Does your trip to China include overnight stays in Chinese hotels? Wondering what to expect when staying at a Chinese hotel? Having stayed at many Chinese hotels myself, here I share the ins and outs of the Chinese hotel experience and tips on how to make it smooth and easy.
If you’ve never stayed in a Chinese hotel or even visited China before, there are often a lot of questions travelers have.
Are they comfortable?
What do the rooms usually supply in terms of amenities?
Can you stay in any China hotel you find?
For this reason, I’d like to help you understand what you’ll find when you arrive in China and help you set expectations as relates to:
You can use the links above to navigate to the appropriate section, or you can scroll down to read through what you can expect when booking and staying at a Chinese hotel.
Booking a Chinese Hotel – How it Works
Let’s start by discussing what to expect when booking your hotel.
All Chinese hotels have different pricing based on the different types of rooms they offer. Some Chinese hotels are weird, but the most common rooms you’ll find are:
- Single Room (单人间 ; Dān rénjiān): These rooms are ideal should you be traveling alone. Also, if you’re traveling as a couple and you would like to sleep together on one bed, this is the kind of room you should choose since it usually has one large bed.
- Standard Room (标准间 ; Biāozhǔn jiān): If traveling alongside a friend or family member with whom you don’t want to share a bed, standard rooms feature two twin or double-size beds.
- You can book suites too, should you be hoping for something fancy and have a bigger budget.
Apart from the different rooms available, the most important thing to remember when booking a Chinese hotel is not all of them can host foreigners.
Not all Chinese hotels are licensed to accept foreign guests.
Understanding if a foreigner can stay at a Chinese hotel can be tricky. There is no place you can officially look it up.
In the old days, I would always call and ask the receptionist in Chinese if they can host foreigners, but luckily in this day in age you can just work through local booking websites like Trip.com (formerly Ctrip) or Agoda.
I’ve already written extensively about the best ways to find a good China hotel, so I’m not going to copy and paste that here.
Just know that you can contact Trip (Ctrip) or Agoda and ask them to verify if the hotel can host foreigners. The majority of the time, if the hotel is listed in English on these booking sites, foreigners are legally allowed to stay there.
It’s always good to check, though. Trip.com also has live support chat within their app making this a less painful process.
Finally booking on Trip.com not only makes the booking process seamless with no language barriers, but also gives you some good photos that show what the hotel room will look like.
Pro Tip: Book a hotel near public transportation. Use the chat feature in Trip and ask how long it would take to walk to the nearest subway station or bus stop. Hailing a taxi is not always easy in China and to me, paying an extra $20 to have immediate access to a subway or bus stop is worth every penny!
It’s also a good idea to see if your hotel offers transportation from the airport or train station. This is a good way to save a decent dime when traveling to your hotel.
Checking-In to Your Chinese Hotel
Booking a hotel online is thankfully super-easy. The real challenge comes when the language barrier sets-in and you find yourself checking-in to your hotel.
Unlike at hostels where most staff speak decent English, it’s unlikely that your hotel reception staff speak any English (the exception would be at some 5-star hotels). If they do, I guarantee they don’t get too much practice with the few foreigners that stay at their hotel.
When you get to reception, here’s my advice to make check-in effortless and painless:
- Take out your passport and printed confirmation of your booking. Even if the booking is in English, it’s enough to show the receptionist you have a booking.
- Have cash ready to pay for the hotel fee. You will also be required to provide a deposit, which is generally the equivalent of one night’s stay. Some of the bigger hotels in major tourist cities will accept Visa or Mastercard, but the vast majority of hotels in China will only accept cash or payment through mobile apps like WeChat or Alipay.
- If all else fails, it couldn’t hurt to study a Mandarin phrase book in advance of your trip or use a voice translation app on your phone.
Once they make a photocopy of your passport, you will receive your room key and you can retire to your hotel room.
The final thing to remember at check-in is to keep the deposit receipt from the receptionist!
If you lose it, you run the possibility of not getting your deposit back (although most of the time they’ll extend you grace if you lose it). Put it in a safe place so you can present the ticket and get your deposit refunded during check-out.
Inside a Standard Chinese Hotel Room
When entering your hotel room, the first thing you will want to do is insert your room key in the card holder by the door. This will turn on the electricity for the entire unit.
Apart from knowing how to turn on the electricity, there are a couple other key rules to live by during your stay:
- Take advantage of the slippers provided or bring your own for the bathroom. There’s no knowing how often the carpet is vacuumed and if visitors are frequently walking around your room with their shoes on. So do what to do what the locals do and wear slippers or keep your shoes on inside your hotel room.
- Use your own towel after showering. Call me a germaphobe, but I cannot guarantee the towels in your hotel room are properly clean. But I also have this same policy even at hotels here at home.
- Rooms generally post non-smoking signs, but it’s common to see visitors smoking in hallways or discreetly smoke in rooms. If your room is particularly smokey, complain and see about being placed in another room.
- Disconnect the phone at night. It’s common to receive calls late at night from reception asking if you need any “special services.” Without going into too much detail on these special services, the call late at night itself can be quite annoying and avoided by just disconnecting the phone.
- In many cases, your hotel provides free breakfast, so check out the cafeteria in the morning to see if breakfast is included. Keep in mind, however, that the Chinese version of a “continental breakfast” may differ greatly from what you’re used to. Consider it a culinary adventure!
If you stick to these key guidelines, staying in Chinese hotels should overall be reasonably comfortable.
Final Thoughts: Accommodation in China
In this traveler’s guide, I shared what you can expect when staying at Chinese hotels from booking, checking-in, and what you can expect to find in the hotel room.
Overall, your experience in a Chinese will be tied to the price you pay for your room.