Accommodation in China
In the past decade, China has seen the fastest and largest hotel increase in the world. International big brands sweep across the major cities of the country, especially in the capital Beijing and the commercial metropolis Shanghai. Locally-running boutique hotels and guesthouses are also springing up in small tourist cities, old towns and even rustic countryside. For a place to stay in China, you will be spoiled for a wide range of accommodation options. Both luxurious and economical hotels are richly available regardless of your budget.
A good variety of accommodations are popping up in China. For short-term foreign travelers, you may typically encounter four different accommodation options including the star hotel, home-grown chain hotel, international hostel and boutique homestays.
Four and Five Star Hotel
In major tourist cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, you are highly recommended to go with some star hotels of international chains, such as Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, Sofitel, Sheraton, Ritz Carlton, etc. Though the price is a bit expensive (RMB700-1500+), they offers excellent amenities meeting your expectations, including spacious rooms and suites, elegant Chinese & Western food options, laundry service, health clubs, SPA center and swimming pools. Those luxury hotel staff is able to speak good English, and there will be bellboy and butler accommodating most of your needs. If you want to live in lap of luxury and comfort, get ready to splurge and be pampered with the high-end hotels.
For budget travelers, economical accommodations are plenty throughout the country, and the price approximately varies from RMB150 to 350+. They are more likely to meet the increasing demand of domestic travelers other than overseas visitors. Hotels in this range are usually facilitated with a basic room with air conditioning, private bathroom and cable TV.
Out of the tourist areas, you could hardly find English speaking staff in these hotels, and breakfast is sometimes unavailable especially for local brands. Concerning the availability, you are firstly advised to choose some western chains like Best Western, Days Inn, Comfort Inn and Novotel instead of local brands like Hanting Inns, GreenTree Inns, Motel 168 and 7Days Inn.
Hostels are catching on in China. There are plenty of wonderful hostels hidden in the back alleys of tourist cities such as Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guilin and Xian. The accommodation budget could be lowered to the range of RMB20-100. Dormitory rooms with shared shower facilities are offered most, while sometimes you can have a private room by paying more.
Neighborhood noise is common at Chinese hostels, so earplugs would be handy. Most of them are well-located and backpacking-friendly to solo travelers looking forward to meeting new friends and sharing rides. Some youth hostels also organize tours and offer tickets and bike rentals. Another beauty of hostels is the likelihood of getting a real China experience by encountering local residents.
Guesthouse and Homestay
In fact, guesthouses are popping up with excellent standards in some backpacker-favored places of China, such as Yangshuo, Dali, Lijiang, Shangri-La, ancient towns and villages near the Yellow Mountain. Traditionally, Chinese guesthouses are cheap and simple, with air conditioning, private bathroom and hot water. However, the upscale lodges in remote but touristy areas get popular.
You are offered a wide array of guesthouse-style accommodation ranging from basic rooms to stylish boutique properties. Therewith the price varies dramatically. In places like Mongolia, Tibet and Guizhou, your choice of accommodation is kind of limited. Staying in a guesthouse or homestay might be an experience on the go.
Budget might still be the first concern when choosing a hotel. In China, you could always find something fitting your budget. Secondly, I suggest you focus more on the location. The tourist cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Xian, hotels with walking distance to the metro stations or commercial streets are highly recommended.
Furthermore, if you stick to western food most of your time, 4-5 star hotel is your best bet since they usually provide western buffet breakfast and meals. If you know little Chinese, language would be a problem with some locally-run hotels of economical standards. You are suggested to book a hotel with at least three stars or an international hostel.
- Passport and a simple registration are needed when you check into a hotel. Most of the time, you are also requested to pay an additional deposit by cash. Keep the deposit receipt as it will be needed to get refund when checking out.
- Nearly all hotels in China are applied with key cards instead of physical keys. Sweep the card to open the door and insert the slot to switch on the power.
- Do not forget to ask for a business card of your hotel when checking in if you are going to explore the destination on your own. When you lose the clue of where you are, taxi driver will escort your back with that.
- The allowed check-in time for Chinese hotels is usually after 12pm, while the check-out time is about 12-14pm. If you arrive early, hotel offers left luggage service so that you could go for sightseeing or meals outside.
- Most high-end star hotels provide power converter and adapter for free.
Once you select a hotel for your stay in China, you are suggested to make a booking and get a confirmation right away. An invoice of the hotel will be needed for you to get a Chinese tourist visa. Making a booking of higher rated hotel or international hostel is easy by phone calls and emails, but some budget locally-run hotels might reject it without English-speaking staff.
During travel high seasons (April to October) and holidays, such as Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival, the first week of October, and the first week of May, hotel rates could climb much higher and it is nearly impossible to get a room upon arrival. Therefore, a savvy travelers would choose to make advanced hotel reservation. There are a variety of online platforms and travel agencies offering excellent China hotel reservation services, which would be easier and more flexible than direct booking with a hotel.