Hotel Review: Intercontinental, Lusaka

Our journey through Zambia was coming to an end and the next day we would fly to Windhoek via JNB.  After all those bus rides and accommodation ranging from backpackers to cheap hotels to safari lodges.  Now it was time to pamper ourselves in a bit of luxury courtesy of my Chase Free Night benefit with the IHG Rewards card at the Intercontinental Lusaka.

We took a taxi from the Lusaka Intercity Bus Terminus, I think it was 30-40ish Kwacha.  One of these days I have to remember to write down taxi fares.

The large lobby had a special desk for IHG elite members which I had from my IHG credit card so we had a relaxed check-in, then admired some artwork before heading up to the room with our out-of-place backpacks.

The room was typical of a 4 star hotel and had a nice view of the swimming pool.

Yay, a bath tub!

As an elite, I was gifted with wine and fruit in the room, a nice touch!

Free wifi that works very well!

We decided to just hang out and relax, I wanted to catch up online so we got room service for dinner.  I had some kind of pasta, my husband had kebabs and chips.  We aren’t foodies so it was all good.  I really just wanted internet!

Our hunger sated, I looked out the window for birds, not too many around.  If we hadn’t been so tired we would have gone for a walk, the grounds were pretty nice.

Safari Bar is near the restaurant which overlooks the swimming pool.

The fabulous buffet breakfast wasn’t included on a free stay but it sure was delicious!  We ate so much, we didn’t need lunch!

Waffles & pancakes

Omelette station

Afterwards we went down to the pool.  It was a bit too cold to swim that day so we just hung out a bit.

Dark-capped Bulbul

We really enjoyed out stay here and the staff treated us very well.  One man told us where to find cheaper taxis ( the official hotel taxis are expensive) and when check out was delayed due to a new person not knowing how to process the free stay, I was gifted 5000 IHG Rewards points without even asking!  They have a free airport shuttle which waited for us to settle our bill.  The flight was delayed anyways.  I’m happy to recommend the Intercontinental Lusaka!

IHG Pointbreaks Through 31 Oct 2017 – Good Options In South America

The quarterly PointBreak list is out and valid for bookings between 31 July and 31 October for a mere 5000 IHG points.  As usual, domestic USA hotels dominate but for eco-tourists, there are some good options in South America.



Due to the limited availability, each member may only book two PointBreaks® Reward Nights reservations per hotel during the special offer time period. Offer and participating hotels are subject to change at any time, valid for booking through Oct 31, 2017. All other Reward Night terms and conditions apply. To view participating properties, simply click one of the regions below.

Please note that Reward Nights booked through PointBreaks® may not be sold or used for commercial gains. Doing so is a program violation and may result in the freezing of your account, the forfeiture of all point transfers, rewards, vouchers, or merchandise issued pursuant to point redemptions and any accrued points or miles in your account, as well as cancellation of the account and your future participation in the Program.


HOLIDAY INN GUAYAQUIL AIRPORT – We stayed here in 2016 so I have a detailed review.  Good option for convenience to the airport and a good staging point for birding in Cerro Blanco Reserve.

HOLIDAY INN MANAUS – You may be passing through Manaus on the way to an Amazon adventure or making day trips to Adolpho Ducke Reserve to the north.

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS BELEM ANANINDEUA – Another staging point for the Amazon River in Brazil, also check out the Parrot Island to see 1000’s of Orange-winged Amazon Parrots!

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS PUERTO MONTT – Gateway to Patagonia and Chiloe Island which are good birding areas.


Hotel Review: Holiday Inn Internet City, Dubai

We just needed a cheap and cheerful room for free on points as I knew we would be arriving around 2 am and found a good option using IHG Rewards at the Holiday Inn Express Internet City in Dubai.  It was one of the cheaper ones at 20k IHG points and also had a free shuttle to Mall of the Emirates.

We weren’t really that tired as we pulled up in the Etihad car as we slept well on the plane

The room was really nice, especially for a HIX which is at the budget end of the chain.

We enjoyed the breakfast buffet which was free, even on a points stay!

The shuttle minibus to Mall of the Emirates was being serviced so after a bit of coaxing, they paid for a taxi to take us and one other guest to the mall.  We passed the Burj al Arab on the way. 

Once at Mall of the Emirate, I made sure we complied with the dress code-we did.

I really wanted to try the Discover Ski lesson at Ski Dubai since I have never tried to ski in my life.  Unfortunately there was a public holiday giving locals a 3 day weekend and the place was packed!  We would have had a 3-4 hour wait and I didn’t want to hang around the mall all day so we just watched for a while.

Shake Shack for lunch, we don’t have this in Australia but I love their burgers and shakes!

Most of the mall shops were just like you would find in any large city shopping mall with an emphasis on luxury brands.  We walked around a bit, then decided to get the metro to Deira where our next hotel was booked.

IHG Pointbreaks List Through 30 April

For the eco-tourist, there are a few good options in Central America but otherwise not a terrible inspiring list.  Loyalty Traveler has the whole list and Points with a Crew has a map of the properties.  The ones that jump out at me are as follows:

Intercontinental Maracaibo – I know Venezuela is not in a good position now for tourism but this hotel is in an area close to good birding and I am dying to go there.  But make sure they have toilet paper!

Crowne Plaza San Jose Corobici – Good for an early flight out but PLEASE don’t spend your whole time in Costa Rica in the city just because there’s a good deal.  Costa Rica has so much more to offer!

Intercontinental Santo Domingo – Lots of good birding in the Dominican Republic and this looks like a really nice hotel.  Just need to get up early and drive out to the birding hotspots.

Holiday Inn Panama Canal – Well positioned north of the city on the road towards Soberania National Park, an easy morning drive.

Hotel Review: Intercontinental San Juan

This would be our last night in the Caribbean after the most amazing birding adventure ever, the next day we would be off to mainland USA to see family.  I wanted something special, preferably free on hotel points – and I got exactly what I wanted.  Intercontinental San Juan was a spectacular finale to our epic trip and even came with some surprise birding but you’ll have to read the whole review first.

It was raining as we finally arrived at the hotel after a long and busy day so I wasn’t thrilled with the self-parking being across the street.

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The lobby is beautiful and elegant and the check in staff were very friendly and helpful.DSCN4516 DSCN4517

The room was large and very clean with nice amenities in the bathroom.  The wifi worked brilliantly as well.DSCN4518 DSCN4519

Maybe the carpet is old-fashioned but the beds were very comfortable.DSCN4520

And the view was awesome of the pool and the sea just beyond.DSCN4521 DSCN4522 DSCN4523 DSCN4524

Speaking of the pool, I knew where we were heading to relax and rejuvenate!  The small pool in front is a jacuzzi and some of the jets were very good back massagers!DSCN4525 DSCN4526

There are several restaurants, this one overlooks the beach.DSCN4528 DSCN4529 DSCN4530 DSCN4531 DSCN4532 DSCN4538

After sunset, we could see the city lights down the road.DSCN4539 DSCN4540

As I was walking back to the hotel, I could hear the distinctive and iconic Coqui frogs.  I searched in vain, never got to see one, even enlisted a few hotel staff but they couldn’t find one either.  This is what they look and sound like.

The next morning, I went back to the beach area and heard a familiar sounding squawk.  I looked up in the palm trees and lo and behold – a family of Quaker Parrots in a huge nest!DSCN4550 DSCN4551 DSCN4553 DSCN4552 DSCN4561

The perfect way to say goodbye to our Caribbean adventure!

These rooms usually go for $160-200 or 50,000 IHG Rewards but I used my annual Chase certificate so for a $49 annual fee, I got an amazing deal and we loved the hotel and would go back anytime we were in Puerto Rico.

IHG Pointbreaks 31 Oct – 31 Jan But Nothing Exciting As Usual

This quarter’s Pointbreaks list (bookable for 5000 IHG Rewards Points) is less than inspiring for birders/eco-tourists but considering that it encompasses the holiday season it may have something of interest.

Loyalty Lobby has the complete list for your perusal.  Out of all the properties, I can only personally recommend the Crowne Plaza Kathmandu-Soaltee where we stayed a couple nights back in 2011 after returning from birding the Chitwan National Park (on my list of historical trips to blog about).


It’s not walking distance to the shopping district of Thamel but taxis & auto-rickshaws are very cheap – at least they were in 2011!img_0151


IHG Pointbreak Deals Released Through 31 Oct – Some Potential For Eco-tourists

Although the IHG Pointsbreaks have been less inspiring in recent years, there are usually a few that can be used for eco-tourism and birding.  At 5000 IHG Rewards per night, these are a great bargain if you can use them.  Use your airline miles to get you to the country and the only thing left to pay is the rental car or taxi hire!


Here’s my picks:

PANAMA  –  Rent a car and visit Soberania National Park

COLOMBIA  – Have your hotel book you a car & driver for the day and go to Chingaza National Park or BioAndina

INDIA  – Jaipur is about 3 hours from Bharatpur and the Keoladeo National Park, you’ll need to spend the night there to go birding at dawn.

AUSTRALIA  – Rent a car and head up to the Blue Mountains.

Hotel Review: Holiday Inn Guayaquil Airport

I know you aren’t supposed to take pictures in the immigration line but I couldn’t resist because of the Guayaquil Macaw on the poster!

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One of the best things about booking the Holiday Inn Guayaquil Airport is that it is literally 5 minutes from the airport.  See the green neon in the photo?  We could have walked but when we got outside, the shuttle was already there.  I had mentioned which flight we were on when I booked it using 20,000 points and they showed up without us having to call!  Great service!

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The room was nice and very typical Holiday Inn.  There isn’t much in the local area but there were some fast food places a couple blocks away so we grabbed some snacks and drinks for the birding trip the next day and crashed out.

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This hotel is currently on Pointbreaks for 5000 points a night until 31 July which is a steal!  Of course this Pointbreak list was published after we left South America!

The shuttle to and from the airport is free both directions.  Even though it’s not far, it was still nice to avoid the mid-day heat.

IHG Category Increases & Decreases – Who Got Lucky?

If you’re going to Bora Bora, France or Australia – you are NOT the lucky one as the rates to their properties have skyrocketed to a whopping 60,000 points (55,000 for Sydney & Melbourne).

If you are headed to Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Panama, Papua New Guinea, South Africa or Zimbabwe then you are in luck!  Most properties in these countries will be going down 5000 points!

Complete List of Changes

HT:  Loyalty Traveler (who has several in-depth posts on this topic)

IHG’s Latest List Of Disa-Pointbreaks

I’ve gotten used to seeing uninspiring lists of hotels on IHG’s quarterly Pointbreaks (hotels offered for 5000 points a night) but I was still looking forward to this list as it’s the one that applies to my upcoming trip to Ecuador, Colombia & the Caribbean for birding.  I was hoping to see some poinbreaks in Ecuador, Colombia & Trinidad.  Once again, I was disappointed that there was nothing in Bogota especially.  Even worse, the Crowne Plaza Tequendama which has historically offered pointbreaks at this time of year is leaving the OHG chain!

Here’s the whole list if you want to have a look.

A few may be of interest to eco-travelers in Central & South America.  Belem is good for going to Parrot Island to see 1000’s of Orange-winged Amazons on an early morning cruise.  Panama has the wonderful Soberania National Park within an easy drive of the Holiday Inn.





Try not to spend too much time in Jo-burg, get off to Magoebaskloof or Kruger as quickly as possible but if you do need a night between flights:

South Africa

And here’s a rare Pointbreak in Australia!  Townsville is a good jumping off point for Magnetic Island which has good birding.


This list is valid for bookings and stays from January 25, 2016 through April 30th 2016 (subject to availability).