HOTELS IN CHINA
Chongqing Peoples Hotel
By one estimate there are 200,000 lodgings in China, with about 10,000 of them star rated by the government. Most hotels used by foreigners have signs with Roman letters. But some hotels are identified only by Chinese characters and are hard to find. It is good idea to book a hotel before you arrive in China and get detailed instructions of how to find it.
Tourist facilities are reasonably developed in the main tourist areas and more hotels are being built all the time. In some places there are so many hotels and guesthouses that the competition has helped to keep the prices low.
Most tourist areas have a choice of upscale hotels, budget hotels and guesthouses. Off the beaten track tourist facilities are less developed. Some rooms are still outfit with straw mattresses, spittoons and chamber pots. Guesthouses in Tibet sometimes have human excrement on the staircases because there are no toilets and it is to cold to go outside.
Cheap hotels are often found around the bus or train stations. They usually have "hotel" written in English or sometimes have a symbol for a public bath (a circle with lines rising from it). The prices for similar-quality hotels usually don't vary all that much. Stay clear of the Love Hotels. They are used for sexual trysts.
Touts sometimes meet new arrivals at the airport, river dock or bus or train station and try to steer them in the direction of their hotel. If you are tired, in a big city, don’t have a room and don't have a clue where you are going they provide a useful service (you can always change hotels the next day if you don't like it). In smaller towns you are probably best looking around on your own. Cities and towns less frequented by tourists generally have a couple hotels, mini-hotels and/or guesthouses in the downtown area, along the main drag, or around the bus station, train station or market.
Hotel rooms are generally much more expensive in the cities than they are in towns and rural areas. Accommodation prices are theoretically established by guidelines set by the government so that hotels of similar quality aren't supposed to vary much in price. But that isn't always the case and bargaining is practiced. The Lonely Planet Guides are recommended for their descriptions of budget hotels. The Chinese Tourist Office puts out a travel guide with a list of upscale hotels.
1) Traditional Chinese-run hotels generally don't give you a key. Instead you pay a deposit and are given a laminated card with your number on it. When you want to get in your room you show the card to attendant on your floor who opens the room for you and also provides assistance. Remember to return your card and get your deposit back when you leave.
2) At budget hotels ask whether or not the room has a bath, what time hot water is available, whether or not your room is to be shared with other travelers, what is included in the price of a room and what isn't. Some places will charge extra for things you assume are free like heat, showers or breakfast. Check the room and make sure the air conditioning works.
3) Be patient and don't get angry with the hotel staff. In many Chinese hotels, there is a different person performing each task: a receptionist who fills out the check in forms; another who takes the money for key deposit and a floor attendant who makes sure you paid tour daily room fee and Another attendant who bring you a thermos full of hot water. Sometimes they enter your room without knocking.
4) Make sure to get a hotel card with name, address and phone number of the hotel (they often have a map). If you get lost you can always show it to a taxi driver to get back to your hotel. 5) Don't make telephone calls, especially long distance calls, if you can help it. Some hotels charges up to US$8.00 a minute for calls to the United States.
6) Many hotels and apartments are poorly built, lack emergency exits, fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide monitors and basic security measures like decent locks andalarms.Many hotels have poor lighting in the halls, windows that don't open even in sweltering weather when the air condition is not working or don’t have screens so mosquitos get in when the windows are opened. The lighting is often poor in hotel room. You may want to bring a small reading light. Sometimes the water only comes on at certain times of the day, usually in the mornings or evenings.
7) Laundry service is often available. Ask how much it is. Sometimes it is quite expensive. Luggage storage facilities are usually available. Sometimes the showers are a little strange and the towels are small and made of relatively thin coarse cloth rather than terry cloth. The shower stalls often don't have a convenient place to put soap and shampoo other than the floor. Some stalls are small and cramped.
8) Book ahead if you are traveling in the high season, or to a popular place. If you haven't booked a hotel in advance start looking for a accommodation early, preferable around 11:00am or 12:00am, when other people are checking out.
9) Sometimes price reductions are offered for travel in off peak season. Ask about them. Sometimes the price of room can be bargained down especially if you are planning to stay for several days. Some hotels quote price of US$100 or more a night, but then drop down to US$80 or US$60 or even US$30 if you show no interest. The cheaper rooms often don't have a radio or television and are often located in an old section of the hotel. Even deluxe hotels sometimes have cheap dormitory beds available.
10) Most hotel rooms have a pot for making hot water for tea and a small empty refrigerator. 11) Only the most expensive hotels have room service. Make sure you have some snacks for when you get hungry. 12) Many only have Chinese television channels. Even many of best hotels don’t offer CNN or satellite televison. 13) The room price of some European-style hotel often includes a continental breakfast with coffee or tea, rolls and bread, butter, jelly, often cheese, and Muesli (granola).
13) Some hotel rooms smell of pesticide and stale human sweat the sheets are changed only once a week even though the bed is made daily. Sometimes a mosquito net is a nice thing to have. 14) Many rooms don't have air conditioning. If so, ask for a fan. Sometimes there is an extra fee for heat. 15) Some room don't have a bath and toilet. If that is the case, make sure you that if you need a key to get into the bathroom on your hall you have one. 16) Try to avoid getting a room with a window facing a busy streets. Sometimes the noise is awful.
17) After arriving you usually you leave your passport at the main desk for a few minutes so the staff can use it to fill out the registration forms. Some places want to keep your passport for 24 hours so they can register your name with the police. Every night hotels most submit a record of all registered guests to local police. Make sure your bring photocopies of your passport and visa, which you can show authorities if you get stopped and don’t have your passport with you. Also get a receipt for your passport from your hotel. You can show that too authorities.
18) A service charge of 10 percent is sometimes added to bills at expensive hotels, but generally not cheap ones. 19) Some hotels have a “Series Offered “ manual which list how much you have to pay if you steal or damage a particular object. Ashtrays, 20 cents; towels, 50 cents; a carpet, US$1 per square meter; and a toilet, US$60. For some accommodation tips see Appendix VI.
Hotel Security: 1) Don’t invite strangers to your room or open your hotel door until you know who is outside; 2) use all the locks your hotel provides; 3) don’t display your guest room keys in public or leave them at a pool or on restaurant table where they can be stolen; 4) keep valuables in hotel or room safe deposit box.
Rooms in the Hyatts in
these Shanghai skyscrapers
go for around $750 a night
Hotel Fire Safety: 1) locate the nearest fire escapes, fire extinguishers and air conditioner off switch (air conditioners can suck smoke into a room); 2) Keep your room key handy; 3) never use the elevator if a fire threatens; 4) if all exits are blocked go back to your room and place wet towels under the door and over the air vents and fill the bathtub and sinks with water and use the wastebasket or ice bucket to moisten hot walls and keep towels wet.; 5) call the location of the fire to the front desk or the fire department; and 6) stay low below the smoke and poisonous gases and place a wet towel over your nose and mouth to serve as a filter
Hotel Reservations: Reservations are strongly advised, especially during the main holiday seasons are around Chinese New Year in early February, the May-Day Golden Week holiday in early May and the National Day week off in early October and the summer holiday in July and August.
The Chinese Tourist office can provide you with lists of hotels but they generally can not make hotel arrangements for you. You will have to contact a travel or hotel Web site, travel agency, hotel representative or contact the hotels directly. The local tourist offices in China can sometimes help you find a place but don't count on it.
Reservations can be done two ways: 1) Through a website, travel agent or a hotel representative. 2) By phoning, writing, cabling, e-mailing or faxing a hotel directly. If you do it this way make sure and tell the hotel the number of people in your party, the type of accommodation desired (single/double, with/or without private bath), the dates of arrival and departure, and your choice of meal plan. Many hotels prefer the messages to be faxed and require a credit card number. A deposit is sometimes required to validate a reservation.
Tourist Offices are generally not very helpful in locating rooms.
Check in and Checkout Times: Check-in is usually after 2:00pm and check-out is before noon. Reserved rooms must generally be occupied by 6:00pm on the day of arrival. Unless the hotel has been notified of a late arrival or the reservation have been guaranteed by a deposit, it has the right to dispose of the room.
Hotel Web Sites
China Hotel Web Sites: Sino Hotel Sinohotel Toll-free in the United States 1-866-652-2041 Toll-free in China 800-810-5841; China Hotels China Hotels China Discount Hotels China Discount Hotels ;Travel China Guide Travel China Guide . Asia-based sites include Asia Travel Asia Travel ;Traveller Traveller ; Asia Voyage Asia Voyage and Asia Hotels Asia Hotels
Worldwide Hotel Web Sites: Hotels.com Hotels tel.800-219-4606, 800-364-0291; Expedia Expedia tel.800-397-3342 ; Travelocity: Travelocity tel.888-709-5983 ; Orbitz.com: Orbitz tel.888-656-4546 ; PlacestoStay PlacestoStay.com:
Hotel Classifications: Hotels and guest houses generally falls into six categories. The prices given here are for two people in one double room for one night. 1) Bar Hotels (US$1-US$4) are basic, dirty and often double as brothels, best avoided. 2) Cheap Guesthouses (US$1-5) are basic and vary in degrees of cleanliness and comfort. 3) Nice Guesthouses and Mini-hotels (US$3-20) have nicer rooms and sometimes a courtyard with nice plants and flowers. Rooms with a private bath cost more than those without one. 4) Medium Price Two Star and Three Star Hotels and Motels (US$5-30) are kind of similar to cheap western style hotels and motels. 5) First Class Four Star and Five Hotels (US$50-500) are quality western-style hotels like a Sheraton or Hilton. 6) Resort Hotel Complexes (US$75 to US$1000) are Club Med style beach resorts or expensive jungle or mountain lodges.
First Class Hotels usually have English-speaking staff members, amenities similar to those in Western hotels, a choice of restaurants, coffee shops open around the clock, expensive room service, conference services, business center, a health club, a small swimming pool, beauty salon, shopping/travel counter, baby sitters, safe deposit lockers, currency exchange banks, rooms with attached baths, channel music, cable TV, and telephones with direct dial facilities.
Some hotels have interpreter and translator services, secretarial services and access to fax machines and computers. Most deluxe and first-class hotels have direct connections on limousine buses to the airport. Reservations can obtained through travel agencies and prices for double rooms range from US$150 to US$300 per night. A 10 to 20 percent service and tax charge is added to the price at most first class hotels.
Sheraton, Hyatt, Inter-Continental, Swissotel, Novotel, Marriot, Holiday Inn and Hilton all have hotels in China. The number of five-start hotels increased from 57 in 1997 to 282 in 2002 and has more than triples since then. The number of four-star hotels doubled to 386 in the same period. If anything there is a surplus of hotel high-end room. In secondary cities such Chengdu, Kunming and Chongqing, room is can be had for as little as US$50. For booking see the hotel Web sites listed above.
Business Hotels are no-frills lodging aimed mainly at traveling Chinese businessmen. Found in all major and many mid-sized cities, business hotels Generally clean and comfortable, these hotels are usually smaller and offer fewer amenities than first class hotels. Many are found near train station. Most have a restaurant as well as drink and snack vending machines on each floor. Sometimes they have prostitutes.
Most rooms are singles because the layout of these hotels is designed for Chinese business person. The rooms however generally have Western-style furniture and attached baths. Most business hotels are conveniently located near train stations and prices for single rooms range from US$25 to US$65 per night. English may or may nor be spoken. Super 8 Motel is aggressively wooing budget-conscious business travelers.
A number of American-style no-frills budget hotels have appeared that cater to traveling businessmen and car tourists. The rooms are clan and comfortable and generally cost less than US$50 a night. Since the 200 the number of room in these kinds of hotels has exploded from near zero to 100,00 with 100 chains with names like Hotel 168 competing for customers.
Room in a cheap Chinese hotel
Inexpensive accommodation options include staying at a cheap hotel, a backpacker guest house. Many Chinese budget hotels offer shared rooms in which travelers who don't know each other are placed together in double or triple room for a the equivalent of a dollar or two a night. Web Sites: Travellerspoint. Com: Travellerspoint ; Trav.com Trav ; Bed and Breakfast in China: B&B in China
Guesthouses are basic cheap accommodation geared for budget travelers. Guesthouses and mini-hotels are usually found in cities and towns frequented by travelers or near natural or historical sights. Rooms generally run between US$2.00 and US$10.00 a night per person in small tourist towns. The prices are higher in the cities. The rooms sometimes have sagging beds, the furnishing are sparse, and the electricity sometimes goes out, but the rooms are generally reasonably clean and neat.
Sometimes guesthouses have a restaurant, a bar, laundry services or a notice board. The atmosphere is usually friendly and the owners are often times very helpful. They are also good places to meet other travelers. For more information consult the Lonely Planet books or the China Handbook. For more tips see Appendix VIII.
Cheap Hotels for Locals are also sometimes patronized by budget travelers. These places are often found near the bus station, train station or market in cities, or in towns situated along major transportation routes. These hotels vary a great deal in quality, comfort and cleanliness. They often have a bar, and are frequented by truck drivers, salesmen and prostitutes. Often they are very dirty, noisy and sleazy.
Youth Hostels are simple, neat and inexpensive accommodation facilities geared particularly for young people. There are currently only 20 youth hostels in China. Youth hostels are equipped with dining rooms, showers, heating systems, private rooms and separate dormitories for men and women. Sometimes a valid membership card is required. The charge for one night is between US$14 and US$23 per person without meals.
Youth hostels can be noisy. If you sleep in the dormitories it is not unusual to be woken up in the middle of the night by loud snoring, or someone arriving late or leaving early or deciding to repack at an odd hour. Many hostels require that bring your own sheets or sleep in a sleeping bag.
For further information contact China Youth Hostel Association CYHA , 27, Sup'yo-dong, Chung-gu, Beijing tel. (02)-266-2896). Hosteling International HIAYH provided information of 5,000 hostels in 50 countries. Hosteling international USA membership cost US$28 a year.
Private Rooms and Homestays: China Homestay: China Homestay
Temple Lodging: Some temples allow visitors to stay for a small fee.
Trekking Route Accommodation: Along the major trekking routes large groups usually stay in tents or village huts. Trekkers usually eat locally prepared food.
Camping: Motorcamping is not really that popular in China. There are few campgrounds with modern facilities. The national parks and mountain areas have camping areas for tent campers and huts (often crowded and noisy) for hikers.
For More Information on tourist hotels contact the China National Tourist corporation office or consult other guide books. Budget travelers should consult the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide books.
Image Sources: 1) CNTO (China National Tourist Organization; 2) Nolls China Web site; 3) Wikipedia
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.