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Hotels & Hostels in China

There are two types of hotel in mainland China: the joint-venture hotels with international brand names, and also Chinese-owned and -managed hotels. Your first choice at the four- or five-star level should be a famous brand name.

In most cases, the buildings are Chinese-owned, and the foreign part of the joint venture is the management company, which supplies worldwide marketing efforts, staff training, and senior management, while ensuring conformity with brand standards (never entirely possible; you'll generally find 90% of what you'd expect from the same brand at home).

Your second choice should be a wholly Chinese-owned and -run hotel with foreigners in senior management. Entirely Chinese-owned and -run hotels at four- and five-star levels, the best choice is almost always the newest hotel -- teething troubles aside, most things will work, staff will be eager to please (if not quite sure how), rooms will be spotless, and rates can be easily bargained down, since few hotels spend any money on advertising. The aim is to find sweetly inept but willing service rather than the sour leftovers of the Tie Fanwan (iron rice bowl) era of guaranteed employment.

A drawback for all hoteliers is that the government requires them to employ far more people than they need, and it's nearly impossible to obtain staff with any experience in hotel work. The joint-venture hotels are the training institutions for the rest of the Chinese hotel industry.

Lower-level hotels are run by half-understood rules, with which there's half-compliance, half the time. A hotel may have designated nonsmoking rooms, but sometimes, that doesn't mean they don't have ashtrays in them. Until recently throughout China, only hotels with special licenses were allowed to take foreign guests. This requirement has now vanished from Beijing.

In theory, all hotels with such licenses have at least one English speaker, usually of modest ability. Outside of joint-venture hotels, don't rely on finding amenities; even if we list them on this website, there's no guarantee that you'll find them fit to use. You may receive unexpected phone calls. If you are female, the caller may hang up without saying anything, as may be the case if you are male and answer in English. But if the caller persists and is female, and if you hear the word Anmo (massage), then what is being offered needs no further explanation, but a massage is only the beginning. Unplug the phone.

Almost all rooms have the following: A telephone whose line can usually be unplugged for use in a laptop; a television, usually with no English channels except CCTV 9 and possibly an in-house movie channel using pirated DVDs or VCDs; air-conditioning, which is either central with a wall-mounted control or individual to the room with a remote control, and which may double as a heater; a thermos of boiled water or a kettle to boil your own, usually with cups and free bags of green tea; and an array of switches, found near the bed.

he bathrooms have free soap and shampoo, and in better hotels a shower cap and toothbrush/toothpaste package. Ordinary Chinese hotels usually contain a Biaozhun Jian, or "standard room," which means a room with twin beds or a double bed, and with a private bathroom. In older ordinary hotels, double beds may have only recently been installed, the switches are all in the wrong place, and the room is now referred to as a Danren Jian or single room. Nevertheless, two people can stay there and the price is lower than for a standard room with twin beds.

Foreign credit cards are increasingly likely to be accepted in three-star hotels and above. Most hotels accepting foreigners will exchange foreign currency (cash) on the premises; some may not accept traveler's checks.

Almost all hotels require payment in advance, plus a deposit (yajin), which is refundable when you leave. Some hotels add a 5% to 15% service charge on top of their room rates. Keep all receipts you are given. To get your deposit back, you may need to hand over the receipt for your key when you check out, and since staff occasionally forget to enter payments in computers or ledgers, you may need receipts to prevent yourself from being charged twice. To check in, you'll need your passport, and you must complete a registration form (which will be in English).

Always inspect the room before checking in. You'll be asked how many nights you want to stay, and you should always say just 1, because if you say 4, you'll be asked for 4 nights' money in advance (plus a deposit). Once you've tried 1 night, you can pay for more. When you check out, the floor staff will be called to verify that you haven't stolen anything. This step may not happen speedily, so allow extra time.

Children 12 and under stay free. Hotels will add an extra bed to your room for a small charge, which you can bargain down.

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