Where to stay in China
Hotels have sprung up all over urban China, with the big-name international chains all having a presence in Beijing, Shanghai and increasingly Guangzhou and Shenzhen. The alarming pace of openings means there is no shortage of accommodation, even in peak season, with the range spanning everything from the lowest of budgets to blinged out luxury.
The expansion of high-end Far East groups such as the Shangri-La and Mandarin Oriental brands, has helped raise standards to the point where top hotels more than match the quality of other Asian destinations.. The most impressive choice of accommodation is in cities like Shanghai and Beijing – unsurprisingly, costs are usually more expensive too. Star ratings for domestically-run hotels can be somewhat generous Facilities generally include restaurants, coffee shops, bars, swimming pools and massage rooms. Some include executive floors and lounges, spas, shopping and business malls, banks and post offices.
Bed and breakfast
Bed and breakfast has grown in popularity as an accommodation option for travellers. These can range from down-at-heel affairs which deliver the basics, to smart quirky alternatives to a more expensive hotels. Often called guest houses, these properties can be found in rural areas as well as cities.
Camping is seen as something of an alien concept in China, and there are precious few places where you could pitch up a tent without attracting adverse attention, from the authorities or otherwise. It becomes more feasible in remote regions, and there are certain wilderness areas where it is possible to secure a permit.
If you’re planning on spending considerable time in a particular city, some sort of self-catering rental arrangement – usually in the form of an apartment – is a viable idea, although you may find yourself a long distance from the city centre. Self-catering becomes less practical in areas that don’t draw regular influxes of international visitors.
Good progress has been made in the construction of a network of hostels, covering, in particular, Beijing, Guangdong, Guangxi, Shanghai and Yunnan. China is a huge country, but very few areas of touristic interest are now without a dormitory, hostel or basic guesthouse to cater for the country’s ever-growing backpacker scene. These are found in most tourist centres and provide cheaper accommodation for budget travellers. Standards range from poor to adequate.
A fast-growing sector tapping into the luxury market, boutique hotels are springing up across China, from city locations to tourist towns and rural settings near major attractions or tourist centres. They range from stylish properties in local architectural style to luxurious havens of tranquillity, some with spas.
Another unique place to stay is in one of the mega casino resorts, which are springing up in developments like the Cotai Strip and are transforming Macau into the Las Vegas of the East. The casino resort scene, once monopolised by local entrepreneur Stanley Ho, is now seeing the arrival of lavish complexes by Vegas operators, like Wynn and Sands, and other familiar international names, like PBL and MGM, and new projects by locals including Ho. Besides gaming, they feature plenty of razzmatazz, fine dining and entertainment to tempt guests to stay longer. The Venetian also has a 15,000-seat indoor sports and performance arena that hosts major pop concerts, musicals and exhibition sports matches.