A Very Expensive Blunder – When the Rat Race Traps You

Sometimes what you force yourself to believe is that you have thought things out carefully. Then you are surprised when this “best” thinking really goes haywire. Those are times when it goes wrong, derails, crashes, and makes you feel lucky to have financially survived at all.

When we were planning this trip, the airfare from Budapest was outrageous. I always look at alternate airports: Vienna, Munich, or other places where there are budget airline flights. Vienna is only 3 hours by train, Munich is 8. The best deal I could locate was from Munich which shaved about $300 from each of our plane tickets. MÁV, the Hungarian railroad has specials for €39 for a one-way fare to Munich. We booked one night at a hotel near the Munich airport where we would get their shuttle to the airport in the morning. So far so good.

What was not factored into the equation was getting to and from the hotel. Okay, it was a subway and then a bus ride, so not a great expense. Their courtesy airport shuttle was not a free service, so we paid something like €15 for the ride.

While still in Nicaragua, I got to thinking that after two long plane rides lasting over 13 hours, one night in Munich on the way home may not be sufficient. We opted for two. Now this is an interesting tidbit. Ron had used Priceline.com to book our Munich hotel for the first night and paid $77. When we decided to extend it to 2 nights, I did it directly with the hotel and paid $69.

Munich is behind the times with hotel services. WiFi cost $5.99 an hour or with a minor discount if you opted for the 7 or 24 hour plans. I refused to pay it mainly due to the fact that they had 2 different plans, one being faster than the other and of course more expensive. When I balked at reception, the young lady gave me codes to access the complimentary version. Needless to say, you type in the code, which releases a carrier pigeon to deliver your e-mails and a tar coated funnel that allows your incoming mail to enter your inbox. Every ten minutes, I was knocked off of the connection. Was I ticked!

Our first night we went to the Hofbrau Haus for a beer. Some costumed Bavarian men shared a table and chatted away in good English. One has a cousin in Erd. It was too noisy and busy to have dinner there. We ventured over to Paulaner im Tal where we had a great dinner, excellent service and delightful surroundings.

The next day, we went to the train station to book our tickets back to Budapest. When we bought the outgoing ticket they would not sell a return for 2014. We went thinking €39 each, €78 total, so I would pay cash. Up to this point, we had only used the credit card once the entire 7 weeks, a fact I was proud of accomplishing. We asked for our tickets and the ticket seller said €240. WHAT??? What happened to €39? Well that is if you buy 3 days in advance. If we could leave on Monday rather than Sunday, we could have snatched that fare. I had to go to school on Monday. I had taken off more time than anyone appreciated, so I wasn’t about to risk the ire with another day. We had to use the charge card again.

Our second night, we went to Hacker Pschorr Brauhaus for dinner. We have eaten here on prior trips for Munich and for what you get, the food is good, plentiful, and reasonable considering this is a major tourism city. We really like the atmosphere of the outdoor area, which they cover and heat in winter time.

Three things about our waitress set me off. First I ordered a beer from their menu. She shouted “What is that? I have never heard of that.” Suddenly, I felt transported back to Budapest. I pointed to the German menu and she shrugged her shoulders and wrote it down.

When Ron later ordered a 2nd beer, he repeated which of the beers it was that he had the first time, requesting a second of the same. When she returned we immediately realized it was the wrong beer by the color. She took off so fast we did not bother to try to get her back to remedy it.

Finally, the icing on the cake was when I paid the bill. It came to €38.50. I gave her a €100 bill and 50 € cents. Rather than leave my currency on the table while she made change, she immediately put it into her wallet and then handed me a €10 note. She was ready to zip off, but I stopped her saying just a minute, I gave you a €100 note. Even if I had given her a €50, the change was still not correct. Without blinking an eye and without any remorse, she said “Oh, right!” She then proceeded to give me more change, but still shorted me €2. Before this, the €2 Euro was going to be part of a €6 tip, but then I changed my mind. I said what you shorted me is now your tip.

I had a strong suspicion that this may be a way for the staff to fleece the tourists. As we were leaving, she nodded at us as she was speaking to another waitress and they both started laughing.

As it turned out the ‘savings’ flying from Munich was reduced by transport there, hotel one night before, dinner at the hotel since it was in the middle of nowhere, transportation passes to get to the hotel, shuttle to the airport, transportation passes when we returned, two breakfasts and dinners out, two nights in a hotel, and a very expensive train ticket.

I think Budapest will be our airport of choice for the future.

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