 2016 (April 13, 2016).
Marriott Courtyard Belgrade City Center is category 4 at 20,000 points per night. Rates for Aug 4-7 start at 102 EUR.
Starwood Hotels Metropole Palace, Luxury Collection Belgrade is a SPG category 3 hotel for 7,000 points per night. The rates for August 4-7 start at 128 EUR per night for a Superior room. There are no standard reward nights available in August for online booking, similar to what I saw today for Sheraton Dubrovnik in Croatia, where reward stays for any date during the entire month of August.are by phone reservations only. The paid rate is probably the better value compared to the potential value of 7,000 Starpoints redeemed for reward nights at other more expensive hotels.