Travel and Money: Passport Carrying Tips
Traveling safely and managing your money along the way is an exercise in balancing multiple risks: theft, loss, high surcharges, and confusing discrepancies. This Travel and Money series discusses various ways to address money and security issues while you are abroad.
Today, we're talking about ways to carry your passport. Although carrying your passport doesn't directly pertain to your money, losing it (or having it stolen) can be a costly disaster to contend with that could throw an unwanted curve ball into your vacation.
Here are some techniques to help you reduce the chances of your passport going missing, and to make the recovery process much easier for you if it does.
Carrying the Original
You need your original passport for border crossings and navigating airports. In most other cases (such as checking into accommodation) you can use either your original or a copy (we'll get to that in a minute). So the only time you need to have your original passport on your person is when you're actively traveling.
I keep my passport in a slim passport wallet that I wear around my waist which fits underneath my clothing. I can access it subtly in a pinch, and keep it relatively hidden and secure when I don't need it — thus reducing the chance of it being stolen from my purse or pocket.
When I'm settled in to my accommodation, I leave my original passport in the room. Keeping it in a safe within the room is my first preference; otherwise I lock it up in my suitcase while I'm out of the room. Some hotels and hostels also offer secure storage at reception, which is an option.
Aside from clearing official security checkpoints and borders, you can usually present a photocopy when your passport is requested. A simple copy of the photo and signature page will do, as it contains all the information necessary for somebody checking your identity.
The reality is, the less you need to handle your passport in public, the less the chances are that your passport will go missing or get stolen. So whenever you can use a photocopy of your passport, you should.
I keep a photocopy of my passport with me at all times, in my purse. That way, I have viable identification when needed, and if something happens to the original, I have a backup copy that I can march into my consulate with to start the recovery process.
I'm all about double and triple backups since I travel full-time, so I also have a scan (picture) of my passport's picture and signature page. I keep a copy of this on my computer, as well as on an encrypted USB stick that is kept underneath my clothing at all times. Some people also like to email themselves a scan of their passport so they can access it electronically if necessary.
With this extra level of backup and security, I know that even if everything I own goes missing, I can still walk into my consulate with the USB stick and get the help I need.
The Extra Backup at Home
And as a last (last) resort, it never hurts to leave a copy of your passport with somebody at home. You never know if or when it will be necessary, and when you travel, it's always better to be safe than sorry.
If you're applying for your passport, check out this article on getting passport pictures on the cheap.