Hotel Reviews

What Happens When You Try to Check Into a Hotel Without Your Passport?

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Ever done this? Shown up at an international hotel without your passport?

I was staying with friends in Delhi, India for a week and we decided to make the 3 1/2 hour drive to Agra to see the Taj Mahal (which was not as fun as I had hoped). To help decompress the trek I offered to put us all up at the local Starwood property, the ITC Mughal, for the night. And because we were planning on visiting several rural temples along the way I opted not to take my laptop or travel wallet since the security of our car would be an issue.

We pull up to the hotel, and as I’m grabbing my overnight bag from the car, I realize that my passport is still safely in my travel wallet, 3 1/2 hours away. Well, this was going to be interesting.

ITC Mughal Agra India hotel entrance

ITC Mughal entrance

ITC Mughal Agra India check in desk

ITC Mughal lobby

We go up to the main reception desk to check in, my Platinum status is immediately recognized and we’re escorted into the special VIP Club room to finish the process. We’re seated, served beverages, and then I sheepishly confide that I’ve forgotten my passport in Delhi, but if they can grant me access to the business center I can print out a scanned copy from my email.

ITC Mughal Agra India Club Check In

ITC Mughal VIP Check In Room

The agent’s demeanor got much colder. I could tell he didn’t want to help me. But I was a Platinum and I wasn’t being overbearing, I was apologetic about the situation and sweetly hoping SPG could help. An impasse. I was informed I could only get an internet login once they checked me in, and they couldn’t check me in without my passport. I suggested checking my friends in to the second room because they did have their passports. The agent didn’t want to do that (my friends had been more forceful), but after much back and forth, I finally had an internet log in.

I ran to the business center, pulled up my passport file, which fortunately I could access online, and printed it out. The atmosphere thawed, they mentioned I’d been upgraded to a suite, and then I was asked for a copy of my India visa.

Yikes! I hadn’t even thought to scan a copy of that, which was safely glued to a page in my passport, 3 1/2 hours away. At this point the agent just wanted it all over. He asked if I had stayed at any other hotels in India on this trip, perhaps they had a copy. Whew! Park Hyatt Chennai to the rescue. We called them, and after I verified my identity on the phone they promised to find the copy, scan it, and email it to me. It would probably take a few hours, but at this point the ITC Mughal staff just wanted it done, so I was checked in with the promise I would email them a copy as soon as I had it.

Travel Lesson Learned: Keep a copy of your passport on you at all times when traveling abroad, and keep an online copy in a secure location as well. If you’re traveling somewhere that needs a visa, make copies of that as well!

Incidentally, this was about a year ago and though the lobbies of the ITC Mughal were quite nice, to be a Luxury Collection Hotel, the rooms and hallways desperately need a renovation. Though as a Category 2, still a bargain on points.

ITC Mughal lobby decor

ITC Mughal lobby decor

The wallpaper in my suite was peeling, things generally looked worn, and the refreshment center/bar didn’t even have a bottle opener.

ITC Mughal Agra India Suite wallpaper peeling

ITC Mughal Agra India Suite bedside table

scuffed night table

The spa looked amazing though and the restaurants were good but expensive.

ITC Mughal restaurant decor

ITC Mughal Taj Bano buffet restaurant 

ITC Mughal Peshawri menu

ITC Mughal Peshawri menu

Full Disclosure: I may receive affiliate credit from links in this post or on this site which will help fund my travels. Thank you for your support!

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  1. Paul

    May 10, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    I don’t get it. Why would a hotel care about your passport or visa? Shouldn’t they be satisfied with a valid credit card or cash to pay the bill? Do some countries press hotels into service as spies to keep track of your wereabouts?

    I can see if they’re sold out and want to verify your identity. But then any ID should do. And even if you have no ID, a manager should have the good sense to take your word for it, or the word of your traveling companions with ID for sure.

    I think I’d turn in my points card and tell them where they can put their ‘policy’.

  2. A

    May 10, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    The whole passport policy is overboard is my opinion. I understand the reasons why they would require it. But there are certain circumstances when you (1) forgot your passport (example: I lived in Japan for the military and literally had to take my passport with me when I was traveling within Japan even though I legally lived in the country …) or (2) when something happens to your passport while you are in the country (i.e., stolen).

    I would think that countries requiring such documentation should have a release valve for these circumstances, such as a photocopy of the passport or some other verification method.

  3. GUWonder

    May 10, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    Indian hotels are required to require and copy down passport details of most foreign nationals staying on-site as guests and make such information available to the police/security forces. It’s been this way for decades as far as I know.

    At the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve been checking in at hotels in Sweden where they don’t ask me for ID; and much of the time in Sweden, hotels don’t even ask me at check-in for ID or even a bank/credit card on award night stays.

  4. Matt

    May 10, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    Some of these countries the government wants to be able to tell where everyone is. India is like that. UAE does the same: to check into a hotel, you need an Emirates ID or Password. Singapore requires Singapore ID or passport, too – and you must have a valid stamp or visa as it is a crime for a hotel to allow someone in the country illegally to stay!

    In the U.S. it is unclear why many hotels ask for ID. Some times there is age restriction (ie. minibar in room with alcohol). In Germany, they did not ask for any ID on check-in, though.

  5. Harry

    May 14, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    If the Indian Government has a law which requires that an hotel guest shows his passport on registration, there is no further room for discussion. Just produce it. It is not a secret document. I am surprised that frequent travelers on this blog even think this is anything to talk about! Given the present wave of Islamic terrorism sweeping the world, it seems sensible to be able to trace where people are.

    • Eimeara

      September 22, 2016 at 9:37 am

      Laws are laws but the whole passport issue is overboard. I can see why people are nervous about even giving a photocopy as it could be used as Identity theft.

      But come one is some illegal immigrant really going into some fancy hotel? A hostel maybe. And if you’ve just been picked up from the airport it’s even sillier.
      And you also have to ask yourself, is a wanted terrorist or serial killer going to check into a hotel? They will have fake ids and changed appearance.

    • Eimeara

      September 22, 2016 at 9:39 am

      I disagree that it is not a secret document. It is private and really only police/army and border authorities should be looking at it.
      It is wrong to let banks,hotels etc have access to your details as this is how identity theft/ passport loss happens.

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