“Are foreigners not people?”

Arxan, Inner Mongolia

For the Chinese National holidays in October, 2015, hubby, I and Little Song (our then 15-month-old son) make a road trip to the Arxan mountain range (阿尔山 Ā’ěrshān) in Inner Mongolia (内蒙古 Nèiménggǔ) near the China-Mongolia border.

Arxan, Inner Mongolia

When we arrive at our destination, we have a hard time finding an affordable hotel  that will take in foreigners. Foreigners need to be registered with the police by hotels, and most turn us away saying that it’s already too late at night to register us. We finally find a lonely guesthouse on a hill and spend the night there.

Little Song

The next day we eat breakfast at a restaurant owned by ethnic Mongolians. They have mouth-watering baozi and watery, but also very delicious millet congee on their breakfast menu. When we ask the owner about their rooms and if they take in foreigners, telling him that we had problems finding a room the day before, he replies: “Of course we take in foreigners. Are foreigners not people?”

Have you ever had problems finding a hotel that would take you in? I’d love to read your comments.

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Hi, I'm Ruth, welcome to China Elevator Stories! I have been living in Kunming and Shenzhen in the past and am now staying in Northeast China with my Chinese husband and our baby and toddler son. Join us on our journey bridging worlds!

15 comments

  1. That’s happened to me some times. At the beginning I got mad and I used to yell in chinese what is the wrong with them, so discriminating, but then I just see as another annoyance that you would never changed here, no matter you get or not angry. Reception workers can’t do nothing about it, it is not their fault, they just follow the instructions of so called leaders. My girlfriend told me some hotels do this because they don’t have machine to check if the passport is real or not. Anyway, whatever reason, it is still discriminating and absurd rule.

  2. Oh yes I remember this so well. When I was in Beidaihe I had already booked online but because my phone is in Chinese, so the booking must have looked like a Chinese person even if I used my real long Scandinavian name. The hotel receptionist looked at me with a puzzled face because they couldn’t take foreigners in. No explanation or apologizing, just no. So I moved on. It took me two hours before I found an affordable place. Wasn’t ready to pay too much money at the Golden Russian hotel in town. Because if you are a foreigner you can afford to pay right? It made me very unhappy.. But it seems like it’s only in some places. Traveling to small rural towns in Guizhou, I never had trouble just checking into to random small hotels 🙂 it’s weird 🙂 but thanks for sharing

  3. Yes, the same thing happened to us. It was 1983, and we had reservations in the new Hotel for Overseas Chinese in Xiamen. (There weren’t yet any hotels for foreigners.) When they saw my face they wouldn’t let us in. Since there was no other place to go and we were planning to stay for a week, my husband argued with them for a long time. Finally he talked them into calling the manager, an older man. He was able to convince the manager by telling him an old Chinese saying: “Marry a chicken, follow a chicken. Marry a dog, follow a dog.”I wrote a post about it a couple of years ago. I called it “No Room at the Inn.” http://nickichenwrites.com/wordpress/visiting-gulangyu/no-room-at-the-inn/

  4. That has never happened to me, but sometimes when trying to book a hotel in ctrip I have seen that some hotels are marked as “domestic guests only”. It seems hotels need a special permit if they want to accept foreigners?

  5. robert

    Never happened to me – my wife and I take the German/Austrian approach and usually plan accommodation and travel arrangements well ahead 🙂 We rarely travel spontaneously. But I do like the attitude of the Mongolians!

  6. Its not just China that has extra registration required for ‘foreign’ guests… including those married to an Indian with a PIO/OCI (closest India has reached to permitting dual citizenship). Love the response from your breakfast spot owners!!

  7. Haven’t experienced it in China and just finished a ten day tour of Ningxia, Qinghai and Guizhou…(have some posts on my travels if you are interested in checking out my blog), but just did read an article/post on the exact same subject – I think it was from CrazyChineseFamily’s blog…very interesting.

  8. Emma

    I’ve had this several times across my time here -I think if you’re prepared to ‘splash the cash’, foreigners are fine, but these people often don’t realise just how ripped off they’re getting!

    I spent hours in Nanjing pushing hotel staff because they all just kept trying to do the ‘you’re a foreigner, stay in the fancy foreigner hotel’ thing and I wasn’t prepared to pay over 150RMB a night. This isn’t even that low a price – I mean, there are hotels and hostels for half that available. I’ve also had it in Hangzhou, twice. Both of these cities are major tourist destinations, and both times I’ve booked rooms via C-trip before hand to only have the booking cancelled when I arrive – it’s so frustrating.

    I don’t think it’s formal, as certain branches of chain hotels will accept foreigners and others won’t, and comments I’ve seen on C-trip have been from foreigners, but then the same hotel has rejected me – I think it’s basically down to who is working on that day and how much they’re impressed by your Chinese. *sigh*

    Regarding the title – a friend of my partner’s recently left China for the first time to go on a business trip to the USA. He came back and told us that before he’d traveled, he truly believed that foreigners and Chinese were fundamentally different, and that he felt many Chinese felt this way…He came back amazed at how similar everyday life is in America versus China. On bad days, it can certainly feel like many people share his original view.

  9. Bob

    My experiences were a little more extreme. Twice while visiting different parts of China, once in QingHai province and once in Gansu I was ejected from the area by the local Police. In Qinghai, I had no trouble getting into the hotel but the next day the officers arrived and after much debate it was too late in the evening to brave the bad roads to get out of the area so they moved me to a hotel that was Authorized to accept Foreigners. We then left in the morning.
    The second time, I had the first hotel reject us, then a couple of hours after getting into the second hotel Officers arrived and told us we had to go. Again it was too late and too dangerous to do the return trek across the dessert, an 8 hour drive, so they took our passports and told us to come to the Station in the morning to write our apology/explanation letters before we could leave.
    Both times they were nice enough about the whole thing explaining that these were Restricted areas and that our company could apply for permits to let us come back if they wanted to.
    My advice, if you have any trouble with the hotel, go straight to the local PSB and do the registration there. Usually only takes 5 minutes. Then you can show the document to the hotel staff.

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