Where to Stay in China

China hotels, Apartments, Youth Hostels and Vacation Rentals

Where to Stay in China

When looking where to stay in China, you will find that there is no shortage of options. Tourism in China, although a fledgling industry relatively speaking, is fast becoming one of the top travel markets in the world for both domestic and international travelers alike.

Hotel companies are racing there and accommodations in a wide range of options are popping up to the benefit of travelers with standards that rival and in many cases, surpass the West.

As far as your accommodations in China go, you can choose to travel very inexpensively or you can choose to go as luxurious as you wish, you are bound to find something that fits your budget, preferred accommodation type and location.

Our Where to Stay in China guidelines are not intended to make recommendations of specific places to stay, but to give you an idea of the different accommodation options you may encounter, the standards you can expect at each and tips on booking and getting the best deals.

Even if you are traveling with an organized tour or a private tour where your accommodations are included, I encourage you to check out the different options you are given. Normally the class of hotel is determined but the specific property is not cast in stone, that is specially true with a private tour, and you can make the selection yourself for something that better fits your needs.

So let's start:

Where to Stay in China - Accommodation Types

Where to Stay in China: About Hotels in China, rankings and standards

As with international hotels, hotels in China are ranked from one to five stars per the standards issued by the China National Tourism Administration.

Are the standards on par with international hotel standards? You may find as you travel throughout the country that the further you venture inland and away from the major cities, the standards become very lax among similarly rated properties, i.e. a 3-star hotel in Beijing might have a higher standard than a 3-star hotel in a small city. We can expect these gaps to diminish as the industry further develops and the expectations and demands from travelers increase.

It has already come a long way from our first trips in the early '80s, standards of quality were quite haphazard back then.

We have compiled some general guidelines that can give you an idea of what to expect at the different types of property and rankings as well as some broad measures of how much you would expect to pay in different cities, i.e. a 4-star property is significantly more expensive in Shanghai than in a smaller city. You can get a general sense of what kind of place you can stay for say $60 in Xian, how much will the same $60 buy you in Shanghai? Here are some generalities as to the "star" ranking of hotels in China:

Where to stay in China: Budget Hotels - One and Two-Star Hotels in China

One or two- star hotels in China are very basic, economical and normally clean.

Budget Hotels in China Budget Hotels in China

Some limitations you might find is that the staff will probably speak little if any English, and one and two-stars will not always have private bathrooms in the rooms.

Also, forget about room service, but occasionally they may have a small restaurant or breakfast facility with local fare only.

Air conditioning in summer or heating in winter is not a sure thing, so make sure to ask if traveling during these periods.

The leading economy hotel brand in China is Jinjiang Inn, currently with about 200 properties and planned expansion of some additional 1,000 hotels.

A 2 1/2-Star Jingjiang Inn near the Olympic Center in Beijing will cost you about US$40 per night. In a smaller city like Xian, a 2 1/2-Star Jingjiang Inn in downtown is US$29 per night.

Other major chains with consistent standards are Green Tree Inn, Motel 168 and Jinjiang Inn.

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Where to Stay in China: Moderate Tourist and Business Class Hotels

China Hotels Tourist Class

Three-star hotels in China provide a few more ammenities than the budget options above. Standard features are color TV and telephones, and in some cases internet access. You will also find private bathrooms with hot and cold water on all three-star hotels and above.

China Hotels Tourist Class

You are likely to find restaurants and bars and laundry facilities and at least some of the staff will be able to speak basic English.

Although 3-Star Hotels can cost as low as US$25 in Xian, the ones from major international chains such as Days Inn cost about US$56, in an excellent location in the center of the city. In Shanghai, the Holiday Inn Express near the Jade Budha and French Concession area is US$41.

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The High End: Boutique and Luxury Hotels in China

These will normally be rated four or five-star hotels in China. It used to be that luxury hotels in China were relegated to the bigger cities of Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong.

Now with China's new affluence and enormous growth potential in the tourism industry, hotel chains are rushing to keep up with this opportunity and new lavish establishments are popping up throughout with excellent standards.

These are quality properties with spacious and stylish atriums and lobbies...

...elegant and well-appointed bedrooms and suites...

Luxury Hotels in China

...a range of culinary options with excellent Chinese and Western food, from casual dinning to award-winning restaurants...

Luxury Hotels in China

...health clubs and swimming pools...

Luxury Hotels in China

You get the idea... If you are in the mood to splurge and be pampered, this is it. The staff usually bi/tri-lingual, and concierge and butler will cater to your every whim.

For smaller, more intimate settings, Boutique Hotels in China are the answer. These are not necessarily affiliated with any major international chain and what sets them apart is those small details and the personalized level of service they offer to their guests. Details like iPod docks and Nespresso machines in the rooms and mobile phones to take around town which you don't find in the bigger luxury hotel chains is what makes the difference.

How much can you expect to pay? This is where it gets really sketchy. Location has much to do with it, if the hotel enjoys sweeping views of the city or is in the middle of the business district, expect to pay a premium.

Major international chains also command higher rates than their local counterparts.

A four-star hotel in the center of Beijing can cost as low as US$50 per night at a local chain and slightly more if staying at a major international chain. The Holiday Inn Temple of Heaven for example is US$75.

Likewise, you can get a five-star in Wangfuying, a major shopping district in Beijing, with a local chain for US$99 whereas the Grand Hyatt would set you back US$259 per night.

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Where to Stay in China: The International Youth Hostels

Beijing Hostels

When looking for the most economical option for your stay in China, youth hostels like in the rest of Asia are hard to beat. Prices can be as low as US$8 per night for bed in a dorm style accommodation with common areas for showers and bathrooms. International Youth Hostels are plentiful in all larger cities in China.

Click here for more on the International Youth Hostels in China, how to choose one and how to book.

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Where to Stay in China: Apartments and Vacation Rentals in China

Staying in an apartment or vacation rental in China can be an attractive option for some travelers. These are normally apartments or homes that are not being occupied by their owners and are rented out to travelers.

If you are staying for an extended period of time for instance, an apartment or rental might be more suitable, not only from the cost standpoint, but because of the facilities, for example being able to cook a meal now and then instead of dining out all the time would be a definite plus.

Click here for more on Apartments and Vacation Rentals in China, how to choose one and how to book.

How to Choose and Book your China Hotel Online

First, check rates and choices available on your required dates through any travel search engine. We like the Expedia.com Hotel Search feature because it is quite simple to filter all the options to narrow them down, making the selection process easier.

You can first start filtering your results by choosing a specific area in the city, and selecting a minimum star rating. Then you further narrow it down based on additional criteria that is either required or desirable, you find this under "hotel preferences":

  • air conditioning (a must if traveling in summer!)
  • swimming pool (definitely worth it also during the hot summer months)
  • free airport transfers
  • fitness equipment
  • etc.

Where to Stay in China

Once you have narrowed it down to a handful, check the traveler reviews. The Expedia guest ratings include the following criteria:

  • Hotel service
  • Hotel condition
  • Room cleanliness
  • Room comfort
  • Location
  • Neighborhood
We also rely on Customer Ratings and Reviews from Trip Advisor.com.

Checking visitors' reviews and recommendations is probably the best way to get a feel for what a particular property offers. Comments from people that have stayed there about the location, friendliness of staff, cleanliness, or whatever ammenity you require, come in very handy when trying to decide and pick a place to stay.

TripAdvisor Reviews rate the different properties based on the following:

  • Value for money
  • Rooms
  • Location
  • Cleanliness
  • Service
  • Sleep Quality

You might find these rating systems quite useful by looking at the individual categories that are important to you. If a hotel has poor marks for "cleanliness" for example, that would be a deal breaker for us even if it was in the perfect location and the price was right.

Once you have made your decision and chosen the perfect hotel for your stay in China, it is quite easy to make a booking and get a confirmation right away.

Sometimes you might have to pay for your stay in advance, specially if it is a "special rate". We have had a very good experience booking our hotels with Expedia. Making changes or cancellations is quite easy, as is getting a "real person" on the phone should you need it.

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