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Do not disturb my bags

Theft in hotel rooms

The first thing many travellers do on arrival at a hotel is to unpack and place their carefully chosen clothes and accessories in the various cupboards and drawers available in the hotel room. Unfortunately, they might not be there when it is time to leave.

There are a number of strategies that can be used to protect your baggage from stealing hands. The “Do not disturb sign” may deter some hotel employees from entering the room.

But if their idea is to see what they can pilfer, then the “cat and mouse” game starts. First, they may withdraw the sign from the door knob, knock, and enter if there is no reply. One clever way of finding out if guests have left, and forgotten to take out the sign, is to leave a toothpick standing up against the outside of door. As guests go out, the toothpick falls. Look down when you leave the room and if you see it, put it back against the door!

Avoid leaving the room when housekeeping staff can see you and, if you must, talk back loudly to the empty room to pretend there is someone else still inside. If the room has been cleaned, or you don't want it to be until you get back, hang the "Do not disturb" card on the door.

Additionally, leaving the television turned on may give staff the idea that there is someone inside. This usually works for short periods, like when you go down to have breakfast, or later in the day when the maids are no longer in a hurry to clean your room.

Sealing wax

It is amazing the amount of small items of clothing that disappear, especially in poor countries (but not only). Often, the theft goes unnoticed and helps staff build up part of their wardrobe that they could not otherwise afford. One solution is to keep all your clothes, other than large items that you can keep track of, locked inside one of the suitcases. A way of making sure the padlock is not tampered with is to wrap the numbered wheels in tissue paper and seal it with wax. It will deter occasional maids from trying to gain access to your things, although it may also alert them to the fact that there might be something valuable inside! Therefore, leave another bag on top so that the sealed padlock is not readily visible.

Diversion or decoy safes are on sale and provide a sense of security, if nothing else. You would be very unlucky if your fake "can of baked beans" where you hid your cash or jewelry was stolen (or thrown away, as rubbish) because it was a rare or coveted brand in that part of the world... Besides, they may know already about these gadgets, and will not be fooled.

If you worry about the possibility that strangers may break into the room, while you are inside, consider buying a door stop (e.g. by Swege). Doors are easy to force and they do not present a barrier to experienced burglars. Door stops are wedged into the base of the door and not only prevent it from opening, but some trigger a loud alarm should someone try to open it or break in.

On checking-in try to avoid rooms on the ground floor. You must weigh carefully the advantage of direct access to the pool, against the risk of a break-in.

Atlas travel insurance

Before you leave, purchase medical travel insurance that includes baggage cover. Just in case! See the world...not the medical and replacement bills. International health insurance is just a click away. And if something goes missing, report it immediately to the management of the hotel and to the police. You will need their report to make a claim on the insurers.

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