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I usually never early check into budget hotels. In relatively more expensive hotels (3-star or higher) I feel that it's appropriate to check in early, but not in cheaper hotels or hostels.

I don't know if my policy is correct or not, but sometimes I might run into problems if I'm arriving somewhere around 11:00 AM whereas the check-in time might be 2:00 PM. Would it be considered uncouth in either case (expensive vs. cheap) to request an early check in beforehand?

Does the appropriation of this differ country by country?

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It differs from one hotel to another, the best thing to do is always tell the hotel in advance, they will tell you if it is ok or not. –  MeNoTalk May 16 at 1:19
    
@MeNoTalk Riiight. But again, it might be uncouth. :( –  Aditya Somani May 16 at 1:21
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I do not think so, many flights reach early and people will be tired, so they seek early check in. –  MeNoTalk May 16 at 1:28
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Early check in is fine virtually everywhere. What is not fine is checking out late. There is only a small window of time for housekeeping to ready the rooms for people coming in the following afternoon...such as yourself. –  Michael Hampton May 16 at 2:58
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If I remember correctly, I have seen at least one hotel which, in the online registration, offers early check-on or late check-out for an additional fee. –  Bernhard May 16 at 5:42

8 Answers 8

up vote 32 down vote accepted

I worked in a variety of hotels and hostels when I was a young backpacker and student. The simple answer is that it comes down to availability of rooms (or beds if you're staying in a dormitory).

Most hotels will post a check-in time of around noon to give them time to get at least some some rooms ready for the earlier arrivals, but even that should never be considered as a guarantee of getting into a room.

A typical hotel has just enough housekeeping staff to turn over all rooms in a day. Typically the rooms which are checking out (a full turnaround) are done first, followed by rooms which are staying (more or less just a tidy up). So if everyone turned up to check in at exactly 12 noon, then most of you would be waiting.

There is nothing "wrong" with arriving early, that is before the stated check in time, it's just that the chance of a room of the type you booked being ready diminishes the earlier in the day you arrive.

The worst that will happen is that they will usually offer to store your luggage for you while go you about your business. Reception will usually give you some indication of when your room will be ready.

If you really need your room (e.g. to shower and change), just explain your need and they may be willing to swap you to a room which will be ready sooner, or possibly even offer you the use of a room which is vacant but not yet made up specifically for the purpose of using the bathroom. It never hurts to ask politely and see what they can do for you.

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It's great to hear an opinion from a person with some first hand experience! I guess, I shall change my ways. Thanks a ton! ^_^ –  Aditya Somani May 16 at 6:15
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I had exactly that happen once in Brussels... we arrived before check-in, but needed to use the restroom. One of the maids let us into one of the vacant, but un-cleaned rooms while we waited to check in. –  Flimzy May 16 at 15:55
    
@Flimzy: If it's just for the restroom, many hotels have a "public" (well, for anyone who has business with the hotel) restroom in the reception area that is not connected to any room (as the reception sometimes doubles as a bar, and also because more so than early arrivers, the reception area is regularly occupied by checked out guests that have already given back their keys, yet have to stay for an indefinite amount of time to wait for their airport shuttle or similar services). –  O. R. Mapper May 17 at 9:19
    
@O.R.Mapper: That's often true, but many budget hotels/hostels don't have such facilities... since they don't have a bar or restaurant. –  Flimzy May 17 at 16:32
    
@Flimzy: True, the checked out guests waiting for their transportation are probably much more frequent in that kind of hotels, especially in cheaper places where the guests rather do not have a personalized shuttle service or taxi waiting for them right after check-out. –  O. R. Mapper May 17 at 19:28

Practically every hotel I've had experience with (and the vast majority are budget hotels or hostels) permit an early check in if the room is ready. If it's not, they'll usually have no problem holding your bags for you until the room is ready, so you can drop off your things and go get lunch or see the town in the mean time.

If you're ever in a situation where it's vital to check in early, and you can't be caught carrying your bags around, just call ahead to be sure an early-check in, or early bag drop-off is an option.

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Heck, if I arrive in my destination, I'm checking in. Hostel, B&B, hotel, never had a problem.

Generally the only issue is that the room may not be ready. No problem, most of them have a place to store your bags, and then I'm free to explore the city or do whatever I wanted to do, and then come back later on and go to my room.

The only time it was flawed was in Astrakhan, when I arrived dog-tired at 6am. I went to see if they'd let me check in early, and was told "no problem", well, sort of - they spoke no English, I spoke like two words of Russian.

Seemed good, they showed me my room. The problem was the next morning they decided I was only allowed 24 hours if I paid for a day, so at 6am they started banging on my door saying I had to either leave or pay more, which I thought was a bit rough, but I didn't have the language skills to discuss it properly :/

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Dang! That's rough. :/ –  Aditya Somani May 16 at 4:37
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Epic story though :) –  Bernhard May 16 at 5:44
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I also had a hotel try to scam an extra night for a few hours' early check-in (albeit with much less drama!). Big chain hotel in Tunisia with a "1 night free" out-of-season deal with an airline arriving at 6am. Guests turn up at 7:30am for their free night, are told "the room's ready now, why not go and lie down?", then at check out an extra night appears on the bill and mysteriously staff no longer speak English... (until we explained in passable French how much trouble we would give them - when they magically regained English fluency and corrected their "accidental mistake"...) –  user568458 May 16 at 12:46

I've spent my entire career (16 years so far) in hotels, and whether it is uncouth or not depends on your approach.

The hotel where I work currently has a 3PM check in time (and an 11:00 check out time.) It's not unusual for people to show up at 9:00 and throw a fit if they can't check in yet. THAT is uncouth, as if they expect us to throw people out early so they can check in.

However, if someone comes in early and ASKS if their room is ready (rather than demanding) I'm happy to oblige if the room is ready. If not, I offer to hold onto their bags until the room is ready. I currently work in a small boutique hotel, so if we're sold out rooms may not be ready until actual check in time.

So, asking to check in early is not uncouth. Expecting it, demanding it or giving the desk clerk a hard time IS uncouth. Don't get me started on late check outs! That is about as rude as can be!

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Wow - 3 PM check-in? I guess you don't take many early flight arrivals. –  Burhan Khalid Dec 11 at 4:30

Over the last 8 years, I have worked out I have stayed in just under 100 hotels. If it is a city I know well, and am certain of my time between work and hotel, I will usually check in very late - after I finish work. Otherwise I check in as soon as possible after I arrive.

If I'm late, I let the hotel know in advance - partially to be polite, but also to avoid having my room cancelled on me if they think I am a no-show.

If I'm early I just turn up on spec. If a room is available, then I'll check in. If it isn't, I always check in my bags and invariably the bell hop takes them to my room so they are they by the time I return.

Admittedly I don't tend to stay in anything less than 4 star so haven't really tested this in cheap hotels, but I do feel that the only impolite action is to fail to inform if you are going to be late.

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It is a service sector – they want your custom and will usually ‘bend over backwards to accommodate you’. Some will have the availability (and if so it would probably otherwise go to waste) and will not charge and others will charge (great for them, revenue they would otherwise have missed out on).

uncouth “Lacking good manners, refinement, or grace” – has nothing to do with it, for hotels.

I am often away for two to three weeks at a location at one time and about half the time arrive at a hotel in the early hours. Of course I expect to pay for that night if checking in before about 8 a.m. local – it is the only way to be reasonably certain of a room before about noon to 2 p.m. Thereafter I would “take my chances” – and not expect to pay extra. Few hotels are fully booked for other than a few peak periods and the rooms are not made-up ‘to order’ but almost as soon as the previous occupants have vacated. So, unless occupied by someone else after around midday the day before, they will be ready anyway. I would ask, and if Yes, there should be no issue (nor additional cost) and if No, I’d just wait. Hotels often have people checking out in the wee small hours so a room may be ‘available’ but not made-up and if that is offered and accepted I would certainly not expect the hotel to charge extra.

It IS different for the smaller establishments that are unlikely to have night staff. Your host may well be the proprietor and cover numerous other roles as well. Turning up on her/his doorstep at ungodly hours without warning would indeed be bad manners. Even asking with the impression that you expect a favourable response would lack grace – but a polite enquiry about the possibility is different.

For country-by-country differences I would say there are next to none in this respect, though I have not visited them all.

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Let's say that the hotel has a check out time of 11:00 a.m., and a check in time of 2:00 p.m. Then I would divide the day into three time zones.

Before 11:00 a.m.
From 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
After 2:00 p.m.

If you check in after 2:00 p.m., it's clearly ok. As a practical matter, if you check in at 1:30 or 1:45 p.m., there shouldn't be a problem.

If you check in before 11:00 a.m., there could be a problem. A room might be available only if someone has checked out early AND the hotel had time to clean it. If there are a lot of people checking out around 11:00, it might take until 11:30 before the first batch of rooms is cleaned.

So that leaves a "window" between 11:30 and 1:30. Within this window, the later you check in, the better. There could be a large difference between 11:30 and 12:30, and by 1:30, there might not be a problem at all, as discussed above.

There is an alternate scenario. Some hotels will allow a "partial" check in. That is, you can register as a guest and stow your luggage with the hotel at say, 11:15, go to lunch, or whatever, and be assigned a room when you come back between 1:00 and 2:00.

And finally, if the hotel is "not busy" and has some empty rooms, you may be able to arrive at 10:30 and get a room.

It's true that an expensive hotel probably has a larger cleaning staff and more rooms available at 11:30 than a small one.

On the other hand, it doesn't hurt to ask politely at any hotel, and find out what the hotel can do for you at any given time.

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While it's not 'uncouth', usually check-in from 2 PM means you can check in from 2 PM, which means you simply can't technically check-in before 2 PM. At least in Germany, Austria it was the case.

You can leave your luggage, you can use the public WC, or ask to use the staff one, you can sit in the lounge, use free WIFI, or go to the walk.

However, in each case I was informed I can first check-in at the given hour. So when I go to the hostel, I expect the mentioned things and I adapt to them. I usually have in small rucksack all things I'll need for the day, and all unused things in the main sack, which I leave in the luggage room.

Honestly, I don't understand the large gap between check-out deadline and the check-in time, because the guests which are sleeping more than 1 night can be in the dorms anyway (like sleeping after whole night party etc.) so you have limited possibilities for clean-up anyway...

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