This week, whilst trawling through some old images and movie clips from previous trips, I stumbled over the clip below, taken at the Hotel Sandakan on the Island of Borneo. I thought I should post it, to give people a bit of a laugh as well as opening peoples eyes to the false premise that hotel safes are a secure place to store your belongings (if there are any children around, hold their ears as I do drop the ‘F’ bomb a couple of times).
I think this video says it all when it comes to hotel room safes, and their ultimate security. Despite your valuables being locked away in what appears from the outside to be an extremely safe place to store them, in all reality may be less secure than locking them away in your luggage.
From the example below, the first rule to apply to hotel room security, would be to actually make sure that the safe is secured to the structure of the room, and not sitting there acting as a giant paper weight. When it comes to your 4 or 6 digit electronic PIN code, never use your date of birth, as it is far to easy to guess.
Although you should keep in mind that most hotel’s have an emergency PIN code to open the safe, and this code in most case’s, is the same number for every safe in the building.
Some older varieties also have a small opening in the bottom, that when a small piece of wire (ie a folded paperclip) is inserted, the safe resets and the door magically opens. Both of these back door’s into the safe would make it very difficult to prove that someone has actually stolen from you. On top of that, the very cunning of thieves don’t get to greedy, and if you have a wallet full of cash, they will only take a couple of the larger notes. So unless you count your money regularly you may never actually know you’ve been robbed until after you leave, or maybe even not at all.
It’s my opinion, that these safes will basically keep the honest thieves at bay, but the more dedicated and cunning thief will find a way to open them.
In a more established or better run hotel chains, you should feel a little more at ease (appearances can sometimes be deceiving though), but in a smaller cheaper hotel or hostel, it may be worth weighing up the odds with your valuables and either keep some, or all of them on your person, or even lock them in your luggage. In my early years of travel with some of the flea pits I stayed in, on some occasions I would weigh up the odds and say to myself, ‘OK I’m heading out to a dodgy part of town tonight, what can I afford to loose’. I would then take with me, my room key and enough cash for what I was doing on that particular occasion. With the rest of my belonging’s locked away in my pack, with my pack locked to my bed. These days, the hotel room safe is a far better option, but as pointed out below, on occasions they do have their problems.