Hotels vary widely in quality, security, and trustworthiness. This can depend on factors such as the level of hotel, the reputation, where you are, who can get in, other guests, and on and on. As with all travel, take a good survey of your situation, and put the following safeguards in place when you want to secure your hotel room and your stuff.
I’m very security conscious even when I’m staying in a hotel. When you want to head out for the day you want to only take with you the things you need. If I’m going to the beach I only need a bit of cash, my phone, my towel, maybe a hat, some beach wear, sunscreen, and footwear. So what do I do with the rest of my valuable items? How can I limit the chance of someone breaking into my room and stealing my things?
I’ve heard it said by a security expert that it’s more likely to be the hotel housekeeping staff who will steal your valuables than somebody from outside finding some way to get in by opening the door lock. So don’t assume that hotel cleaning staff are completely trustworthy. I’m not suggesting they are all potential thieves of course but it is hard to prove that something that has gone missing when it was sitting in your room was taken by the housekeeping staff, even if it was.
What to Do for Room Security
When I’m in my room I always use the door lock. Maybe it’s not the perfect barrier but it is something that should be enough to stop someone from casually entering your room, and will move the everyday thief onto the next room. I might be on the balcony or in the shower when they try so I do not assume just by being in the room it will be OK.
Ideally your room will have a peephole in the door but this is not always available. If you have somebody knocking at the door, and you cannot see who it is, then make sure that you are confident you know who they are before opening, particularly at night. If they are part of the hotel staff then you can check with the front desk or reception to confirm this. If there is a language barrier and you still feel uncertain then be cautious and do not let them in. It is always something that can be sorted out later.
If I am on the ground floor then I think about access to my room either through the windows or the balcony doors. And leaving things on an outside table on a ground floor balcony can be unbearable temptation for some.
Using a Security Box or Room Safe
Many hotel rooms and even holiday villas or apartments will have small security boxes for you to store valuables. Often I find that you are able to set them with your own personal code, so only you will know it (so make sure you do not forget it). They will usually hold a small laptop, iPad, tablet, passports and cash. But they also are not totally full-proof against a dedicated thief.
I have found that hotels say they are not responsible for items left in these room safes, so they know the problems with them, but I have used them regularly. If I have a smaller amount of cash I will store it and my passport in the security box. I carry a small laptop and speakers which I can store in there as well. I have not yet had anything stolen from one in many years of travel.
Personal Travel Safe
If I am going to stay in a hotel without a security box then I will take a personal travel safe. It will hold a laptop, camera and other valuables like cash and passports. These are simple to use, easy to carry and provide that extra layer of security that may get a thief to move onto the next room for an easier score. I can fold it flat when I am not using it and it is easily attached to a permanent fixture in a room with a metal cable and closed with a strong lock. It is just not worth the trouble for your average thief. These are made of canvas with a stainless steel mesh that runs through them. The Helix Personal Safe is a good buy. Pacsafe also makes safes and a huge arrange of other travel security items. There are also personal metal travel safes available, some with a key lock or a digital locking mechanism.
Using a Hotel Safe
If you have something valuable that you really cannot afford to lose then I would recommend not taking it on the trip. But if you really want to then I would very seriously consider using the hotel safe for storing it when it is not needed. Again you are relying on the honesty of the staff and the organization they work for, but most hotels will have special procedures for this. I would talk to the staff to confirm the process they follow and to see the safe where it will be stored, and I will always get a receipt. Again I think you will find the hotel takes this security seriously but they may state that they do not guarantee the security of your item and you leave it with them at your own risk. However, if the item is stolen it may be covered by the hotel’s insurance. I have occasionally used hotel safes without any incident.
Leaving the Room
When I leave my luggage in the room I tend to try to place it somewhere not so obvious, like inside the closet, to remove it from sight and temptation. I will close it and I may even lock it. The lock will not deter a serious thief but it will stop a casual thief and prying staff.
I will close and lock balcony doors and windows to make access to the room much harder for anyone wanting to break in. Even on a higher floor they may move across from another balcony to yours so it is best to just be sure.
Staying Somewhere Without Security
If for some reason I find myself staying somewhere without security then I will be very careful with my things. I don’t assume that friendly locals will always do the right thing.
I don’t keep my money all in one place. I have hidden it in toiletries and underwear or dirty clothes. I’ve known women who stored their cash and credit cards in their sanitary pads. That’s one way to keep prying hands away!
I don’t leave any items of value (such as electronics) out in open view for someone to see if they are casually looking at my room. I’ve wrapped a laptop in a towel and left it at the bottom of my suitcase under dirty clothes.
Having a personal travel safe is particularly valuable for this situation.
There are many ways that you can reduce the chance of somebody being able to steal something of value from your room. By being practical and using the available security measures I have been able to reduce the chances of items being taken from my hotel room. Many of the people you encounter on your travels will be honest and would not steal anything that belongs to you, but by following a few easy steps you can reduce the chance for those who are not so honest from having the opportunity to take your things. There’s no 100% guarantee, but you can certainly reduce the risk substantially and improve the chances of enjoying an incident-free holiday.