How to keep your passport safe while abroad

 

The first in a series of articles where we will show you how to travel safely. Kicking off the series we start with the very important subject of keeping your passport safe from loss, damage and most importantly thieves. We will also explain what actions you need to take if it does get stolen or lost.

The original

The only times you must present the original copy of your passport is generally at border crossings, at airports, hotels, and at the request of a police officer. In all other cases it is sufficient to remember the number and expiration date, or have a copy of the original at hand. My advice is to always keep your passport in a safe place, even if not necessarily easily accessible: DO NOT; leave in bags or your backpack, as they are very vulnerable, especially if you leave them unattended. Personally I always keep my documents in my “money belt”, a thin pouch that can be worn under my shirt or inside my trousers, I’ve found this is the safest place to keep it, as well as cash and other valuables. It is very discreet and can be hidden under your clothes, so thieves don’t even know where you’re holding your money and passport, alternatively people like to keep their money belts wrapped around their upper arm or ankle.

Another possibility  is to leave your passport at your accommodation: many hostels have a safe where you keep your documents. My advice is to use common sense, make a decision based on how secure the accommodation is and whether you trust the person behind the reception. Personally I prefer to close my passport in my backpack with a good lock (not those found for 1 €  at the market), lock the room and keep the key on you, so the people at the reception won’t go in the room as they may think you’re still in your room.

The photocopy

As mentioned at begining of the post, apart from border crossings and airports, there is no need to show your original passport at all times; many travellers rely on a photocopy, a great way to reduce the possibility of theft and loss of the original.

A valid alternative is to memorize your passport number and the expiry date, so that when required, you will not need to “pull out” the original. This method is very useful for checkin at hostels / hotels, at train and bus stations and all those occasions where you only need to fill out a form with your details, including passport number.

The digital copy

Digital copy

I believe the safest solution is to take a picture with your digital camera (or a cell phone) of your passport page, the one with your  photo and number on it and send it to your e-mail address: in this way it will never be lost (unless you delete the email of course) and it will be always available in the event you need to show a copy.

What to do if you passport is lost or stolen while abroad?

  • First report any passport losses or thefts to the local police in the country you’re in as soon as possible. You’ll need the crime reference details for your embassy.
  • Secondly report the theft or loss to your embassy, consulate or high commission of the country you are in. You can get details of your local embassy, consulate or high commission by going to your embassy website.
  • When you make a report to the embassy, consulate or high commission, they will give you a Lost or Stolen Notification form. You should fill this in and sign it and return ASAP. The embassy, consulate or high commission will record the loss or theft of your passport and forward the information to IPS. IPS will then cancel your passport to reduce the risk of someone else using your identity.
  • Your passport is your most valuable item while abroad; take special care of it, to avoid spending hours if not days at your embassy office.

Final Tips

  • Never let your passport out of your sight when giving to friends, acquaintances, travel agents. You should always accompany them, so you know exactly where it is at all times!
  • Never leave as a deposit at hostels or other tourist sites. (Use a driving license instead as it’s much easier to replace)
  • Never let a police officer take your passport off you, unless really necessary.

Lived in England since 1998 and travelled the world since 2005, visiting over 100 countries on 5 continents. Writer, blogger, photographer with a passion for adventure and travel, discovering those off beat places not yet on the tourist trail. Marco contributes the very best in independent travel tips and lifestyle articles.

15 thoughts on “How to keep your passport safe while abroad”

  1. I had a tough time dealing with this situation. Sometimes,leaving my passport with the hostel(secured and locked by staff) leaves a truckload of worries for me. I think I should get a document or money belt. Thank for the tips!

  2. A money belt is the ideal solution it’s pretty discreet, it’s always attached to you and leaves your hands free so there is no chance of putting it down somewhere and forgetting it. We’ve used this method for over 5 years of travel and haven’t lost or had a passport stolen yet! Lets hope it continues.

  3. Great idea to take a picture! Although it’s not the original, it’s better than nothing. What a simple step that could help in a desperate situation with immigration.
    Have you ever lost your passport?

  4. Up till now neither Marco or I have ever lost our passport, touch wood! We have always used the methods explained in the article to keep it safe. On our travels we’ve heard a few horror stories from other travellers who have lost their passports and had to wait up to two weeks for a replacement. They told us the most annoying aspect is the disruption to your travel plans ie. having to re-arrange flights or miss doing a certain activity or sight due to not enough time.

  5. Ooohh… The digital copy is genius. Didn’t think of that. G and I travel with an iTouch so it makes perfect sense to just download a photo. Beats the photocopy. Go paperless! 😉 Great tip!

  6. New reader here. Great blog so far.
    I can’t believe I never thought of having a digital photocopy of my passport saved in my e-mail. I am for one that hates wasting trees and prefer everything digitized. I’m going to have to use this one for sure. So thanks for that!
    I had to click on this article since I just sent my passport away to get more pages added to it… Traveler problems I tell ya.

  7. I always stay in private rooms, not in dormitories. Then, even if there is no safe, I just leave it in my luggage and lock it. Someone would have to steal the whole luggage, which is highly unlikely unless it’s a super dodgy place

  8. We go a little more DIY. Sewing a small soft pocket on the inside of your shorts / pants lets you avoid a moneybelt. Works well if you wear loose fitting clothing and don’t need your passport, but want it on you.

  9. I wouldn’t if I were you. From what I hear, in countries in South East Asia and even in Spain, hotels have been know to hand it out to tour guides or simply in error to other guests.

  10. I agree that one shouldn’t leave it with reception but this is impossible in ex soviet countries such as Uzbekistan who want it so they can register you and they put post it notes/slips inside your passport

  11. Also I would like to add that i agree never leave passport with hotel if at all possible. I had a very bad experience a couple of years ago. On the bus while still in the airport vicinity just after arrival, our passports and tickets were collected by the tour guide. No explanation. Outside the hotel the group leader said I want all you tips tomorrow.
    The following day I went to hotel reception to get mine and the hotel looked everywhere but couldn’t find it.
    The group leader came up and said he had it.
    After getting them back to go through a checkpoint he came and collected them giving us an intimidating look to put them in his bag.
    On another occassion I got mine back for a party , gave it in the hotel when I came back and it walked to the group leader.
    How do you deal with these situations?
    I hate people handing my passport in for me. Any suggestions with this

  12. I sent a picture of my original passport to an agent in ukraine and he stopped replying to me about applying to a university. I’m so worried… Can he cause me troubles?? I clicked on the original passport photo by mistake and sent it to him

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