My wife and I stayed here for 3 nights on vacation from June 8-10 2011. We were pleasantly surprised. We had expected just another airport hotel stay, en route to somewhere else, but found the stay to be enjoyable, such that we were a little sad to move on to our next destination. I travel quite a lot on business, having spent about 5 weeks total during seven stays since Sept 2010, at hotels in Los Angeles, San Antonio, Kokomo IN, and Toulouse France. All of these stays were at Marriots (Courtyard or Residence Inn – the latter being my favorite). This time (on holiday, not business) we chose the Holiday Inn Express (HIE) over the Marriot-Schiphol, due to its lower cost, more convenient location and free breakfast. We ending up paying $40 + points for the first night, and E149 total for the other two nights (E75 per night, 2 persons). We found this to be very good value. We got this low price by paying in full 3 weeks ahead.
Upon arrival at Schiphol airport around 1500, we went straight to the Information desk where a helpful lady told us to get the free shuttle bus to the hotel. She pointed us to the courtesy bus stops in front of the airport (3 minutes walk). The bus has “Crowne Plaza Hotel” on it and leaves from the “A” rank (stop A9). We waited there for perhaps 30 minutes and the bus arrived. In another 15 minutes we were dropped off at our hotel. Friendly driver. The check in was smooth and the two ladies at HIE (Desiree and Metrill) were friendly and efficient. They gave us a top floor room facing north, per our request.
Our room, #417, was perhaps one of the nicer ones, with windows on E and S sides, the latter providing a nice view south and lots of light. The room was not large – about 10’ x 12’ overall, I measured – but the 27” flat screen TV worked well (lots of channels – perhaps 6 languages, including two BBC and one US channel), the kettle worked well, and the bathroom was modern. Soap dispensers in shower and next to basin, for both hands and hair. The air conditioning, so often noisy (even in Marriots), was very quiet- a big plus for us. (As quiet as the Marriot in Toulouse, and quieter than most in the US). Super comfortable pillows. Noise from the airport was barely noticeable. The hotel has two PCs in the lobby for guests – no charge. I did not see a printer though – that would be a help. Wifi worked fine in the room – for my laptop (W7), our two IPod Touches, and my Kindle. Reasonably fast, and a lot more reliable than at the Marriot in Toulouse (my one major gripe during my stay there in Dec 2010). At the HIE, one has to re- log in once a day – this works best with Internet Explorer.
The breakfast was tasty but then we stayed only 3 days. One writer said it got boring after 7 days – seems possible. There was no hot food but I don't mind that. There were several cheeses, cold meats, pastries, boiled eggs, whole grain breads, apples, kiwi fruit, bananas (once), great muesli, cereals, yoghurt, juices, low fat & whole milk, a wide tea selection, and tasty Douwe Egberts coffee dispenser, with 5 or so different versions (why so many? even a staff member was confused). Just try them all – good fun!. No decaf though – one has to ask for this- instant only, but tastes OK. One comment to the hotel: on 2 or the 3 mornings between 0700-0730, a hotel staff person vacuumed the lobby. This created quite a noise and upset the ambience. Both times many guests were present. It would be nice if he could do this before or after breakfast, which ends at 1000.
As regards travelling to Amsterdam by train, it is easy but there is a potential trap. The hotel staff told us how to walk south, to cross the road, and then to follow the bike path west to the “Hoofddorp” (HD) station. This is a nice walk, and passes a small pond with waterfowl and large grey carp. At 0.5 miles from the hotel (per my GPS), one crosses the first main N-S highway and spots a ticket dispenser next to stairs leading up to the platform. This caused Reviewer Akv4 a headache, as it takes only coins or a special travel card. I also had neither, but was luckier- a friendly passer-by said to walk another 200 yds west to the main entrance, and to buy my tickets at a sandwich shop. The staff there were very friendly and helpful (shop closes 20h00). A RT ticket to Amsterdam Central is E8.80 2nd class. Trains leave on the hour and half-hour (platform 3). Train trip is smooth and pleasant and takes about 20 min. The train is fast – 65-70 mph. One can buy an undated ticket if desired, one for each of several days. This saves a last minute rush to the sandwich shop. I think the HI staff might be wise to warn travelers to visit the sandwich shop, not the ticket dispenser. As regards time to walk to HD station: upon our departure, with two carry-on wheeled bags and 2 small daypacks, it took us 13 min/ 0.65 miles (per my GPS) to the HD platform (ready to board), then 5 min wait for the train, then 5 min to Schiphol. Total 24 min from HIE door to Schiphol train platform, then perhaps 200 yds/ 5 min to airline check in counter. Cost E2.50 each. If it isn’t raining, it is a good way to get to the airport, as the trains are reliable (every hour and half-hour), and one doesn’t have to hang around for 20- 30 min awaiting a bus. The bus is also more costly (E7.50?). Of course, one has to walk 0.65 miles for the train and climb about 20 steps, but knees and luggage permitting, this good for the soul and the waistline.
The return train to HD from Amsterdam Central leaves from Platform 15. Remember that HD is a few km west of Schiphol so the train will pass through the airport.
There is no exercise room – a negative for me. However, I solved the problem by climbing up and down the 5 flights of stays 12 times (takes 20 minutes). This stairwell is glassed on 2 sides and has a pretty view N and W, toward trees and a duck pond.
Overall, we found the staff (Desiree, Metrill, Hank and others) to be helpful, and always friendly. Perhaps they could have been more forthcoming about where to buy train tickets or find a cheap place to eat. Hank, in the breakfast room, quickly ran off and retrieved several packets of decaf coffee when asked. The young lady at the desk was happy to hold our bags for us for half a day after we had checked out, and before our next flight left, so we could visit the HD downtown.
Several writers mentioned the lack of cheap places to eat near the HI. If you aren’t up to a short walk, they are correct. Restaurant l’Hirondelle is an upscale restaurant about 5 minutes walk toward the HD centre. It is beautifully situated on a small lake with a fountain. It has indoor and (romantic) outdoor seating. Not cheap – main dinner dishes are around E20. Lunch is cheaper. This was beyond our price range, so we walked into the HD town center. This is about 0.6 miles (15 minutes walk) along a pleasant bike path. There, one can find all kinds of reasonably priced food. The cafeteria-styled Hema for example charges E3 for a hamburger and E1.75 for a 500 ml coke. Pastries are E1.50-3. A bit crowded on Saturdays. Open Tues-Sat until 2100 (9pm). Outside HEMA one can indulge is a Dutch delicacy – raw herring burger (E1.75, with “alles op” i.e. “the works”). There is a Burger King open every day. There are also several mid-upper priced restaurants. Another option (which we used) was to visit the excellent Albert Heijn supermarket in the main mall, near Hema. It is open M-Sat 08-21. As nice as any in Seattle, with similar (sometimes lower) prices and a wider selection of cheeses, fruits and veges. Delicious Jonagold apples and navel oranges for E1.49/kg or about $1/lb. Cold beer is E0.92, cold coke 500 ml is E1.35. Excellent whole grain bread baked on the premises is E2.20, with cheaper loaves available. Low fat PNB! The staff were helpful and friendly and several times stopped what they were doing to direct me to a requested item.
About 5 minutes walk from the hotel, and next to the l’Hirondelle restaurant, is a wonderful nature preserve – perhaps 20 acres in extent? Here one can wander along peaceful trails in the woods, and relax on benches near several ponds. On one there was a pair of nesting coots, with 2 babies about 3” long. When the parents weren’t feeding them they were chasing off any hapless duck that chose to land in “their” pond. Right next door is a children’s petting zoo, called the Boerenzwaluw. It is run by a non-profit as a playground and petting area. Pre-teens and teenagers volunteer to help care for the dozens of chickens, goats, sheep, ducks, rabbits and peafowl. There are several old tractors to clamber upon, a sandpit, teeter-totter and a huge statue of a cow. Outside is an aviary with parakeets, and the like. The place provides employment for several developmentally disabled people. It is worth a visit. Entrance is free.