The hot, humid summer is upon us. Some of us will take refuge and stay indoors, A/C blasting until the mercury hits a more respectable figure in the 20s come September. But for some of us, staying here isn’t an option and we’re hoping to take off in search of a beach, sun, sea, sand and a cocktail (or three).
Photo: Kate Ter Haar
Living in China has its fair share of ups and downs, but one of the better ups is the ability to use the country as a springboard for travelling around the rest of Asia on a budget. When home is thousands of miles away it makes sense to see a little bit of the rest of the world, not just China, when you reside here. Just like in Europe, there are plenty of no frills airlines and cheap hotels to choose from and it’s not all about package holidays – build your own from city breaks and tropical paradises to beach sunsets or water sports. Whatever floats your boat, there’s a holiday type to suit everyone and building your own trip has become the norm. However, when you’re all the way over here how do you know where to find the cheapest flights, cheapest hotels and the best deals available?
Let’s take a look at some price comparison websites, what they offer and how they compare:
The website address of this price comparison company is www.skyscanner.net. First off this page is available in 28 different languages as well as displaying prices in your local currency of choice (68 to be exact) – helpful if you live in one country but want to pay in the currency of another (or if you still convert to your home currency in your head!). It gives you the option to select your location also, a preference which is remembered each time you load the page assuming that you use the same computer. This site is most popular for finding cheap flights but also offers hotel and car hire comparison deals.
Upon searching for flights, input the departure and arrival destinations followed by the dates you’re interested in, how many people are travelling and then click ‘Search.’ You can choose to search using specific dates, a specific week or the whole month if you only have a vague idea of when you’ll be travelling and it allows searches up to 12 months in advance no later than the current date. Once the search has loaded, there is a sort field to arrange the prices according to what is most important to you: Price per Adult (from lowest to highest), Journey Time, Departure Time, Arrival Time, Airline or Stopovers.
After selecting an appropriate flight, click the green ‘Select’ box to the right hand side of the flight details, which will open a new tab and take you directly to the page of the company offering the flight. It will already have the details you selected pre-loaded; there is no need to complete them again in the new window. Just confirm and pay if you’re happy with the selection. The beauty of using Skyscanner is that there are no hidden costs or fees for using the site. The price you see is the price you pay making them extremely competitive. As their website advertises:
“Skyscanner is Free!
When you find your flights and click to book, we link you through directly to the airline or travel agent. No hidden charges, no added fees. So you get the cheapest flights every time!”
… So now that you’ve booked your flights, how about a hotel???
This website is an absolute find! The address is www.booking.com and the beauty of it is that you can reserve your hotel in advance and pay on arrival. Perfect if you’re running low on funds, organise your trip and take the worry out of finding a hotel with little time/money to spare. Similar to Skyscanner, there is a choice of languages and currencies in a drop down box, making your search much easier. A variety of payment methods are accepted too, from credit and debit cards to cash on arrival in the local currency of the hotel. It’s normal for the site to pre-authorise credit cards upon reservation. This is a precautionary measure in case the customer doesn’t arrive. Cancellation is free most of the time up until 24 hours before arrival. If not, the site specifies the latest available date for free cancellation. If you cancel after this, your card will be charged for the first night stay. This site also offers no credit card or booking fees, unlike most others.
Having used booking.com plenty of times, I can vouch for the legitimacy of giving credit card details to secure the booking. As the site mentions, they never use your card without authorisation – it is simply a guarantee of the reservation and the payment method is left up to you. The rooms booked have always been as described and the reviews are honest and unbiased.
If you find a hotel that you would like to book then you can do this in one of two ways: either anonymously or by registering for an account. Either way, you need to give your full name and email address in order to secure the room. The total price will be provided in the top right hand corner in the currency you have been searching in as well as already converted into that of the hotel which is the total amount payable on arrival. This is a great benefit as it’s helpful for a) needing to work out how much you’ll have available after changing spending money and b) knowing in advance what is expected rather than leaving it to the mercy of exchange rates and fluctuation and possibly being ripped off.
I recommend signing up for an account since it’s free anyway and if you are a keen traveller – whether it be for business or leisure – account members receive frequent emails informing them of ‘Secret Deals’ on hotels such as discounted rates, free breakfast included or any other free perks that may be available.
This “smarter hotel booking” site, as it advertises itself, is in a similar vein to booking.com – with language and currency choices – but with two major differences: it accepts Unionpay cards for bookings (a Godsend since you may be aware that Unionpay cards are nigh on impossible to use online) but it doesn’t offer booking in advance with the option to pay on arrival. Agoda generally tends to be slightly cheaper than its rivals and deals directly with the hotels themselves, which usually means that it offers a few hotels that can’t be found on other price comparison or hotel booking sites. However, be aware that the price doesn’t include service charges (10% booking fee) or hotel charges (usually between 8-12%) and that this figure is added onto the final price as you are about to make payment. To see what the overall payment will be, go through the booking process until the final page to view the additional charges.
As mentioned above, Agoda accepts a variety of payments including Unionpay. However if you want to use a Unionpay card, the payment must be made through a PayPal account, not directly debited off your Unionpay card. This is a relatively simple procedure, and if you don’t have one then you should first set up a PayPal account where you then have to link your Chinese card to PayPal thereby making it an accepted method of direct payment aside from Visa or MasterCard.
Again similar to booking.com, make the most of the registration feature and become a member: it’s free and makes customers privy to ‘Insider Deals’ such as last minute discounts on rooms or breakfast included and also awards points to customers each time they book using their site. These points can then be traded in for money off other bookings in the future.
Warning：The use of any news and articles published on eChinacities.com without written permission from eChinacities.com constitutes copyright infringement, and legal action can be taken.
Keywords: holiday from China cheap travel websites
All comments are subject to moderation by eChinacities.com staff. Because we wish to encourage healthy and productive dialogue we ask that all comments remain polite, free of profanity or name calling, and relevant to the original post and subsequent discussion. Comments will not be deleted because of the viewpoints they express, only if the mode of expression itself is inappropriate.
Please login to add a comment. Click here to login immediately.
Here's a challenge: try signing up on Agoda and then try to unsubscribe to their daily newsletter. Pro tip: Don't! There is no unsubscribe option. Deliberately. Chinese owned Singaporean-based aggregator travel site which owes in excess of US$35 million in unsettled claims to unsatisified consumers, hoteliers and numerous vendors worldwide. The sooner e-predators like this cease to exist is not a moment too soon.
Aug 09, 2016 17:16 Report Abuse
Note that NONE of them are Chinese owned: Skyscanner " ...Skyscanner Limited (hereinafter "Skyscanner" or "us" or "we" as the context requires) is a private limited company, registered in the UK (Reg No - 04217916) based at Quartermile One, 15 Lauriston Place, Edinburgh EH3 9EN..." Booking.com "...Booking.com B.V. is based in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and is supported internationally by 130 offices in 50 countries ..." Agoda "...All of our services are rendered by Agoda Company Pte. Ltd., which is a private limited liability company, incorporated under the laws of Singapore and having its registered address at 20 Cecil Street, Equity Plaza #14-01, Singapore 049705 and registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority of Singapore under company registration number 200506877R." All that information is on each website.
Jul 15, 2014 23:59 Report Abuse