Keeping your passport safe when you’re overseas is so important. Lonely Planet guidebook writer David Else provides some valuable advice. By Nicola Iseard
Photo: Maksym Yemelyanov/123rf.com
1. Keep it secure
Simple but effective: keep your passport in a secure place. If you’re driving or using taxis, it’s easy for a passport to fall out of your pocket as you get in/out of the car. On public transport, the same applies, and pickpockets can be a risk in some locations. So, if you carry your passport in a jacket pocket, make sure it’s on the inside, zipped or buttoned ideally. Trouser pockets are generally a no-no. If you carry your passport in a small purse or handbag, the advice is the same: keep it zipped.
2. Keep it with you
Always have your passport with you when travelling – in a pocket in your clothes, or in a bag you carry at all times. Do not put your passport in a large bag that may go in a separate luggage compartment on buses or trains or in the back of a taxi, just in case it gets lost or stolen.
3. Keep it hidden
Keep your passport extra safe by carrying it in a thin bag under a layer of clothing. Various products are available, ranging from simple round-the-neck or round-the-waist pouches to ingenious multi-strapped devices that fit like a shoulder holster. You can also get shirts and trousers specially designed for travel, with hidden internal pockets. There’s one exception to this rule: when you’re flying. See the next tip.
4. Keep it handy at airports
When you’re flying, you’ll need to show your passport on many occasions and there’s no need to keep it hidden. Keep it in an easily accessible place such as a jacket pocket or in your cabin bag. But keep it in the same place every time – that way you always know where it is, and can reach it in an instant when required to show it to border guards or security officials – and ideally not with other items, so it won’t accidentally fall out when you reach for money or your mobile phone.
5. Don’t get it out if you don’t have to
Some travellers keep their passports in a pouch hidden under clothing, along with important items such as money and credit cards. This is fine, until you remove the pouch to reach your money. The passport (and other valuables) are now clearly on show to potential thieves, and in danger of falling out as you’re rooting for cash to pay for a coffee. So keep your passport and cards safely hidden, and have a separate wallet with a small amount of money to pay for day-to-day items.
6. Don’t carry it if you don’t have to
At your hotel, put your passport in the room safe (if it has one) or in the hotel’s own safe for guests at reception. Then you can go to crowded bars, restaurants, night markets, street festivals, or whatever other attractions your destination may hold, without the need to constantly ensure your passport is still with you. If you’re staying in budget places with questionable security, then sometimes it is better to keep your passport with you at all times; it’s a question of balance.
7. Do carry a back-up
If the worst happens and your passport is lost or stolen, you’ll need to report this to the police and contact your embassy to arrange a replacement or emergency travel documents. For times like this, photocopies of your key passport pages are very handy. Keep them in a bag separate to your real passport. A higher-tech solution is to take a photo of the passport on your phone (assuming your phone isn’t stolen as well) or scan the passport and email it to yourself before you leave, so you can access that email from wherever you are in the world should the need arise.
A version of this story first appeared on the Silver Kris website.