What happens if you cannot pay for a hotel?
What happens if you cannot pay for your hotel stay because you accidentally run out of money (can happen) or your credit card was blocked (much more likely)? I assume you cannot arrange the money on your own in different of ways (like e.g. money transfer).
Are they allowed to hold your passport until you come back and pay? What happens if they call the police? Are you going to be fined? Can the police or other authorities lend you money in this or other more critical situations?
I know this can be a general question about what happens if you run out of money while being abroad, but a hotel is the most common travel-related post-paid service.
I think it depends on your situation as well as the country you are visiting. In many cases you already have to pay in advance nowadays.
Really this is going to depend way too much on the circumstances, location, hotel and even the mood of the staff that day. Expect it to go from *you'll pay later* to *going to jail*.
Just to add my humble opinion, I think everything is related in which part of the world you "get in trouble"...The situation may be handle in different ways around globe.
Hold _my_ passport? My passport is not my property, it's government property. I'm allowed to hand it over for inspection, they can make a copy, and that's it. If their laws absolutely insist I must hand it over, then it's simply no deal.
Why are people so hung about the fact that passports are supposed to be government's “property”? Even if that's true in your country, it's still unclear how that would change your standing in another country's legal system. There is nothing about property that would make your own country's rules about it magically apply worldwide or make it somehow simpler to deal with than other legal concepts. What matters is still what the country you are presently located allows and relevant international agreements it is party to.
In reality, during criminal proceedings, countries routinely require foreign nationals to surrender their passports and not leave their territory as a bail condition. Whether it's your property or not will not make any difference about it. (Obviously that's not to say you should give it to random private persons like hotel owners but the point is that the fact it's supposedly “government's property” will not in itself save you from anything.)
@Annoyed legally I'm not allowed to hand my passport to anyone except an LEO for more than checking OR as required by the law. That means I can't give you my passport, unless I'm by law required to do so, which I'm not. This is to prevent passports being copied for the purpose of making forgeries.
“Legally” without specifying which country's legal system you are considering means nothing. It might say so on the document and be your country's position but it just means you could in principle face negative consequences when coming back in your home country, not that you could not be legally allowed or even forced to hand it in from the perspective of the host country.
Also, I am not sure copying or forgery is the main concern here (they are already severely punished by *ad hoc* laws). Another scenario is that you could hand it in to someone who looks like you (say a family member) to allow this person to leave the country, use your visas, etc. This is actually pretty common and probably more of a concern than leaving sight for your passport for a few seconds at a hotel desk. Most importantly, my point was that all this is only tangentially related to the notion that it's “government property”.
In many hotels you can just drop your keys in a box on your way out (or leave them in your room) and the charges will go to the credit card on file. Should you become aware that the card won't work, one approach would simply be to stay as long as you had intended, pack your bags, and just leave. Undoubtedly the hotel will call or email you within a few days looking for their money, and you can sort it all out then. Nobody detains you, there's no talk of police or fines or jail, you settle your bill and that's that.
What if you discover the problem only as you are checking out? Pretty much the same approach. You try a few things - another credit card, offering them a debit card, and so on. If one of those works, great. If not, you put your stuff back in your room and leave the hotel to go sort it out. (Dragging your stuff around while you settle a problem would be a pain, so you want to leave it, and it makes them feel they have a hold on you. But it's in your room and you have a key, so really they don't, right?) If you're sure you can't sort it out anywhere in this town, and it's a large hotel so they can't really track your coming and going, you can go out for a while, then return to your room and leave with your stuff, leaving the key, and sort it out over the next few days.
If it's a small hotel, a B & B almost, that will see you every time you come in or go out, then just plain leaving is a little more problematic. They could try to prevent you from leaving. You will have to be open with them. Try all the possible solutions. For example, in Canada we can email each other money, so I could ask a friend to email me money, which would go into my bank account, then pay with a debit card all in about 20 minutes (after locating a friend who is willing to help of course, and with a device available for getting my email and clicking links.) Or the same thing, but I go out to an ATM and withdraw cash if the hotel doesn't take debit. If you try all these solutions in front of them - emailing and calling people, calling your credit card company and so on - they may begin to trust you that you aren't trying to rip them off, and let you leave to sort it out at home.
It is going to boil down to whether people believe you are trying to cheat them, or really had a problem. A business traveller in a large expensive hotel will have a lot less trouble than a backpacker in a small hotel. I don't think any authorities will lend you money; the best they might do is vouch to the hotel (for example that you really were robbed) so that you can leave and pay the bill when you get home.
How do I email money to somebody in Canada? (also, +1 for an excellent answer, as usual).
There's ways to do international bank transfers in place between most countries :) Just ask your bank. There will of course be a service fee, which can be rather steep depending on the urgency of the transfer and the banks involved.
the emailing money thing is Canadian bank account to Canadian bank account and is done through Interac. If you are Canadian and don't know about this, you should: it's way cool and it costs $3.
@KateGregory: neat! Never heard of that before - and look, my bank even participates!
FWIW, my bank only charges $1.50 for sending an Interac transfer, and receiving is free. I don't have one of those expensive monthly accounts, just whatever you get with a minimum balance of $2k or whatever it is. Link: http://www.interac.ca/en/interac-etransfer/etransfer-detail Sure beats dodgy Paypal type things.