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Travel Advice

The Pros and Cons of Taking A Passport Everywhere You Go

The Pros and Cons of Taking A Passport Everywhere You Go
Anya Kartashova

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.

Related: The Dos and Don’ts of Exchanging Money Abroad

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]

View Comments (14)


  1. AAdamE

    April 16, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    Also keep in mind to purchase a protective case for it. I used to carry mine everywhere and it got a little worn out and I was denied boarding and had to pay $250 for a same day passport and miss a day of my trip.

  2. ChrisFlyer66

    April 16, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    I’ve been to vietnam many times and my accomodations never kept my passport for the duration of the stay.

  3. Sydneyberlin

    April 16, 2019 at 3:19 pm

    Luckily, the authorities in Australia already give you your fresh new passport in a handy water-resistant rubber sleeve. The least they can do given how much they charge for it.
    And thumbs up to the copy idea- if I’m in a slightly dodgy country (some places in South America come to mind), then I usually keep the original in the hotel safe and only carry a photocopy on me.

  4. Global321

    April 16, 2019 at 3:36 pm

    “Accommodations in some countries (Vietnam comes to mind) keep your passport for the duration of your stay and return it at checkout time.”

    Simply not true.

    Before writing an informational article, you should make sure your information is correct.

  5. Gigantor

    April 16, 2019 at 11:12 pm

    I am happy to take my passport wherever I go… just not the US passport.
    I renounced the US citizenship in 2011 and I am very happy to take my Swiss passport everywhere I go.

  6. AnyaK

    April 17, 2019 at 4:36 am

    @Global321: The author here. It was 100% true for me during my almost-four-week stay in Vietnam (multiple accommodations). Just because it didn’t happen to you, doesn’t mean the information isn’t correct.

  7. SarcasticMisanthrope

    April 17, 2019 at 5:24 am

    Your Passport is your identification as I know of no foreign country that accepts a local DL for valid identification.

  8. polinka

    April 17, 2019 at 10:12 am

    @AnyaK, you wrote:
    Accommodations in some countries (Vietnam comes to mind) keep your passport for the duration of your stay and return it at checkout time.
    But 2 flyers have told you it hasn’t happened to them. Therefore, your reporting is incorrect. If you had said “Accommodations in some countries sometimes keep your passport (Vietnam comes to mind).” That would be 100% true. It’s silly for you to argue with frequent travelers who have told you your information is not correct.

  9. Dave510

    April 17, 2019 at 3:01 pm

    Dual citizen. I always keep 1 passport on my person and 1 in the hotel safe.

  10. dvs7310

    April 17, 2019 at 10:40 pm

    Seems that was the old system in Vietnam, but I was there in 2018 and stayed in 3 different hotels, none even attempted to keep it.

  11. AnyaK

    April 18, 2019 at 5:34 am

    @polinka: I apologize if my response came across as argumentative. Rather, it’s a clarification. The experiences I write about happen TO ME, which don’t invalidate someone else’s experiences abroad, just as someone else’s experiences don’t invalidate mine. I’m sure as a well-traveled person, you agree with me, and yes, I agree with you — it is rather silly to argue with someone about THEIR experience. Please note how I didn’t describe this particular occurrence in absolutes: “Accommodations in some countries ALWAYS keep your passport,” would be untrue. Perhaps, the sentence isn’t clear enough to convey that. I will make an edit to eliminate further confusion. Thank you for commenting!

  12. kkua

    April 19, 2019 at 5:47 am

    DUH! Take a photo on your mobile phone and keep original in hotel safe. You can always say I can go back and get the original upon request.

  13. pudgym29


    April 20, 2019 at 11:26 pm

    [b][¥5,000?[/b] When I shop at Don Quijote in Japan, I have been structured to have to expend ¥10,000 in order to get the [i]gaijin[/i] discount.
    (Were I obtaining Japanese Whiskey(s), this would not be a snag.)
    Nonetheless, even here on home ground in the U.S.A., I sporadically feel the need to carry my U.S. Passport to licensed beverage venues, because while my Illinois drivers license might suffice for many outlets, [i]that might not be the case for [b]this[/b] exchange[/i]. .

  14. fairhsa

    April 21, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    Just get two passports. I always carry both of mine – one kept safe in the hotel, one on me. (I guess most of you are from the USA and cannot follow this strategy – but you may be surprised – even the UK allows you to get a second passport if you travel often). Re Vietnam, travel there frequently, nobody has ever kept my passport at the front desk. In face, in the (100+) countries I have been to, nobody has kept the passport for long (sometimes they keep for a few hours to register you with local police or take copies).
    PS – there are also countries which have formal ID cards (Hong Kong is one). You can often use the ID card for official identification even outside of Hong Kong – in most of Asia, for example, a HK ID card is as good as a passport. (But not for shopping in Japan or Korea – for that you need the original passport as they. actually swipe the passport in their machines to determine how much of your tax fee allowance you have left!).

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