Foreign visitors were once restricted to staying in high-priced official hotels, but luckily those days are over. Restrictions on where foreigners can stay have become less and less frequently enforced. Western-style travel hotels are almost universally open to foreign guests. However, the lowest-end Chinese accommodations called Zhaodaisuo are still largely unavailable to the foreign community. Being able to speak Chinese will ensure you the best rates.
It is usually best to book a hotel before arriving as many people find the initial shock of Beijing hard to handle when looking for a place to stay. Touts (people selling goods/services) can be very aggressive and can direct you to undesirable places. It is often much easier to have a place to go directly as you settle in.
Negotiations are frequently possible and may offer significant discounts. Ask about the lowest price and negotiate if you are staying multiple days. Credit cards are not widely used in China, particularly in smaller and cheaper hotels. It is also common for the hotel to scan your passport and require a small deposit.
Mid-range hotels are available throughout the city and cost from 500-1,000 RMB.
More luxurious hotels exist in the city center, especially in Dongcheng District, and on the eastern 3rd Ring Road in Chaoyang District. By Western standards, many of these hotels remain relatively cheap. For rooms here, the listed rates start at around 4,000 RMB, but are often discounted to about 1,500 RMB.
A Bed & Breakfast can be an a refreshingly personal environment to explore a new city. Though a B&B may be more expensive then traditional hotels, occasionally they are cheaper then the surrounding locations given the inclusion of a meal and the luxury of the environment.
The Bed & Breakfast in China site offers a helpful listing of B&B's in China.
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