Tips & Tricks: Bring an extra lock to your hotel

Just two weeks ago, this happened to me; imagine if it happened to you: you’re in a hotel that’s nice, but not luxurious. You’ve cleaned up, changed into your pajamas, locked the door (no chain in this hotel), and are starting to fall asleep in bed. You hear a couple of very loud and obviously drunk men come up the stairs and walk towards your room. You hear them stop outside your door and then something juggles the lock and the handle starts to turn. What races through your mind?

On the one hand, they’re obviously drunk and they probably just have the wrong door. On the other hand, what if they somehow got a copy of your key and the door is about to open? There’d be nothing to stop them from getting in. Are you about to be robbed? Assaulted?

Thankfully, though I was alert, sitting up, and had my strobe flashlight and tactical pen ready, I wasn’t worried. Why not? Because I had my own lock on the door; even if somehow they got the hotel’s lock open, they wouldn’t be able to get into my room unless they broke down the door. As it turned out, they quickly realized their mistake and stumbled down the hall. I went back to sleep quite quickly, feeling secure that there was an extra lock on the door.

Today’s tip to help you survive and thrive as an expat: Bring your own lock or door alarm when staying in a hotel.

Read more: Tips & Tricks: Bring an extra lock to your hotel

Articles on The Prepared Expat may contain affiliate links, which help support this site at no cost to you. See full disclosures & disclaimers.

Why do you need to bring your own lock?

Doors have locks for which there is a key, but this provides a very low-level kind of security; locks can be picked or opened with just a piece of paper, keys can be copied, electronic keys can be sniffed and duplicated, hotels use contractors that can’t always be trusted, hotels use contractors that can’t always be trusted, hotel staff can be bribed or tricked into making new keys–and in some places of the world, the hotel staff is in cahoots with criminals! That’s why most Western hotels also have a secondary lock (chain or deadbolt) so that, even if the main door lock is compromised, an intruder can’t gain access to the room.

There’s a reason for that–though not widely known, crimes in hotels are common; criminals know that people in a hotel are relatively vulnerable: the hotel guests are by definition in unfamiliar territory, the hotel staff doesn’t know the faces of every person in the hotel, and they have to provide customer service to hotel guests who actually did lose a key. While no one quite knows how many crimes are committed in hotels, some examples are suggestive. For example, in just the New York Metro area in 2017, there were 2,656 hotel crimes, an increase of 45% since 2011. And that’s in the US, in hotels that meet US standards. Including the extra lock.

As an expat in a foreign country, your risk is far higher; you’re far more likely to be targeted, you’re far more likely to face corrupt hotel staff or even police, and you’re far more likely to have a hotel that doesn’t have a deadbolt or chain. The hotel I stayed in last week didn’t have either. That means your safety depends on only one lock between you and an assault, kidnapping, or robbery–safety that can easily be compromised by a copied key, a picked lock, or corrupt/incompetent/tricked staff. After publishing this article, several readers pointed me to terrifying stories of people “accidentally” walking into guests hotel rooms in the middle of the night. Check out these headlines:

Avoid this by bringing your own extra lock when you’re traveling. They’re small, take up almost no space, but can save your life by denying a criminal access to your room, alerting others to the crime, or even just delaying an intruder’s forced entry so that you have time to defend yourself.

What kind of extra lock should you get?

There’s a variety of kinds of extra locks, each with pros and cons. Here’s a few different examples:

This is a door handle lock by a company called Master Lock; it jams between the floor and the door handle, bracing the door and preventing it from moving. While I like that it adds another point of resistance to the door, it’d be quite bulky to travel with.

Here is a door stop alarm by DMDMAK; it can help to jam the door, but its main feature is that it activates an alarm when pressure increases on it (i.e. the door is pushed against it). I love the alarm, but it won’t do much to stop someone from opening the door.

This next is a lock plate lock by AceMining; one part that fits into the door lock plate and another that connects to it, bracing the door against the lock plate. This is a common design, but a problem with it is that the piece that fits into the lock plate (the silver piece on the left) has to fit the lock plate and lock bolt. I have one of these style locks and it only works in the US; it doesn’t fit other countries’ locks.

Next up is different style of lock plate lock made by Trustella; it also has a piece that fits into the lock plate and another that connects to it, blocking the door. This variation looks like it would work in more styles of locks than the above version, but both are only as strong as the door jamb is (which is usually not very!).

The one in the middle is a simple alarm made by a company called Lewis N Clark; there’s a piece in the door jamb so that if the door opens, an alarm will sound. It’s a great and simple alarm, but it won’t stop an intruder from entering your room, so I wouldn’t use it just by itself. It might be great when paired with another style lock, though.

This last style of lock is the one that I own myself; the picture is from my hotel room the other week. This is called the DoorJammer; it goes under the door and creates pressure between the floor and the door, bracing the door surprisingly well ( I couldn’t budge it).

Now all of these have different advantages and disadvantages, and any of them would be better than nothing. I’ll be happy if you just pick something and go with it, but I do think the DoorJammer is better than other options, especially for an expat. It’s small (unlike the door handle lock), I’ve never found a door where it won’t work (unlike the lock plate style locks), and it will physically stop someone from opening the door (unlike the alarm-only locks). I wish it had an alarm, but you can easily pair it with the Lewis N Clark door alarm.

But regardless of what you get, definitely get some kind of extra lock to bring with you the next time you go to a hotel. It’ll protect you in–or even prevent–a robbery or assault; but if those never happen, you’ll still sleep better at night knowing that its there. I know I do.

Want more tips like these?

Then check out the archives of previous tips and tricks — and subscribe so you never miss out!

When if you subscribe to The Prepared Expat, I’ll send you a chapter of my book, 100% free. So don’t wait!

Success! You're on the list.

Follow The Prepared Expat on social media

Published by The Prepared Expat

Equipping you to thrive and survive as an expat

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: