Travelers tend to think of hotels as an extension of their homes—comfortable, private and safe. However, the reality is that hotels can be targets for crime. When you’re out of your element, focused on a business trip or in vacation mode, it’s easy to be distracted and less thorough than usual. Keeping a handful of hotel security tips in mind could make the difference between having a major problem or no issues at all.
The two greatest safety risks in a hotel are fire and theft. When it comes to fire, you have little control over the hotel’s fire hazards. As a common rule, always take a few seconds to understand your exit strategies from the building.
Also take a minute to consider the threat of theft. Theft can mean removal of property from your room or actual (thankfully, less commonly) armed robbery. Making an effort to blend in to your surroundings and not call attention to yourself is one key way to help keep yourself from being a target, but there are other things you can do throughout your trip to stay safe.
Larger, brand name hotels usually have processes in place to protect guests and they have hotel security staff on site. They train staff and regularly prepare for emergencies. Sticking to larger chains may help you avoid some issues.
Avoid rooms on the ground floor or second floor when possible. These rooms may be more vulnerable to thieves because their windows are more easily accessible. Safer rooms tend to be in the mid-rise section of the hotel—floors 4 to 10. They’re high enough off the ground to minimize exterior access, but not so high that you would have difficulty in case of fire or other emergency.
Do not share your last name or room number with anyone. Often, hotels will only write the room number down on a sleeve that accompanies your room key. If the desk clerk says your name or room number out loud, ask to be checked into a different room. Most hotels train the desk staff to be “welcoming.” That can sometimes translate into unnecessarily chatty. The desk clerk isn’t the risk, it’s someone who is overhearing your conversation. Even innocuous questions like, “Where are you traveling in from today?” can give away information that could be used to target you. Be polite, but don’t give up personal information.
Most hotels require identification to check in, but not all IDs are equal. Driver’s licenses contain personal information, including your home address…where you aren’t located right now. In the past, theft rings have shared information about people traveling. The less personal information you give out, the better. Use a business address for billing purposes and check in with your passport. If you’re attending a conference or event at a hotel, don’t wear your name badge through common areas. Badges often include your name, company and city, which may be enough information for a thief to impersonate you and claim they have lost their key.
Upon arrival, check the lobby area and floor layouts. Make sure you know at least three different ways out of the building and at least two different ways off of your floor—usually the elevator and at least one set of stairs.
Always lock your door while you’re in the room. Never open your room door for housekeeping, security or room service unless you can clearly identify them as a staff member. When in doubt, call the front desk.
Most business-class hotels have in-room safes for valuables. How safe these are is anyone’s guess. If you’ve ever discovered that you’ve left valuables in a hotel safe after checking out, you know how easily (and quickly) the staff can retrieve them. Just remember that. If you have something truly valuable (jewelry, lots of cash, etc.), it’s best to keep it on your person, or leave it at home in the first place. However, for minor valuables, the hotel room safe will stop most opportunistic thefts.
In some parts of the world, the biggest safety risk is terrorism. All too often, American-based hotel chains can be targeted. If you’re traveling to a sensitive area or have concerns about terrorism, carefully consider your hotel options and perhaps consider a hotel that may not have the same degree of symbolism as an American chain.