How to Identify Cameras in Hotel Rooms

By John Lister

Worrying about whether you are being spied on in a hotel room can spoil your comfort and relaxation. While no search is foolproof, you can take some measures to try to detect hidden spy cameras and recording equipment. Deciding which measures to use depends how strong your concern is, and how much you are willing to disrupt your stay to carry out a search.

Eyes and Ears

The simplest starting point is to look and listen for recording devices. An infographic from All Safe Alarms, which manufactures CCTV equipment, suggests turning off all lights and looking for small red or green lights; these could indicate "power on" LED indicators for recording equipment. Another suggestion is to look for out-of-place dots or holes in walls and furniture casing which could indicate a hidden camera behind it. You can also turn off all electrical equipment, including air conditioning and refrigerators, and listen for unexplained buzzing or clicking that could indicate recording devices. (Do not switch off a minibar or electronically controlled safe, as this could cause a fault or lead to unexpected charges.)

Where to Search

If you are willing to spend more time searching, you can look in more places where a spy camera or microphone might be hidden. Travel tech writer Andrew Capelle of the Too Many Adapters site notes that cameras are rarely hidden in bulky objects such as TVs. He suggests looking in two main categories of hidden location: fittings such as fans, vents and ceiling lamp cases; and small movable objects such as a telephone, portable lamp or alarm clock.

Technology Solutions

All Safe Alarms suggests using your cellphone to detect electromagnetic fields; specialist apps claim to offer such detection, but opinion is divided about if or how well this works. You can also buy dedicated wireless camera detectors. Some of these work by carrying out a visual scan to detect unexpected reflections (e.g., from a camera lens) that are too small to be detectable by the human eye. Others scan for wireless radio frequency signals, though these devices are prone to false positives.

Legal Consequences

The laws on hidden cameras vary between jurisdictions. In many cases, it may be illegal for somebody to record you without your knowledge. If you discover a hotel breaching the law, consider contacting law enforcement, hotel management or the media. However, you should take great care when searching a room to make sure you don't damage any equipment or furniture, as this could lead to civil or criminal legal problems. Avoid getting into heated arguments with hotel staff that might escalate into physical consequences.