First Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, March 8th, 2015
Which hotel you end up staying at during travel for business or pleasure is often driven by cost and proximity to the activity you need to accomplish. A surprising number of people, however, have little or no knowledge of the area they are going to reside in. Hence it’s not uncommon for them to experience a security incident in or around the place they are staying.
Depending on the country or city you are heading to, the risks at the hotel may vary. While hotels will do their level best to protect their guests it is also imperative for you to make yourself a difficult target for any sort of crime.
Things you to need to keep in mind while making a reservation: Always try and choose a well-known chain. If you’re a woman travelling alone this should always be your priority as these hotels are usually equipped to handle difficult situations that may arise with female guests. This is especially true for places where culturally it’s not common to find women travelling unaccompanied.
Are there any major events being held in the hotel during your period of stay? If the answer is no then you should consider booking, but if the answer is yes then understand the following:
Events that will have VIPs in attendance usually have stricter security protocols and can cause inconvenience
Guests of these events could be targeted figures
Overburdened staff could impact service delivery
The location of the hotel with respect to the area where you will spend the maximum amount of time.
If you’re a businessperson and will spend just a few hours in the city for meetings before heading back it would be appropriate for you to stay near the airport / train station rather than driving across the city.
Any untoward incident during your travels can cause much distress; choosing your hotel carefully can let you stay trouble-free so long as you observe some basic precautions
If you’re a tourist, and especially if travelling with children, choose a hotel that is close to shopping and tourist destinations. The advantage is that you will be in an area where shops, pharmacies and transport are readily available and at short distances and around the clock.
Limiting your exposure to a potential loss is key; therefore, only take what you are certain to use.
— Carry only the credit / debit card you need.
— Carry some cash but not large sums. Most hotels have ATMs on their property; use those as your first option when cash is needed.
— Would you require your laptop, iPad, smart phone? If yes, then store them in the hotel safe when not in use and especially when leaving the room.
— If you’re carrying a laptop then don’t forget your Kensington cable (lock).
— When taking a camera think about how much you will actually use it during the trip. Consider not taking it if you have a smartphone with a good built-in camera.
— Remember when carrying technology: the more items you carry, the more chargers, batteries and other attachments you require.
— Equally important to consider is storage of the data. Whether you back-up online or keep the memory cards in the hotel safe you must remember where they are.
— If your hotel safe isn’t large enough to store all your gadgets then you will have to carry them with you wherever you go. While not only being inconvenient it also exposes you to further risk of theft.
— Storing travel documents in the hotel are subject to the country you are in. In some cases it is mandatory to have them on you at all times, while in countries it is not so. Check immigration laws before traveling and reconfirm from the hotel staff once on site. If not required, then store the passport in the safe and keep a copy of the ID page and visa with you when moving out of the hotel.
Your actions while on the hotel property may also expose you to security situations. This is particularly true for hotels which have many public spaces, restaurants, bars, shopping arcades attached or within the property.
— Whenever the need to share your room number arises, check-in desk, restaurant at breakfast time, etc, always avoid saying it out loud so not to be overheard. This is particularly important if you are a woman staying alone.
— Be selective about whom you invite into your room. Strangers should be met with in public spaces of the hotel.
— If you have requested room service then stand by the open door and allow for the attendant to place the items on the nearest table. Sign for the items or pay instantly at the door. If paying in cash have the amount ready.
— Use the Do Not Disturb sign to your advantage to keep people from approaching even when you are away. Leave the TV or Radio on as well to create the illusion of the room being occupied.
— Ask for housekeeping service at a time of your convenience. Remember to lock up your items if you aren’t present when the room is being made up.
— Lock your windows, doors (adjoining), and use the chain bolts at all times when in the room.
— While it’s not unheard of for some guests to shore up their doors by placing chairs in front of the door while in the room. Remember in an emergency you could end up impeding your own safe exit.
— If you’re driving to the property then use the valet parking service.
— Ask security to accompany you if you’re uncomfortable going to your room alone for whatever reason.
— When paying for anything by cash avoid pulling out large bundles. Plan ahead and carry sufficient cash.
— Do not accept any delivery in your room for items not being provided by the hotel. Ask the reception to accept it on your behalf or go to the reception.
— As a woman traveling alone, refrain from accepting rooms near emergency exits, stairwells and ask for a room close to the elevator and above the ground floor.
— Study the safety plans that are kept in your room and follow them when told to do so.