How to break into a hotel room with a rubber band

This past February, we showed you a video of how easily a thief could break into a hotel room, using nothing more than a simple piece of wire. Apparently that’s not the only way. According to a recent video posted at Blackbag, the blog of professional lock picker Barry Weis, a hotel room chain lock can be opened with nothing more than a simple rubber band. Watch in disbelief as a hand slips through the crack in the door, latches on a rubber band, and pulls the chain out of the bolt. It’s an amazingly cunning trick, thought it does raise a few questions. For instance, how would a thief using this trick get the door open if it was locked from the outside?

Before breaking into a state of safety hysteria, remember that not every hotel room is a burglary waiting to happen. Use common sense and don’t leave your valuables lying around when you leave the room. Use the in-room or hotel safe. And if possible, try to stay in rooms with bar-style locks rather than chain ones.

[Via View from the Wing]

Safeguard the safe – Hotel tip

If the safe inside your hotel room is electronic, follow these procedures to keep your valuables even safer:

  1. Before and after entering your key code, wipe the touch keys with a damp cloth, then dry the keys.
  2. After the door is locked, firmly press all numbered keys once. This may set off a small alarm, but it will stop quickly.

Why would you do this? There have been reports that in some hotels the hotel staff was placing a powder or oil residue on the touch keys, which when lit, showed them which numbers on the safe were pressed. Wiping the keys clean and pressing them all throws potential thieves off the trail.

Not-so Dangerous Destinations

“You’re going where?!” my father asked when I told him of my plans to go to Colombia. The Colombia he knows of, the one from the 1980’s, is filled with cocaine, street violence, and Pablo Escobar’s thugs. The country’s days as a dangerous destination are gone, but its stigma still remains.

Colombia isn’t the only now-safe country still considered by the masses to be too dangerous to visit. Forbes Traveler has put together a list of other destinations that aren’t as dangerous as you might assume.

Along with Colombia, the list includes places many experienced travelers wouldn’t think twice about visiting – Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Ethiopia are all included – plus a few a little farther off the beaten path, like Haiti and Tajikistan. The list also includes two spots that become a lot more dangerous if you travel there illegally: Cuba and North Korea.

There’s no such thing as a completely safe destination, but still most of these spots have earned their reputations. At one point, they were lands of famine, war, and strife. Now they’ve become safer, though in some (like Haiti and certain parts of Colombia, for example) problems continue and there are still areas you should not venture.

If you plan on visiting one of these “not-so-dangerous places”, do your research and be sure you know what you are getting into. The bad reputation in some of these places can mean lower travel costs and few tourists, but there may still be an element of risk.

Just how safe is the hotel safe? Not as safe as you’d hope!

Every “how to” article about keeping your stuff safe in a hotel will recommend keeping valuables in a safe. And initially that may seem like the best place to store stuff.

There is however a disturbing trend involving theft from the hotel safe.

Despite the thing being locked, it appears that many safes may not be as safe as you’d think. All hotels have a backdoor into the safe which is added in case the guest forgets the code, or loses the key.

Some safes may use a master key, others may have a special code to open the door. Either way, when a safe has a way for unauthorized people to get in it, you are going to run the risk of theft.

Of course, it is always going to be hard to prove who exactly stole stuff from the safe during your stay, and hotel management may not always be willing to cooperate, especially in certain countries where management may be the culprits behind the theft. Worst of all, without any evidence, your travel insurance usually won’t cover these losses.

Your best option is to consider keeping valuable stuff elsewhere in the room, but you’ll need a very well planned hiding place to thwart would-be thieves.

When researching this article, I came across the Milockie hotel safe lock. This device consists of a special lock and strap, and allows you to secure the safe with your own lock, preventing anyone else from gaining access.

Unfortunately, the lock costs 50 Euros, and has to be shipped from Europe, but if you regularly travel with expensive items that need to be locked away in the hotel safe, it may be a worthwhile investment.

Check out some of these weeeeeird hotels from around the world.

When is Travel Too Dangerous?

Sometimes, common sense is all you need to decide if a trip is too risky. For example, a expedition to build sandcastles on Galveston Island wouldn’t have worked out well during Hurricane Ike.

But at other times the decision to stay or go is a lot less clear. Do you avoid places like Thailand, where current political strife has induced demonstrations and violence? What about Indonesia, where there is always a threat of terrorism bubbling under the surface? Lebanon? Israel…?

I guess in large part, the decision depends on the kind of traveler that you are. Some people just don the pith helmet and wade into the fray, while others avoid it completely, opting for ping pong and cable TV in the safety of their basement. For those of us who are neither overly courageous (or is it reckless?) nor overly fearful, the answer to the question “to go or not to go” is a little more complicated.

So how can you weigh the odds and decide if the positive aspects of a trip are worth putting up with the risk?At some point, you have to honestly ask yourself if you will be a target. I’m not talking about walking through Iran with a crew cut and one of those t-shirts showing an eagle holding the American flag in its beak. If you think that is OK, it’s probably better to stay at home…in your basement. By what if you can be singled out and targeted as a foreigner like the Japanese photographer who was killed last year in Myanmar? If foreigners in a certain country are targets and there seems to be no repercussion for harming them, it is probably best to stay away.

What about past situations in your destination? Thailand has frequent coups. Most do not turn violent; though there are some exceptions. As long as you avoid demonstrations and other confrontational situations, your greatest risk will be a traffic accident. That said, things can happen in the heat of the moment. Even if you don’t feel that you are a target, you might find yourself as one. Australian photographer Neil Davis survived covering the Vietnam War only to be killed by a trigger happy tank gunner during a minor, otherwise non-violent coup, in Thailand.

Aside from the general situation on the ground and a country’s past treatment of visitors, you have to remind yourself about the risks associated with normal travel. The biggest chance you’ll take in most places comes when you try to negotiate your way through unfamiliar traffic.