Travel Safety Part III – At the Hotel (Motel, Holiday Inn…)

This is the third post of my travel safety series.  Read on for common sense tips on how to stay safe in your hotel so that you can get a good night’s sleep!

Over the years, I’ve stayed in all kinds of lodging.  Hotels, motels, hostels, guesthouses, B&Bs…some reputable, some not so reputable.  I don’t require much.  A clean bed.  A cleaner bathroom.  Enough plugs for my phone (and iPad, and laptop), hair dryer, and straightener.  And a working wifi connection.

I routinely hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign outside my locked door at night using the deadbolt – and latch or chain if there is one – before (safely) tucking myself in for the night.

Once upon a time I was on a business trip in Wichita, Kansas (long story).  We were put up in an average 3* hotel located near the office.  In the middle of the night someone started pounding on my door.  It sounded like a very angry man who kept shouting the name of a woman (not me).  He attempted to jiggle the handle several times and pushed his weight against the door.  My initial thought was “WTF? Is this really happening?” Once my brain started working again, I dialed the front desk to report the attempted break-in (intrusion?).  I don’t know what happened next, but the banging stopped and I was able to (finally) get to sleep.

rickshaw

Rickshaw ride in Old Delhi, India

Fast forward a few years later, and I had just arrived to my New Delhi hotel.  It was my 4th or 5th visit to India and easily my 3rd stay at a very nice 5* hotel. The staff knew me well since my visits were often 2-3 weeks long, and one in particular had taken a liking to me. He always offered to help me with my luggage upon arrival (usually around 3am).

On this trip, he began appearing at my door without notice to ask if I needed anything.  He also made several unsolicited phone calls to my room to inquire about my day and to offer to take me out on the weekend. Finally, I reminded him that I was a guest at his hotel and that all visits and phone calls needed to end immediately or I’d have to bring this up with the hotel manager. Thankfully, he respected my wishes, but it could have easily gone a different way.

As a solo female business traveler, specifically, I’ve since learned that there are additional precautions that I can take to avoid any unnecessary attention and keep myself safe at night.  However, these tips can be used by anyone – male or female – and will bring additional peace of mind during your stay at your home away from home.

1. Request a higher floor.  Ground floor rooms are easily accessible by other guests, staff, and visitors.  Guess where my room was in Wichita?

2.  Ask that your room be in a heavily trafficked part of the hotel and not isolated.  That way, if something happens, there will be enough people around in the event of an emergency.

3. Throw a rubber door stop in your bag.  Instead of using it to prop the door open, insert it from the inside of the room.  This helps to keep the door closed in the event someone is trying to force entry into your room.  The door stop doesn’t take up much room and it slows down a potential intruder possibly deterring them altogether.

Rubber Door Stops can slow down a potential intruder

4.  DO NOT give your room number to anyone (unless this person is someone you know and trust and you feel comfortable doing so).  If you have to meet someone, arrange to meet in the lobby or breakfast room.

5. Grab an extra business card at check in and carry it with you at all times. If you need to duck into a taxi and cannot communicate in the native language, you can quickly share the hotel information and be on your way.

6. Don’t open the door just because the person on the other side claims that they’re part of the hotel management, room service, etc.  If you didn’t call for service, and feel uneasy about the situation, call down to the front desk and confirm.

7. Don’t let others know that you’re not in your room.  Avoid using the “Please Make Up Room” (or whatever the variant is) when you leave.  This is a clear marker that you’ve left your room and an open invitation to anyone who’s ready and willing.

Part IV will be the last installment of my travel safety series. In this post, I’ll discuss tips for how to stay safe in emergency situations. Things can, and will, go wrong.  The key is being prepared so you know what to do when it does.

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