What are the best websites to use to book travel around China?
If you can 看得懂汉字you should try qunar.com, they also have an app. If you’re still working at the whole ZhongWen thing ctrip.com in Engl is also a solid choice though perhaps slightly more expensive than qunar.com.
Train tickets can be bought on 12306 app (and then you’ll get a text from 10086) but in order to 取票 pick up a physical ticket you might need to wait in a line at the train station anyways. Alternatively, you can buy in advance from a ‘ticket selling window’ where paying only 5 RMB extra will get us the physical ticket ahead of time.
Again, being able to 看得懂汉字is another big advantage when you can 美团 or 团购 a lot of cheaper hotels, tickets and entrance passes.
For hostels, YHA is a great network of hostels all around some even in pretty remote places. They have an app too. 青旅s are pretty friendly towards 接待外宾 foreigners whereas not all 如家 or 汉庭 hotels have such policies.
Controversial or not, but AirBnB is also getting bigger in places and has added to the Couch Surfing dimension, with a pretty thriving community in many larger cities. That is, until they go the way of Uber…
Qunar now has an English version although I have not used it because the Chinese version is more comprehensive. While many people use CTRIP, it can be a nightmare as a foreigner when trying to make the payment with the proofs they need. The other problem is the price. Sometimes going direct to a hotel and/or airline is cheaper. There are also many travel agents around China.