When travelling, your passport is your lifeline. It lets you enter and exit a country. It’s your identity. It enables you to enter your high commission/embassy for help. Holding onto your passport is thus essential for safe and enjoyable travel. Yet given the astronomical importance of your passport, it needs to be treated as the single most important document on your person while travelling.
So how do you keep it safe? My top tips…
- Always know where your passport is. Watch it. Hold it. Always, always know where it is. Whether you’re on a bus where the driver is trying to hold onto passenger passports while crossing the border (true story and I REFUSED to give mine up!), or you’re at the immigration desk about to enter or exit a country, always know exactly where that passport is. And I mean exactly. The last thing you want is for your passport to end up in a pile of other passports without knowing which and where.
2. Don’t keep it on your person, but hide it safely. Always keep your passport where it is the safest. Usually, this is not on you as you are wandering through tourist attractions. Rather, it’s back in that hotel room locked safely away in your luggage, a safe, or some other hidden area of your hotel room (I have found under mattresses or hidden in books to work quite well!) If you feel you might need your passport for security purposes while walking through your travel area, keep a photocopy of it in your wallet.
3. When you must have it with you, have it close. And I mean right about your body close. If you’re carrying a purse, ensure that it’s in a part that is right against your body so that you can feel if someone is trying to take it. Many people rely on travel pouches, but I find those a little cumbersome. As long as you have it as close to your person as possible so you can know and feel where it is at all times, you are in a much better position.
4. Don’t trust that airplane. Or other transportation method. It’s ironic that we travellers can be so good at watching our personal belongings, until we enter our mode of transportation and suddenly we aren’t as vigilant. Don’t forget that things DO get stolen while in transit. Before you even start to get off that plane/bus/train check to make sure you have your passport with you!
5. Carry it yourself through a security line. You are allowed to be holding your passport while entering security checkpoints. Don’t put it through the security check belts. Keep it on your person (i.e. in your pocket) as you walk through the individual security check. That way you know where it is, always.
5. Be prepared for the worst case scenario. Worst case scenario you lose your passport. It gets stolen. If you planned for this situation ahead of time, it won’t be quite as horrible. Always have a photocopy with you and with someone you know who is not travelling with you. If you have a travel partner, swap photocopies. The ability to access the entire passport copy will expedite your ability to get your new passport with your embassy/high commission/consulate while travelling. It will also increase the likelihood that your embassy/high commission/consulate will let you enter – you’re proving your citizenship with a photocopy.
This means that you should always know where your nearest embassy/high commission/consulate is. Before you travel, look up the options for accessing your government when travelling to a particular country. Is there an embassy? Do you go to an embassy of another government for assistance? What is the emergency number in case you have an emergency outside of working hours?
In most cases you will need a police report in order for your government to produce a new passport, so be sure to get this as soon as possible.
Lastly, check out ways to register with your government. The Government of Canada has this awesome website ROCA – the Registration of Canadians Abroad – where Canadian citizens can enter their travel details and passport information which can expedite solutions to problems in cases of emergency. If you’re not Canadian, do some homework before you leave to find out what your government has to offer.
6. Check out new RFID safety wallets/bags. RFID – Radio frequency identification – is the ability for someone to steal information from documents (like a passport) through an electronic system (or something like that – I’m not computer scientist). There are bags, purses, and wallets on the market that have special pouches that block RFID transmission. This means that your personal information stays safe from cyber-type criminals.
Your passport is the most important document be travelling. A little preparation can ensure that you are as safe as possible when enjoying your time abroad!