You’ve got your passport and you are ready to travel. Great! It’s what you will need to legally get into any country in the world. Now consider the prospect of losing or damaging your passport while you are traveling. Frightening, right? It doesn’t have to be. Here are few helpful tips on how to keep your passport safe while traveling abroad.
Make copies before you leave
Make copies of everything you are taking with you. This includes your passport, visas, credit cards and any other identification you have. You can either take photos of it, scan it, or make traditional photocopies. Either way, save a digital copy of each item in the cloud or email it to yourself, and also print at least two copies for easy access.
If your passport is lost or stolen, the US consulate or embassy is going to want to know your passport number, the issue date, and the expiration date. Other travel documents and credit card information should also be saved. (For credit cards, write down the international toll-free number of the card issuer too.)
Saving all this information about your essential documents in the cloud is excellent, but you may not always have wifi access. This is why two physical copies are a good idea. It offers you immediate access to everything you need.
Hide one set of your essential documents in your carry-on luggage and one other set in your checked luggage. That way you are covered even if your checked luggage isn’t available.
Leave your travel documents in the hotel
If you are staying in a hotel with a secure safe, store your passport and essential travel documents in the safe. Unfortunately, all hotel safes can be compromised, and locking your passport away is not fool-proof, (as you can see here), but it is safer than taking it with you.
If you don’t have a safe in your room or you feel uncomfortable about leaving your essential documents in the room safe, leave them at the front desk. This makes the hotel staff accountable for your passport safety.
If either one of these options is not available to you…
Keep your passport close
If you are carrying your documents in your purse/ bag, don’t leave your purse on the chair while you go to the restroom, regardless of what country you are traveling to. If you are seated, do not hang your bag over your chair.
A good option is to carry your passport in a waist belt, around your neck, or in your front pants pocket. (Never carry your wallet and/or passport in your back pocket).
If you are in crowded areas or open-air markets, be vigilant of pickpockets. Keep in mind—pickpockets are professionals. They can slip your wallet or passport out of your pocket without you even noticing. And they have many tricks! While in Spain, one person was trying to engage me in conversation while his friend was unzipping my backpack. Also in Spain, some guy was trying to play “football” with me and without me noticing, slipped my passport out of my pocket. It is a cynical thing to say but if you are traveling, be wary of strangers and do not let people into your personal space no matter how innocent it may seem.
Use zip-lock bags to protect essential documents
How to keep your passport safe from moisture damage and accidents? Use resealable zip-lock bags to protect them as best as you can.
Store your passport in a quart size or sandwich size zip-lock bag before you place it in your travel wallet or money belt. These accessories are great but a zip-lock bag offers you extra protection from moisture. Yes, this is a hassle but consider the alternative.
Did you lose or damage your passport while traveling through South Africa? Here’s where to find the US Consulate.