Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Asia
Reload this Page >

Booking hotels in China in advance- is it necessary?

Booking hotels in China in advance- is it necessary?

Jan 26th, 2012, 06:36 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 124
Booking hotels in China in advance- is it necessary?

I am planning a 3 week trip to China in May/June. I have read conflicting opinions on this site about booking lodging in advance. Some say that you are losing hundreds of dollars if you pre-book because everything is negotiated on the spot. However, if there is a particular hotel with a limited number of rooms that we are interested in, is it best to book in advance to ensure you have a room there? I am assuming that answer is yes, but leaving it open for opinion...And I don't have one in mind, but I have seen a few while browsing.

As far as the cities we are visiting, I am specifically referencing Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Also, do the larger chains/brand hotels negotiate in China as well, or is the negotiability factor only relevant to mid-size or smaller Chinese-owned hotels?

laurenanne is offline  
Jan 30th, 2012, 11:04 PM
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 427
I have heard this in the past but I can't see it working most of the time. I once had no time to book and just showed up and ended paying more than the rate I saw the day before on the internet. I have stayed in a lot of hotels in China and I can't think of one where the staff at the front desk has the authority to negotiate.
Having aid that, you often have great deals booking at the last minute (2-3 days ahead) something I often do as my travel plans are rarely fixed. If you want to play it safe you can book ahead with a hotel that allows you to cancel with no penalty then you keep shopping until the last minute.
In addition, just think that you are a city that you do not really know well. If you cannot get a reta you like, what do you do? Walk out with your luggage and spend half a day looking for a deal? I think that there are better strategies.
JPDeM is offline  
Jan 31st, 2012, 07:57 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 13,845
We pre-booked last September and all of our hotels were full during our stays.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Jan 31st, 2012, 03:52 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 21,377
With the exception of my first few nights in China, I showed up and bargained, but I did not stay at Western hotels.
kja is offline  
Jan 31st, 2012, 05:33 PM
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 427
kja, the question is, did you pay less than you would have had you booked on the net? By booking ahead on some good sites I always pay 50 to 75% less than the rack rate posted at the hotel front desk. You can certainly bargain something below the posted rack rate but hardly anybody ever pays that. Thinking of the Chinese hotel where I was last weekend, it was more like 80% below the posted rate.
JPDeM is offline  
Jan 31st, 2012, 06:02 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 21,377
Most of the places I stay did not have a Web site.
kja is offline  
Jan 31st, 2012, 06:02 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 21,377
Oops - I meant "stayed" - past tense.
kja is offline  
Jan 31st, 2012, 08:30 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
The discussion in this thread so far has confirmed the issue - it highly depends on the type of hotel, and in fact, the ACTUAL property. If one's booking a chain (whether Western or Chinese) or one that's catered to tourists (epsecially foreign tourists), which has a website, then there's no reason not to rebook.

A major chain hotel may offer you a discount rate if you negotiate in person, but that's only discounted from the rack rate posted behind the front desk, and doesn't necessarily mean a rate that's cheaper or significantly cheaper than what's offered online a few days or few weeks prior.

Now, if you're talking about hotels that are neither chain nor catering to foreign tourists, then there's little point in booking ahead. For one, credit card guarantee is hardly practiced in such properties, so there's no guaranteed booking. You may have booked a room in advance, but if you arrive late in the day, there may be no room for at all.

Now, all these discussion doesn't include Hong Kong, which you mention in the original post. Hong Kong is like the US or Europe. You should make reservations if you want a room there, and there's bargaining at the front desk.
rkkwan is offline  
Jan 31st, 2012, 09:54 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 21,377
Thanks for your clarifying comments, rkkwan. To be clear, I did not travel to Hong Kong.
kja is offline  
Jan 31st, 2012, 10:19 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
Sorry, I do mean NO bargaining in Hong Kong.
rkkwan is offline  
Feb 1st, 2012, 10:46 AM
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 10,509
If you have a specific place in mind, I certainly wouldn't risk missing out. Isn't May/June a fairly busy tourist time as well?

There is something to be said for having your arrangements already made and already having a "nest" when you get to each city. You can go straight to the hotel, drop off your stuff and possibly shower/change clothes if you wish. I got off of the overnight train in Shanghai and went to Astor House to drop off my bag and my room was almost ready. I didn't have to hassle with anything.

There's value in not fussing when you're possibly tired/cranky.
Iowa_Redhead is offline  
Feb 1st, 2012, 12:48 PM
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 257
JPDeM wrote: "By booking ahead on some good sites I always pay 50 to 75% less than the rack rate posted at the hotel front desk."

I am aware of ctrip and elong. What are the other good sites to use in China?

We don't usually book expensive hotels. Is there any way to be sure that the hotel en-suite will have a western toilet?

Cheers, Alan, Australia
Trav_Eller is offline  
Feb 1st, 2012, 12:57 PM
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 257
I will probably use a technique I used in South America. I used the web to book the first night if I am arriving late in the day, because I don't want to be searching for a hotel when I am jetlagged or travel-weary. But I only book the first night.

If that hotel is good I discuss the price for extending my stay for more nights. But if it does not meet the need I take a stroll around the area after I check in and drop in on likely accommodation. That lets me look at the rooms, feel how hard the bed is, find out if we can communicate with the front desk, see the bathrooms, hear the noise etc. I found that it is easier to negotiate when I am already in another hotel and they know I don't have to move unless they make a good offer.

Cheers, Alan, Australia.
Trav_Eller is offline  
Feb 1st, 2012, 05:23 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
Trav_Eller - I suggest you book a modern Chinese chain like Home Inn. They have plenty of locations, and most are very new and western amenities. Also have internet booking, etc. I've stayed at a couple, as well as another chain called GreenTree Inn.
rkkwan is offline  
Feb 1st, 2012, 09:38 PM
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 257
Thank you rkkwan; I'm looking at the Home Inn website now.
Trav_Eller is offline  
Feb 1st, 2012, 11:33 PM
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 427
If your are looking for hostels type of accommodation, there are a few sites dedicated to that market segment. Just google the city name + hostels.
JPDeM is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2012, 01:47 AM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 12,269
Bigger hotels in the big cities tend tobook up especially in season. Priceline Hong Kong Asiarooms.com Ctrip.com booking.com best to book there. hostelbookers.com for hostiles

Otherwise if travelling out rurally I never book stay flexible book on the fly always get great deals especially if not too picky.
qwovadis is offline  
Jun 17th, 2013, 07:27 PM
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 1
Is it only negotiable in smaller sole proprietary hotel through my experience in the past year. For other franchised hotels such as Shangri-la, Jin Jiang, etc., I advise you to book ahead with their special offers, or ask a friend who can get corporate rate for you. I have subscribe to hotel fan pages on Facebook. So I can receive updates on the new special offers coming out. For instant, https://www.facebook.com/JinJiangInternationalHotels , to receive offers from Jin Jiang.
htseng2 is offline  
Jun 17th, 2013, 08:27 PM
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 394
There's quite a lot of comparing of apples and oranges going on here.

For upper end foreign-run hotels, including all the familiar Western brands, and the Asia-origin luxury groups such as Peninsula, Shangri-La (including Kerry, Traders, etc.), Raffles, Marco Polo, and even as low as Accor's groups Ibis budget hotels, the cheapest rate is almost always to be found on the hotel's own web site. Most guarantee that in writing. There is a chance that if you just show up late afternoon as remaining inventory is about to go unsold, that you may just slightly improve on the best web price, depending on the discretion granted to reception. The situation here is complicated by the fact that some of these hotels are so responsive to changes in demand that their prices are altered as often as every half an hour. But if you think you've found a better price on some soi-disant discount site, you are almost certainly not comparing like with like: breakfast is not included, the room is a different size, or is awaiting renovation, and so on.

At mainland-Chinese owned and run hotel at all levels from the most swish to the most cockroach-infested you may easily bargain published rates well down at the counter, and that is how you will get the best rate. Domestic booking sites such as eLong and Ctrip show spectacular discounts because that is what everybody gets, and you can usually, so long as inventory is available, slightly beat these over the counter.

It should be noted that there are vastly more hotels in every city than appear on these sites, that descriptions of the hotels are often highly unreliable (downright mendacious, in fact), and photography a decade out of date. The best value for money Chinese hotel is usually that which has most recently opened. Staff are eager to please, and since no money is ever spent on advertising, and they are slow to appear on booking sites, very deep discounts for much fresher rooms are typically available. Just showing up in a town gives a far wider range of choices, and looking around is the way to find these places. There's no substitute for going to look at a room before you actually hand over any money. Hotels are often in clusters: on-line and guidebook research will tell you where these are, and on your way to them you just need to keep your eyes open.

The exception on bargaining is 'jingji' (economy) hotels such as Home Inn, Motel 168, Jinjiang Inn, and myriad other 'me too' chains. These are very plain hotels targeting the low-level business traveller and whose business model is that of offering a near-identical bare bones but very reliable service at every property at a low and non-negotiable fixed rate, which is only discountable by a published fixed amount to those who purchase memberships. Pastel interiors, free wi-fi, no breakfast, shower-only, fake hardwood floors, tiny closets (often just a clothes rail), basic Chinese TV channels, small rooms, are the standard characteristics. Some caution is needed: there may only be one or two rooms at the lowest published price, and these often have no windows. Some do have English-language booking sites and phone operators, but in general Mandarin is needed for advance booking.
temppeternh is offline  
Jun 17th, 2013, 08:46 PM
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 8,885
In general I like to stay in small, interesting hotels and guest houses. Usually in these sorts of places one must book well in advance at a fixed rate as has already been mentioned. For the more interesting places outside big cities I book directly with the hotel if they have an English language website or, if not, through an agency, any online agency I can find that will book the place for me.

When I'm going to stay in a city I generally don't stay long and I book at a nicer hotel, likely 4 star, through a Chinese website such as elong or c-trip. When it's spur of the moment I go into the hotel and book at the desk asking for a discount which I may get if the place isn't full, even quite upscale places.

So far I've been able to stay in just about every place my heart has desired in these ways.
MmePerdu is online now  
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
Jan 28th, 2008 03:33 AM
Jul 12th, 2007 09:37 AM
May 28th, 2007 12:37 PM
Nov 9th, 2006 07:27 PM
Sep 2nd, 2001 11:08 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 04:23 PM.