The perceived brand popularity, the booking convenience and comfort in its rooms might have created a false sense of security for hotels towards their guests. However, this could come at the expense of hotel safety.
Stolen valuables, unauthorized credit card use and even unauthorized entry are some of the unfortunate consequences hotel guests have experienced simply by failing to apply extra layer of security when they stay at hotels. Before you become one like them, get to know these security tips whenever you are staying at hotels, motels or other forms of accommodation.
- Check your destination crimes. Get to know the common crimes in your destination, and be aware of neighborhoods to avoid. Who are the common victims, solo travelers? Women?
- Read hotel reviews before booking. Understand the general sentiment of guests in a hotel by checking out reviews across multiple platforms: Yelp and TripAdvisor are among the first ones you should go. Preference may vary but make location, security, customer service and facilities among your priorities.
- Bring less cash. Do not bring large amounts of cash. Withdrawing them during arrival might yield better rates than having to deal with unscrupulous money exchange shops, though this may vary depending on your travel destination.
- Request specific floor. Room assignment matters so if you have the chance choose the lower floors (second to fourth). Ground floor is too easy to access for non-guests and possible break-ins. (Some hotels require room’s key card to access certain floors.) In case of fire, truck ladders can reach up to fourth floor.
- Create an itinerary. Create an itinerary (hotel, dates, etc) and share it with family or friends.
- Get copy of your travel documents. This includes your credit cards, passport (visa page and front page), hotel booking and airline tickets. You don’t need all of them but having such copies gives you peace of mind and backup if things don’t go as planned.
- Do not disclose your full name. Your identity, while completely transparent to staff, should not appear as gender-specific to everyone else. This means using an initial for your first name plus surname in your hotel booking.
- Label your luggage. Make sure you provide enough information about your luggage so when misplaced or accidentally routed elsewhere, there’s a way to trace you. Place info on labels inside and outside your bag but use one with flaps that cover your identity from any passerby.
Checking in hotel
- Ask for hotel information. When you check in, ask for hotel’s business card with hotline number and address for taxi driver’s information, vicinity/city maps and guidance on police/fire department, fire escape routes and assembly area during emergency. Also place a card near your room phone to make it handy in case of intrusion or emergency situation.
- Write down, not say, room number. For hotel front line staff, write down the room number instead of saying it aloud. Many non-guests stay at the lobby and may be just be prospecting for their victims.
- Never place credit card at check-in counter. Doing so might expose your card and number to thieves who are equipped with powerful camera. Instead, give it directly to hotel staff for verification and processing.
- Lock your luggage. Lock your bags securely, and use TSA-compatible ones so they get opened by authorities easily without smashing them in the process.
- Never lose sight of your luggage. Obviously a common sense advice, but needs to be part of a reminder. When you go to the toilet, when talking to a hotel staff, when taking your meals at the train station or airport. Use a left luggage service if you need to be away from your bags for an extended period of time.
- Keep important items in hand-carry bag. Make sure essential items (passport, prescription medicine, laptop and currency) and items mandated by law such as power banks be kept in your hand-carried luggage.
Inside the hotel room
- Examine your room. Before you unpack inside the hotel, examine the entire room — from door locks to light switches and toilet faucets to safety boxes, make sure that everything you need is in good working order. Otherwise, call the front desk and get things sorted out.
- Keep your room number private. There are cases when you need to disclose your hotel number — when you’re dining at hotel restaurant and wish to pay up during checkout — but other than this, don’t share this information.
- Make a note of your hotel room number. In case of emergency which can trigger panicky situations, have your room number easily accessible by remembering it or referring to the jacket of your key card where it’s written.
- Stay safe when using hotel wifi. Hotels often provide free wifi connection to allow you to use it for business or leisure purposes. Make sure that you navigate the web via secured locations (access HTTPS enabled websites), disable file sharing and log off when done accessing websites.
- Locate the exit pathway. Familiarize your room location and identify the emergency exit, and take a mental note on how to escape your room during emergency such as fire or terrorist attack.
- Keep track of your keys. Keys may come in a form of physical keys or security card. Whatever their form, don’t obviously lose them. If lost, ask for a room replacement.
- Use all locks on hotel door. Hotel rooms have multiple locks for a reason. Use them all, especially the double lock. When leaving the room, make sure front door is locked.
- Check every knock on the door. Do not open door automatically when you hear a knock especially if you are not expecting someone in. Room service, housekeeping or any other verified hotel employee coming over? Check the peephole, or through a locked door.
- Place your valuables in the safety deposit box. Passport, jewelry or electronic gadgets you don’t need to bring out should be stored in the room’s safety box. If none is available, seal and label it in a container and bring it to the front desk safe and get a claim stub. Leave an impression that the room is occupied by leaving the light on, hang a “do not disturb” note, or a television playing. This might discourage would-be burglars from even attempting to sneak in.
Going out of the hotel
- Avoid going alone. If possible, avoid solitary situation. Use valet parking if it’s available and parking your car alone looks like a security issue. If you’re waiting for a taxi, wait for it to arrive inside the hotel lobby.
- Lock BOTH doors and windows. When you leave the room, don’t just check the doors getting locked. Also check windows to ensure that burglars or intruders get no chance of getting in.
- Exit using the front door of the hotel. Be sure to know where you’re going (or at least appear confident of where you’ll go) and not appear lost, making you a target for people to attempt to guide you but with bad ulterior motives
- Deal suspicious individuals the right way. If you detect someone might be following you, do not head directly to your hotel room. Instead, slow down and pretend to open your bag and get your water, key, etc. to allow the supposed stalker/attacker to go ahead and confirm he or she is just another hotel guest. Also, you might want to deceive this person — if inside the same elevator — by pressing the floor other than where your room is located. Or head to the lobby and report a possible security threat to security staff.
- Lock items you won’t bring out. If you suspect the room safe is not that secure, decide to store your valuables in the hotel safe instead. Note that some travel insurance policies do not accept liability for items left or lost in the guestroom safes but will include those locked in hotel safe.
Although there is no way to guarantee your absolute safety when you are in a hotel, or in your travel in general, this checklist should help reduce chances of hazards or risks. When you plan ahead, you have conditioned your mind and become better prepared to make the right decisions when incidents happen.