The friendly passport: petite, colorful, a little dog-eared but undoubtedly the international traveler’s best friend. It gives you the world and asks for nothing in return, except perhaps knowing where it is at all times. But because of its intrinsic value, it’s also a tremendous liability – to lose it brings incalculable annoyance. Which brings up an important topic: passport safety tips.
So here are our 5 best tips on how to keep your passport safe & in your own possession while you travel around the world:
Keep it on your person
This will allow you to know where it is at all times, especially if you can feel its reassuring edges at your fingertips. Of course, this also puts it at risk for loss by way of theft or absentmindedness, but there’s really no substitute for having it within reach at all times. So if you decide to carry your passport with you, keep it under your clothes, in something that doesn’t give away its presence (water-resistant is best, especially if you’re traveling somewhere hot and humid where you’re likely to sweat enough to wrinkle the pages).
This option may be the most uncomfortable. But you have to decide whether the comfort you lose by carrying your passport around everywhere overshadows the comfort you gain by knowing you won’t be making a panicky visit to the embassy at 9am the very next workday.
Put your passport in a pouch, money belt or any sack or compartment that closes securely and can be kept under your top layer of clothing. If you must keep it in your pocket, consider that your backpocket means easy access for pickpockets. If you’re worried about identity-theft scanners, think about a high-tech passport cover.
Keep it in the safe
Most hotel rooms abroad have easy-to-operate safes where you can lock your valuables up before you head out to explore the day away. Just remember, it’s not a good idea to blindly trust a hotel safe. Any and all security can be breached if sufficient motivation is there. That said, I’ve never had an issue in 20 years of travel, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
If you have any doubts about the safety of your accommodations or the trustworthiness of people with access to the safe, keep your passport hidden in your securely locked bag in the room. Someone would have to be extra motivated to lug a heavy suitcase out of the hotel.
Apart from security checkpoints at airports and border crossings, it’s not necessary to drag out your actual passport book for everyone who asks for it, not even policemen. A copy will usually suffice. And if something should happen to your passport, a paper photocopy or scan will also help speed up the process of getting a replacement.
Here’s three ways to get duplicates of your passport to carry on your trip:
- Copy and print the photo and signature page.
- Scan the photo and signature pages and upload them to your cloud or a flash drive. You could also email them to yourself.
- Obtain a certified passport copy: it allows you to carry the copy around and not the original. Note that there’s a fee involved with this method.
Carry around two paper copies of your passport, one in your day bag, one in your main luggage or with the rest of your non-passport travel documents. Also consider memorizing your vital passport info: number, expiration date, issue date, city issued. Reciting numbers may not always suffice but it may save you some time digging through your belongings all the damn time.
Leave copies behind
Give paper copies to your closest contact at home just in case. Should all of the above methods fail you, you’ll have another way to get a copy a mere phone or email away.
Remember, a stolen passport can go for up to $10,000 on the black market, so that’s an obvious incentive for thieves. But with a little extra care, you should be able to make it home in good shape with all your fancy passport stamps intact. Don’t sweat it too much. The surest way to problems is by dwelling on what-ifs. Presume that nothing will happen and chances are they won’t. And if they do, at least you won’t have wasted all that time worrying.
Any other passport safety tips you want to share? We’d love to hear from you!
Photo credits: allstars