The Internet has brought us more convenience than we can imagine. People can book hotels and flights online, find destinations on Google maps and even see the actual surroundings. There are more and more traveling booking and review platforms emerging, like Expedia, Booking and TripAdvisor, etc. On these platforms, most hotels are legal, but some are not. Bed & Breakfasts and apartments run by small business owners can put their information online as well.

Recently, a Mr. Hou booked a hotel in Beijing through the mobile app “Qunar Travel”. From the description and photo of this hotel on Qunar website, it looked like a decent place. 

Here are some photos we found online. 


Mr Hou says that “ I couldn’t located the hotel upon arrival, so I called their number. However, they told me that I can only see the room if I pay first.” After transferring money to a private Alipay account, the staff told him the room number he had booked.


When he checked in, not only did he not see any receptionists, the room he booked was not locked either. The staff told him that the key was in the ash tray inside the room, and he can put it back to the same place when he checks out. After Mr.Hou moved in, he found out that the hotel was nothing like they advertised.


Concerned about his own safety, he asked to check out and refund. The staff refused and never gave his money back.


Reporter visit

A reporter from a local newspaper discovered that this hotel is registered on “Qunar Travel”, but did not complete the required legal processes at the Industrial and Commercial Bureau. Besides, the reporter noticed that the building, where this hotel is located, has a banner saying that all hotels inside this building are illegal. Owners of each unit rent it out to individuals, who rent out again to other tenants.


From Mr. Hou's feedback and the reporter visit, we can see that this hotel is certainly illegal. Not only the door was not locked, but everyone had access to the key. Since the hotel is not registered at relative government departments, it probably didn't go through necessary procedures for fire control either. A lot of B&Bs and apartments don't even have the directions for an escape route in the case of fire. At these illegal "hotels", it is possible to have items robbed when staying here. Besides, from Mr. Hou's experience, we can also tell that they do not have a refund policy. 


When we choose hotels or B&Bs, we should of course choose ones that are legal and safe. 

However, how should we figure out whether a hotel is legal or not? 

  1. Most illegal accomodation has no counter or receptionist. They check in for guest remotely. 

  2. As evident Mr.Hou's case, illegal businesses will always ask you to pay first and there is no refund. 

  3. Some businesses do not require guests to show their ID or passport at check-in.

What are some concerns of staying in illegal hotel?

  1. Doors not locked or broken.

  2. No security of receptionist, safety not guaranteed.

  3. No fire control procedure, no escape route.

  4. No refund policy at all.

At first look, you may think these illegal businesses are cheaper or convenient compared to legal hotels, but they also have severe safety hazards. So try to choose hotel brands that are well-known and with a good reputation. 


These cases are not exclusive in China, but these kinds of traps also happen in other countries, where they use fake advertisements and photos to attract customers. For example, this is what a hotel in New York looks like on the website(top), and what it actually looks like(bottom). The size and whole setting is completely different. 



We believe that there should be more regulation on all types of service accommodation. Customers should be able to choose a hotel without worrying about safety or traps. 

At the same time, we suggest customers manage their expectations, even after seeing these pretty pictures of hotels. Before you decide to book a hotel, check out the comments from other travelers first and find out what the hotel is really like.  

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