If you’re traveling to China or moving here to teach English and haven’t found an apartment yet, you will most likely be looking for a temporary place to stay. China has excellent international brand 5-star hotels in every major city in China. But if an international 5-star hotel is out of your budget, there are plenty of other options.
Domestic 4 or 5-star hotels (in the USD$50-$80 range) are not necessarily 5 stars according to international standards. Chinese hotels are often built to look amazing but the buildings decline rapidly. Check to see if the hotel was built in the last 3 years to ensure your room is relatively free of stains, has no cracked walls, and that the toilet still works properly. Hotel reviews are also important to check before booking hotels in China. For a truly unique experience, choose a highly-rated domestic hotel that has been decorated in ancient Chinese architecture style.
China has several domestic hotel chains that are moderately priced and rodent-free (as far as we know). Some of the best are 7 Days Hotel, Motel 168, Jin Ling, Green Tree Inn, Han Ting Inns, Jin Jiang, and Home Inn. Prices range from about RMB100-300 (USD$15-50). Another cheap option will be hostels targeting foreigners, meaning they have an English website. There are Chinese hostels, but we don’t recommend trying them on your first visit to China. Last but not least, you can find some cheap, nice rooms available on Airbnb if you don’t mind sharing an apartment with a stranger.
Couchsurfing is growing in popularity in China. Most hosts are used to having foreign guests and it always helps to have a local tour guide if your host has time to show you around. Couchsurfing is a great way to make new friends in China as there is nothing quite like the bond of having lived together.
The best sites to book domestic hotels in China are Ctrip, Elong and Agoda. As mentioned in our article about transportation in China, Ctrip is the most foreigner-friendly domestic website for all transport and accommodation needs in China. They not only have good deals, but they also have member rewards such as C-money which you can use to get a discount on future hotel purchases.
One important thing to keep in mind when booking hotels in China is the hotel’s proximity to public transport. China’s subway system is extremely efficient and your stay in China will be much easier if your hotel is right next to a subway station. If you’re staying in a smaller town that doesn’t have a subway, choose a hotel that is near the main attraction you are going to see. The less stress in China, the better!
After you book your stay, check to see if it includes breakfast or not. Typical Chinese breakfast buffets have mainstays such as rice porridge, steamed bread, fried noodles & veggies, and other items not found in Western buffets. Some hotels in China may have fruit, eggs, and toast, but most foreigners choose to forgo their China hotel breakfast altogether. Don’t be afraid to try the buffet at least once, but just in case, have some backup breakfast food in your room.