If you are staying at a hotel, the odds are you are also carrying some valuables with you.
These can be anything from money to important documents, electronics, passports, and items that generally cost a lot or have sentimental value.
So where do you store them? Many people will opt for storing their valuables in the hotel room safe. But is this a good idea?
Are hotel room safes safe? Hotel room safes are not 100% safe or secure. For the most part, a hotel room safe will offer some level of security, however, hotel room safes can often have one or several safety vulnerabilities. Some hotel room safes can be opened or picked in a few seconds by a knowledgeable person.
After doing in-depth research, I found that hotel room safes can be useful, but they can also give us a false sense of security.
Below I go into more detail, sharing with you more information on what you should know.
How Safe Are Hotel Room Safes?
Hotel room safes can provide low levels of security against opportunistic thieves. However, they are not very safe. Anybody with a little knowledge of how hotel room safes work or some basic picking tools may be able to break into the safe.
The reality is most hotel room safes have one or several security vulnerabilities.
There are many anecdotes of both people reporting never having anything go missing from a hotel room safe and people whose money has been stolen out of the hotel room safe.
In fact, hotel room safes often may have disclaimers that remove legal liability from the hotel and hotel’s staff if something goes missing.
What Makes Hotel Room Safes Unsafe?
There are a few things that make hotel rooms unsafe. First is their design, and second is their construction.
A great example of some of the most commonly found vulnerabilities of hotel safes can be seen in the video below.
Other People Can Open the Hotel Room Safe
The hotel room staff or other people can open your hotel room safe even if they don’t know your PIN code. Most hotel room safes can be opened using a master code, master key, or a master magnetic card. These codes, keys, and cards are usually available only to the hotel room staff. (For example, the housekeepers, the hotel security, or the maintenance staff).
That means that anyone who has access to your hotel room safe and either knows the master code or has the master key or card can open your safe without even knowing your PIN code.
So why is this happening?
Sometimes guests can forget the code to their hotel room safe. In which case, this is how the hotel room safe code will be reset, and the guest can gain access to their valuables again.
However, this practice can be abused by unethical people.
Hotel room safes using master magnetic cards are also not very safe. Master magnetic cards can be overridden or changed. This means that an unethical employee can reprogram each safe and be capable of opening them with a card of their own.
Hotel Room Safes Can Be Easy to Pick
One of the more glaring problems with some safes is that they can be notoriously easy to pick.
Most hotel room safes have a lock at the front, which is usually hidden behind the nameplate. The nameplate is easy to remove, and most locks are fairly low quality and can be picked in as little as a few seconds.
A great example of how quickly a hotel room safe can be picked can be seen in the video below.
Some models can even be opened without any tools but by using a little force.
Check this video below to see how easy it can be to open a hotel room safe without any codes, keys, or cars.
Skimmers Can Be Attached to Hotel Room Safes
Some hotel safes can be locked and unlocked using your credit card. However, using your credit card should be avoided as thieves can attach skimmers to the safe to steal your credit card’s information.
Hotel Staff Can Be Tricked Into Opening Your Hotel Room Safe
Another thing worth considering is that somebody who’s gained access to your room can ask somebody from the hotel’s staff to reset the code on the safe. Unfortunately, many hotels may not ask if this person is indeed the guest of that room.
Is It Safe to Leave Valuables in a Hotel Room Safe?
Not all of the hotel staff steals, but it can happen. After all, word of mouth and ratings can make or break a hotel or any similar establishment.
These problems may be more prominent at budget hotels and not so much at more expensive and reputable hotels.
Nonetheless, hotel employees usually do not go out of their way to steal people’s belongings.
But exercising some extra caution is always recommended. After all, the situation should not be more tempting than it already is.
Keeping small amounts of money (that are kept out of sight) and inexpensive items should not be a problem.
If you really need to bring something of great value with you, then it is advisable to inquire at the hotel’s reception if they have a hotel safe you can use (instead of the safe in your room) or safety deposit boxes.
That being said, even these safes may not always be safe enough as people may be able to set up different schemes to steal something of particular interest. (Like faking a robbery.)
If you have no other option but to use your hotel room safe, you should weigh the risks. It may be worth taking the valuables with you or leaving them at a local bank, or ideally leaving them home.
How to Find How Safe Is Your Hotel Room Safe?
There are a few basic things you can do in order to judge how safe the safe in your hotel room is.
- Check if the default master code for the safe has been reset. Many safes have default master codes set to 1234, 0000, 1111, 9999, 000000, 111111, 123456, or 999999. Use your safe brand and model and look them up online. Look for any information regarding a default master code or administrative code.
- Check if the safe is bolted down to something sturdy and secure. You want to ensure nobody is capable of simply taking the safe and walking away with it.
- Check if the safe has a low-quality lock behind the front nameplate.
Although these points will not give you a comprehensive idea of how safe your hotel room safe is, they can be used to make a more educated guess.
Some hotel safes can offer higher levels of security. For example, some safes can be opened only using an override PDA. These override devices are usually available only to a select few employees and have a detailed log history displaying who used the device and which safe was opened with it.
How to Secure Your Valuables in a Hotel Room?
So far, we have gone over the crucial details in connection to how safe or unsafe hotel safes can be. However, sometimes guests may not have a choice but to leave their valuables in the hotel room safe. In which case, it is worth knowing what you can do in order to make sure your valuables are as secure as the situation allows for.
Nothing is ever 100% secure. Again, keep in mind that nothing can make your valuables 100% thieve proof. However, what you want to do is create a deterrent that will prevent crimes of opportunity.
In most cases, taking some basic precautions should provide for a trouble-free experience.
Usually, most people put their valuables inside a suitcase or a bag secured by a lock. Sometimes simply keeping your valuables underneath your clothes in your bag can also be useful, as not all people will be tempted to go through your items.
Securing the bag to something sturdy is also worth considering as it will prevent opportunistic thieves from simply walking away from the room with your bag.
Since hotel employees may have access to your room anyway, this means that hotel safes will mostly provide security against random people that may gain access to your room. A good piece of advice is always to make sure your door is latched completely when you leave.
Leaving a “Do not disturb” or a “Come back later” sign as you leave can also be helpful in discouraging hotel staff or others from entering your room.
The general rule of thumb is not to bring more stuff than you need. Some of the more valuable items should simply be kept at your home or on yourself.