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This week I stayed one night in the Holiday Inn Express Belgrade – City in Serbia.

This hotel was on the current PointBreaks, though it has sold out for PointBreaks. (In fact, the only European hotel left for 5,000 points or $29 stays through July 31 is the Holiday Inn Garden Court Wolverhampton.) For the next two days, IHG points are being sold so cheaply that you could book 24 consecutive nights at a similar PointBreaks hotels for $690, which is $28.75 per night, or $862.50 per month, if you want to compare it to your rent.

I’ll do a quick rundown of PointBreaks and whether to use them for long term stays instead of Airbnb or apartments and then a trip report of the hotel itself.

Live in a PointBreaks Hotel

PointBreaks List

IHG Rewards Club is the loyalty program for InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Candlewood Suites, and Staybridge Suites.

IHG Rewards Club normally charges 10,000 to 50,000 points for a free night depending on the property. But every few months, IHG Rewards Club releases a list of a select few hotels where you can stay for 5,000 points per night. That’s a 90% discount on some hotels!

The current list of PointBreaks hotels is good for stays now through July 31, 2016. Unfortunately IHG caps how many 5,000 point nights can be redeemed at each property, so this list which came out April 25 is much diminished. Get ready to hop on the next list, which will probably come out around July 25 and will be covered here.

Buying Points

You can always buy IHG points for 0.63 cents each through this method, meaning you can always book PointBreaks hotels for $31.67 per night.

Through Friday (June 3, 2016), you can purchase IHG points for 0.575 cents each through this link, meaning you can book PointBreaks hotels for $28.75 per night. You are limited to 120,000 points through this method, enough for 24 nights at PointBreaks hotels for $690.

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I don’t believe there is a limit for the 0.63 cents-per-point method.

Looking at the list of available hotels in South America, there are still some interesting ones. I wouldn’t mind spending a month in Rosario, Cuiaba, Natal, or Puerto Montt one bit. (Guayaquil wasn’t my cup of tea.)
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You could book a month at the Holiday Inn Express Rosario starting tomorrow for 150,000 points, which would be $862.50 during the current sale. (Buy from more than one account, since each account is capped at 120,000.)Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.09.57 PM
For a month’s rent, 30 breakfasts, and daily maid service, that’s an interesting price indeed. I briefly considered booking the Holiday Inn Express Belgrade for my 35 days in Belgrade, but decided against it. My Belgrade apartment is $690 during that time period ($19.71 per night). I would have happily paid the extra $9 per night for the hotel for the breakfast and maid service if it had a kitchen and it were located where my apartment is, but it’s a few kilometers from where I want to be.

So I’m basically saying if you’re a nomad like me, live in a PointBreaks hotel if it is in an interesting place and you don’t want to cook for yourself.

Trip Report: Holiday Inn Express Belgrade City (PointBreaks Hotel)

Last year, I came to Belgrade for one month. I did what I read on the US State Department’s website and registered at the nearest police station on my first day:

U.S. citizens with tourist, official, or diplomatic passports do not need a visa to enter and stay in Serbia for up to 90 days.  However, you must register your presence within the first 24 hours of your arrival.  If you are staying at a hotel or similar accommodation, they will do this for you automatically.  If you are staying at a private residence, then you will need to register in person at the nearest police station.

My Airbnb host went with me happily, but she told me I didn’t really need to register. She’s probably right, but better safe than sorry.

This year, I knew I wanted to stay in an apartment again instead of a hotel, but I didn’t want to waste another hour on registering, so I decided to book a hotel for the first night, so they’d register me automatically.

The Holiday Inn Express was on the last PointBreaks list, so it was a no brainer to book.

The hotel is not ideally located for tourists. It is 1.4 miles from Republic Square and 2 miles from Kalemegdan Fortress, which in my opinion, are the centers of the tourist area. There are much better located hotels.

I took an 1,800 dinar flat rate ($16) taxi from the airport to the hotel–I loved the flat rate given my trouble with Serbian taxi scams–which was about a 25 minute ride.

Check in at 11 PM was smooth, and I was told that as a basic IHG member I could get free late checkout until 2 PM.

The lobby had a retro look, which I looked.

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The sleek, modern elevator…

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…took me to room 510, which was a standard room with one king bed.Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.04.25 PM Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.04.37 PM Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.04.46 PM The bathroom was nice looking. I didn’t have a chance to use the shower.Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.04.56 PM Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.05.04 PM

The room also had a safe.

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I was happy with the room except for the free internet. My computer joined the network fine. Then my phone got an error that the user name was wrong. I called down, and they reset something allowing my phone to sign on. Each subsequent attempt to get on with my phone or computer required the same call. There must be a limit of one device per user name, which is insane in 2016. The reset calls were only 30 seconds each, but that’s still annoying.

The bed was comfortable, but I didn’t get much sleep, which was probably a combination of recovering from a crazy sleep schedule in Prague, leaving the temperature at the pre-set 76 degrees (24.5 C) instead of turning it down, and mis-using melatonin.

I woke up at 9:15 AM and headed down for the free breakfast, which runs 6:30 – 10:30 AM.

I was impressed by the free buffet. They had (roughly) American bacon…
Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.05.32 PM …cereals…Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.05.41 PM …fresh and dried fruits…Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.05.49 PM Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.06.10 PM …pastries and breads…Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.06.18 PM Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.06.28 PM …veggies…Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.06.38 PM …cold cuts and cheese…Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.06.46 PM …and yogurts.Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.06.55 PMI fixed a plate of bacon, salami, cheese, and veggies and got a glass of juice. As soon as I sat down, an employee came by to ask whether I wanted scrambled eggs or an omelette to order. That’s a nice touch!

A few hours later when I went to check out, I was mildly annoyed by the bill. (I didn’t actually book this as a PointBreaks hotel, and I’ll explain why tomorrow. It had to do with bonuses.) Online, it said my bill would be 54.30 euros, but that was a lie. The hotel collects payment in Serbian dinar.

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I understand that far more people know how much 54.30 euros is than know how much 6,695 Serbian dinar is, but I think the hotel should tell you what you’ll actually pay when you make a reservation, not approximately how much that amount is in some other currency.

I asked to have the hold on my credit card removed and to pay the bill in cash. The bill was 6,695 dinar, which means the euros were converted at 123.3 dinar to the euro, which is only overcharging customers by about 0.1% or less.

Interestingly the hotel had an automatic currency converting machine in the lobby, which could change dollars, euros, pounds, and Swiss francs into dinar. It offered only 119 dinar per euro, which is 3-4% worse than the 24 hour exchange places within a few blocks of the hotel. Belgrade is overrun with exchange offices and the rates are excellent.
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Bottom Line on Trip Report

The hotel was nice. The breakfast was delicious and varied. The internet and being charged in a currency other than the one on my reservation were annoying. I wouldn’t stay here again because of its location. There are better located hotels and Airbnbs in Belgrade.

Bottom Line on Living in PointBreaks

I would happily pay $862.50 per month to live in a hotel in an interesting place if there were a healthy, cheap restaurant nearby, but there are not many of those around, so I’ll stick to Airbnb for now.

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