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Often, when entering a country, you must fill a form that asks, in particular, where you will stay.

What if you don't know yet?
Even worse, what if you don't have your guidebook in hand luggage, and thus can't even pick a hotel? (lack of preparation happens, especially when told by your company to immediately fly)

In such cases, would it be dangerous to write Hotel Hyatt? (because most big cities have one)
Or will you get less trouble by just writing Sorry I don't know, I will choose upon arrival?

(not talking about North Korea nor Russia, where they actually check bookings)

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When they google your name and this question comes up, you may have some explaining to do. :-O –  corsiKa Dec 20 '12 at 19:36
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Western people, please, stop living with stereotypes and you will be treated with respect in Russia and all ex-USSR countries. Answer to the question: No, KGB will not track your location, you can book a hotel and go where you want without notifying any officials. –  chupvl Dec 21 '12 at 17:16
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@chupvl - we appreciate answers, but yours wasn't an answer, so I've moved it to a comment. I don't believe people were doing stereotypes. I've been to Russia 3 times, and each time when you stay in a hostel or wherever, we are required to register and the officials are notified. I've been through this repeatedly, AND been checked by officials for this, so it does happen. And the KGB ended in 1991, I believe it's the FSB now? –  Mark Mayo Dec 21 '12 at 17:55
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@Doc posted an insightful comment on one of the answers, I'll cite it here as it might be left unnoticed: "These questions most certainly have a purpose. As a relatively recent example, the contact details given on arrival cards were used by many countries to find passengers who had been on the same flights as people infected with bird flu during outbreaks in HK/China. Finding and treating these people early likely resulted in some lives being saved." –  jakub.g Feb 2 '13 at 19:50
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4 Answers 4

up vote 29 down vote accepted

It'll depend on what you write, who you get at the border, and what else you do.

For example, I've seen a person not have a hotel when they arrived at US Customs. He literally turned and asked anyone behind in the queue if they know the address of a hotel, and someone named the one from Pretty Woman on Rodeo Drive. So he wrote that in, and handed it to the border guard, who shrugged, stamped, and completed the process.

Now for a lot of countries, having that address down is rarely used. It's handy in case of emergency if they needed to contact you (assuming you've not moved on).

You may not intend to lie. You might put down a hostel, get there, find they've lost your booking and are full, and you have to stay elsewhere. You may even intend to go to town X, your car breaks down and you have to stay in some roadside inn. Things do change.

However, it's an official government form from a foreign country. You NEVER want to intentionally lie on these. So if you do know the address, it's best to put it down. And put down the truth. I once spent 30 min in Orlando International Airport while the immigration officer pulled up the website of the place I said I was staying at, and checked the flight that I said my friend was coming in on, and confirmed the address and whether it was even possible to get there that night.

So to answer your question, yes, they can and do check. If they can pull up the website, there's nothing stopping them calling the hotel to confirm your 'booking', especially if you don't have paper evidence of said booking.

Side note, I suppose you could try saying "I'm staying with my friend, and meeting him outside, so don't know his address" or something similar, if you really didn't want your friend's address on this, but then they might want to call the friend, and if your stories don't match....more problems.

Bottom line: honesty is the best policy here.

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If you say "staying with a friend, don't know the address" be prepared for them to ask for your friends contact info and them then calling him/her. I've had this happen, although it wasn't about where I was staying. Thankfully, my friend answered the phone (he said he almost didn't as it was a blocked number). –  Kris Dec 19 '12 at 17:09
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@Kris Yeah, as I said, "they might want to call the friend", which could be problematic. They wanted to do that for my friend I was meeting in Orlando, but he was on a different flight, so they checked the flight! –  Mark Mayo Dec 19 '12 at 17:30
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There are certain situations when you definitely cannot lie. If it's mandatory for you to apply for a visa in advance and proof of accommodation is one of the required documents, then you cannot take a chance with lying as visa officers may check on your itinerary details at their discretion - and since you aren't around to explain, you'll be unable to defend yourself.

The second situation, where you can get a visa on arrival and need to fill out a landing card is trickier. I may be staying in the country for many weeks, but I may not necessarily be staying at the same place. Sometimes, I don't want to make an itinerary in advance. Standard practice in this situation is that you're supposed to mention the first address you'll be staying at, since you cannot list out all the places in a form.

What I do in these situations is to book the cheapest hostel in my arrival city with cancellation protection - either for just a couple of days, or for the duration of the trip (some countries require you to show a booking for the entire trip).

  • If I have to show a hotel reservation just for the first few days, then I make a single hostel booking. In most cases like this, I make it at the actual hostel I want to stay in.
  • For longer trips where I have to provide accommodation proof for the entire trip, I split it into two hostel bookings: the first one for 1-2 days, the second for the rest of the duration of the trip. This helps in multi-week trips because I can then cancel the second booking easily once I get a visa. (Make sure you check the cancellation policy of this place and how much advance notice they require - adjust the duration of your first hostel booking accordingly.)

Hostel booking sites usually just take a downpayment for the booking, so in most situation is doesn't cost much either. And with cancellation protection for a little extra, you can get your entire downpayment back as credit for future bookings once you cancel one of the bookings.

The advantage of doing is that technically, you're not lying because you do have a reservation at the listed place, you have an address, and if they care to check, then you're clean. Once you get the visa, you don't actually have to stay at the hostel because just like in real life, you may need to change hotels at the last minute.

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Deliberately lying on an arrival card means that you are lying to the government of the country you are arriving in. At best, that could be grounds for being refused entry to the country, or being deported at a later stage and potentially refused access for future trips.

Although this question may seem relatively benign, the real risk if you are discovered is that immigrations will presume that you have a malicious reason for lying, rather than just not wanting to give out your friend's address. By listing a hotel when you are actually planning to stay with a friend they might decide that you more likely to overstay your visa and/or be planning to work whilst you are in the country.

Whilst it's true that your chances of getting caught might be low, all it takes is a suspicious customs official asking to see details of your hotel reservation (and I've certainly had them ask for that before!) and your simple lie could turn into a trip-ending mistake!

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These questions are sometimes pure nonsense, I've encountered them when entering Ukraine for touristic reasons. We were traveling as tourists in mountains, so there was no address to sleep at, but tents somewhere in mountains. So it was common to type some turbaza or hotel in Lviv.

In that case the address was not required, only the name of the object. Maybe it's your case, the exact address is not needed, only the city and street?

In the Ukraine this address was controlled by no one. And the immigration rules were removed a few years ago as completely unpractical. But in other countries the situation may be completely different, so you should name the country you are going to.

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These questions most certainly have a purpose. As a relatively recent example, the contact details given on arrival cards were used by many countries to find passengers who had been on the same flights as people infected with bird flu during outbreaks in HK/China. Finding and treating these people early likely resulted in some lives being saved. –  Doc Dec 20 '12 at 6:38
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protected by Ankur Banerjee Feb 4 '13 at 4:53

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