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seuaustin Mar 1st, 2006 03:24 PM

Is 4-5* hotel necessary in China?
I've noticed that most people visiting China are staying in $150+ per night hotels. Is this out of necessity for precautionary measures against scamming and theft? Or is it simply out of preference for nice hotels?

Also, I'm trying to calculate whether a trip to China fits within our budget. We have $7000 budgeted. Is this sufficient for a 2 week trip to China? (Which is why I also ask about the hotels).

Thanks for your help!

seuaustin Mar 1st, 2006 03:26 PM

Oh, and any tips on finding cheap flights is appreciated. Would it be possible to find flights from Dallas for less than $1100? Is it better to buy flights now for August - or wait a couple more months? Thanks!

Neil_Oz Mar 1st, 2006 06:24 PM

seuaustin, in my experience it certainly is not necessary to stay in expensive hotels in China. We stayed in 3* hotels in Beijing, Shanghai and Suzhou which were entirely satisfactory, and our one 4* hotel (in Hangzhou) didn't contribute noticeably to the quality of our trip. Our rooms were pleasant and clean and serviced daily, the plumbing worked and the staff, while not fawning all over us (which I detest anyway) were polite and helpful.

US$150 or 1200 yuan, incidentally, is a LOT of money in relation to general incomes and costs in China. Most Chinese workers (including, I have little doubt, hotel staff) don't earn that much in a whole month. Imagine paying the equivalent at home! I get the impression many visitors think it's a bargain for no better reason than that it's maybe half of what they'd pay where they come from.

Chinese vendors of all kinds rely on this mindset to make megaprofits from unwary foreign tourists who are happy if they can bargain down to 50% of the asking price, not realising that this is still maybe four times what the seller will acccept if pressed hard enough.

Some visitors probably feel the urge to ensconce themselves in familiar "American" or "Western" surroundings in a foreign land.

Others just want whatever a 4* or 5* hotel may offer. I don't. My list of wants in a hotel isn't lengthy and doesn't include many of the things that contribute to a higher star rating, like a glitzy lobby, bag-carriers, restaurants (we eat in hotels only in cases of dire necessity), gym (I'm on holidays, aren't I?) and business facilities. Having said that, our 3* hotels did have all that, just on a more modest scale.

It's your choice, but I'm not aware of any security issues in 3* hotels in China. Where did you read about the problem? We mostly stayed in 3* hotels, and they were perfectly acceptable. Frankly, I seldom spend US$150 on a hotel in my own country, and I certainly wouldn't in China.

rhkkmk Mar 1st, 2006 06:43 PM

imo---yes it is necessary in most places in china

BorisS Mar 1st, 2006 07:09 PM

I would strongly recommend that you work with the Chinese Tourist Agency [email protected] They are just great! We had car,driver, guide, hotels, airfare in country, lunches, all averaging about $100/day/person. If you have questions email me: [email protected]
We still keep in touch with some of the guides.

seuaustin Mar 1st, 2006 07:10 PM

Neil, I believe I read on this board about lower star hotels trying to scam tourists by claiming they stole or broke things. And it was slightly reinforced by Frommers who mentioned factoring in time during checkout for the hotel to check your room for stolen items.

Neil, how did you find/decide on your hotels? Mind sharing where you stayed? Did you post a trip report? Thanks for your input! I was happy to hear people have stayed in 3* hotels.

rkkwan Mar 1st, 2006 07:30 PM

The bigger difference is whether a hotel is part of an international chain, or a local Chinese-run one. If you want good, consistent, quality, then better stick with an international chain. Otherwise, it may be good, it may be bad.

I think that's way more important than the star level. Many "local" hotels may be 4*, and have all the amenities of one. But you may find toilets that leak, windows that don't seal well, that kind of things.

seuaustin Mar 1st, 2006 07:59 PM

thanks, all your information has been helpful! i feel much better about planning this trip within our budget.

rkkwan Mar 1st, 2006 08:11 PM

Oh, about the checking of the rooms during check-out. Yes, it's common practice. Doesn't necessarily mean the hotel is trying to scam you, as they also need to protect themselves from customers who took stuff.

Since a lot of locals still don't have credit cards, those local hotels do not require them. If a guest take stuff away (and yes, that surely do happen), the hotel has little recourse once the guest leaves.

But it IS important to check everything in the room when you first arrive. You must tell them if anything is missing or not working - like burnt out light bulbs and missing towels.

WalterSobchak Mar 1st, 2006 10:04 PM

You'll be living in style with $7000 for 2 weeks. Outside of Beijing and Shanghai, China is still a pretty inexpensive place to visit. Don't worry too much about scams -- it does happen, of course, but I've always felt safe in China, generally much safer than I feel in most US cities.

Neil_Oz Mar 1st, 2006 10:14 PM

seaustin, happy to share for what it's worth. Sorry, no actual trip report, but a lot of dribs and drabs in response to posters in this board. The hotels mentioned here are sure to be located on the web. Dollars quoted are US$, approximate.

First, if we hadn't been arriving in Beijing at midnight, meaning we really had to book ahead; and if we hadn't been spending the October holiday week in Shanghai and surrounds (no choice, as that was the only time our China-resident daughters could travel) I might have done things differently.

For Beijing I tried to book the Bamboo Garden online, which looked nice, was told that they were full but could book us at the Ping An Fu. I think this happened to someone else - maybe there is no Bamboo Garden! My method was to just search the web ('beijing +hotels') and roughly locate the hotels on a city map. We wanted somewhere reasonably central and while it was a bit too far to walk to Tiananmen Square etc, it was a Y20 or so cab fare ($2.50). The rate was RMB560 ($68), which I guess we could have bargained down if we'd just walked through the door and not booked ahead. We did have to request a change to a room that didn't look out onto a concrete wall, but apart from that any complaints we had (eg room cleaned late in the day, cleaning crew cheerful but a bit slapdash) were minor. Everything else was acceptable. We soon got used to very firm beds in China.

For the holiday week I relied on a local (Canberra) travel agent with some knowledge of China. He booked us (via Octopus Travel HKG I think) for Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou and a "water town" called Zhouzhuang which proved to be our only negative experience, as they refused to accept our prepaid voucher, didn't take Visa and so temporarily cleaned me out of folding money. As there seemed little choice in town I recommend Zhouzhang for a day trip but not overnight.

Shanghai - we got a mini-suite in the Liang An Hotel in Chang An Lu, about a Y15-25 cab fare to the main areas of interest at the very reasonable rate of $40 and $52 for two separate stays. Chang An Lu is more an alley than a road and best described as atmospheric, not exactly swish but perfectly safe (as we found all Chinese cities) and actually an interesting insight into street life in an older area. The staff were always pleasant and helpful, no complaints from us.

In Hangzhou we were booked into the Zhongshan Hotel, which had been reborn as a Holiday Inn in the meantime. Reputedly 4*, nice hotel with an overly helpful desk manager who after a time I went out of my way to avoid. (Obsequiousness doesn't suit the Chinese.) Surprisingly, $42 a night.

Suzhou: Bamboo Grove, which now I think about it may have been 4* too. Again, no complaints, but the rate was $110.

Zhouzhuang: the Zhouzhuang Hotel, substandard as mentioned, although the rooms were OK. $95 - too much, but we were a captive market.

As you can see there wasn't much rhyme or reason in the tariffs. The holiday week situation made for a very weak bargaining position, though.

I've left out our visit to the Bingyu Valley resort in Liaoning Province, which was pretty crummy, but very few Western visitors make it up there.

I'm sure rkkwan has forgotten more about China than I know, and our visit certainly wasn't extensive enough to enable me to generalise too far. Intuitively the idea that whatever risk there may be would be less in western hotel chains makes sense. All I can do is pass on our experience. Hope it helps.

- Neil

bhuty Mar 2nd, 2006 03:52 PM

FInd a international chain, ask for the corporate price (name an multi national corporation) and go with that. that way you get 4* plus and half the price.

Ok, so if you want to act ethically then when I was with my family I would only go 4* plus, espcially in Beijing but just 2 adults can easily enjoy 3* accom for under US$50 a room and soemtimes even get breakkie included in locations that aren't scarey.

Word of warning, if you are the worried type and you are arriving in a city at night then think carefully about the location. I would base it on whether or not a airport bus service takes me to the hotel or not. The last thing you want to do is get off a bus at 10pm in a strange city whilst carrying a load of bags (IMO).

seuaustin Mar 2nd, 2006 05:21 PM

Thank you all for the wonderful information -- very much appreciated! I'm sure I'll be back with lots more questions, but this is a great start.

JaneB Mar 2nd, 2006 06:20 PM

rkkwan is correct. Stick with the international chains. I never made an advance reservation and I was never disappointed.

Neil_Oz Mar 2nd, 2006 06:38 PM

An international chain - as long as you're happy to stay in hotels that look and feel the same wherever you are. Asking for a corporate rate is a good idea if you can get away with it (Australian hotels, for example, usually ask to see some form of proof), and it's only marginally dodgy in a country where you can buy any documentation you need - university degrees, marriage certificates, divorce certificates to annul that non-existent marriage, whatever. The hotel will still be making a decent profit.

There's no need to take a bus from Capital Airport, Beijing. The cab fare to the centre of should be no more than Y100 (US$12) - we paid Y90 ($11) one way and Y60 ($7.50) the other.

We did a LOT of walking in Beijing and Shanghai and never found a location that scared us. There's no equivalent of the no-go zones in many American cities.

fuzzylogic Mar 3rd, 2006 02:28 AM

It really depends on how you like to travel. If everything has to be just like home then go with the opinions of rkkwan (who I suspect has never has the need, urge or curiousity to stay in anything other than lux stuff).

Me - I'd go with Neil_Oz. It really isn't necessary to pay those extra bucks if you are on a budget.

bhuty Mar 3rd, 2006 02:50 AM

Hear that Neil? Fuzzy thinks you're rich enough to pay for her to travel with you.

"Me - I'd go with Neil_Oz. It really isn't necessary to pay those extra bucks if you are on a budget."

rkkwan Mar 3rd, 2006 05:45 AM

fuzzylogic - I will tell you that my family and I have seldom stay at a foreign chain hotel in China, with a few exceptions. That's how I know quality is inconsistent and hotel clerks do come check your rooms during check-out. We've also encountered things like paying for a broken light bulbs in so-called 3* hotels.

The fact is that I'm sure there are nice local owned and local run hotels in China, but how would you know? Certainly not from the exterior or photos. And another problem is that quality of the interior work is suspect and maintenance is spotty. So, you may read a good review 6 months after the hotel opens, but when you go 2 years later it's already a dump.

There are all kinds of things like that, and that's why I suggest an international chain. If you read my post, you'll never see me saying one needs to stay at "luxury stuff". There are Holiday Inn Express, etc in China that are solid 3*s. I don't think people will relate those with luxury.

seuaustin Mar 3rd, 2006 12:31 PM

thanks, these are all good things to consider. we just like to be cautious so we can enjoy our trip with minimal incidents. but not so cautious that we can't afford to go. :)

Neil_Oz Mar 3rd, 2006 01:16 PM

If you run some searches on this forum you'll pick up good info on some of the scams to be wary of in China. Don't miss the posts by the guy who paid US$450 for a tea ceremony for three people (the scammer probably sang "Tea for Three/And you for me ... Can't you see/how happy I will be?")

There's no point being paranoid though, as this will just spoil your visit. The great majority of Chinese we encountered were honest and welcoming, and for sure there are many worse places than China. The reference to Boston cabbies was funny - with the exception of one unlicenced operator (I'd let my guard down, it can happen) every cabbie we used in China was honest, efficient and cheerful. My wife commented that the way to fix Sydney's cab problems would be to import several thousand Beijing cabbies, teach them English and let them loose.

Naturally, the scammers tend to congregate where there are good pickings in the shape of nice juicy foreign tourists. As a rule I wouldn't accept any unsolicited offers by helpful strangers.

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