So this seems to be a concern I keep returning to. I will be traveling alone and also have to work while I'm on vacation. This means I will have a lot of gadgets with me - including an expensive camera and lenses.
In considering where I want to stay, the most important thing after cleanliness, is: will my stuff get stolen. Now I know there is no 100% way to prevent this. I am going to be staying in budget hotels. I don't want to fork over a bunch of money to sleep somewhere. I'm not planning on hanging out at the hotel, so how fancy it is just really doesn't matter to me. I've read a lot of people saying to not leave stuff in guesthouse rooms.
What if it's in a locked bag in the room? Are they that determined to get your stuff or is it more opportunistic? Like "hey, there is a macbook sitting right there¦"
I've also always been told that safes are not safe. The hotel staff can always access it with the master code. Has anybody heard of people losing items stored in the safe?
What about lockers at hostels? If I have my own lock? Do people pry these open? There is no way for me to prevent people from seeing items coming in and out at all times. So somebody will know I have them.
I guess I'm wondering if it's safer to store in a locker at a hostel or in a room at a guesthouse (or hostel)?
#1 SoloGirls has been a member since 24/10/2013. Posts: 45
You're right - there is no 100% safe way to store belongings, but of course a safe or locked bag is better than nothing. Most hotels won't take responsibility for anything not left with reception, but it's not really feasible to leave all your valuables at reception. Good advice is to first check out guest reviews of places you're considering visiting, to make sure no previous guests have recorded complaints, and make sure you feel comfortable in the place - if you get bad vibes from the staff, follow your instinct. Make sure people can't easily wander in off the street as well - usually this is no problem as there will always be staff at reception but that's not always the case. Good hostels will have security, locks on room doors and solid lockers. We didn't have any problems in hotels when travelling, and we had valuables with us. The only times we go things stolen were on a bus in China and a flight to Singapore.
Sometimes it doesn't save money to stay in ultra cheap accommodations, and I have had thefts from hotel staff in Vietnam. I think your best bet is to get recommendations for inexpensive hotels before you travel. Try to maintain a list of acceptable places, and most are honest. Here are a few that I like to use:
Saigon - the Bich Duyen Hotel
Hanoi - the Especen Hotel (Tho Xuong)
Hoi An - Nhi Trung Hotel
#3 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,093
I do prefer to stay at cheaper places. I'm going for quite a while and an even an extra $10 evey day really starts to add up.
I've been reading reviews on places on trip advisor. Nobody really says one way or another.
Anyway, I'm just am curious what is the most secure in a budget accommodation. Safes, rooms, or lockers. And if anybody has any experience with safes being opened by staff. As well as the other few questions I had.
#4 SoloGirls has been a member since 24/10/2013. Posts: 45
>>I've been reading reviews on places on trip advisor. Nobody really says one way or another.
If someone had something stolen, I'm pretty sure they would have mentioned it. So if no one mentions the staff being dodgy or stuff going missing in their review, it's a safe bet that the tripadvisor poster didn't have those problems.
In all seriousness, I think perhaps you're worrying too much about something you can't actually control. There's no 100% way to keep your kit safe when travelling, and if you want to take your kit you'll just have to accept that there is a small risk.
By all means, avoid opportunistic thefts. Don't leave valuables out in plain sight in your room. Lock your stuff in your bag, and don't leave the bag next to the window (if on the ground floor) to prevent opportunistic smash and grabs. I also had a habit of positioning my bag with the locked side down, so it wasn't obvious I'd locked my bag when the staff walked into the room. Cheaper hotels are unlikely to have in room safes. For peace of mind, you could take out insurance that covers your kit, if you haven't already (I have an add-on to my home insurance that covers all my camera equipment against loss, theft, or accidental breakage). And never leave your valuables in a bag in the bottom of a bus - keep your kit on your person on buses.
You can't completely eliminate all risk, but just keep in mind: most humans are decent.
Yeah I know you can't totally control it. But you CAN put odds in your favor. That's all I'm aiming for here.
I don't mean to be rude, but I have the basics down. Common sense stuff. It wasn't what I was asking though.
Several of the budget hotels I've looked at do say (and have pictures) they have safes.
So back to my questions. If anybody has information regarding my specific questions, I would be grateful. It not, no worries, I'll figure it out.
#6 SoloGirls has been a member since 24/10/2013. Posts: 45
I'm not really sure what exactly you're expecting a response to. Most people on this forum will only be able to answer based on common sense, which you also have. And if someone says yes, they've had something stolen, how does that help you?
Yes, some theft is opportunistic, so keep things out of sight and locked up in whatever way you can, be it in a bag or a safe.
And yes, people can pry lockers open or break into safes, and I'm sure someone out there will have experience of this happening, but that doesn't mean it will happen, and if you stick to decent, reputable hostels there is less chance.
And you are unlikely to get an in room safe if paying $10 night, certainly in cities. I've not seen safes in budget hotels in the areas I cover (northern Vietnam) at all. In fact, there aren't many rooms for under $10 at all so you will probably be looking at dorm beds with lockers anyway.
I'm trying to not come across as rude, but in writing, that's largely impossible when things get even mildly heated.
I've gotten a lot of great information off this site, so I in no way want to be the one who comes in and seems disrespectful. And I hope that after my trip, I'm able to contribute some as well.
As for what I'm expectingâ€¦ I asked a few specific questions. I just want people to answer those specific questions and not dive into other stuff instead. It's one of my pet peeves and it happens probably 95% of the time (in life, not just on this forum). Most of the time, I ignore it. But I just really wanted some specific questions answered. I asked about safes, lockers, and leaving baggage in the room with locks on them. Not about going on a tuk tuk or any sort of "general safety" question. If you don't have the answer, that's perfectly fine. So don't answer. There are many threads on this board where people have touched on the common sense safety stuff. And I wouldn't have started a brand new thread to get that advice again.
As for how it helps me, does it matter? If I feel the information is important, then it isâ€¦ for me. If you think I'm asking a ridiculous question that serves no purpose, that's okay too. You don't have to respond if you don't want or don't have the answers.
Regarding the safety depot box, I didn't specify (in room), though there absolutely are those as well. I didn't say how much I was paying for a budget hotel either. I did say that I didn't want to pay $30 a night as suggested by the poster below and that even $10 extra adds up. So that would mean at the very least, I'm willing to pay $20. I looked up the places he/she recommended, so I know they wherein the $30 range. So in the range I'm looking at, which are in fact considered budget hotels, many (no not all) of them do have safes, and some even in the rooms. That or the descriptions, pictures, and people's personal experiences are wrong.
Again, I don't know how to push for people to respond to my actual questions rather than some other version of my questions without it coming across rude. That's not my intent. Though it definitely seems to have ruffled some feathers.
#8 SoloGirls has been a member since 24/10/2013. Posts: 45
I see where you are coming from, as I'm in pretty much the same situation. I'm going to be travelling while working, so need to carry a laptop with me. I'm also bringing an old (read: hefty) DSLR - so it's not like I'm travelling light.
My plan is to carry a rucksack with my at all times (or at least when I don't 110% trust the place I'm staying), and in that keep my laptop, camera, passport etc. Ok, if someone decides to mug me I'm out of luck, but I think my odds are better than leaving my stuff laying around in a hostel (plus I'm 6'2").
If you don't want to do that, you need to understand that if people really want to get in, they will find a way. Firstly don't make it obvious. Scruff up your bag a bit so it looks old, and get a cheap brand rather than a 'designer' brand like Northface or the like. Locking a bag is pointless because firstly it shows you've got something to hide, but to get in a bag all you need is a knife or scissors (or to just tear it). Even things like Pacsafe meshes aren't that great, you just need some pliers or wire cutters to get through them, and again it shows you have something to hide.
Hostel and hotel lockers are going to vary place by place. If it's a metal school-style locker they are dead easy to get into - plus everyone had practice at school. Hotel safes are a bit better because only the hotel staff have access, but still as you say they could be dodgy. Of course the hotel staff have the master code to get access (they don't want guests locking their passports in and not being able to get home), but hopefully the cleaners don't.
In terms of what is safer - well there is no answer to that. You may find a really honest hostel and then a really dishonest $200/night hotel. Make sure you have travel insurance, so at least if something does get stolen you can have it replaced. If that does happen, make sure you report it to the police.
#9 lucaspiller has been a member since 27/1/2014. Posts: 3
I'm glad to read that you aren't trying to be rude, because based on your performance in this thread, I'd really hate to see what you are like when you are trying to be unpleasant.
Apart from being gratuitously unkind to people like antonia and sarah, whose only mistake was to generously share their insights and experiences with you, you are also missing the point. Even if all they had to offer was general common sense advice, at least that would help you confirm that what you are thinking is the same as what other, experienced travelers do to protect their valuable on the road. Plus, every time someone responds to your question, it keeps the thread at the top of the main forum page, which means more people will have a chance to read and respond than if nobody answered at all.
To answer your specific questions, while the staff typically has the master combination for a room safe, I've never had anything disappear from one of those safes during any travels anywhere in the world. As far as hostel locker vs. leaving items in your room goes, you'll do far better leaving things in a private room rather than in a locker. That is because, as you've already noted, if you are using a locker in a common area, others will see you coming and going with valuables. Being in a common area, it also means more people other than just the staff will have access to your locker, and in my experience, you are far more likely to be ripped off by a fellow traveler than you would by staff. Between hotel management and tourist police, you also have some measure of recourse if you things are lifted by hotel staff, but absolutely none if you are ripped off by another traveler. They can break into your locker, check out, and disappear - along with your stuff.
If you are staying in a private room, some hotels also have a latch on the outside of door that allows you to place your own combination or key lock on the door in addition to the hotel lock, which adds another measure of security. Make sure you double check that your windows are locked from the inside and that your door is firmly shut every time before you leave. Avoid ground-level rooms that allow easier access from the street and block doors that enter your room from adjacent rooms when you leave. Pop back in to your room every so often - don't keep a regular schedule so people know when you leave and how long you'll be gone. Don't use the safe for the first day or two of a long-term stay to make it look like you don't have anything to put in it. People with access to that safe will likely check early in your stay rather than towards the end. But that's all pretty common sense stuff, isn't it.
Also, in pretty extensive travels, the only time I've been ripped off was when my backpack was ransacked while in the hold of a bus or by baggage handlers. Because of that, make sure that all your valuables are with you and on your person when you travel. The one time I forgot to pull my pack of padded $1s out of my backpack is the time it was taken. Double check your pack before you hand it over. Again, common sense, but even experienced travelers sometimes slip up and forget.
The most important thing you can do is not be a target. That means don't flash your valuables outside of your room. Don't be alone late at night or after you've been drinking. Again, common sense stuff, right. But another important way to not be a target is to be friendly with the hotel staff. Be the person who leaves a small tip for the maid. Say hello to the front desk people. Make yourself someone who the staff likes and wouldn't want to rip off. Because I can't tell you the number of times I've seen the loud, obnoxious, inconsiderate westerner be the one who gets the wrong order, or short changed, or ripped off while traveling. If you are unkind, people will find ways to get even with you. It's karma, Solo, so make sure you earn good karma and you'll get it back in return. Good luck.
@luca thanks for your response. Yeah I probably won't be carrying around my stuff all the time. I'm not 6'2" haha. But I will have it a fair bit of time. The beach is where I will be leaving pretty much everything behind. It's good to get the experiences of others when making decision. At least for me.
@exacto. See I wasn't trying to be rude, but it does seem you are. So thanks for that intro. With thy said, rudeness is often a shade painted by the reader. So...
I am not missing the point. I am saying that all that information is available all over the Internet including this site many times. Forgive me if I didn't want it repeated here and thus turning this thread into a repeat of other threads. I've spent enough time reading forums on various topics to say sit confidence that a great deal of threads do not stay on topic. And yes I'm contributing to it because you've jumped in to attack my character based in perseption - and well isn't the most important thing in the world defending yourself against complete strangers who i'll never see? Can you explain to me how it's rude to ask people to answer specific questions? That's rhetorical. "Gratuitously ungrateful." That's a bit dramatic.
As for the rest of your reply, thanks. That's all I was looking for. Minus the final paragraph which read a tad condescending. Which if it wasn't intended to be, then I'll own that. But if it was... contrary to your opinion of me based on me asking for specifics, I'm a very polite and considerate person. If I weren't, I wouldn't have even taken the time to say I didn't want it to sound rude. The fact is, if you don't pepper your message with happy emoticons and "thanks" every few words, it's often hard to tell what the tone is. Point is, I would never dream of being anything but kind to people providing me a place to stay. My karma is intact.
#11 SoloGirls has been a member since 24/10/2013. Posts: 45
I'm glad to hear your good karma is intact. It will help you through your Vietnam adventure. And no intent to be condescending in the final paragraph either. Being the smiling foreigner will go a long way for you. That is sincere advice based on years and years of experience.
Glad to hear you aren't rude either, but I do think you could have been more patient with the other replies. We get all different levels of experienced travelers asking questions on the forum, and we can't possibly know what your experience is and what you already know when we reply to your questions. In my view, the other posts were far more valuable than you gave them credit for, and as a polite and considerate person, you would have done well to show more appreciation for the time and effort those people made on your behalf. But we can agree to disagree on that, and hopefully it won't be an issue again.
Good luck to you and hopefully your valuable stuff won't get lifted. Cheers.
Personally I never use in room safes, and never hand my money and valuables over to the guest house to hold on my behalf. My preference is to lock my laptop, camera and money in my lockable backpack. I never leaves cables, adapters, etc lying around the room to indicate that I am carrying those items.
Likewise, I would never trust a hostel locker unless my valuables were locked in a bag inside the locker.
I will leave most cash locked in my pack, and carry the equivalent of 2-3 days worth with me. But if I have doubts about the accom, then I will carry all my cash, but split it into two locations.
I've traveled for approx 12 months in SEA over the last few years and have never had a problem with theft yet.
I don't stay in the cheapest rooms (e.g. dorms) ; my accom style is somewhere between backpacker and flashpacker. But even when staying in more expensive rooms (overseas or at home) I also lock anything that I am not carrying into my pack/bag.
Several times, I have left a small locked daypack behind for 2-4 weeks at guesthouses, hotels and travel agencies and also never had a problem. This would normally contain things like clothes, sniffle gear, warmer clothes, spare toiletries, etc. And irrespective of good common sense, this has included a camera a few times. again, I haven't had a problem yet. Maybe it's just a case of luck has been on my side.
I love the idea about not leaving anything in your locker for the first day or so. Very clever. Thieves are good observers. We have to always keep that in mind.
I used to take a screwdriver with me. I'd take one with multiple heads now, and use the flat head one to pry things so I can hide them in the room somewhere. I realize hiding a laptop would be very challenging, but other things that are much flatter or smaller, like a passport can be skillfully hidden well if you patiently check the room for opportunities. Once hidden you are pretty much assured they are safe. For great ideas in this area, download the free ebook "How to Hide Anything" from torrent sites. Its an eyeopener. How about in the legs of a table? Few would check that. Some people hollow out their door from the top (better make sure nobody's in the hall to hear you) and suspend valuables from the top. I don't think many thieves check the TOP of a door!
I used to make it a habit of letting the management know that I don't want my room cleaned. As it was cheaper for them, they loved it. No maids in there increased my safety.
Obviously you need to check the windows/doors for typical vulnerabilities so its important to know a little about deadbolts, which 99% of the population is pretty clueless about. 10 minutes reading will make you smarter than them. Having a screwdriver means you're able to tighten things like hinges and locks for greater security. Good for the management too.
Looking poor: This is huge. How you dress can give the impression you have very little resources. Keeping your laptop not in a laptop case, keeping your camera not in a camera case....these are basic principles that most travelers are clueless about. Hiding the brand name with black electrical tape (if the case is black) helps a lot too. If you're using a decent camera, pick up some dissectant and use it to take out the humidity of the device otherwise mold/fungus can grow. Leave the dissectant outside in the sun to dry out. Bubblewrap type envelopes are great for protecting lots of stuff, especially electronics like phones and tablets/ereaders or even small netbooks. Or wrap your valuables in bubblewrap and put that in a plastic bag with a twistie will protect them very well. Is it bulky? Yes. But when you're not at an airport, bulk shouldn't matter so much. Weight is your priority as that's what you feel when you stagger down the road with your life on your back.
I've always thought a soft, very expandable backpack would be ideal yet they are almost known in most travel outfitter stores. Probably because most people go for a couple weeks and don't need it. But cautious travelers like us need to compact things down to nothing to save on airfare, but once arrived, can pick stuff up cheap to make our stay much more comfortable and convenient. Also a backpack that you can attach stuff to on the outside as well. This is not so available either.
I've not been so specific but hopefully the points I raised will help others too. Take a screwdriver! Know your locks! Look brutally poor!
#14 tf2u has been a member since 12/2/2014. Posts: 6
Hmmm.. I think you might be taking things to extreme, but whatever works for you......
I would be very concerned about valuable leaving things like a passport hidden around a room - primarily because you are probably at greater risk of accidentally leaving something behind than having it stolen.
Carrying a screwdriver so you can gauge holes into the top of a door? Seriously? Aside for the risk of losing stuff down inside a door you are suggesting that people damage someone else's property. That's not on.
Dressing so that you look brutally poor? That's what gives backpackers a bad name and it's disrepectful to the locals. I am far from a fashion icon, but I do at least try to look presentable. You never know what opportunities may arise in your day (eg being invited to spend time with a family in their home, or talking to locals at a mosque) and to show up in your scuzziest, holiest clothing just to make you look poor, well, would be offensive and embarrassing.
Asking that the room is not cleaned makes sense if you are that concerned.
Just my two cents worth...
> I would be very concerned about valuable leaving things like a passport hidden around a room - primarily because you are probably at greater risk of accidentally leaving something behind than having it stolen.
I would think that if you leave your passport in your room, you probably are too forgetful to travel. Also, you'd put other things that are dear to your heart with that passport. It would be tough to forget. Even for an idiot like me.
> Carrying a screwdriver so you can gauge holes into the top of a door?
I didn't mean to use a screwdriver for that! I just gave that as an example to show how creative and inventive one can be when you really think about a problem. It was an example of extreme hiding. Extreme hiding means your stuff is really safe. Hey, you could probably leave the hotel for months, come back, and get your stuff even with dozens of people in the room in the mean time. This is true stealth. Often things like floor boards are loose, bathroom vanity mirrors aren't anchored securely, etc, so it takes a minimal amount of effort to hide your stuff. Then when you go you tighten things up so its better than before.
> Dressing so that you look brutally poor?
I could have used a better choice of words. It was just a short summation at the end. Before I said "Looking poor". Most travelers, because they travel via ground transportation always look a little rough. By avoiding brand names as others have mentioned goes a long way into looking like you probably don't have anything to steal. It means not whipping out your Alienware souped up laptop in the common areas of the place, and just being very cautious what others see.
I agree 100% with looking presentable to the locals. It shows respect to their community and will result in far more invitations to social events others may never see. These are golden opportunities for travelers. I was more referring to how we look around the hostel and trying to look as pointless as possible to steal from, from a thieves' point of view.
Another thing not mentioned so far: How we talk to others can often insinuate how wealthy we are. So we choose what image we present. The people we talk to may be honest and above board but others they talk to later about you may not. Its always those friends of friends that are the most evil it seems.
#16 tf2u has been a member since 12/2/2014. Posts: 6
Another option is not travelling with anything of value. Passport on my person with a photocopy elsewhere and another with friends back home. That way I've got nothing to worry about and it is seriously less stressful.
I have to agree with lizzy that hiding things in a door is a bit over the top, pun intended. And it would seriously suck if the string broke and your stuff wound up in the bottom of the door. Try to explain that to a grumpy inn keeper!
Then you use your handy, multi-head screwdriver (when nobody is around like in the middle of the night) and take the door off its hinges and shake it out!
That kind of hide is for your own home. Just was mentioned to give an example of ingenuity. The bathroom probably gives more opportunities for hides than most places and because its distasteful, especially around the toilet, that's good. With practice you get better and better at dismantling things. The typical things most people need to hide would be a smartphone, laptop, tablet or camera. These are not small items. So its a challenge if you can't get that floor up and the bathroom doesn't avail itself to you.
I wonder if those packsafe wire mesh things really do attract thieves? One could put a rain cover OVER the wire mesh maybe! But if someone peered under your cover is blown. Or....use a packsafe and put nothing in the pack! I'd love to have a tiny wireless webcam linked to your laptop that was hidden to record the scum that attempted to steal. That would be very challenging. Maybe between the mattress and boxspring but then the laptop would overheat! Challenges, challenges.
#18 tf2u has been a member since 12/2/2014. Posts: 6
Question, for the hostels that supply lockers do you need your own lock or do they supply one?
And if they do supply one, I reckon they have the combination so would it be better to bring your own anyway? I am looking at staying in cheap hostels and dorms ($5-10/night) so safes arenâ€™t really an option.
How the hell can you generalize about something like this??? All I can add is that the cheaper you go the more risk you take!
#20 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,093
I don't understand where all the hostility is coming from in this thread. It's a simple question. If you'd like to respond in a manner that is helpful, please do. There's no need to reply if you're only going to bash on people's concerns.
I think its a great question and is a topic we all should think about when traveling.
#22 tf2u has been a member since 12/2/2014. Posts: 6
it makes sense to have your own lock. some lockers may have built-in locks, but even those often allow for a second lock on a latch. and all it would take is one place that doesn't have a built-in lock for you to be out of luck. i prefer a combination lock, but key locks work too. it is a personal choice.
i agree with daawgon, however, that there is no way to generalize how all the different hostels in all the different countries handle this situation. so, like the OP said, best to have your own lock in that situation.
if you choose to stay in very inexpensive places, i'd recommend not having anything of value that you can't take with you on your person all the time. bathroom and shower time too. because, like i said above, you are more likely to get ripped by fellow travellers than by staff. cheers.
> I'd recommend not having anything of value that you can't take with you on your person all the time.
And when you swim at the beach? I'll just double bag the laptop and wrap the shoulder strap around my neck a few times. Should work. If not, at least its pleasantly peaceful at the bottom of the ocean. And so much to watch.
I really don't know how people travel with laptops. They are quite impossible to hide in most rooms unless you rip up the floor or dismantle something to get inside. I used to dump my cash/travelers cheques/passport/etc with the management and get a receipt itemizing all the stuff. But if you did that with your laptop, you'd be hassling the manager all the time to leave it, get it, leave it, get it. That would not work.
The answer is leave the computer at home. Work off a memory stick or the cloud. Upload photos to the cloud. Upload your thoughts to the cloud. You can often run your own programs off a memory stick if they are the right type. That gives you a lot more power and freedom when away from the computer you're used to. Actually you often don't even need a camera. Just bring a memory card (MicroSD with adapter and a CF would cover almost all cameras I think) and find someone cooperative to snap some photos of you with your card in it. Sure doesn't take up much space! Next time you're at a web cafe, upload with your tiny card reader to the cloud.
#24 tf2u has been a member since 12/2/2014. Posts: 6
That reminds me when I buried my passport on the beach...and thought I would remember exactly where it was...not.
'tf2u' is onto it...its called professionalism and/or experience...having listened to, read about and investigated ideas with other travelers for years (40 years plus for me) ...Creativity is GOOD.
And I agree also with: "not having anything of value that you can't take with you on your person all the time".
I even travelled once for 6 month without a camera...
#25 motoexplorer has been a member since 10/6/2014. Posts: 1
Imagine some sort of chip (RFID?) on your buried item that can broadcast to a receiver to direct you to where it is. Or wrap it in aluminum foil and use a metal detector in that area. Too bad metal detectors are so big. It would be mighty nice to saunter up and down a beautiful beach at sunset collecting money and jewelry left behind. Then sell it locally and finance your travels indefinitely. Of course for this to work you can't be hanging around deserted beaches!
#26 tf2u has been a member since 12/2/2014. Posts: 6