Accommodation in China can be anything from wonderfully cheap to gloriously expensive depending on your budget. Unlike most places, China’s star rating system is not synonymous with the western rating system and has been deemed by many as useless as they have no system of monitoring the state of hotels. Choosing your hotel can be aided by a few tips however. Generally local government owned hotels should be avoided and you can usually pick these out by their name – usually named first by the province followed by a Chinese word for hotel. On the other hand, hotels with a name including ‘business’, are relatively new and therefore have the better facilities. So either go with the newest hotel or go by word of mouth from someone who has recently visited.
At the high end, luxury hotels provide exquisite furnishings in deluxe suites with all the amenities to match. For the more luxurious stays, it is advisable to seek out the well-known Western chains or their Singapore or Hong Kong equivalents. While other hotels try their best to emulate the high standards of the more western run establishments, they are not quite there yet.
The mid-range can be varying considering the price of hotels is usually how much you are willing to part with. The general rule is to follow the locals – they bargain the price and so should you. Most hotels will go to great lengths to fill a room that will otherwise stay empty, so try your bargaining skills and you could score a great deal.
For those travelling on a budget, cheap hotels in China are often found in hostels which offer largely communal facilities for a much cheaper cost. Facilities vary from place to place, but like most things, you can usually guess the state from the price – you get what you pay for.
But before you get too excited about the price you managed to score, make sure you factor in the extras. Most quote prices exclusive of service and bed taxes – this can add on 5-15% to the final price. So ask about added taxes before booking.
Something to get excited about is the checkout time which is usually set as midday, giving you a few more hours in the morning to get sorted.
While accommodation in China seems plentiful year round, there are certain periods of time that demand is at its highest and finding a place to stay can be a challenge even for the most experienced hotel-hunters. Week-long Chinese national holidays are when many Chinese families travel so it is best, if you can help it, to not travel around Chinese New Year and during the Spring Festival. Apart from the availability of accommodation, the prices tend to shoot up also.
It is best to book online or through a travel agent unless you are a confident Chinese language speaker. Websites usually quote a much higher price than if you were to walk up and book, however if you are like the majority, booking in advance sure takes the stress out of your holiday. Just be sure to get good discounts and don’t pay more than you intend. Booking online can be easily done with great discounts, mostly for minimum stays and advanced (early) bookings. Try out cTrip or Expedia.
One last tip is for when you are looking to book transport from the airport to your hotel. The rule is to not book with your hotel as they are likely to charge a far higher rate. Picking up a taxi outside the airport is a much cheaper option, though try to avoid those that hang around doors and cling to you like a leech.