Why passports are required when traveling Vietnam


One of the difficulties being a tour guide is having to deal with problems occurring during trips. Some are easily fixed since everyone involved understands. Some are hard to explain as people have different viewpoints or just simply lack of information. Hotels keeping guests’ passports is among the most discussed ones. Having to explain to clients why passports are required when traveling Vietnam is an issue any tour guide will face.



Why passports are required when checking in an accommodation in Vietnam


Why passports are required when traveling Vietnam?What is the plausibility here?


In any travel forum you can easily see discussion by travelers on what is really the passport policy  and why passports are required when traveling Vietnam. Throughout my guiding experience for years now I’ve encountered travelers angrily arguing red faced with receptionists about having to hand them their passports. I’ve sometimes been refused when having to collect passports for hotel check in. Those who refuse logically think that the passports are the properties of their government. And that they have to stick with them no matter what.Thus they keep convincing me or receptionists that a copy of passport would do the same job just fine.


It is normally easy for me to explain to my clients and get the passports collected. But hotel receptionists don’t always manage to do it successfully. I once saw a girl receptionist crying trying in vain to tell a couple (not my own clients) she was just doing what she had to and that was purely just local authority’s requirements. She could not explain why passports are required when traveling Vietnam.


Remember I sometimes say things in the Communist country of Vietnam don’t have to function exactly the way they do in other western countries. As a law, all hotels are asked to present your passport details when needed. That means they have to register the guests in a government database for whatever the reason Vietnam government says. Few years ago when internet and computer technology was still rarely found in Vietnam, original passports had to be collected and taken to the police station. All got hand input then returned to the hotels and kept by the hotels the whole duration of guests’ stay. The passports were only returned back to guests upon check out.


That rule is still well kept in some provinces of Vietnam now. If you are adventuring to the remote areas of Vietnam for “off the beaten tracks” experiences you will still be asked to hand in your passports to the hotels/guest houses or any other kinds of accommodation. And as said earlier passports will be recorded by local police station and kept by the hotel until you check out.


Why they need to keep your passports the whole period of your stay? So they can have them available right away whenever  local policemen show up for a sudden inspection.And what they inspect? Well anything can be a reason, really! By law, if any reason the accommodations don’t have passports’ presence there would be a possible fine. Obviously hotel owners don’t like fines. Honestly who likes it anyway? That’s the reason why passports are required when traveling Vietnam?



That’s part of the game if you want to stay


Arguing with hotel receptionists or pointing at the property of line in your passports will take you to nowhere. And please remember those behind the desks don’t make the law. They are just fulfilling what they have to.  Save yourself from that useless frustration and if you want to stay, be prepared to leave your passport with the front desk. That’s part of the game.


And not to worry too much about the fear that they could lose your vitally important passports. Trust me hotels owners acknowledge well enough not to do so. Local authorities take this matter seriously and every now and then give instructions to tourist accommodation owners on safety for travelers including handling passports. I’ve never heard of any case when passports lost by hotels before.


That’s what happens in the countryside and remote areas of Vietnam. How about main tourist attractions and big cities? With the huge convenience of internet and computer technology in big cities now, hotels don’t have to keep your passports anymore. Sure when checking in you are still required to hand in passports. Hotels will then copy the details and return passports back to you right away. This is because many hotels are located in one big city or tourist destination. It would be overloaded for the police station with that many registrations if each and every hotel came to hand in their guests’ passports. Now hotels just send registrations online and problem solved. And also in big cities police will only inspect hotels once in a blue moon.


The problem is, that will make lots of people think  copies of passports will be fine for checking in. No, original passports are still needed. If you read somewhere people say copies are ok then just ignore them. That’s not how it works here in Vietnam. Just let your guides have your passport for no more than 3 minutes to check you in the accommodation. They will shortly be returned back to you. No guide with you? Hotels are those you can trust. Having that clear in your mind you will question no more why passports are required when traveling Vietnam.




Your passports are safe in hotel safety box or with the reception


Remember you don’t need to have your passport with you during excursions or walking on the streets. For maximizing safety of your passports you should either leave them with the reception or in the safety box in hotel room. Pocket picking is reportedly a problem in major cities of Vietnam and this should be well practiced.



You can read some extras about visa requirements when visiting Vietnam here and here.

By Pham Tuyen