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Living Abroad in China

Travel Tips

Booking Accommodations in China – Travel Hack

The three main sites that I typically swear by when booking accommodations are:


Now of course there are so many others out there working in the same space, but these have been my lifelines for quite some time as I’ve tried nearly every site in my years of traveling.

This most recent trip across China however was an eye opener for me.  I realized that if you can figure out what the locals use, you can find not only better deals, but entirely different accommodation options.  After a few weeks in Shanghai I stumbled upon This is the site that is used by all locals in China when booking accommodations for their vacations within the country.  Luckily China is really big on tourism and caters to English speaking folk…they released an English version of the site, just for stealthy travelers like us!

The English version of the site is and there is also an awesome mobile app that allows you to book from your phone.  I got a sim card in China through China Unicom and literally booked my accommodations on Ctrip the day before or even an hour before we arrived in the city, on the train, in the cab, or walking – on the app.  It made life so easy and I found some of the best deals EVER.  I am typically very loyal to the brands and sites I know, but honestly, not a single one of them holds a candle to what Ctrip can provide you while traveling in China.

If you are planning to make the trip to China – please read our other posts on useful apps, travel hacks, and suggested “know before you go” information.


Beijing, China – Another Expat Haven

Shanghai and Beijing, China both attract a great number of expats – either venturing out in the world on their own volition, or sent by an international company of sorts. The cities have different vibes entirely, but Beijing certainly has the modern conveniences to accompany you’re every need much like the city of lights (Shanghai). You can expect very good hospitals, schools, international grocery stores, delivery, underground music scene, communities, etc.  We stumbled upon a very cool series of alley ways near Bei Hei park (slightly northeast maybe 5 minutes walking) that had a mean neighborhood party in a courtyard going down on a Saturday afternoon. We were happy to take part in that!

Most helpful things to use in Beijing:

  1. The Beijinger – awesome publication that keeps you up on all events and news in the city
  2. Time Out – another publication that has great info
  3. Beijing Subway App – made by MX data
  4. Jenny Lou is an extensive international grocery store with an excellent selection
  5. Several restaurants/grocery stores provide delivery and beyond (sherpas, etc. – shown in an image attached above and discussed here)
  6. Ctrip – allows you to book hotels at a great low price and provides Chinese translation for taxi drivers

The two cities also suffer the same key issues that you’ll hear from every foreigner (although not enough to keep us foreigners away 🙂 )-

1. the almighty firewall (even more powerful than the Great Wall – it limits internet speed, at times shuts it down entirely, and always restricts access, with some 2600 sites blocked entirely)

2. Gray skies by way of pollution. The most downloaded app in the region is a pollution detection system that provides a current rating and information about the daily pollutant levels. One woman we spoke with literally did not take her baby outside for 3 months in Beijing, as levels were above 300.

Don’t get the wrong idea though, we haven’t worn a mask once and have had absolutely no issues.  We still love China for everything else it brings to the table!