Are Candles Allowed in Hotels? What’s Generally Allowed?

Candles are commonplace across many homes. They can serve a variety of purposes from facilitating relaxation, creating ambiance, or cultivating desirable scents.

It may not be unusual then that some people may wish to replicate a taste of home within their hotel rooms when traveling and might want to light a candle as they relax and unwind. You will however rarely find a candle in most modern hotel rooms but what is to stop you from bringing your own?

In this article, we will explore whether lighting your favorite candle while in a hotel is allowed or is likely to leave you in hot water.

Whilst not illegal, most hotels and guest houses run a no candle/flame policy due to the fire risk. Burning a candle within a hotel without permission or in defiance of hotel policy has the potential to incur a financial penalty or result in termination of your stay.

We contacted three large hotel chains across a busy city break location: New York City. All three advised it was a central policy to prohibit the burning of candles within private guest rooms of their hotels. The primary explanation was about ensuring the safety of other guests and the concern about fire risks.

We contacted two independent hotels that had a less defined policy on candles. However, both equally indicated they would largely advise against it.

All the hotels we spoke with suggested flame-free alternatives such as electric wax warmers and flameless or battery-powered candles. This may be a better, safer means of managing your lighting and scent options until you can return to your own home.

Why Light a Candle While on Vacation or Travelling for Work?

There could be several reasons why someone may wish to light a candle while in their hotel room. Some are self-explanatory but there may be some other instances that you haven’t thought of.

  • Scent

For anyone traveling a lot, they know that not all hotels will have the most welcoming aroma on arrival. Especially in city hotels such as those within New York City where opening windows may not be practical due to street noise and pollution, lighting a candle could be the quickest way to refresh the senses.

  • Relaxation

If you are traveling for a busy work trip or pounding the sidewalks on a jam-packed city break, you may wish to sink into that luxurious hotel tub at the end of the day with some gentle candlelight to help soothe the soul.

  • Special Occasions

Hotel trips for special occasions are big business.  Perhaps you want to bust out the birthday candles or reach for candles to set the mood for that special anniversary or Valentine’s Day trip?

  • Personal Preference/Routine

Many people can find trying to drop off to sleep in a new environment like a hotel challenging. Many people crave familiar smells such as their favorite candle or familiar routines such as lighting a candle and unwinding with herbal tea as part of their pre-sleep routine.

  • Religious/Cultural Reasons

Candles are significant in many religious practices. Traveling at different times of the year may coincide with religious or culturally significant dates that would normally be associated with candle lighting. Most religions however would advise on the lighting of candles only where reasonable, safer, and practical to do so.

Is it Legal to Light a Candle in a Hotel Room?

The good news is there is no explicit law against the lighting of candles within a hotel room. While in many States there is defined legal legislation against the smoking of cigarettes or tobacco in public places such as hotels, this does not apply to candles.

While you may not find yourself in jail you could still find yourself foul of hotel penalties as by and large most hotels appear to prohibit the use of naked flames rather strictly, in guest rooms.

We reached out to a number of the largest hotel chains in New York City to get a flavor of the policy on lighting candles in private rooms.  Universally they all advised that the lighting of candles was prohibited

We spoke with the “Citizen M” group of hotels who have a location in Times Square. They were quite clear in advising:

“ .. unfortunately, we do not allow candles to be lit with an open flame in our rooms”

Citing their concern for the safety of other guests was the paramount reasoning behind their policy.

A representative from the Hilton group told us:

“The use of any naked flame is prohibited within guest rooms….we would encourage guests to consider battery-powered candles as an alternative”

Meanwhile, a representative from the Marriott chain advised us:

 “We want to keep all our guests safe and feel the lighting of candles in private rooms is a risk to others”

Citizen M, Hilton, and Marriott staff all indicated that guests could be potentially liable for any costs associated with burning candles without permission such as any scorching to furniture or enhanced cleaning fees to remove any persistent smells. 

Some independent or smaller hotel chains appeared a little more flexible or admitted they do not have a “set in stone” policy on the practice of lighting candles in guest rooms.

The Hotel @ Time Square informed us that guests should:

“… make the front desk aware if they intend to light candles and discuss this further and they would try to make reasonable accommodations”

Similarly, another smaller hotel was a little more open. The Lombardy Hotel in Midtown East, NYC suggested:

“ ..while we would not recommend lighting candles in guest rooms, the bar and public areas are good places to light birthday candles or have a celebration”

Will a Candle Set Off the Smoke Alarm in a Hotel Room?

All the hotels we contacted advised all their NYC rooms are now considered “non-smoking”. Citizen M and the Marriot group both advised they had a policy to charge if they felt guests set off smoke alarms by going against hotel policy which would include lighting candles.

In reality, single candles are unlikely to trigger smoke alarms, many modern-day systems are more sophisticated and measure a prolonged rise in heat as a better indicator of an uncontrolled or dangerous fire.

Are Hotel Policies Regarding Candles the Same Throughout the Chain?

The hotel chains we contacted were clear that prohibiting the burning of candles was a chain-wide policy. They all alluded to the terms of their insurance policies and the requirement to safeguard other guests.

Interestingly for all the hotels we contacted, none of them had explicit advice about candles visible on their websites.  The Marriot, Hilton, and Citizen M advised that each room contained fire safety advice, and contained in this was the explicit advice not to have “open flames” which they felt was sufficient to advise guests on the requirement not to burn candles.

How do you Safely Burn a Candle?

Lighting any candle comes with an element of risk and basic candle safety should always be followed including never leaving a lit flame unattended, ensuring a burning candle is away from flammable furnishings or material and is placed on a heatproof, flat and stable surface.

It is always advised not to light candles when you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol as the risk of knocking them over or forgetting they are lit significantly increases. Equally lighting a candle when you are likely to fall asleep is an extremely unwise idea as flames can spread incredibly quickly should they catch on a curtain for example or fall from a surface.

What are the Consequences if I light a Candle When I Shouldn’t?

If you burn your candle responsibly and safely the chances of your hotel even knowing you lit a candle is fairly low. However, if the hotel you are staying in has a specific ban on candles and you disregard this it will likely land you with a financial penalty and potentially see the hotel decline to honor the remainder of your reservation.

The absolute worst-case scenario though could be much more serious, if you were to burn a candle that was to result in a fire causing damage to the hotel or injury to other guests and staff you could face criminal charges.

There is the potential for damage to hotel fixtures and fittings should the candle scorch or mark furniture. Equally any accidental spills of wax are likely to prove time-consuming for domestic staff to remove and will be a sure-fire way for them to spot you have been burning candles against advice and policies.

Are there any Alternatives to Burning a Candle in a Hotel Room?

All the hotels we contacted indicated they would have no issue with alternatives such as flameless or battery candles. They are fairly cheap and widely available and certain models can emulate the flickering glow of true candlelight extraordinarily well.

For those who seek the scent element of candle burning, a more hotel-friendly alternative could be an electric, flameless wax warmer. Reed diffusers also allow a risk-free scent experience which are unlikely to land you in trouble with your hotel provider.

If you are looking specifically at birthday candles, it is widely accepted that hotels will allow these in public areas such as their bars or restaurants. This is fairly commonplace and the fact that birthday candles stay lit for such a short period of time means they present a lower risk than the burning of scented candles.

In Conclusion

As a major fan of all things candle and essential oils, I can understand the appeal and temptation of lighting a candle while on vacation while in my hotel room. Thinking of it from a hotelier’s point of view though I can also completely understand their hesitancy given the high incidence rate of accidental fires that are caused by unattended candles.

With that in mind, I think I would be more inclined to pack my favorite room spray and something flameless as a means of creating the same effect to tide me over until I can return home. My vacation would not be ruined by being unable to light a few candles. However, the threat of a fine and being asked to leave an establishment would certainly put a much bigger dampener on things!