Booking Hotels in China
Getting a good night's sleep in a place you feel comfortable can be the difference between making travel one of life's best experiences and strugglingly through it as one of the worst. As with many things, throwing money at the problem can go a long way to ensuring a comfortable environment for rest, but if you would rather spend some time to understand your options, check out some of the links below.
Be aware that when booking hotels on domestic Chinese websites, expats need to ensure that the hotels as licensed to accept foreign guests. Hotels licensed to accept foreigners may be listed as 允许接待外宾 and those that should be listed as 内宾 on most domestic Chinese websites. As a general rule of thumb, international brands and hotels above 3 stars can all usually receive foreigners. Cheaper, lower-quality hotels are commonly unlicensed for foreigners. If you are unsure if a hotel can receive foreigners, it is best to call in advance (before you pay) to confirm. In smaller cities and towns this can become a frustrating issue as there are enough hotels for enforcement, but not enough licensed hotels make finding one a simple task. In very small places with no licensed hotels enforcement is often very lax and foreigners may slip under the radar anywhere if no one makes decides to make a fuss.
International Websites for Booking Hotels in China[edit | edit source]
While many international hotel booking apps/websites will work for booking hotels in China, their selection of available hotels is typically extremely limited and service can be unreliable when booking smaller or boutique hotels with few guests from overseas. One thing that is made easier by dealing with an international company is that typically all of the hotels on their websites are licensed to receive foreign guests.
- Trip.com - Part of the same network of websites as Ctrip (携程旅行) & Qunar (去哪儿), but with a significantly cut down list of hotels and higher pricing than the site's Chinese cousins.
- Expedia, Travelocity, Hotels.com, Wotif, Trivago & Orbitz - The Expedia Group of bookings sites tend to have reasonable pricing and decent deals. The group is generally strong on customer support and service, but being based outside of China, for the most part, they can have trouble resolving in-country problems that the local provides deal with more easily.
- Bookings, Priceline, Kayak & Agoda - Booking Holdings doesn't seem to have put much focus on China resulting in a lower level of service and higher prices in China than their competitors in many cases.
When booking through an overseas site it is important to note that you may often be paying a significant price premium relative to the cost of booking the same hotel through a Chinese platform. The big international sites also mainly focus on listing the large international brands and do not seem to be capturing many of China's growing number of worthwhile boutique hotels (精品酒店 | jīngpǐn jiǔdiàn).
Local Website for Booking Hotels in China[edit | edit source]
English Language Service[edit | edit source]
- eLong (艺龙) - eLong appears to have made some sort of effort to create a bilingual interface for their booking website, but have stopped short of allowing customers to fulling book rooms without reverting to their Chinese language webpages. However, they remain a great service to use in English due to their English language customer support line (4006171717 or +86 551 6529 9777) that allows for booking hotels and flights over the phone.
No Dedicated English Service[edit | edit source]
- Ctrip (携程旅行) & Qunar (去哪儿) - Both of these websites are offered in Chinese only, but offer a wide range of products and services at reasonable prices. They are both parts of the same network as Trip.com, though each of their offerings varies. As mentioned above, Trip.com filters down hotels to those that foreigners are allowed to stay in and tends to charge more for the same services.
WeChat Hotel Bookings[edit | edit source]
If you prefer to stick to one app for all of your financial transactions, WeChat has a solid built-in hotel booking app. Conveniently, WeChat already knows most of your personal, location, and payment details, so booking a hotel through the platform can be simple and easy. Be aware that the app doesn't automatically filter out hotels that foreigners aren't allowed to stay at and the booking interface is entirely in Chinese.
To access the hotel booking mini-app in WeChat, follow the following instructions:
Checking into a Hotel in China[edit | edit source]
Checking into hotels in China, while not complicated, can be extremely time-consuming. Hotels are required to register foreign gets with the local public security bureau (PSB) office. While processes vary by region and hotel, most hotels will want to transmit a copy of the following pages of your passport in order to register your stay:
- Information page of your passport
- Your current China visa page
- Immigration stamp from your most recent entry into China
Before the hotel can accept a foreign guest, the hotel must confirm that the visa in the passport is valid and that, based on the most recent entry and validity, the visa allows the foreigner to remain in China.