Travel tips: Rules to stealing toiletries from fancy hotels

It started when I was backpacking. Fifteen months of self-imposed destitution and frequent squalor were, when the stars aligned, broken by occasional stays in Very Nice Hotels. When I say stars aligned, I mean I organised the stays as part of reviews or wider travel writing; my partner and I travelled for so long because we scraped by on a pauper's budget.

The very first place we stayed during our long trip was the Langham in Hong Kong and so perhaps that was the scene of the original sin. We stayed there three nights and, knowing that far humbler accommodation would make up the majority of our time on the road, we set about pilfering all of their toiletries. They smelled so nice, you see, and they were just so … free. 

Over the next few weeks we would sneak off to shared showers in putrid hostels and hold those magic little bottles close like secrets. But then one day I forgot them as we rushed to catch a bus. The argument lasted about a week.

From there I vowed to rob, steal and purloin any and all shampoos, conditioners and shower gels I came across. Every moisturiser would be swiped. Every bar of soap looted.

At one point we stayed at Raffles Grand Hotel D'Angkor for two nights, then spent the next two in a $5 hostel, a place so rotten the desk fans used to cool the room were too feeble to blow through the mosquito nets.But we had the aromas of Raffles with us and when we breathed deep it would transport us back to that wonderful place.

That was four years ago and though I am no longer backpacking, I find it impossible not to keep taking toiletries. I do, however, have a few rules.

I don't lift from independent hotels as this feels something akin to taking the owners' private property.  Also, some places – particularly places that market themselves as earthy and organic – have an annoying habit of decanting their products into porcelain bottles. I'm yet to have any of those.

But nonetheless, my thievery guarantees this much: if you come to stay at my house, you may be sleeping on the couch, but you'll get a welcome pack to rival any top hotel around the world.  

TIPS FOR TAKING THE TUBE

* If you're staying in the same room for a few days, be sure to make the toiletries disappear each day. Many hotels won't automatically replace them if they're still half full.

* If you can, befriend the maid. She is the keeper of the cart and gateway to a whole universe of petite bottles of swag. 

* Remember that most luxury hotels are multimillion-dollar corporations and they can definitely afford you swiping some shampoo. However, please don't use my kleptomania as justification for stealing anything bigger. Moisturiser is OK; the linen is not. Taking sewing kit is fine; taking the stereo will get your arrested.

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