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Wednesday, March 01, 2017

One night in Frankfurt, Germany

While returning from Copenhagen, I had two options- Option 1: Take a flight with only 90 min connection time, reach home early or take another flight which has 12 hour transit time (one night) at Frankfurt. I promptly opted for the later, as it  would give me a night to explore Frankfurt. One night is not enough to explore a city, but under the circumstances, that was best I could manage. I was hoping to explore whatever bit of Frankfurt I can manage.

But my Frankfurt transit stay didn’t go very well. I had option of staying at a hotel in the city (at my own expense), or go to friend’s place which is 2 hours away by train or spend whole night in airport. I opted for the first option and booked a night in Smart Stay Hotel, which was supposed to be closer to Frankfurt Airport.

The shuttle miscommunication
The hotel said they have an airport shuttle every 15 minutes and asked me if they should reserve a seat for me. (Costs 7 Euros one way) I replied asking if I can just walk-in without reservation (I can’t predict my arrival to last 15 mins precision- flights get delayed, walking time from gate to pick-up point need to be factored etc. I assumed they will have one shuttle every 15 mins and I can just hop on the next shuttle.  When I came out of Frankfurt airport, there were no shuttles. I had to take a taxi to hotel that cost me 27 Euros (Room rent was 41 Euros). The hotel staff told me that they will send shuttle only if guest requests and books, not otherwise. If they had communicated this earlier as a reply to my query I could have saved 20 Euros. There’re other hotels closer to airport but they were a bit expensive.

Though in map the hotel seemed very close to airport, by road it was about 10-11 kms away. It was all highways, couldn’t spot any area of interest around the airport or on way to the hotel. It was about 10 PM when I checked in. I had till 8 AM before I had to go back to Airport to catch my connecting flight to Chennai. After a quick fresh-up I walked around the hotel area to see if there’s anything of interest. Like any other city, Frankfurt has a few churches, bridges, museums and parks that could be of tourist interest, but nothing close to airport/my hotel and nothing much that can be explored in the night. There are river cruises, day trip to nearby cities etc but all these are active only during day time.

I walked around the hotel a bit-had some coffee and donut in a convenience store at a fuel station. The lady at the counter asked me “Sir, Do you have enough gas in your car”. I had to reply that I don’t have a car and just walked in. Then it stuck me I could have also tried renting a car from Hertz or Avis or Budget and go on long drives on the autobahns- something I always wanted to do. Car rentals in Europe cost about 50 Euros a day onwards (small cars) and go all the way to about 200 Euros a day for luxury cars like Audi, Land Rover etc. But again cost aspect, limited time and the risk of missing my flight if anything goes wrong held me from trying the same. It was also very cold outside- around 4 degrees in the night and reached -2 sometime during midnight. Not the best time to venture out.

I slept well in the room. Early morning made an attempt to go for a walk to a lake I could see on the map nearby. But cold weather, low visibility forced me to turn back-wasn’t very sure if I can get very close to the lake, take some decent photos and get back to hotel in time to check out. Only ended up walking around the highway, fuel station and buildings. Apparently there is an Indian restaurant in the area, but I couldn’t locate it. Hotel staff offered to call them and order some Indian food for me, but I declined, as I had my apples and chips to survive, in addition to what I had at the convenience store.

Took a shuttle back to airport- costed 7 Euros this time, driven by an Indian- of UP origin. We spoke a bit in Hindi on the way to airport. He said the migrant crisis is now under control. After realising I am Indian, he tried to ask me to get down at wrong terminal and take train to my terminal-saying they only drop at one terminal and not both (there was another passenger in the shuttle who wanted to go to Terminal 2 while I had to go to Terminal 1.  I didn’t like this approach and insisted that I must be dropped at my terminal, which he eventually agreed. On the way to airport I saw a 2 km long building which housed Hilton Hotel, the train station that connects to all cities in Europe

This is the story of my one night in Frankfurt. Couldn’t explore much in Frankfurt but got some idea about the airport and city- can plan better if I have similar situation in future. Also Frankfurt is not Paris or Amsterdam- not one of the top popular tourist cities. There is no justification to force fit a long transit time here. Only advantage is if you have Schengen visa you can get out of airport into city without needing a transit visa. But then, if getting out of airport and exploring city is your objective, Doha, Amsterdam or Paris might be better options. (You can apply for free transit visa in Doha if you have enough connection time with a Qatar airways ticket, I guess same for Eithad also).

Quick Notes:
About Frankfurt Airport
Very spacious with lots of walking required in between. Has all standard facilities but I did not spot any major attractions/time pass activities like what Changi offers. 60-90 min transit time is manageable if you’re quick enough. Long distance train station can take you to most of Europe directly from FRA airport. For the first time I saw de-icing in action.



The colourful casino themed baggage belts were interesting (First photo)

About Smart Stay Hotel, Frankfurt Airport
Located in a quiet neighbourhood, sleep quality is great. Rooms are small but for the price, fair enough. Airport shuttle is offered at 7 Euros per person per ride but needs advance booking. An in house restaurant is available. Rental was about 41 Euros a night, higher than what I had paid in Berlin few years ago for a similar hotel. (But that was 2013) Breakfast is not free. No drinking water in the room. Reception staff was very polite. If only they had responded to my msg in time I would have saved 20 more euros.

2 comments :

Sapana` said...

Hi Beautifully written travel experience. I have been to Frankfurt and Ulm long time ago. It was amazing. Germany is so beautiful. Green beautiful landscape and awesome food.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Sapana