My friends and I were having a light discussion last week on the topic of safety while staying in hotel and also on the topic of hotel safe in the room. Of course we were aware of stories from travelers who had lost their valuables in the hotel rooms or items placed in the hotel safe. So the question is how safe is the safe in the hotel room? I think this is not an easy question to answer; or there is no correct answer at all. Personally I have used and placed my travel documents and money in the hotel safe on many occasions and it was totally fine and safe.
Let me just start off by saying that generally the safe in the hotel room is safe. That is based on my personal experience traveling for so many years and staying in many hotels. There are certain precautions that I normally take when I choose a hotel. First, I always do my homework on the location of the particular hotel before I do the booking. I would find out whether is the hotel located in the sleazy or crime areas/spots of that particular city or town. If it was so, I would not stay there. Secondly, I would normally booked a hotel and not a motel. I know that motel and small hotels are cheaper than established hotels; but I am prepared to pay more for added security and peace of mind. Thirdly, are the lifts in the hotels using card access and similarly on the rooms? That would be my preference as card access lifts and rooms are strong security feature in the hotel.
Now moving on to the room itself. Normally in an established hotel, the door in your hotel room is solid, strong and fire retard with strong lock features. I have seen the doors in smaller hotel and motel rooms that are cheap, thin and with cheap locks. You can literally hear the commotion on what is happening next to your room or outside the corridor. In such instance, the safe in your hotel room is not safe, as it is easy to break into your room. In many good hotels, the hotel safe in the room are bolted down to the cabinet or very heavy. There is no worry of house keeping workers coming in to clean up your room as they do not have the master key or the secret code to open up the safe. If you have forgotten the password to your safe, only the management or the security staff personnel are authorise to help you in opening the safe.
As a precautionary measure, I do not placed all my money in the hotel safe – only a portion of it. I do not wear jewelery or expensive watch when I travel – leave it at home. If I see the housekeeping team cleaning the adjacent rooms in the morning, I would asked them to clean my room while I am still in the room. I would always check that the hotel safe is securely locked and thereafter checking the main door is properly locked after I leave the room. I would also leave the TV and lights on when I leave my room if I am staying on the lower floor of the hotel. Most of the time I would request and get to stay at high floor.
So my answer is that the hotel safe in the room is safe provided that the hotel has strong security features installed and implemented; and that you have taken all precautionary measures to make your room safe. There is no such thing as a 100% theft free hotel but you can take measures to minmise this risk.