I recommend using this website (www.homtel.cn ) to rent an apartment in China, for its wealth of choice. I was told, however, that the photos displayed on the webs do not match the reality. And the landlord/lady will charge you extra money for this and that. Given that there are so many fake products in China, a fake photo should not come as too much of a surprise.
The tip, therefore, is not to pay anything before you actually see the apartment.
I have quite nice experience with using the website though. Through the website listing, I found an apartment in Dalian, Liaoning province.
This is the apartment I found at Dalian, costing RMB3,000 monthly.
I called at the posted contact number and the lady sounded very friendly and sincere. Normally, you are required to pay the rent before your booking is confirmed. But I told her I was not inside China so I would only pay upon arrival. She sounded very positive about this and raised no objections.
And the apartment was just like what it was shown on the photos, with all the modern household appliances, as promised on the internet. The lady even came to the airport for free pickup. The website didn’t mention internet connection but the apartment actually included this. In the middle of the month-long stay, the internet connection broke down. The lady was a bit slow in taking action to fix it but it was finally fixed after a week. No water or electricity bill was charged during the stay.
But as a foreigner, your not being able to speak Mandarin may be the downside. The lady in Dalian speaks very little English but she asked her English-speaking friend for help. Where there is business, the property owner will find a way. So no worries.
In Pingyao, there is a youth hostel called Yamen Hostel, probably the best youth hostel across China. Because the hostel is so wonderful, my friend has stayed in the city for over two weeks.
The hostel is located in a very well preserved and charming traditional courtyard mansion – with front yards and backyards, and halls in the middle. It was built in 1591 to house the emperor on his planned visit to the city, but the emperor cancelled his visit and the mansion was never used for its original purpose.
This explains the tranquil atmosphere and beautiful architectural design of the hostel. Undoubtedly, the attraction of the hostel lies in the rare opportunity it offers to foreign travelers to sample living in a hundreds-years-old Chinese building at a minimum price and with a lovely atmosphere.
The guest rooms are all richly decorated, with internet access. The lobby with comfortable sofas, pleasant music and wifi, is a great place to meet people, or read books, or surf the net. Most importantly, the staff is very friendly. Toward the end of his stay, my friend not only got a discount for his ensuite room, but also had two free nights of accommodation.
And, the hostel has a nicely run kitchen – the food it churns out, western or eastern, is delicious.
If you stay in Nanjing, a budget hotel is recommended, which is:
It is at a prime site – in the Confucius Temple area. 168RMB per room. The room is clean and with fast internet connection. I chose the hotel for a friend based on hotel users’ positive review. My friend’s comment after using it? Positive, of course.
Opposite this budget hotel is a five-star “Mandarin Garden Hotel” where you can buy train tickets to anywhere in China for a service charge of 5RMB. Very convenient.
Another China hotel booking website I would like to recommend is Sinohotel. I’ve used their service, which is satisfactory to me.
Their English page has more user comment than elong, and for some hotels, they conduct checks and write their own comment. This is one great advantage over elong – more review in English. The price they offer and the range of the hotels they have are no different from those at elong, though.
As elong, once you fill out the online booking form, they will email you to acknowledge your booking and then email again to confirm the booking. Credit card is usually not needed for keeping the booking. You make payment when you arrive at the hotel.
However, you have to take note that China hotels request guests to pay deposit for their stay and the deposit will be returned when they check out. The deposit can be paid in the form of cash or credit card, usually a few hundred RMB.
I recommend two hotel booking sites. One is elong. This is a US listed company with powerful resources in China flight and hotel booking. I think it is the only company that offers online flight ticket booking in China.
The hotel range is wide, and its booking service is quick. I made an online hotel booking, and they acknowledged receipt of request via email in two minutes and confirmed the booking through mobile phones in five minutes! I was impressed.
Besides good service, if you can read Chinese, go to their Chinese version and you will find lots of hotel users’ comments, very useful in helping you to identify a good hotel. Comments on some hotels are a few pages long. And the comment is aggregated into an overall rating.
It is a shame that the English hotel booking interface does not have user comment – well it is understandable. The site has much fewer English speaking users than Chinese users. It is another shame that the English page is not automatically shifted to the corresponding page in Chinese when you change the language option. You cannot therefore, just by one click, see the overall rating of the same hotel by Chinese users.
On elong, you can search hotels based on pricing. Once you push the pricing based search button, the cheapest hotels will come on the top. It is helpful for those on a tight budget.
Also, you don’t need a visa card to make reservation. Well, some hotels do require you to make the booking with visa cards if your checking in time is after 6pm and you want to be sure of a room during the public holiday like the Golden Week in May and October. But the visa cards they need usually are those issued in China. So avoid checking in after 6pm, or just take the risk of not having a room – the risk is minimal anyway.