One of the beauties of traveling in China is the amazing variety of places there are to stay in nearly every city and township. Whereas in the US, most towns do have a motel at least, but they are all pretty much capped at $30-$50 minimum per night. In China, there are a wealth of options available for less (and of course over) that price. Moreover, for travelers looking for bargains there are an array of options and membership programs that can reduce costs at many chain motels.
Let’s start at the high end. China, of course, hosts a broad assortment of the world’s top hotels. Some of global brands and their respective resort-cum-business center establishments. One can easily find Hilton, Holiday Inn, Ritz-Carlton, Shangri-La, Marriott and others in any of the larger cities. These mostly charge well over $100 per night for their rooms. This is still a great deal compared with what they would cost in the US, Europe, or even Korea, Japan and Singapore (not to mention Hong Kong where a closet with a bed still costs $20-$30 per night). These hotels have excellent service, English-speaking staff and passable to excellent Western food available. Their breakfast buffets are particularly nice (I highly endorse the one at the Ritz-Carlton in Guangzhou) if somewhat pricey – usually 150-200 RMB or more. If I recall correctly, the lunch or dinner buffet at the Ritz was 250 RMB per person.
China has opened a wide array of four and five star hotels as well. These also carry heavy price tags but are more likely to be willing to lower their prices, somewhat, if demand is slow. Don’t expect a steal, however – these are still five star establishments and part of their exclusivity rides on the fact that the prices are high enough to keep out the average tourist. Like their foreign invested brethren, these hotels usually have at least some, if not mostly, English-speaking staff. Rooms run from $80 and up (but only around $80 if you get a really good deal).
Stepping down, there are foreign chains like Ramada and Days Inn. They are willing to make a deal and will offer rooms in the $40-$60 range if you can negotiate with them. The staffs’ command of English may be more limited, however, so negotiating might be (will be) easier in Chinese. There is no need to really book ahead. Just call the hotel, explain how long you will stay and try to lock in a good rate. These hotels are comparable to their counterparts in the US. Like the four and five star hotels they can also help arrange a car and driver for your convenience although the price will be much higher than what you could negotiate with a taxi driver for all day service or could find from looking online. Unfortunately most of the car and driver services with English language websites charge $100 per day plus plus (and up).
Everyone knows about the array of hostel options available in major tourist destinations like Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu. Dali is full of hostels catering to foreigners and there are a handful in places like Xiamen and Sanya as well. These all feature similar amenities and are typically ranked by the speed of their Internet, the coldness of the beer, and the language abilities of the staff. No need to dwell on this point. I must confess I am not terribly enamored with hostels.
What I have grown to love, however, are the Chinese chain hotels. Hanting, 7 Days Inn, Rujia Home Inn, Motel 168 and JJ Inn. These have reasonable prices, are growing explosively, and offer decent air conditioned or heated rooms with private bathrooms and Internet. They all also have membership programs. Once you sign up and get a card (completely painless) you start accruing points which can be used toward free nights and other perks. At 7 Days Inn, members get a complimentary yoghurt drink or carton of milk when they turn in for the night (just pick it up at the front desk). Like full service hotels, these also provide luggage storage and can usually advise on travel matters. The security in Hanting Hotels is particular good as many require guests to use their cards in order to activate the elevator.
Check out their websites and happy travels!
JJ Inn (锦江之星旅馆): http://www.jinjianginns.com/ (Only available in Chinese – the English link doesn’t work)
Rujia Home Inn (如家酒店连锁): http://english.homeinns.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=203641&p=irol-homeProfile (but the Chinese site has the booking links. The English page is mainly for investors)
Motel 168 (莫泰连锁旅店): http://en.motel168.com/ (Actually a comprehensive English website including online booking).
7 Days Inn (7天连锁酒店): http://www.7daysinn.cn/ (The English site, again, is an investor site). A great inexpensive motel.