Hotels in China

guide hotel5starplaqueChina’s tourism industry does use a “Star” system to rate facilities and quality (similar to the West)….but don’t put too much stock in them because the system of awarding of stars (surprise!) isn’t immune to bribery…so the number of stars doesn’t necessarily reflect actual quality. I’ve seen hotels swap out 3 star plaques for 5 star plaques once a government official left the hotel.  The motto for pretty much everything in China these days is “Buyer beware”.

Stars & Standards

From my experience, a Chinese 5-star is roughly equivalent to a “western” 4 star hotel, a Chinese 4-star, similar to “western” 3-star etc… Since around 2013, quality of hotel accommodation is becoming more important to Chinese, so they are introducing Chinese “Premium 5 star”. “6-star” and “7-star” hotels (that are more in line with “western” 5 star hotels.)

guide hotelbrandsFor a better understanding of the standard for hotels in China to get stars…

The Standard of 5-star China Hotels

  • The hotel function differentiates reasonable, facilities are convenient to use and are safe
  • The decoration must be luxury and the material must be in top quality
  • Having central air-conditioning system, background audio system and the top computer management system
  • Luxury lobby, staff at the reception must master two foreign languages (English is needed)
  • 24 hour Service, 24 hour Exchange Center, Safe Service, Full-time porter (24 hour), Service for Disabled Persons
  • Room with advanced facilities and luxury decoration, 24 hour Room Service
  • Excellent restaurants offering Western and local cuisines
  • Complete entertainment facilities (typically many English TV channels, fast broadband internet, pool, gym and club)

The Standard of 4-star China Hotels

  • The hotel function differentiates reasonable, facilities are convenient to use and are safe
  • The decoration must be a deluxe grade and the material must be in great quality
  • Having central air-conditioning system and the advanced computer management system
  • Deluxe lobby, and at least one staff member at the reception must two foreign languages (English is needed)
  • 24 hour Service, 18 hour Exchange Center, Safe Service, Porter service (18 hour), Service for Disabled Persons
  • Room with advanced facilities and deluxe decoration, 24 hour Room Service
  • Great restaurants offering Western and local cuisines
  • Various entertainment facilities (typically KTV, wifi internet & in-room video games)

The Standard of 3-star China Hotels

  • It needs comfortable living condition
  • It needs various facilities and reasonable room service (typically Chinese food, KTV, wifi internet)

Other than western 5-star luxury hotels (Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton, Ritz Carlton in major cities), Chinese hotels have hard beds.  Get used to them, not much can be done about them. Sometimes double quilting under the sheet can help.

For all hotels, check in is generally after 2:00 p.m. and check out is usually by noon the next day. When checking in, you will need to present your passport and fill in a temporary registration form that the hotel will use to manage your Police registration for you.


  • Most hotels (other than western 5 star luxury hotels) do not regulate/enforce non-smoking rooms.  Expect that even if you are on a “non-smoking” floor, or in a “non-smoking” room, you will find ashtrays, and the smell of past smoke.  This changed (somewhat) in Beijing with introduction of non-smoking hotels as of Jan 1, 2015 and in Shanghai as of March 1, 2017 — but rules are made to be broken.
  • Most hotels (other than western 5-star) have KTV rooms inside the hotels.  Again, get used to them, the noise and vibration from the KTV at 3am is something that is just, well, Chinese.
  • Outside of western 5 star hotels, it can be very hard to find English-speaking staff to help you (don’t be surprised if they just hang up on you!). This includes trying to order room service or reaching a manager to help with a problem. So be prepared.
  • Most Chinese hotels offer up only Chinese food, getting western food is a challenge – so be prepared.
  • Most Chinese hotels will serve warm drinks, so get to a local grocery shop ASAP after check in and buy cold (“bing”) drinks, and put them on your AC unit in the room.
  • Do NOT ever use the kettle or boiling water device in your hotel room, frequently, Chinese tourists are know to use this as a way to clean their own underwear at night.  If you need boiling water, order it from room service.
  • Book sightseeing tour tickets through the hotel tour desk. Prices are likely to be competitive and tickets will be delivered to your hotel room. Again, avoid ticket touts who approach you in the streets.
  • guide hotelpowerkey

                  hotel power key

    Most Chinese hotels use power systems that require your door key to be inserted for power.  This means your laptop and camera/mobile phone battery charger will stop when you leave the room.  In some hotels you can get around this by inserting a business card in the slot.  You can also TRY and convince the front desk to give you a SPARE key, but be warned, housekeeping will often remove it, so put the do not disturb sign on if you are “charging” stuff.

  • Except in western 5-star hotels, the Government sets a date nationally that heating may be turned on (and off).  Some 5 star hotels have in room individual climate control, prior (or post) this date, it is illegal for the building to turn on (or off).  So in the event of cold snap prior to or after the national date, expect to take emergency measures with space heaters and blankets.
  • At check-in (typically allow 20 minutes), the hotel will copy your passport and visa, and complete a temporary registration permit on your behalf.  This registers you with the local PSB (Public Security Bureau), something the Chinese have been meticulously doing for everyone for over 450 years.
  • You’ll may also need to pay in advance, often requiring an additional refundable deposit (if credit cards not accepted) an important reason to make sure everything is in working order when you arrive in room.
  • guide hoteladdresscard

                         hotel address card

    Take the “name card” for each hotel that you are staying at as these cards will have a Chinese address and the map of your hotel location. This is useful if you need to seek assistance to find your way back as the English version or pronunciation of a hotel or a street name may be quite different from the Chinese version.  Best also to have the concierge or a friend send you ALL addresses you will be going to in Chinese on WeChat, so you can show the drivers.

  • At checkout, (typically allow 15 minutes or more), they will check and inventory your room while you wait, and then settle payments.  Even if you used a credit card at check in, the whole process needs to be repeated at a check out for payment in full.
  • Be warned, ALL hotels in China accepting credit cards will place a hold on your credit card for a certain amount that will NOT be credited back to your account for up to 30 days after you check out.  So ensure your credit card has a large line of credit, or be prepared to pay cash.
  • Not all hotels in China are open to foreigners, though – some are for Chinese nationals only (非涉外旅馆). This varies enormously from area to area; most hotels in Beijing have been open to foreigners since 2006, for example, whereas Henan Province has a large number of restricted hotels.
  • Of course, if you book ahead of time, the staff should notify you as to whether or not you can stay there (if you have a Chinese name on your passport, you might want to make your nationality explicit when booking, just to be sure).

Tipping is not very popular and is officially discouraged.  If using a credit card, no tipping, since, unlike the USA, the credit card will be charged in full before you sign.     Bellman in hotels may be tipped in cash.

Toby Simkin’s Broadway Entertainment, LLC
dba within China as: 沈途彬商务咨询(上海)有限公司

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