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A few years ago I've visited a hotel in Munich and was pleasantly surprised to find there was no reception as such. To get the keys you had to call a 24/7 support line, where you received a code to a locked box outside the hotel door, which contained the key to your room. It wasn't required to show any IDs or fill out any forms. Upon checkout you simply placed the key back into the box, no questions asked.

I'm not a paranoid person nor am I hiding from the law, however I find the concept of traveling anonymously appealing. Is there a way to find out in advance if the hotel in question allows for fully anonymous check-in? And is there a website which allows you to find such lodging?

See also a related question about airlines.

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    (+1) But how did you pay in the first place? All the automatic check-in procedures I ever saw relied on a credit card so the anonymity is relative. – Relaxed Dec 18 '15 at 13:49
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    @Relaxed by credit card through Booking.com. However I could've easily used a prepaid credit card instead, ask a friend to pay, etc. The point is that the hotel had no way to know who was actually using the room. – JonathanReez Dec 18 '15 at 13:51
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    Well, you can also have a friend collect the keys. In a small independent hotel someone might notice but in any large(ish) hotel you would be home free after that so if you are willing to leave a trail connecting the room to someone (else), that's not very difficult. But that's not anonymous. I also heard some chatter about tightening requirements for prepaid credit cards (although you could presumably still get one abroad?) for this reason. – Relaxed Dec 18 '15 at 13:56
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    If you want anonymity you should visit Japan, Taiwan, or South Korea. All of them have "love hotels" and some are fully anonymous, to the point where you pull into a private parking bay (for a single car) with curtains over the entrance, walk directly into your room, pay the fee via a vending machine or vacuum canister (like a bank drive-thru), and then...whatever. – John Zwinck Dec 18 '15 at 14:25
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    Perfect anonymity means nobody will be able to tell where you are. Obligatory reference: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hostel_(2005_film) – Peter Feb 1 '16 at 9:51
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The short answer is: there isn't any.

There is no such thing as anonymous booking nor anonymous check-in. What you have described is simply automatic collection of keys on late arrival or arranged/instructed by the hotel. Just because some European countries have lenient regulations it does not mean that they encourage anonymous stays. There is an implicit trust involved that the person(s) who are staying are the person(s) who booked in the first place.

At a more detail level, your example of German hotel is misintrepation, rather confusing trust with anonymity. While the German laws are notoriously protective of customer data, the registration is still mandatory, as also reported by KPMG. Also, a report by U.S. Department of Homeland Security clearly mentions the "EU practice of mandatory collection of hotel guest registration data" as well as potential possibility of data sharing in future.

A similar discussion thread, on FlyerTalk, might be of some relevance.

I strongly discourage you to use a hotel or residence in EU with a (false) hope of anonymity for whatever reason.

For general sake of convenience, you can try peer-to-peer rental agencies that support anonymous currencies (bitcoins, etc), such as 9Flats. Still, if using bitcoins, while the transaction is anonymous, the hosts and guests are not, the general data collection laws apply, and as 9Flats says it is built on "mutual trust."

Disclaimer. I am neither a privacy nor legal expert. The above information was collected simply by a quick web search.

  • I'm 100% sure no one in Munich saw our passports. Also I've stayed in a couple of hostels in the UK where no ID was required. Some other places only required to fill out a form, where I could put my name as Hans Gruber if I so wished. Therefore I cannot accept your answer. – JonathanReez Jan 15 '16 at 10:15
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    @JonathanReez those places were breaking the law, plain and simple. – chx Feb 1 '16 at 0:44
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I know that some starwood hotels allow you to entirely skip the check-in process and simply walk up to your room and use your mobile to unlock the door; although this isn't anonymous.

I also know of some hotels that allow you to check in as an alias; but again, this isn't anonymous this is just an extra layer of privacy to prevent people from asking for you by simply calling the reception. It is also used as a layer of security by some.

Truly anonymous clandestine checkin - where you simply open a door, walk up to the key rack, pick up your key and go off to your room, if there is such a place, I would definitely like to visit it.

It may have been possible years ago, but this day of cross border terrorism and whatever else, data collection has become a sort of fever for any and all jurisdictions that hope to attract any kind of tourist dollars.

You may have been able to do so previously, but I doubt you can today:

  1. Even if you use a pre-paid anonymous card, or have someone else pay for your room booking, you need to show proof of who you are when you arrive to collect the keys. The name on the reservation has to match the person asking for the key. This name can be an alias, but that is not the definition of anonymous.

  2. Further, it goes towards security and liability on the part of the hotel. God forbid there is some incident - say a fire or other such security issue, they need to know who is checked in where, who is accounted for, etc.

  3. As mentioned by others, some jurisdictions mandate collection of hotel guest data as part of their overall security procedures/requirements - if they don't they are breaking the law and may be subject to fines or worse suspension of their license to operate.

It may be true that you are able to skip a lot of this formality if you use more informal means of stay (like airbnb, hostels, or staying with friends/colleagues; room sharing) but I don't think that was in scope of your question.

  • Like I said above, I'm 100% sure I did this at 1 Munich hotel and a couple of London hostels. It wasn't clandestine, people just didn't see my ID, which I find a pleasant experience in our paranoid age. – JonathanReez Feb 1 '16 at 6:57
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    They didn't ask for your ID possibly because they already knew who you were. Not asking for an ID is not the same thing as anonymous. I flew Spain - Switzerland - Holland - Germany and no one asked for my ID. This doesn't mean its anonymous. – Burhan Khalid Feb 1 '16 at 12:16
  • if no one saw your ID, what could possibly prevent your friend from taking the same flight? – JonathanReez Feb 1 '16 at 16:02
  • For one, he would have had to have my passport because that's how the boarding pass was printed from the check in kiosk. I suppose if I wanted to cheat the system I could go with my friend and print the boarding passes and give the passes to him; now I risk a whole other set of problems if he is caught - for example, if he is asked for ID by a boarding agent (which they are free to do). – Burhan Khalid Feb 2 '16 at 2:11
  • We've had a similar question on airlines: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/35015/…. I'm not sure why the idea of traveling without an ID is now so controversial :) – JonathanReez Feb 2 '16 at 7:40
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The answer seems to be that one should look for hotels that advertise automatic check-in, ideally with a keyless system. Just this week I've checked into an Ibis hotel in Munich and not a single person saw my ID in the process. Extremely refreshing experience compared to the general paranoia everyone has these days.

Perhaps it's limited to just Germany - unfortunately I haven't had the chance to try out keyless automatic systems in other countries.

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