Why Are Some Chinese Hotels Closed to Foreigners?

Did you know some Chinese hotels are only available to mainlanders?

I’ve experienced it before, walking around a city trying to find a hotel or guest house with vacancies, and going into hotels only to be told that they only accept guests with Chinese ID. You may even see a booking agency advertising the fact. Here is an example from Agoda.

This policy stems from the 1970s. It is mostly focussed on lower end hotels. My understanding is that in short, travellers in China are required to report their presence to the local security bureau within a day of arrival in most places (the blurb on the back of the arrival card). Normally the hotels will do this, through a link they have with the local security bureau, saving guests the effort of doing it themselves. Hotels which do not expect many foreign guests or do not want them do not have the link set up, and so can use this as a way to reject foreigners. That said, the law itself is quite hazy – if you want to learn more about this, check out this Reddit thread.

This is unlikely to affect you in higher end hotels. It becomes a problem in hotels of three stars or below, especially in lower tier cities. As the years go by, it is becoming less prevalent, but in specific provinces you can still encounter it quite a bit.

There is not much you can do about this. Most hotels who have this policy enforce it rigidly. Waving a booking around isn’t going to help much. Even if you persuade a sleepy nightdesk employee to let you stay, bear in mind that the lack of registration may mean that you are breaking your terms of stay in the country, and some other employee may well report that to the security bureau so you’ll have a different type of morning call.

If you have recent experiences or stories to share about this, we’d be interested to hear them!

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