Europe Hotel Early Morning Departure

Be aware that hotels lock front doors from the inside. We were in a hotel in Lyon, France. We had to leave @ 6am to catch an early train. So, we returned their keys to lock box in the lobby and went to find the front door locked. There was no staff around. We were trapped in their lobby, but then found an unlocked back door to courtyard. When we existed, this door locked behind us. We were trapped in a secure courtyard with NO exit! We had to climb over their 6 foot fence, in order to get to the train on time!
Possible solution: check front door before putting key in lockbox.

Posted by Jaye
Dallas, OR, USA
99 posts

Terri, This happened to us also! We were in Paris, actually on a R Steves tour at a hotel in Rue Cler. We had a taxi arranged to pick us up at 4:00 am. When we went to the lobby, the doors to the street were locked tight. No other exit we knew about. No one around at the desk. There was an open door near the desk area and we looked in. There was a man sitting in a chair and snoring away! We made loud noises and nothing would wake him, finally my husband shook him a couple of times and he was very surprised when he woke up! He had to get keys and unlock the doors from the inside to let us out. We had key cards for the room which did not work on the outer doors. So glad we didn't have to climb over a fence, I really feel for you on that one! I just wonder what would happen in a fire or emergency situation, we were so shocked by this! I had forgotten all about it until I saw your post! Thanks for sharing, hopefully others will avoid this situation! Happy Travels!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17792 posts

terri, That seems like rather a hazardous situation in terms of fire safety. I'm surprised that would be allowed. If I have an early morning departure, I always mention it to the desk clerk the night before. That way there are no "surprises" in the morning. Cheers!

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3314 posts

One of the things I always do is talk to the hotel staff about my departure plans. That way I tend not to run into these problems. I realized early on that there can be issues with early departures when I stayed at the Youth Hostel In Sete. A friend and I needed to catch a very early train to Avignon and the hostel didn't start operating until 7 AM. We arranged to pay the tab the night before and hopped the gate to go catch our train. It was all in agreement with the hostel staff. I had a similar experience recently in Edinburgh. I had an early AM flight. The staff arranged for me to pay the night before and they had a "to go" breakfast waiting outside my door in the AM. The planning gene can really pay off with early departures. ; ) pam

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2531 posts

terri, lots of hotels/b&bs lock up at night. It's important to let the staff know that you'll be leaving early in the morning, and they can arrange to leave a door unlocked or that locks behind you once you are outside, or set an alarm for the snoozing night staff.

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1521 posts

I would have liked to have seen your face when you realized you were now locked in the courtyard! At least you hadn't left the luggage in the locked hotel. We do get so used the the American hotel with 24 hour desk and open door. I bet that doesn't happen to you again! Live and learn.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2394 posts

Exactly, many small hotels and B&B's do not have 24 hour staff. If you let them know your departure plans (or returning very late at night), they will accommodate you. Many will offer you a to-go breakfast if you will be missing their regular breakfast. I'm not sure how they get around fire codes for emergencies, but there are multiple ways. Each hotel and each community's codes are different.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

That sucks. I'll agree with others that not being able to egress through the front door poses serious safety issues...surprising that would even be allowed in any developed country to say the least. I understand locking the door from the inside, but it's unbelievable that their locks can't be unlocked from the inside without a key! I've personally never had an issue at small hotels or B&Bs anywhere when making the manager/owner aware of early departure time beforehand. BTW, another reason to discuss this ahead of time is to settle up your bill the night before (if you haven't done so already). Of course, you're not going to have this locked front door problem at larger corporate hotels. Some may lock the front doors & you'll need a key/access card to get back in, but you can always get out without a key.

Posted by Roy
Auburn, AL
805 posts

It makes sense to let the owner or front-desk person know the night before that you will be leaving early. But that is not foolproof. That person may forget, oversleep or not pass along the message, leaving you stuck. I like the idea of hanging onto the key until you are sure you can get outside. Also, making it clear upon check-in that you will be leaving early on the last day and getting that person to show you how to get out if their failsafe plan fails. I prefer B&Bs, but not for the final night before a flight home; for that, I try to book a better-staffed, business-class hotel closer to the airport.

Posted by Connie
Everett, WA
827 posts

I chuckled out loud reading about your adventure. While this has never happened to my husband and I, I could tell you a few stories about things we learned the hard way while traveling in Europe. The good news: you will never forget this experience and it will become one of your favorite stories. When stuff like this happens to us, I have learned to look at my husband and say out loud: "We are making a memory!"

Posted by Angela
Sammamish, WA
403 posts

This happened to us at a 4 star small hotel in Vienna, too! We came down at 5 in the morning and there was no way to get outside. Our key did NOT open the front door. Thankfully, we didn't have to climb any walls to get out! We found the clerk sleeping in a back office. He seemed annoyed we woke him up. I was shocked from a fire safety point of view.

Posted by terri
Nipomo, CA, USA
2 posts

Thanks for so many responses. My husband did inform the clerk the night before that we would be leaving early. We paid our bill and then she said to be sure to put the keys in the lock box. She did not mention anything about the front door being locked from the inside.

Posted by Jaye
Dallas, OR, USA
99 posts

Just wanted to add that we did pre-pay our bill and we also let the hotel staff know about our early departure - they actually ordered the taxi for us! This was not a small hotel but a larger Rick Steves hotel in Rue Cler neighborhood of Paris. I know we will always check on this in the future though! All's well that ends well...