To carry or not to carry: that is the question. Let’s talk about passports.
Nobody’s ever quite clear on the rule. Do you keep your most important document on your person at all times or leave it locked in a safe while touring a foreign country? There’s no right or wrong answer, to be honest, so let’s discuss the pros and cons of each approach.
Keeping Your Passport Locked
A hotel safe is by definition…safe. By placing your passport inside and setting a combination of numbers only you and a trusted companion know, you ensure its safety. You run no risk of losing it to pickpocketers on a busy street or leaving it in a purse on the back of a chair at a restaurant.
If you’re staying in a hostel dorm or a vacation rental where you have no access to a safe, keeping your papers in a locked bag will do the trick. Investing in a $10 lock can save you a lot of trouble in another country. Of course, there’s no guarantee someone won’t pick up your entire backpack from a shared room, but at least you’re not entertaining the idea of a free-for-all with a visibly unlocked bag.
Additionally, take note of the local climate. If the air is humid, it can harm the pages. Make sure to keep your passport book protected inside a cover or a plastic bag.
Keeping Your Passport on You
Having a passport on you while traveling has its benefits. For example, some banks or money exchangers won’t change currency without identification, and a driver’s license isn’t sufficient in this case. If an ID is required, a bank won’t settle for anything but a passport. Although you can’t avoid needing cash, you can avoid exchanging currency altogether by withdrawing money from an ATM with a no-fee debit card.
Another benefit of carrying your credentials with you is the option to shop tax-free in certain countries. For example, in Japan, a purchase of at least 5,000 yen (about $45) qualifies you for a tax exemption, and you don’t have to wait to do it at the airport—simply present a foreign passport to a cashier, and boom, you save money.
You can save a bit of cash by planning a shopping spree in advance and carrying the document with you only on that day. However, unless you leave a hotel with an intention to shop, this approach might be problematic.
Keep in mind that some countries legally require you to keep your passport on you at all times. Make sure to read up on your destination before the trip. You might also need it to be admitted into an emergency room in case of an accident.
Should you decide to hold your passport near and dear while touring a city, we recommend you take certain precautions. Keep it concealed in an inner pocket of a crossbody bag or in a money belt under your clothes. If you consider all this overkill, it’s not. You don’t want to be the one dealing with replacing a passport in the middle of your vacation.
Keeping Your Passport at the Front Desk
There are some accommodations in certain countries (Vietnam comes to mind) that do keep your passport for the duration of your stay and return it at checkout time. This one is a bit unsettling because you don’t know exactly what kind of care the staff takes to keep your documents safe. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to avoid leaving your passport with a stranger—follow the rules or sleep outside.
Make Multiple Copies
In either case, one advice applies to all these scenarios. Make multiple copies of your passport’s personal information page and keep them in places separate from the original book. Perhaps, you want to pack one in a suitcase, give one to a travel companion and keep one at home with a loved one. These will come in handy in case of passport theft or loss.
Do you always carry your passport or leave it in a safe between travel days? Please tell us why in the comments.
[Image Source: iStock]