Olympics inspire more choices for travelers to China

Put it all together and what have you got? A country that's accessible like never before. The increase of major travel providers will not only bring an element of familiarity (which can be a bane or a boon, depending on your travel style), but the headlong rush by so many companies to claim ground in China means that the competition for tourism dollars should keep rates reasonable for most travel periods. Unfortunately, it may not hold true during the Olympics, when the demand is predicted to far exceed the supply. Scoring availability and the best possible rates during the Olympics will be a competition in itself.

The Olympics

Gymnasts, swimmers, and sprinters around the world have, in recent months, been competing for a place at next year's Olympic Games in Beijing, China. Likewise, if you're serious about getting maximum value out of your trip to the world's premier sporting competition, you should be locking in your place at the Games now. Here are a few important tips to know before you book.

Booking a place to stay will be a competitive sport

According to the China Economic Review, about three million spectators are expected to pass through Beijing during the Olympics, but the city will have only about 420,000 rooms. As if that's not enough, prices on airfare, hotels, and other travel commodities are expected to quadruple between now and next August.

That kind of math means inflated prices and tough competition for the city's limited accommodations stock. One way to approach a trip is by finding a package provider or tour company to bundle your air, hotel, and other amenities. There are dozens of providers out there; you can start a search by checking the United States Tour Operators Association or the China National Tourist Office tour operators locator. Even if you don't normally enlist professional trip-planning help, you might consider the help of a travel agent who specializes in China and can infuse the booking process with first-hand expertise. You can also always go it alone with the help of the Internet, a few guide books, and good sense. However you decide to book, finding maximum value for a big-ticket trip like the Olympics will require an early start and some independent research.

Not all Olympic events take place in Beijing

Beijing will be the center of the action, but it's not the only city to host Olympic events. Sailing events take place in Qingdao, the equestrian competition in Hong Kong, and preliminary soccer matches occur in Tianjin, Shanghai, Shenyang, and Qinhuangdao. If you're particularly interested in a sport occurring outside of Beijing, you may be in luck, since it's possible you'll find better prices and easier booking at hotels.

There are a limited number of tickets

A little less than three-quarters of the total number of tickets to Olympic events are reserved for domestic sale in China, so international competition for the remainder can be tight. Between October and January, and then again after April, official U.S. Olympic ticket outlet CoSport.com will sell Olympic event tickets. There are ticket limits as well: each customer can buy up to eight tickets per event, and up to 48 tickets in total. You can find the competition schedule on the Beijing 2008 website.

You'll need a visa

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