Why Do Hotels Ask for ID? UK Rules Explained

why do hotels ask for identification

Ever wondered why a small accommodation facility needs your ID so bad? Are they even allowed to ask for it? Let’s dot the i’s and cross the t’s in this please-show-your-id thing so that you can have peace of mind when travelling.

Also, this article aims to help you eliminate a common stress factor, which is the risk of compromising your vital documents. In a manner of speaking, you’re looking at a detailed guide on how not to over-disclose your personal information when staying in a hotel.



Do You Need a Passport to Check Into a Hotel in UK?

In a nutshell, UK citizens don’t have to give their ID when checking into UK hotels. However, when it comes to overseas guests, they must show their documents (excluding the Republic of Ireland and Commonwealth citizens), and their data will remain in the hotel records. Still, there is more to this than meets the eye.

In a digitalised world where identity theft is becoming increasingly common, you have to be extra careful with your personal details. So exposing your papers anywhere may cause a great deal of discomfort.

The same goes for British accommodation facilities: when you check in (even for a night only), they often insist you give them your passport or another proof of identity. Why do they need it so bad? What are they going to do with it? Make a copy? Hold it to make sure you don’t leave without paying?

As problematic as these questions may be, you can rest assured – we’ve got answers for each of these. In addition, we’ll also give you some advice on where to best keep your documents when travelling across Great Britain or overseas. Let’s make your trip completely stress-free!

Why Do Hotels Take Your Passport?

The short answer: it’s required by law.

The Immigration Hotel Records Order (1972) requires all British hotels and similar residential lettings to keep records of all guests over the age of 16.

Wait, How Old Do You Have to Be to Book a Hotel in UK?

can you stay at hotel at 16 uk

If you try to find the answer in UK laws, you won’t find anything definite. While the legal age is 18, it all depends on the policy of the hotel you want to live in. For instance, Travelodge or Premier Inn can accommodate 16-year-olds, and Zedwell won’t give rooms to underages unless there’s someone of legal age accompanying them. And if you’re under 16, it’s most likely you won’t be able to check in to any hotel whatsoever.

UK and Commonwealth citizens only need to give their full names and nationality. When accommodating overseas guests, however, the receptionist must take down the number and place of issue of their passports.

Sometimes, other acceptable forms of ID (stating the foreigner’s nationality and identity) can be used. For example, the place may accept a driving licence, identity card, registration certificate, police warrant card and so on. In addition to that, foreign guests may be asked to fill in a special registration form.

It goes without saying that even if it’s Commonwealth citizens or visitors from Ireland, the staff can’t tell it by their looks. The Hotel Records Order (1972) requires them to ask that these travellers provide proof of nationality and age before they check in.

Why Do Hotels Ask for Nationality?

As you see, they do it to decide how they should register you. If we’re talking about UK hotels, the registration procedure for British citizens is a bit different from that for foreigners (the latter have to provide more information when checking in).

Either way, it’ll be far more comfortable for both you and them if you show them your full name and other details on your passport or driving licence instead of just saying it. After all, they need to know for sure if it’s Stephen or Steven they’re checking in.

Do Other Countries Have Laws Similar to That on Immigration Hotel Records (1972)?

The situation is practically the same in many countries of the world: even a rundown location with under a dozen of rooms may be obliged to ask that guests show their ID card and/or fill in a registration form. Always take into account that it’s not their whim: it’s usually required by law and government and done mostly for national security reasons.

Can a Hotel Hold Your Passport?

If we are to go into details, let’s start by making things a bit clearer:

According to the Immigration Hotel Records Order (1972), they do have the right to ask you for your documents as proof. But they cannot keep them.

The receptionist wants to take away your identity card to store it at the premises for the duration of your stay? You’ve got every reason to say ‘no’. In fact, your refusal is the only reasonable option here, as there’s no legitimate reason whatsoever for them to keep your documents, no matter what nationality you are.

hotel asking for copy of passport uk

Mind you, being asked to just show your papers is not an excuse to start a heated argument with the receptionist. Again, in many countries around the world (the UK included) accommodation establishments are obliged by law to keep a record of all guests they check in, even if they stay for one night only.

If you want to be extra careful, you might want to show your documents to the receptionist instead of handing them over. However, in that case, this may take a couple of uncomfortable moments for them to write down every detail they need.

Is It Safe to Leave Passport in Hotel?

Carrying your papers around may be somewhat risky: for instance, you might drop them when bustling through the crowded streets of downtown or climbing a hill on an out-of-town excursion.

And even if you stash your documents in a zippered pocket, it won’t help against skilled pickpockets.  While your ID card may be of no value to them (although most likely it is), they usually sweep people’s pockets without looking too carefully at what they’re taking. Even for UK citizens travelling within the country, getting a new document along with a compliant ID photo is some piece of work.

As a rule, almost every decent accommodation location has special mini-safes where you can stash your valuables while you’re away, but we wouldn’t recommend doing that. Even if you set your own combination, most room safes (especially cheap ones) will be pretty easy to crack.

room safe

Best Places to Hide Your Passport in Hotel Rooms

As you see, hardly any hotel can offer you acceptable forms of storage facilities that will actually be safe for your vital documents and other valuables like plane tickets, credit cards or jewellery. So, a typical rented room doesn’t have any good places to hide your essential belongings and, at the same time, carrying them with you also implies a certain risk. Thankfully, there is a way out.

You can leave your documents in the room but put them in your own safe. Not a full-sized one, of course. You can find a portable option of a convenient form on Amazon and other online stores. They cost relatively little, especially considering the peace of mind they give you.

And yes, you often need to provide proof of identity, age or nationality when going out in another city or country, so it’s better to make a copy of your identity card in advance. Just make sure it’s coloured and fully readable and you should be fine.

Clothing Thoughts

We hope this article has given you answers to all the questions you were interested in. If you have any comments or suggestions or there is something we missed or could improve, feel free to email us at Have a nice and worry-free travel!