We touched down at Amsterdam Schiphol at 8am on 27 August after a 13-hour flight, broken by a 1.5 hour stopover at Helsinki (since we were flying with Finnair). After collecting our luggages, we then attempted to buy train tickets to Maastricht from the station at the airport. Unfortunately, we were still very unfamiliar with the system and all, so we had trouble with the ticket machine. 2 Chinese girls offered to help us. Now let’s pause at this moment as I must say that in general, I am very suspicious of ‘helpful’ Chinese strangers because I have heard of all sorts of horror stories that most of such people are out to scam your money. But these 2 girls were honestly trying to help us and this has softened my stereotype of Chinese. However, we were unable to purchase the tickets from the machine because it turned out that a bank card was needed to pay, so in the end we went to the ticket counter to purchase them. They cost 24.50 euros per pax, one way, with a transfer at Utrecht.
The trains in the Netherlands are a pain to navigate, especially when you have a heavy luggage with you. The trains are typically double-decker, and you don’t really want to be climbing stairs when you have a trolley bag in tow. The most frustrating thing is that not only must you climb stairs to get to the upper deck, you must also climb down the stairs to get to the lower deck. (see picture) And there isn’t any luggage hold in the seating area too.
Fortunately, there is a landing area where the exits are, and they have pull-down seats available, with ample empty space for you to place your luggage. The WCs are also located at this landing area. That was where we sat for the second-half of the train journey.
The train system can also be confusing, as depending on the route you take, sometimes the train will split into two at a certain interchange. We had to get out and walk to the front (or was it the back?) of the train in order to get to Maastricht. Initially, we changed to a wrong train and luckily we asked the other passengers if the train was heading to Maastricht before it left. When we heard that it was the wrong train, we scrambled to get out of the train with our luggage, for we had already settled comfortably in the seats. Some of the Dutch saw that we were rushing to get out, but at the same time struggling with our luggage. Here’s the thing, the Dutch can really be very helpful. They helped us carry our luggage up the stairs and down the train! Really thankful to these people for their kind gesture.
After a total of 2h45min, we finally arrived at Maastricht Centraal. Because we had contacted the ESN Maastricht (a student network) beforehand to request for the (free) pick-up service, they were there waiting for us outside the station. We then got onto a van which drove us straight to the UM Guesthouse. When we checked in, we needed to pay immediate rental for the month of September which will cost us 554.50 euros. However, if we chose to pay this amount in cash, they would charge us an extra 15 euros as they claim that it is unsafe to store so much money in the Guesthouse, hence they wanted to deter people from paying in cash. What an outrageous demand! (from my perspective). If we were in Singapore, merchants would gladly accept cash instead of card payment as they were subjected to a bank commission charge. We were both taken aback. My roomie paid using her Singapore debit card but as I didn’t have one yet and I had yet to open a Dutch bank account, I asked if she could pay for me first, which she did. (On hindsight, my roomie calculated that it would have been cheaper to pay the 15 euros in cash, after taking into account the additional 2% (or 2.5%?) bank charge for overseas payments. Oh and I paid her the money in cash plus the additional bank charges. Oh well… as in the Singlish lingo, we kenna scammed!
Oh and I bought the linen package from the hostel. At a cost of 40 euros, it comes with a duvet, duvet cover and pillow case. (the room actually came with a naked duvet but I have no idea whether it is a used one or not. Anyway it’s sitting in my wardrobe for the time being) Initially I thought of bringing all these over from Singapore but my luggage was too full already. As my roomie brought 2 luggage, she had plenty of space for her bolster, pillow and duvet. But, we both forgot to bring bedsheets (the bed didn’t come with any) so we temporarily used the duvet cover as a bedsheet for the first few days, until we had time to go to the shopping centre Brusselsepoort to buy.
Here is a picture of the room. It is pretty spacious (later we learnt that this is only the case for certain rooms, as most rooms are smaller. Guess we got lucky!)
We spent the day cleaning up the room (e.g. washing the dishes, wiping the chairs and tables etc) and settling in.