Nothing is more agonizing than losing your passport while traveling abroad. Travelers can face many risks when abroad, and passport theft can put you at risk for identity theft, delays in travel and unnecessary stress trying to replace these documents. You’ll have to file a police report, go to your country’s embassy, get new photos, pay the passport fee, and then it’s a waiting game.
Don’t let the hassle of replacing your documents overseas ruin your trip. Keeping your travel documents safe from pickpocketing, loss and damage should be top priority no matter where you’re going. There are safety measures you can do before and during your trip so you can enjoy your travel experience knowing your prepared for anything that comes your way.
Check out these passport and document safety tips – (see Passport Info Guide for a complete guide to everything about US passports):
First thing first, make copies of your documents, before your trip. Passports (including visa pages with pre-issued visas), ID’s, itinerary, tickets, even credit cards if possible. I usually make copies AND take pictures to send to my email for added measure. Keep hard copies in a zipper plastic bag inside a manila folder in your carry on. While you are required to show your official passport in border crossings, airports and even some hotels, one thing to note is that you can show a copy of your passport if an official asks for it for any other reason.
One of the best gifts for travel I received was this super cute passport cover with cute little doggies on it from my mother. When I’m in the airport I keep my passport, tickets, some cash, my driver’s license in this cover, it’s convenient and it protects the official passport book from weather and coffee spills. Take that neck pillow!
Depending on the nature of your trip, you can keep plastic re-sealable bags on hand to store your passport book and other forms of paper documents, some cash, etc. If you’re doing activities like backpacking, hiking, are in areas where the weather isn’t perfect or you’re carrying liquids in your bag, you can prevent the passport from becoming damaged. You cannot travel with a damaged passport, so even if you have it and looks like water damage, you might not past airport or border authorities.
Invest in excellent travel suitcase locks! There are TSA approved locks, but I carry extras just in case, I lock my back pack if doing some exploring so hands can’t swipe anything inside.
Use the hotel safe if it’s available for use, if not and you trust the hotel, you can ask the front desk if they have a safe to store personal belongings. Otherwise, you can keep it in your locked suitcase, even if it’s not ideal. I also know of people that hide their passport in their hotel room with masking tape in places like behind dressers, beds, in closets etc. You can get creative, just don’t forget where you hid it!
Keep it on you! (only sometimes)
Never store your passport, wallet, laptop in a bag that will have to be stowed underneath the train or in checked bags at the airport. These are items that you should keep on you or your bag during traveling between places. Do keep your passport concealed, I like to keep in a pouch in back of my bag when traveling via train in Europe. Here are a few well-known options:
-The Money Belt – while I don’t think they should be called “money belts” since they are typically reserved for items you wouldn’t need frequently, your best bet is to keep your actual day money in your wallet and keep emergency cards, some cash and your passport (if you have to travel with it) in the money belt. Some are RFID secure.
-Neck wallets/money pouches you wear around your neck and conceal under your garment. Same concept as the money belt, hide emergency cash and items as needed.
-Travel Underwear or Bra Stash – travel underwear has built in pockets you can store cash, your cards, passport, etc. The Bra Stash is bit more versatile since you can place in front, on the upper strap or on side to store your goods. I recommend the plastic baggies to hold your passport before you put it in the Bra Stash.
-I’ve heard of people sewing a pocket on the INSIDE of their cargo shorts for added measure to conceal their passport.
I typically use my small crossbody shoulder bag on most travel days; it stays in front of me so I can keep an eye on it and is light enough to walk around with.
Depending on your personal preference, some of these options can hinder your outfit choices so keep that in mind. If you want to wear a dress, the belt will only be accessible if you access it in private and can look obvious in some instances.
Some other helpful tips
Keep the embassy’s address and number on a small sheet of paper in your day bag and in your passport cover as well as any important phone numbers if my phone happens to get lifted. It’s also helpful to keep phrases in the native language for help locating places, like the police station or major landmarks. Keep in mind areas you might want to avoid, especially when travelling alone. Sometimes is easy to spot a tourist if they walk around with their passports on sight which can make you a target.
Please note that these tips are not 100% full proof. Thieves become smarter as technology advances, hotel safes can be cracked, slashproof bags can be stolen and thieves come up with tactics to try and get what they want, but being a well-informed traveler is a safe and happy one!
Enjoy and safe travels!