Posted on December 15 2020
Most travelers choose to stay in hotels or vacation rentals when venturing abroad. While most hotels have adequate security measures in place, it is wise to include some simple safeguards to protect yourself and your loved ones. Thieves and violent offenders utilize various techniques to gain access to rooms or valuables.
Criminals may target you as a tourist and follow you from the lobby to your room. Always be aware of your surroundings and those who may be paying too much attention to you and your family.
They may also pose as hotel staff or security and deceive you into opening your door for them. If you didn’t order room service or explicitly ask for someone to come to your room, do not open the door for anyone. Conversely, if you receive an unexpected knock on your door, call the front desk and verify the person has a valid reason for coming to your room.
Finally, the more brazen criminals may attempt to forcefully enter your room. Be sure to lock all doors and windows even if you intend on staying in the room for a period of time and especially when leaving your room. Don’t let yourself be an easy target.
Here are some further tested techniques to avoid becoming a victim.
Selecting a Hotel:
Seek out hotels in non-violent or low crime areas. A quick search online can provide some insightful information on your destination. A good resource is the CIA World Factbook. The dossier for your chosen location will provide you a wealth of valuable information in choosing the right location for your visit. Asking trusted friends who have visited before can be a good starting point but always remember to do your research before you book a hotel.
Staying in a well-lit area is also a wise decision. Criminals will avoid places they can easily be seen or be hindered in escaping after they have committed a crime.
A common lobby in a hotel is a vital security feature. Though it may not seem important at first, an area in which people assemble and hotel staff are easily accessible could be the difference between safeguarding yourself, family, or valuables and becoming a victim.
Hotel Security Personnel:
It goes without saying that having security personnel located nearby is an important safety consideration. In fact, the very presence of security guards may be enough to thwart an attempted criminal act. Security guards are aware of the location, exit routes, and potential vulnerabilities. Additionally, they can contact law enforcement in the event of an incident.
Electronic Key Card:
Be sure to stay in a hotel with an electronic key card in order to enter the room. Older or outdated hotels with a simple metal room key can easily be picked to steal valuables. Criminals know this and could be waiting for the right person to come along in which to exploit.
Closed Circuit Security Cameras:
A hotel with a functional CCTV camera system in place is invaluable. Many perpetrators have been caught after law enforcement personnel have reviewed video evidence and identified the suspect. Countless more travelers have avoided becoming another statistic simply because CCTV is in place.
Selecting a Hotel Room:
Selecting the right room may make all the difference in the world when visiting a foreign country. Sometimes you may not have a choice when selecting a room but if you are able to select your room, try to pick a room with the following characteristics;
Select a room between the 3rd and 5th floors:
Rooms on the 1st and 2nd floors are easily accessible from the street via windows. Rooms on higher levels provide an added layer of security. However, do not select a room above the 5th floor because if an emergency occurred, you may take longer to evacuate the premises in order to reach safety which could put you and your family in danger.
Do not select a room next to a fire escape/emergency exit:
This may seem counter-intuitive but selecting a room next to stairs or an emergency exit may make you an easy target for criminals as they will look for the quickest means of escape after committing a crime. At the same time, you shouldn’t select a room that is far away from an emergency exit because you may need to get out swiftly in the event of an emergency. The best practice is to select a room that is two to four rooms away from an emergency exit or stairs.
Most hotels have a safe located in the room. These are vital for protecting your valuables, important documents, and any other items you wish to keep safe. Most safes are fireproof and are unlocked until you enter your own unique combination. Make your combo difficult to guess by avoiding important dates, repeating, and sequential numbers. For example, “8371” would be a good combination whereas “0000”, “1234” or “1776” would be considered bad combinations.
Some hotels have rooms that are accessible from the adjacent room. In some cases, this can be acceptable. For instance, if you are traveling with a large group or extended family. But in most cases, you should avoid a shared room if at all possible as you may not know who is on the other side or their intentions.
This one is going to break many hearts but having a room without a balcony is recommended. Criminals can scale the side of the hotel looking for those too comfortable to lock the door to the balcony. This practice isn’t as vital as the others on the list but you should still play it safe and forego the balcony. You can still get amazing views of your destination from the window and you may be able to open it for some fresh air.
Inspecting Your Room:
It is critically important that you inspect your hotel room before you get too comfortable. If you have any questions or concerns, ask the hotel staff to change rooms immediately. Here are a few things to look for when inspecting your room.
Locate all emergency exits:
Knowing the fastest route to escape danger should be one of the first things you do before you enter your room. In an emergency situation, people tend to panic and the ability to think clearly is lost in the chaos. You should also look for a secondary means of escape should your primary route become blocked or inaccessible.
Functioning locks on all doors and windows:
It may seem obvious to ensure the door locks but many of us are guilty of forgetting to check the door locks and a lot of travelers don’t even think to check the locks on the windows. If you discover any faulty or dysfunctional locks, ask hotel staff you can change rooms as improperly functioning locks are a huge security concern and the hotel will want to mitigate the vulnerability.
Scratches on the door frame:
Look for any scratches on or around the door frame. This may indicate that someone in the past has attempted to gain access to the room and may be waiting for the next unfortunate tourist to exploit. Again, if you find something suspicious, contact the hotel staff immediately and ask for another room.
Ensure the phone in your room is functional. As stated above, you may need to contact the front desk if you have an unexpected knock on the door or you discover something you wish to report. Having a working telephone is critical and will act as an added security layer.
When leaving your hotel room:
Unless you have no desire to venture out into the surrounding areas, you will inevitably leave your hotel room. Take these steps to keep your belongings safe and deter would-be burglars.
Leave the TV or radio on:
This gives the impression that someone is still in the room. Thieves are far less likely to attempt a crime if they believe somebody is still in the room and could confront them or call for help.
Hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door:
Again, this creates the illusion that someone is currently occupying the room and will cause criminals to think twice about illegally entering your room.
Turn on a light near the door:
This is the last step to make it appear as if someone is in the room especially if you plan to go out at night.
Your hotel room is going to be your home away from home. Therefore, you must take certain actions as you normally would for your own home. Be aware of anything or anyone suspicious. Inspect your room for any faults. And always make it appear as if someone is in the room. Finally, if you feel uncomfortable with anything about your room, do not hesitate to ask for a different room or even change hotels.