With my recent trip to Europe I used a combination of bed and breakfasts and couchsurfing. I also booked some places beforehand and others a few days before arriving. September is still a pretty busy month for tourists and leaving things last minute can become difficult especially the more popular cities, such as Amsterdam. On the couchsurfing.org site you can list yourself for host or surf or both. People list profiles and reviews, and you choose which person would suit you best and send a request. Some hosts will just give you a space but don’t have time or are not interested in showing you around, talking with you or whatever. Whereas other hosts state explicitly “don’t treat this as a hotel” and want to interact with the surfers in some way, maybe even show them around.
Of my couchsurfing experiences, one was made last minute when problems happened with a B&B. Most of them were great, with friendly hosts willing to chat, share dinner or even show me around. One was not a great experience, the host being rude, condescending and living in a very dirty and smelly place. It was uncomfortable to be there and when more couch surfers arrived, he was friendly to them so maybe he did forget I was coming and was embarrassed by that. However, three surfers when he had said he had room for only two meant one person slept under a towel the second night because of insufficient bedding and bed space.
I stayed at the Turret Guest House in Horley on my arrival and it was basic, a little rundown, tiny with the smallest shower in existence. A large or tall person would have had trouble fitting in the shower; I could barely turn around. The towel was small and thin and when I asked for a second I got a bath mat. They talked about raising the price in the near future from 38 pounds but I think they need to upgrade a few things. The breakfast was fine and they pick and drop you off at the airport.
I eventually just went with the B&Bs because my money was working out better than I anticipated. I also worried about inconveniencing a host. Some give you a key, some won’t. In certain cases you need to be out of the place when they are and if you come in late at night, would you disturb them? My first B&B was in Delft and I had booked it online a couple of nights before. For this purpose I brought a laptop with me but I didn’t have a phone. Booking as I went actually became a bit stressful and next time I would see if I could get a cheap phone in Europe since my own didn’t use a SIM card and wasn’t compatible. When I arrived at that first B&B I waited an hour and a half and the woman never showed. Eventually I trundled back with suitcase to the tourist information center that most cities have. Luckily Delft is small and I was trying to book in the town center.
I looked up other places but had a fairly limited budget for what I could spend, about 50 Euros which is the equivalent of
about $65 CAD. I let the woman at the counter know this and she found me a place not listed on any site. The owner had just returned from vacation. 98 Plantages was a short walk from Delft center. The Dutch do this thing where instead of saying 98 they will say eight and nine or eight and ninety. I thought the woman had said 89 so after no answer I remembered being told this the night before and went up to 98 Plantages.
Liesbeth met me and was immediately so warm and friendly, helping me carry my suitcase up the stairs and giving me Imodium for the tummy issues I was having. She also suggested a few places for dinner. The room was clean, bright and newly renovated. It had WiFi, a TV, a complimentary half bottle of wine and a table. The room was about 52 Euros. Like any place I stayed in, in Europe, the buildings are centuries hold, with little insulation and large windows. Cars going over cobblestones are noisy and you’re bound to hear some sound in the mornings. It didn’t bother me too much though.
The breakfast was more than enough though she thought I ate little and included spreads (salmon, pate) plus jams and the Dutch predilection for sprinkles on bread. I could have had more but my stomach was happy with this. Notice the Delftware. I stayed three days in Delft, one with a couchsurfing host and two at Lies’s. I’d recommend her place but you’d have to find it through the local tourist office as she’s not listed on a site. Of all the B&Bs I stayed at, I enjoyed it best.
Holland (and England) was a blend of couchsurfing and the B&Bs. It’s always good to find out if WiFi/internet is included, if there is a price with or without breakfast, if they have TVs, hair dryers, shampoos (if you want these things) and how close they are to public transportation and likewise, if there are a lot of stairs. People with physical problems will want to try to get lower floors or go for more expensive hotels that have lifts/elevators. I’ll talk about Belgium the next time around.