Choosing the right accommodation plays an important role in planning a trip. Women typically look for an option that is within their budget, has a convenient location, adequate amenities and makes them feel safe.
According to a Hospitality portal, travelers’ behavior are evolving and predict they “will pay more attention to the different security procedures that establishments are implementing”.
After a day out and about minding your valuables and staying away from scams and pickpockets, the last thing you want is to also worry about the safety inside your own hotel room.
However, feeling safe, especially in a hotel, is not just the result of elements provided by the hotel such as security guards or surveillance systems, but also about the precautions you can take, regardless of whether you are staying at a big chain luxury hotel or at a boutique small family-run one, particularly against theft.
Experts estimate that 90% of hotel thefts go unreported because staff persuade guests not to report it.
Generally, you can expect premium hotels in good areas of major cities are safe, and crime, particularly theft, is minimal and opportunistic. We also know this to be true from personal experience.
Our Co-Founder Mar, used to travel weekly for work for almost a decade and, in her 1,500 nights spent at hotels in that period alone, the only issues she ever had to deal with were items left behind when checking out in a rush; Shirts dry cleaned and left hanging in the closet, charging cables plugged under bedside tables and cosmetics or shower products forgotten in the bathroom.
However, we do agree with Stefanie, one of our group members, “Do what you need to do to feel safe, sleep well, and enjoy yourself. We all deserve to travel with peace of mind”.
In this article we will go beyond our general travel safety advice and review specific hotel security tips and room safety hacks for travelers from the planning stage, to pre-arrival, during check in and while in your room.
Take a cue from our expert solo female travelers team and from the thousands of members in our Facebook Group community who also contributed to this piece with their hotel security tips and keep yourself safe at your accommodation.
Book the right hotel
Travel safety begins before the booking process, when it’s time to do your research and choose the right hotel for you with hotel security in mind.
Pick a safe location
A hotel’s location is a key factor which highly influences a tourist’s hotel selection decision, according to research.
Keeping safe in your accommodation starts with picking the right location. Nobody likes to stay at a hotel located in a dimly lit back alley and whose main entrance requires you to walk past the back door of a dive bar, where drunken men congregate at all times of the day, or in the middle of the Red Light District with a stream of people walking by at all times of day and night.
Before booking, research the neighborhood and choose an area that is well lit-up, has access to public transportation, and a low-crime rate. Leverage the knowledge of locals in the area, especially women, when making your choices.
You can obtain upright recommendations in Facebook travel groups, asking about safe areas to stay in the city you’re visiting, in expat groups for the location you are visiting, or by reading online reviews of the accommodation that may mention the location.
You can also use Google and simply search “Is xx area safe?” and you will likely get local news articles that may discuss this, or use free services such as the Safetipin app, which helps you make safer decisions about your mobility, by providing visibility on safe walking routes and will give you details on well lit streets, if there have been crimes reported, if the area is safe, etc.
Choose the right room
Avoid booking rooms located in the ground floor or 2nd floor, since these are more accessible, especially those which have doors with direct access outside the hotel.
Rooms from the 3rd to the 6th floor are ideal, because they have low probability of crime and it’s easy to reach the ground floor in case of an emergency or evacuation. Rooms on the higher floors present a higher risk in cases of fire as fire trucks can as easily reach them.
Look for a hotel with security standards
When we talk about safety, we are not just referring to crime but also to other dangers such as fires that could put you and your belongings at risk.
Typically, 4 and 5 star hotels will have concierge desks, surveillance cameras, fire safety protocols, security staff and 24h reception desks. As a rule of thumb, you can improve your safety by staying at a higher standard hotel.
As with all rules, there are many exceptions; Hotel rating agencies are country-based and there isn’t a global standard. In some countries, a 4 star hotel may not be safer than a 3 star hotel.
For example, a study by ehotelier found that in Germany, Thailand and the UAE, hotel security and safety standards were better than the country at large and that they were directly correlated with the hotel star rating, while this is not the case in Turkey where a high end hotel can compensate for the lack of security protocols by installing an ice machine on each floor.
That said, international chains of luxury hotels will adhere to global safety standards and provide basic security measures, while local family-run businesses in countries where industry security protocols do not focus on safety will be less likely to provide the same safety measures.
To find out what your desired hotel offers in terms of safety and security, call the hotel or reach out to them via social media and ask them for their safety measures, if they have a 24 hour desk, security guards and surveillance cameras.
In the case of Airbnb, you can see some of the safety protocols on their website or ask the host for things like fire alarms, smoke detectors or security staff at the entrance to the building.
Read the reviews
Analyze reviews carefully and look for any bad experience, things that didn’t work, quality of the service, the opinions of women traveling solo, etc. Sites like Tripadvisor, Yelp, Booking.com or hotel booking websites are helpful.
Reviewers can provide valuable information and insights between the lines that can help you choose the right accommodation.
For example, did anyone mention arriving late to find the door closed? Did you read guests complaining that their items went missing? Did guests mention taxi drivers not wanting to take them to the hotel’s street or area? Did others mention the hotel being far from commercial areas and without much around?
All these can be good indicators of the area the hotel is in and of the security protocols in place.
Use a reputable hotel booking site
While we generally recommend you book directly with the hotel for many reasons (cheaper prices, helping small businesses, lower change fees, etc.), using a recognized and well established hotel booking site means that there is a third party who can mediate in case something happens with your booking.
If you are not sure that a hotel is a safe place, you may want to have the vetting of a third party.
Additionally, if a hotel is not listed on any of the bookings site below, it may be that they don’t meet a minimum safety and quality standard so that in itself could be a red flag.
The following are sites we like and use because they are reliable, have great loyalty programs, attractive deals and they are easy to navigate.
Booking.com: one of the well-known booking sites, it has lots of options and a free loyalty program with exclusive member offers. Most hotels on Booking provide refundable rates so you’re covered in case of last minute cancellations.
Hotels.com: a terrific site to book hotels, it has an attractive loyalty program that gives you a free night for every 10 nights booked. They may not have the widest inventory, but you can surely find some great options there.
HotelsCombined: this one is an awesome site to compare prices across the other booking sites. After the comparison, choose your hotel and HotelsCombined will redirect you to book directly via the booking site (Booking.com or the site you choose).
Safety tips for when you arrive at your hotel
As soon as we arrive at our accommodation, we feel like we are immediately safe, however, lots of things can happen inside that we need to be aware of and theft inside hotels and hotel rooms is more common than statistics highlight.
Keep your luggage in sight
During check in and check out, you may be distracted and make yourself a target for pickpocketing and theft, keep your luggage close at all times. I like to place it in front of me at the reception counter as I am checking in.
If the concierge or valet offers to take care of your luggage, make sure he puts a tag on it and gives you a copy. Keep your personal belongings and handbag with your valuables with you at all times.
Don’t make your room number public
If you feel like the reception is not the safest place, ask the front desk employee to write down your room number instead of saying it out loud.
Also, if you’re going to share your whereabouts with someone (in person or by phone), do it in a low voice so other people in the hotel can’t hear which is your room.
If you’re charging something to your room from the hotel’s restaurant or bar, you can tell them your full name instead of your room number, the staff must have access to your complete profile using your full name. Most hotels will give you a bill to sign where you can type your name and room number instead of saying it out loud.
Don’t carry the whole key pouch with your room number and name on it, especially if you are using facilities such as the gym, pool, etc. or if you are going out of the hotel. Memorize your room number and just take your room key with you.
At check in, the reception staff will typically ask you how many keys you want and only allow that number of valid keys at any one point. If you ask for a new one because you lost the old one, the previous keys will be invalidated as a standard procedure.
Most hotel room keys, especially those which are plastic cards, don’t have the room number on them so you don’t have to worry too much if you lose them in town. Proper hotels will only give out access card copies to registered guests and would not reveal the guest name if someone brought your key back.
Nowadays some hotels offer a mobile feature which lets you use your phone as a key. Ask the front desk if it’s available to have a secure backup.
Carry the hotel’s address with you
Ask for a couple of hotel’s business cards and take them with you in your purse. If they don’t have cards, get the hotel staff to write the hotel name and address down for you.
Save the hotel’s address on Google maps and download the map offline so you can access it without wi-fi and find your way back in case you get lost.
Inspect your room
If you are staying at a hotel that has doubtful security or where you don’t feel completely safe, you should inspect the room as soon as you walk in. It takes a few seconds and it can potentially save you from danger.
Check the whole room area including bathroom, under the beds, behind the curtains, inside the closets. Make sure everything is fine and if you find something that makes you uncomfortable or it’s not ok, report it to reception immediately and request a new room.
Things to look out for are bed bugs on the mattress, any other critters in hidden places, water leaks, broken fire alarms (functioning ones will usually blink every few seconds), curtains that you can’t pull properly, connecting rooms that are unlocked, windows that don’t close, etc.
Verify the door lock works or bring your own
Every time you enter your room, make sure to pull the door shut behind you. Use all the locks including the latch, deadbolt and chain lock if there’s one. Even though they are easier to open that you think, the harder you can make it for a thief, the better.
Some doors don’t close automatically, so take a second to ensure it has “clicked”. Kala, who worked as a flight attendant and slept many nights in hotels, shared: “Always use your deadbolts and check your rooms for intruders before closing the door”.
You could also bring a hotel room door security device like a rubber door stopper or door lock, which will physically impede anyone from opening the door and coming inside. There’s also a door alarm, which will alert you with a strong noise in case someone tries to open it in the middle of the night.
Our group member Renee recommended a 2-in-1 portable door stopper with an alarm: “I have this alarm/door stopper for when I travel alone, it’s really light and easy to pack, it’s also insanely loud, gives me such peace of mind!”.
Other members recommended this door lock from Amazon. Megan says, “I think I actually found this super handy travel accessory in this FB group but I love having it with me in South America as a solo traveler! Super easy and it definitely keeps that door closed if a hotel or hostel staff key tries to open the door. I honestly have not felt the need to use it all here in Ecuador but tested it out tonight and thought I’d share in case any of you want a little extra peace of mind”.
If you have nothing else with you, you can call housekeeping and ask for a door stopper, they usually use them when they clean the rooms, or use a fork facing down and slid under the door from behind, which will act as a door stopper.
Cover the door’s peephole
“Don’t forget to cover the peephole with a tissue. There’s a way for someone to be outside with a reverse peephole viewer and they can look in and see you undressing, or lying in your bed” advised our group member Linda.
Locate emergency exits
We often forget to do this but it’s an important hotel security tip. After settling in your room, go outside and identify all the emergency exits and signs, so you can reach them quickly in case of an emergency.
If you have ever lived in an apartment block in the UK or stayed at hotels there often, you will know to do this because fire alarms go off all the time and you then have to get out in your pajamas in the middle of the night and through fire exits.
Don’t open your door to strangers
Your mom was right.
If someone knocks on your door, confirm they are authorized hotel staff by looking through the peephole and asking what they want. Don’t open the door if you are not sure who the person outside is. Ask them what they want and offer to leave it outside by the door, or come back later.
If they insist, tell them that you will call the reception in a minute when ready and that you are just coming out of the shower. Then call to verify. Chain locks can be useful if you decide to open the door.
Bring a small flashlight
Sleep with a flashlight nearby. In case something happens in the middle of the night, the fire alarm goes off or there is a power cut, you’ll have a handy flashlight to light up your way and walk comfortably. Your phone’s torch can also come in handy in those situations.
Lock your windows
In most cases, hotel windows don’t open more than a few centimeters to save on air conditioning / heating and as a security measure but in case they open onto a restaurant, you probably want to pull the curtains and see the view before settling in.
If you’re near the ground floor or if your room has a balcony, it’s better to lock the windows at night to prevent anyone from coming in through them (it doesn’t happen in movies only!).
If there is warm weather and you want to sleep with the windows open, make sure you’re on the 3rd floor or higher and that your room is not accessible other than to Spiderman.
And lastly, you may want to check who can see into your hotel room before undressing. While many skyscraper hotels tend to have reflective or tinted windows for guests’ privacy, not all do, and you don’t know who’s day you could be “brightening up” with your morning routine.
Think twice before using the safe
Here’s an important hotel safety tip: Hotel safes are actually not that safe!
If you have ever forgotten your password you will know that the hotel holds the master code and that they are easy to break into, or carried away if they’re not bolted to the ground. So they only offer a minimal barrier for expert thieves.
To see if the hotel master safe deposit box is the typical 1-2-3-4 or the 0-0-0-0, enter a code to lock it and then try to unlock it using both, if it works, you know the safe won’t really “safe you”.
A great alternative is bringing a portable safe lock which you can attach to an immovable object like heavy furniture (beds, tables, desks, etc) to add a security layer. It is also easy to take away, but not as easy to open since the hotel staff don’t have the code to it.
If you have extremely valuable belongings you don’t want to bring with you during the day, ask the reception to save them in their main hotel safety deposit box. This one is a lot safer and bigger than the one in your room. If you do this, request a written receipt that lists your items and ask for any coverage in case of loss. Take a picture of them with the staff as proof.
Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)
Most hotels provide wi-fi for multiple devices during your stay. This is generally a public wi-fi, so when you use it, almost everyone using that network could access your data: usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, etc.
A VPN is one of the most useful tools to keep your data secure, highly recommended by our Co-Founder Mar, who has used Express VPN in many countries. What it does is it encrypts your traffic and hides your information from any other user or cybercriminal using the same network.
Plus, when traveling with a VPN you avoid getting blocked because of location. Sites that you may need access to, like work email accounts or banks, may not function properly when they detect a strange location.
Popular services like Google and its related family of sites, are blocked in countries such as China or North Korea and voice over IP calls like Whatsapp don’t work in many countries like the UAE. You can solve all that with a VPN.
Don’t fall for fake front desk calls
This is one of the most common scams in hotels. According to our Co-Founder Meg’s experience when she worked in a hotel, the scam works like this: a stranger calls to the hotel and asks to be transferred to someone’s room, so you receive a call that appears to be coming from inside the hotel.
The caller usually impersonates the front desk and claims there’s a problem with your card (e.g. it was declined or they need to verify payment information) and asks you to repeat credit card details.
The scammer will try to get the information over the phone and make you believe it is for your convenience. A real hotel employee would never ask for any confidential information over the phone, so “you should never give you credit card details over the phone in a hotel – even if reception or room service calls, let them know you’ll physically walk down to the desk to resolve the situation and then hang up the phone”, advised Meg.
If you get a scammer’s call, report it to the hotel staff immediately.
Hotel safety tips when you’re out
Make sure your hotel door locked properly
Because of many reasons including delayed maintenance checks, faulty locking mechanisms, etc. your door may not lock properly. Most in-room hotel theft is done by opportunistic thieves who look for these situations where a door is not properly locked.
When you leave your room, make sure the door is locked properly by pulling it towards you and waiting to hear the locking sound.
Close the curtains
When you go out for the day (or night), ensure the curtains are closed. This way, no one can peak into your room from outside, and they won’t notice it’s empty. And make sure the windows are closed.
Secure your luggage
Before leaving your room, secure your luggage with padlocks. This may not stop a burglar from taking the whole luggage but they are usually looking to grab things as fast as possible, so make it difficult for them by locking up your belongings.
Another alternative is to secure your luggage with a bike lock (which are bigger and longer than normal padlocks) to a heavy object in the room like a bed frame.
Remember the staff can get into your room, and if you requested cleaning they will do it while you’re out. So do not leave valuables in full view, especially items that are easily sellable like laptops, jewelry, cash or expensive clothes. If you can’t get your items to fit in your suitcase, check out our genius packing hacks.
Use the “Do not disturb” hanger
One of the best hotel room safety tips is hanging the “Do not disturb” sign on your door when you’re leaving. Employees usually respect this sign and no one will enter your room, plus it will seem like you’re inside.
But beware, this sign will keep out the cleaning staff also, so if you want them to clean your room, you can call them to do so when you are in your room but not all hotels have 247 cleaning staff and may not be able to send housekeeping in the afternoon.
If you’re staying for a short stay, you probably don’t need your room cleaned daily anyway, after all, you don’t clean your house everyday anyway.
Be aware of your surroundings
It’s key to be alert of your surroundings when walking into and out of your room. Always double check behind you to notice if there’s someone following you.
If someone suspicious got into the lift with you and stopped on the same floor, pretend you forgot something and go back down to reception.
The more aware you are of your surroundings, the more likely you will be able to prevent dangerous situations from occurring.
Park safely in hotel parkings
If you’re driving to your hotel, try to park near the entrance or in a lit-up area so you don’t have to walk alone with your belongings all the way to the entrance. If the hotel has a valet parking service, it may be worth the extra cost, this way you leave your car in the main entrance and enter the hotel safely. But don’t leave any valuables in the car if you use a valet service.
After you settle in, you can park your car in a spot that you can see from your room and hear the alarm if it goes on.
What to do if you get robbed in a hotel
Even despite all the above measures, theft and robberies at a hotel can still happen but in many countries such as the US, the onus is on you, as the guest, to prove it did as laws generally favor the hotel and indemnify them of any crime limiting their liability to small amounts through the Innkeeper Statuses.
How to protect yourself if your belongings get stolen in a hotel room?
Get travel insurance that covers you in case your belongings, especially valuable things such as electronics or passports, get stolen. You can then file a report with the police and get coverage for the costs of replacing them or the associated cost of delaying your travels because you don’t have a valid passport.
Make sure your coverage explicitly includes valuable items, many travel insurance policies will exclude electronics or jewelry, but your home insurance policy may.
We hope these tips are useful for your next hotel stay and as our group member Stefanie stated: “Do what you need to do to feel safe, sleep well, and enjoy yourself. We all deserve to travel with peace of mind”.
We would love to hear any suggestions from you, do you have a hotel safety tip that is not listed above? Let us know by leaving it in the comment section below.