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I will be spending 2 weeks in China later this year, to visit a university and talk to the various research groups. The host university will be paying all my expenses.

My contact person at the host university has asked me if I would like for him to make hotel reservations for me or if I would like to do it myself.

Ideally I would like for him to make reservations, as he knows his own city. But am I "allowed" to ask to see the hotel first, before he makes reservations for me? Or is that considered impolite and rude as they are paying for me?

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I am not sure I understand "to ask to see the hotel first". Do you mean see it on Internet? How do you know what you see on Internet is for real? –  scaaahu Aug 11 at 9:27
    
@scaahu Just to know the name at least, so I can check it online –  BillyJean Aug 11 at 10:03
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I guess you can ask, but I would be very surprised if the hotel was actually terrible. If you invite a visitor and agree to pay his trip, you usually also invest the few extra bucks to find him a nice play. –  xLeitix Aug 11 at 10:12
    
I suspect the university owns its own hotel and you will be staying there. I think this is a good thing. You could easily waste all your time in traffic. –  emory Aug 12 at 0:16
    
@emory I don't think it is very common that universities own their own hotels for guests. –  xLeitix Aug 12 at 7:02

4 Answers 4

Given that it's in China (and I'm assuming you're not Chinese), I would let the host do it for three reasons:

  1. It's important to be gracious to the host. This is a general rule in most cultures, but particularly in East Asian ones. Letting your host be a good host is part of this. Trust your host's judgement here.
  2. My experience with Chinese hotels from Shanghai to Xinjiang is that there is minimal to negative correlation of the quality of the hotel to the website or the official star rating. It is highly doubtful that you could ascertain anything superior from afar than what the local person would know.
  3. Logistics. The host may want to put all of the people in a particular hotel (or spread them between a particular few) because of logistical reasons: geography and they have only one van to pick everyone up, etc. etc.

I would let your Chinese hosts handle everything. If you have particular needs (room must face towards the south; hotel restaurant must have halal food; etc.) then let them know. Otherwise, let your host be your host.

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@BillyJean Being a Chinese myself, I definitely recommend this answer. –  scaaahu Aug 12 at 6:11

If you have specific requirements regarding the hotel (accessibility, star level, kitchen availability, etc) you may want to send them to your host. The chain of command in academia is rather long. I would suggest that in your case it is something like

you -> your host professor -> their secretary -> their travel agent -> hotel

Each time you want to change your request, it has to pass through the whole chain, which makes the process particularly time-demanding and reduces the efficiency. It is a good idea to keep the number of such iterations as small as possible.

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Whether or not there are secretaries and travel agents involved depends very much on the particular university and the seniority of the host. It's perfectly possible that the asker means literally that the host will book the hotel. –  David Richerby Aug 11 at 11:09

If all you want to do is get information about what hotel is being booked, you can always ask them to provide it so that you can share the information with your family and friends as well as the people in your office so that they know how to get in touch with you in case of an emergency.

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If you want to have the final decision on which hotel to book, then ask you host for a recommendation (and how much he´s prepared to pay for you), and book it yourself. Your host is not your travel agent.

But i think you have a good chance of getting a better hotel for the same money if you host books it. As a local, he likely gets better rates than you as foreigner. Also the hotel proprietor will be eager to get the next guest your host invites.

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