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Hotel Arreangement in China

Sleeping accommodations for tourists are widely available and can vary in quality from shared dorm rooms to five-star luxury hotels. There's a dizzying number of staying options in most Chinese towns and despite language and law barriers you should be able to find sleeping accommodations in your budget and comfort range.

Looking for a hotel upon first arriving in a Chinese city can a daunting task: a mob of passengers are pushing to disembark from your train or bus, touts are tugging at your arm and screaming in your face to come with them, everything is in incomprehensible Chinese and you are just looking for a place to put down your bag. It doesn’t get any better once you get in a cab because the driver doesn’t speak any English and every hotel in your guide book is full or closed! This can be the experience for many travelers in China, but the pains of booking a hotel room can be avoided if you know where to look and what you’re looking for.

If you're willing to pay $30 or more for a room, then you’ll probably have little problem finding a room. But if you want a cheap yet comfortable room, you’ll have to be armed with a bit more knowledge than what can be had in many guide books. The cheapest options include hostels, dorms and extra rooms call zhusu and there are plenty of hotels ¥150 and up available in every city. Sleeper trains and sleeper buses can also be a decent option; see the “Get Around” section of this page for more information. If you're in a town and you can't find a hotel try looking near the bus or train station, which there's typically larger selection of cheap hotels. Hotels that are not licensed to accept foreigners can be heavily fined if they are caught housing foreign occupants. But enforcement of this law appears spotty and many hotels unlicensed to accept foreigners will find you a room. In the cheapest range of hotels it is important to ask how if there is 24 hours of hotel water (有没有二十四个小时的热水 youmeiyou ershisige xiaoshi reshui) and check out see if the shower, sink and toilet work. It is also advisable that you avoid checking into a room next to a busy street as traffic may keep you up late and wake you up early. If you do plan on just showing up in town and looking for a place to sleep it is best that you arrive before 6-7:00 p.m. as the most popular places will be booked for the night.

One secret to keep in mind when booking a room in China is that prices are often negotiable. A sharp reduction from the price listed on the wall can be had by just asking "What's the lowest price?" (最低多少 zuidi duoshao). Note this doesn't work during the busy Chinese holiday seasons, when prices skyrocket and rooms are hard to get.

High-End

At the high-end of the hotel food chain in China are the international hotels, such as the Marriott and Shangri-La, which charge hundreds of dollars per night for luxurious accommodations. If your budget includes a hundred dollars a night or more for sleeping accommodations this may be the option for you. Many expensive hotels also book rooms for package tours at steep reductions in price. If you are coming to China on a tour you may want to check and see if the tour company can get you a room in one of China's top hotels for a fraction of the listed price.

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Midrange

If you're looking for a room that is not too expensive, but also clean and comfortable then mid-range hotels may be your best option. These are usually larger hotels and rooms cost from a low end of ¥150 on up to over ¥200 and ¥300. Frequently the same hotels will have expensive luxurious rooms also available. The doubles in this hotel are usually quite nice and up to western standards and the bathrooms are clean and come with a towel and complimentary toiletries. There may even be a free buffet breakfast thrown into the price, or a breakfast ticket can be purchased for around ¥10. Sprouting up around China are a number of Western-quality budget hotels that include the following chains:

  • JJ Inn (锦江之星)
  • Rujia Home Inn (如家快捷酒店)
  • Motel 168 (莫泰168)

All of these chain-hotels have rooms in the ¥150-300 range and online advance booking in English. One warning for guests staying in midrange hotel rooms is that you may receive a telephone call late at night asking if you would like a "massage;" just hang-up the telephone as this is actually a front for prostitution.

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Low-cost options

There are various ways to sleep very cheaply in China — hostels, dorms, zhusu, and massage shops.

  • Hostels are the most comfortable low end options. They typically cater to foreigners, have English speaking employees, and can provide cheap, convenient transport around town. Some of them are even cleaner and better furnished than more expensive places. Hostels also have a cozy, international atmosphere and are a good place to meet other travelers and get some half-decent western food, which can be a godsend after days or weeks surviving off rice and noodles. In most cities of any size there is at least one hostel available, and in some travel hotspots such as Yangshou and Chengdu there are plenty of hostel options, but because of their popularity with backpackers hostels can fill up fast.
  • Another option is dorm rooms located in hotels, on university campuses, and near rural tourist attractions. Most travelers have spotty luck with dorms. Some report no problems and even find some real bargains, while others spent the entire night without a wink of sleep because some drunken businessmen in their room decided to have a party. The shared bathrooms in these locations can take some getting used to, especially if you’re not used to squatting over a dirty hole in the ground or taking cold showers. But in some areas, especially on the top of one of China’s holy mountains, dorm rooms might be a budget traveler’s only option amongst a sea of luxury resorts.
  • One cheap sleeping option in China that is a little known secret hidden from even many experienced backpackers is the zhusu (住宿) , which literally translates as “live room.” The term zhusu can refer to any kind of sleeping accommodation, but those places that have the Chinese characters for zhusu written on the wall outside are the cheapest. These are extra rooms for rent located in homes, restaurants, and near train and bus stations. A zhusu room is universally Spartan and bathrooms are almost always shared. Rooms here can be quite cheap, costing only a few dozen renminbi. A zhusu is not an actual hotel, but instead a spare room or rooms in a home or small business. Officially a zhusu should not provide a room to a foreigner, but many times the caretaker is eager to get a client and will be willing to rent to anyone. There are never any English signs advertising a zhusu, but if you can read Chinese you'll be able to read the large Chinese characters 住宿 (zhusu) written on the wall or door outside.
  • Many massage shops and most saunas will let you sleep a while after a massage. Some allow overnight stays. See the section on massage under "Do" for details.

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Budget Hotels

The next level of hotels is cheap budget hotels that cater to Chinese clients. Usually these hotels are officially off-limits to foreigners, but you may be able to convince them to accept you, especially if you can speak a smattering of Chinese. These hotels may or may not have English signs and usually have the words luguan (旅馆), which means "travel hotel", or bingguan (宾馆), which means "hotel", in their name. Room options typically include singles and doubles with attached bathrooms and dorms with shared baths. In small, rural towns a night's stay might be as cheap as ¥25 and in bigger cities you can usually get a room for ¥80-120. The one problem with these hotels is that they can be quite noisy as patrons and staff may be yelling to each other across the halls into the wee hours of the morning. Another inconvenience is if you book a room with a shared bath because many of these hotels have one bathroom for twenty or thirty rooms. You may have to wait a while to use the toilet and a half hour or more to take a shower.

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Booking a room

There are numerous websites that will help you book a hotel room with a credit card. This is a convenient and speedy method of making sure you have a room when you arrive at your destination, but keep in mind that the website makes more money if you book an expensive room rather than a cheap one. Online booking companies are likely to lie and tell you the cheaper rooms are sold out and not inform you of any discounts. During Chinese holidays, when it is difficult to get a room anywhere, this may an acceptable option, but in the off-season rooms are plentiful almost everywhere in China and it may be just as easy to find a room upon arrival as it is to book one over the internet.

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This article is based on information from an article on Wikitravel contributed by Anonymous and is distributed under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 1.0

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