When traveling, one of the main decisions you must make is where to stay. No matter where you're going, you have two main options: hotels or Airbnbs. While it can be fun to explore a new city, state, or country, many travelers have one concern on their mind: "Am I being watched?"

Although security cameras are pretty standard, hidden cameras are far more nefarious and, as the name implies, harder to spot. These days, hidden cameras can be found in virtually anything, from clocks to toys to toothbrush holders. As the technology becomes more sophisticated, it'll only be harder to discover any secret cameras in your hotel room or Airbnb.

Thankfully, you don't have to be paranoid or avoid traveling altogether. There are ways to discover these cameras if you believe they might be in use, and you can take action if you do.

A Brief Overview of Hidden Cameras in Hotels and Airbnbs

Man checking cameras in room with application

As you might imagine, it's virtually impossible to know precisely how many hotels or Airbnbs have hidden cameras in them. Because of the secret nature of these devices, hosts and business owners want to conceal them as much as possible. That said, based on surveys among Airbnb guests, about one in every 10 guests has found a hidden camera in a location.

There's also a major difference between security cameras and hidden recording devices. A security camera should be visible, as its presence acts as a deterrent against illegal or dangerous behavior. According to Airbnb, all hosts must disclose the presence of security cameras, even if they're not turned on or hooked up. Otherwise, they could lose their listing.

Overall, it seems that hidden cameras are more of the exception, not the rule. While there's always a possibility of finding a hidden camera in your room, it's not necessarily guaranteed. Most hosts and hotel owners are more concerned with safety and security than secretly recording their guests. Still, it's good to be cautious.

How to Spot Hidden Cameras

Woman on news explaining how to find hidden cameras in rooms

While you shouldn't feel compelled to check every nook and cranny of every room you stay in, you can take action and conduct a search for hidden cameras. Fortunately, there are multiple options, each with benefits and downsides. Here's a breakdown of how to find secret recording devices.

With Your Eye

Camera hidden in a stuffed animal in a movie with Robert De Niro

Unless an Airbnb host or hotel owner has a background in espionage, they'll likely put a hidden camera in a relatively easy-to-spot location. If the goal is to see as much as possible, you can probably figure out which places would offer the best view of the room. So, you can inspect these areas with your eyes, looking for tiny cameras or objects that may seem out of the ordinary.

Unfortunately, modern cameras are silent, so you won't hear any noises like beeps or whirring (as there would be if the camera used tape). However, a camera still has to use a lens to see what's in front of it, so you can look for reflections and shiny surfaces.

The naked eye test is free, but it's also limited. Some hidden cameras can be embedded in everyday objects, so it's easy to overlook them and assume they don't have a recording device inside. That said, if you use a phone camera, it's much easier to see a reflection. So, shining a light on a suspected item or location can be much more effective than using just your eyes.

With an App

Man showing app to find hidden cameras

As the saying goes, "There's an app for that!" When it comes to spotting recording devices, you can download various apps that make it easier to detect hidden cameras. However, these apps are different from other spy and monitoring apps. Those programs are designed to help you monitor someone else's activity via their phone, such as keeping tabs on your children when they're away from home.

Instead, camera detection apps help you find recording devices nearby. They do this by monitoring wireless signals. Since most spy cameras are connected to the internet, they must maintain a Wi-Fi signal. However, keep in mind that many people who set up spy cams also use a separate network for them. So, if you notice additional networks pop up on the app, they could indicate the presence of hidden cameras.

This method is imprecise, though, as it won't show you where these devices are, only that they're connected. Also, if you're in a hotel or apartment building, it's easy to detect wireless networks from neighbors, so it's hard to tell if any of them are used for hidden cameras or not. However, this option can be a good starting point, as it can give you better insight into whether there may be cameras in the unit.

With a Radio Frequency Detector

Camera detector with frequency detector

While an app can tell you how many devices are connected to Wi-Fi, it won't tell you where they are or what they are. A radio frequency detector allows you to pinpoint their location, giving you a much better chance of discovering a camera. For example, if the detector beeps and there isn't a standard internet-connected device nearby (like a TV, modem, or computer), it might be a camera.

Since these detectors can pick up phone signals, you have to leave your phone behind as you inspect each room. Also, it's pretty common to get false positives because of the amount of radio waves and Wi-Fi signals in the air, so plan accordingly.

Amazon has some great deals on RF detectors, like the KotiSig Hidden Camera DetectorThis device has three settings, including an LED light to detect lenses, a scanner to pick up radio frequencies, and a magnetic field detector. With this gadget, you should be able to find cameras, microphones, and GPS trackers.

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With a Lens Detector

Woman detecting hidden camera in stuffed animals

Lens detectors emit infrared light, which gets reflected by a camera lens. This option is much more effective than a flashlight, as it's much easier to spot reflections through the detector lens than with the naked eye.

While you can get cheap lens detectors, they only work if you're standing close to the camera. So, you have to narrow down your search before you start using it, lest you spend several hours inspecting each corner of the house.

If you're willing to invest in a more expensive version, you can spot cameras much faster. High-tech lens detectors are wearable like goggles, and you can see reflections in the distance. So, you could simply walk through a room and see any cameras immediately.

Overall, while this is the most effective method, these devices can be expensive. Fortunately, you can find good deals on affordable lens detectors like:

JuSubb Lens Detector - This device is compact and comes with multiple features. The lens detector allows you to see camera lenses immediately, and you can spot radio frequencies or magnetic waves.

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Abilyee Camera Detector Pro - This handheld device uses AI to spot cameras more easily, and you can tell how far away they are based on the distance rating on the side.

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FAQs About Hidden Cameras in Hotels and Airbnbs

Hidden Camera

Do Hotels Have Security Cameras in Each Room?

Hotels can monitor public spaces, such as hallways, elevators, lobbies, and meeting rooms. However, individual rooms and bathrooms are off-limits without a guest's consent. So, there shouldn't be any security cameras inside your unit.

What Should I Do if I Find a Hidden Camera?

Detecting camera with infrared light

First, make sure to verify that the object is a camera or that there's strong evidence to suggest it is. Avoid touching the device if possible, as an investigation may check for fingerprints. Instead, follow these steps:

  • Take a photo of the device, and take note of any identifying characteristics (i.e., a serial number or model number).
  • If you're in a hotel, notify the front desk and administration. If you're in an Airbnb, don't contact the host directly. Instead, let Airbnb know about it after filing a report.
  • Leave the room and call the police. Make sure to provide as many details as possible. Don't do this near any recording devices, as the person using them might be listening or watching.
  • When the police arrive, tell them your situation and file an official report.

What if I Suspect There's a Camera, but I Can't Find Anything?

looking for camera

Without hard evidence, it's hard to start a police investigation based on gut instincts. However, if you're pretty sure there's a camera but you haven't found it, you can:

  • If you're in a hotel, ask them to put you in a new room. If you suspect a camera in the next room, you can notify the hotel about your concerns.
  • If you're in an Airbnb, you can end your reservation early and notify Airbnb's customer service about the incident.

Overall, it's up to you whether you feel comfortable staying in a room or Airbnb when you suspect there's a camera. Realistically, the best option is to find accommodations elsewhere.

Are Hidden Cameras Illegal in Hotels and Airbnbs?

Yes, hidden cameras are illegal without the guest's consent. Even if the device is clearly marked as a security camera or other recording device, the host or hotel must notify you before finalizing your reservation.

Can I Sue a Hotel or Airbnb Host if I Find a Camera?

Detecting camera in a plant

Yes, you can sue the host or the hotel if you find a hidden camera in your room. Since the camera was an invasion of privacy, you have every right to make a claim against the property owner. Even if they weren't aware of the camera, they're still liable.

How Can I Tell if a Mirror Has a Camera Behind It?

Mirrors can be commonly used to cover up a camera since the mirror's reflection makes it harder to use lens detectors or flashlights. However, you can use the "finger test." Put your finger against the mirror. If there's a gap between the tip and your reflection, it's a regular mirror. However, if there is no gap, that means someone can see through the other side of it.

While hidden cameras are not overly common in hotels and Airbnbs, they can still pose a problem. While you shouldn't have to inspect each room with a fine-toothed comb every time you travel, it may make sense to bring something like a lens detector. This device can give you peace of mind and help you make informed decisions about what to do during your stay.

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