male prisoner attempting to escape the room prison cell

male prisoner attempting to escape the room prison cell

*UPDATED JUNE, 2018

An escape room challenge is a team game like no other. It requires focus, wit, and curiosity in order to beat the escape room puzzle maker. 

I pride myself on being able to find my way out of situations. See that tagline up top — A Curious Gentleman’s Guide to ESCAPES & Escapism. I’ve even got a whole category dedicated to escapes. Granted, those are destinations, not how-to guides, but you get the idea — escapes are my bread and butter.

So when I signed up for Real Room Escape in Bucharest with my pals Erick and Dany to do my very own real-life room escape, I was certain I had it in the bag.

What is an Escape Room Game?

If you’re not familiar with these escape the room escape games, here’s the gist: you’re locked in a room with one or more people, and you’ve got an hour to find the key to escape the room using clues scattered about. Use the clues to solve the puzzles. Solve the puzzles to find the key. Find the key to escape the room. Sounds pretty simple right?

Well, it’s not.

You need to muster all your logic, problem-solving, communication, and critical thinking skills all at once. In the dark. While you’re being monitored via closed-circuit TV.

And I never thought I’d fail so miserably. Only about 13% of the teams at Real Room Escape ever complete the challenge within the allotted time limit. So to ensure you don’t do the same, I’ve compiled some tips on how to get the most out of the game, and ultimately, how to escape any escape the room game.

Real Room Escape, Escape the Room Game, Bucharest Romania (5)

Real Room Escape, Escape the Room Game, Bucharest Romania (5)

There are a few rules: no cell phones, no pens or paper, no cameras. And you’ve also got to sign a pretty lengthy waiver. Presumably so if you murder one of your fellow escapees (a very real possibility if they fall into the “dense” side of the divide), then the escape room company is not held liable. Kidding. Unlike escaping from one of the rooms in the Saw


 movies, there’s no real threat of death here. And no threat of boredom either. I never thought I’d have so much fun willingly looked in a room.

There are plenty of things a person needs to be aware of when inside the room, and there are several important escape room tips I learned from that experience on how to get out of an escape room. So grab your pen and notebook, it’s time to spill the beans and reveal some escape room secrets.

Form a proper team

Vintage friends Man On The Lam travel blog directoryVintage friends Man On The Lam travel blog directory

Make sure you’re going in with a group of people that you have good synergy with because the best escape rooms are those shared with good friends.

Stay organized

All escape room solutions boil down to good organization because everyone should have their role to avoid minimal overlap. Depending on the escape clues and hints, as well as the escape room layour, each person might be required to complete specific tasks, and it’s no fun if someone just sits around doing nothing. 

Ask for hints only when you have to

Most escape rooms allow you to ask for hints. Three are enough almost always, and you don’t need a room escape walkthrough, but don’t ask for a hint unless you really feel you’re stuck in a rut.

Escape room clues are deliberately created so once you’ve been given it, it’s imperative to figure out what it means because it’s not something random and unimportant.

Pick the right room for you

In order to have the most fun make sure to pick a room that everyone agrees on. There are different themes and types of rooms, so do your research on which one is the best for everybody.

Go in blind

There are two schools of thought on this one — some prefer to research escape room clues, layouts, and hints prior to the big day, but I think it’s best to actually go into an escape puzzle completely blind. The fun comes from figuring out the puzzles for yourself. Don’t look for escape room spoilers online, because that’ll ruin the game for everybody.

Observe everything – twice

All the escape room answers will come to you if you’re patient. Don’t rush and check everything at least twice.

Stick to the plan, but allow it to change

Everyone is focused on how to escape the room, but they also need to be reminded on how to do it. If you’re the person with the plan, then make sure everyone sticks to it, but also do try to be fluid because even the best-laid plans often need to be adapted.

Think logically

Graffitti king with finger i have an idea Santiago, ChileGraffitti king with finger i have an idea Santiago, Chile

The puzzles are designed to challenge your mind, so try to always think like an engineer. Every room escape solution is logical, so don’t look for absurd ways to beat the puzzles.

But also think creatively

There’s almost always a narrative to the room, so you might need to piece it together to reveal more clues in order to escape efficiently

Don’t panic

Once you see the timer coming to an end, don’t fret, there’s still time. When you know it’s time to escape the room hints that were previously seemingly unconnected might be more important than ever, so keep your calm on and figure it out.

Don’t cheat

There’s no fun in cheating. Escape room cheats will only make it seem like the room is too easy or uninteresting, so keep going for a clean run.

Accept that you’ll make mistakes

Even after you’ve figured out how do escape rooms work, you’ll still guess wrong at times, and that’s completely okay.

Don’t forget you’re an individual

If you’ve managed to solve several puzzles on your own, don’t let anyone talk you out of trying to solve another. It’s up to you to choose how to escape games like these.

Go to the toilet before playing

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You’ll be trapped inside the room for a while, so it’ll be smart to go to the toilet before playing.

Don’t break the rules

The rules are there for a reason, and they’re there to help, and not hinder, you. Depending on where you are, different rules will be in place, so try to keep those in mind all the time.

Don’t overthink it

Sometimes the answer to the puzzle might be in front of you. If you enter a dark room then you might just need to turn on the lights. Overthinking it might ruin your enjoyment.

Think both in and outside of the box

Since the puzzles are often both logical and creative at the same time, try to stay ahead of the game for at least one step, without cheating, of course.

Keep your items organized

Real Room Escape, Escape the Room Game, Bucharest Romania (2)

Real Room Escape, Escape the Room Game, Bucharest Romania (2)

Everyone item you’ve used and will be using should be kept in an orderly fashion so you’ll know what you’ve used and what you’ll be using constantly.

Keep an eye on the time

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Time is limited in an escape room, so bring a watch so you won’t lose track of time.

Don’t waste time on one puzzle

There are lots of puzzles in a room, and they might be scattered. Don’t remain stationary for too long if you want to be efficient.

Don’t leave keys lying around

If you’ve used a key then let it stay in the proper lock. Most places have keys used only once, so a key lying around will only cause confusion.

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Search Everywhere

Sounds pretty basic I know, but our group was pretty surprised by how often we overlooked obvious clues. Searching everywhere means EVERYWHERE. And that includes, but is not limited to:

  • In (and under) teapots
  • Inside books and book covers
  • Underneath tables and tablecloths
  • Behind (and sometimes in) paintings
  • Under carpets, rugs, lamps, doilies, chess pieces, candle holders, and any other bric-à-brac

Real Room Escape, Escape the Room Game, Bucharest Romania (3)Real Room Escape, Escape the Room Game, Bucharest Romania (3)

Basically, take everything in the room, turn it upside down, inside out and sideways. Then do it again just to be sure. Every inch of the escape room layout counts. Go through every little nook and cranny, because you never know what you’re going to find.

If I had a clue for every time we heard ourselves say, “How did we miss that?” I’d have been out in 20 minutes.

Practice Beforehand

So how can you practice escaping a room? Lock yourself in your own room, and turn to the internet. There are plenty of online escape games, and while they don’t give you the full adrenaline rush of “being there,” they are an excellent way to get some practice in before the big day.

The granddaddy of all online escape games is probably The Crimson Room, but sites like Big Fish Games offer plenty of other escape the room type games to get you prepped, like my fave Escape the Museum 2.

If you have an iPhone, iPad, Android device, or even a gaming console like XBox or Playstation or even a gaming PC which then you could use some gaming keyboard reviews, there’s plenty of choice when it comes to Escape the Room games. Practicing in advance will definitely give you the upper hand since you’ll know what to expect. Here are some of the most popular escape the rooms games for each device.


Top 5 Escape Games for Xbox

The best “escape the room” type games for Xbox console users to prepare for real life escape rooms.


Top 5 Escape Games for iPhone

The most popular “escape the room” games for iPhone users currently on the App Store.


Top 5 Escape Games for iPad

The most popular “escape the room” games for iPad users currently on the App Store.


Top 5 Escape Games for Android

The most popular “escape the room” games for Android users currently on the Amazon App Store.


Don’t be understaffed

The recommended number of players exists for a reason. Don’t bring too few people because you might not make it in time.

Communication is Key

You are not in the room alone. Those folks you brought with you (or the ones you were thrown in with if you went by yourself), are your best chance of escaping the room within the time limit. I’m a mess at puzzles, but have pretty keen observation skills (usually), so know what your strengths are before you head in, and let the others in your group know too. If you’re stuck on any one clue, remember you are part of a team and ask your group members for help. Remember, you are not in this alone.

Many escape room strategies rely on having clear communication between everyone within the group. Constantly talk to everyone, and even yell out if you have to, because every little detail might count.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

With Real Room Escape, participants are allowed to ask for up to 5 clues to help the game along. Use them. If you find yourself going for more than 10 minutes and not getting anywhere, remember that the clock is ticking, and it’s better to get out with the help of the game master (I think that’s what one should call him) then to not get out at all.

Go Behind the Scenes

If you want to get an extra edge in conquering escape rooms, consider picking up a copy of Escape the Game: How to make puzzle and escape rooms. It’s filled with tips and tricks used by escape room game designers when creating their puzzles.

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Library Books Reading VintageLibrary Books Reading Vintage


Real Room Escape, Escape the Room Game, Bucharest Romania (1)Real Room Escape, Escape the Room Game, Bucharest Romania (1)

Allow the kids to have fun

If you’re in the room with kids, allow them to solve the easier puzzles, so that way everyone will have fun while escaping.

Tell everyone how you solved the puzzle

When you’ve immediately solved the puzzle let everyone know how. That will save you time when it turns out you no longer need that specific item or code or escape room clue.

Never the forget the original escape room layout

If you displace a lot of the items you might forget how the room was originally organized. That might cause problems for you later on in the game, since the creators organized the room that way for a reason.

Never use too much force

Physical force is never the answer to a puzzle. You might break something, or hurt yourself, so if something is bolted shut that’s probably deliberate. Unless there’s a hidden compartment underneath or a secret knock or latch to open a door, most things that are sealed shut are escape room props. Always remember this escape room tip — the only force you should use is the one in your mind.

Know what not to touch

Real Room Escape, Escape the Room Game, Bucharest Romania (4)

Real Room Escape, Escape the Room Game, Bucharest Romania (4)

In the best escape room games (and even in the worst ones too hopefully) things like wires and sockets are usually not meant to be used in any way, as are floorboards or carpeting — unless it’s stated specifically by your escape room guides.

Don’t stress out

The stakes aren’t really that high, and you’re there to have fun. Don’t push your friends too hard, because it’s not supposed to be stressful. And playing an escape room alone next time probably won’t be a lot of fun.

Remember that it’s just an escape room game

take it easy brotake it easy bro

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Just have fun, and enjoy the ride. If you don’t solve this one, you can always focus on how to escape an escape room next time.

The truth is, each of those “Escape the Room” escape games is different. As long as you go in equipped with the right skills — problem-solving, deductive reasoning, logic, communication, resourcefulness — and the right mindset (it helps to go without a hangover too), then there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to make your own escape happen.

There are no shortcuts here or easy way outs. It’s a riddle, and all riddles unravel in their own due course.

And there’s no escaping that.


finger pointing rightfinger pointing rightIf you’re addicted to Escape the Room games, you might want to sign up for the Escape Game Card — it’s only 20 bucks and gives you discounts of up to 50% off at over 160 games in 25 countries. Since the discount applies to your entire team and not just you, it can pay for itself with its first use.


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Have you ever tried one of those “Escape the Room” games?

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Note: I was a guest (or was that “prisoner”) of Real Room Escape in Bucharest during my visit there. Images of prisoner escaping cell and group of friends courtesy of Shutterstock.