Keeping your passport safe, identification and other cards safe while travelling is incredibly important. Passports are one of the prime forms of identity when you are travelling and provide legitimacy to your presence in a foreign land backed legally and politically through the strength of your home country. Without your passport, you are incredibly vulnerable and the loss will make your return trip incredibly difficult. That does not even go on to mention the potential loss of identity and issues related that could burden you when you do return.
Unfortunately, that makes them a great asset for thieves to steal and puts a target on your back should a crook see it. Losing your documents or getting them stolen is not just an inconvenience, but stressful, and spending sometimes hours on the phone with your bank or embassy can also rack up extra costs, delay your trip and ruin an otherwise great holiday trip.
To keep everything safe and in order, remember these tips and tricks to assure your trip abroad has as few hiccups as possible. Should the unthinkable happen, a couple of extra safety measures could minimize any danger or inconveniences that you may incur and get you right back onto the road to travel.
Keep It To Yourself
It is not uncommon for scam artists to trick you into giving away your documents. The only time you should ever hand over travel documents is at customs and to other law enforcement officers. Even then, always keep them in your sight and, if possible, let them read it from in your hand. Even authority figures have been known to abuse their powers. In some instances, regular people may impersonate cops and trick or coerce you into handing them over.
Do not hand over or even present your documents to people on the street, vendors or other store owners. The only other situation maybe is if you are purchasing something that requires an age limit (like alcohol or tobacco in some countries or a rental car), but in such situations, a copy should suffice. If anybody is insisting that you present your original passport in a scenario that is not expressly required by law, be very cautious. Use your judgement.
When you have no need to present your passport, like when you go to the store or out sightseeing, do not take it with you unless you have to (a couple of countries, like Russia, require tourists to always have it with you). Secure it in a locked safe in your hotel room. If it does not come with a safe, ask the receptionist, as they may be able to get one for you. Should there not be one available, investing in a travel lock for your bag could be worthwhile.
Keep It Out Of Sight
If you do have to keep your passport on your body and you can not lock it away, like when you are travelling between destinations, keep it out of sight. This goes for cards, cash and other documents as well. Keep them in different pockets or bags so that when you take out cash, you are not also revealing your passport — a beacon for opportunistic thieves.
There are plenty of relatively cheap accessories you can invest in to hide them, including specially-designed necklaces, belts and concealed bags. If you do not want to shell out any dough, even storing them in your sock or an inside pocket is better than a back pocket. Wherever you do decide to keep your documents, be strategic and remember where! Nothing screams “rob me” more than kneeling on the ground at a bus stop digging through your bags.
Bring Only What You Need
A terrible idea that many travellers do is to bring way too many documents everywhere they go. Passports are necessarily just about everywhere to enter a foreign country, as are some supplemental travel documents, but do not be the fool who brings their social security card or birth certificate halfway across the world. It has happened before. When you are at one destination for an extended time, do not bring it out to the bar or to every museum. You are asking for disaster.
Choose The Right Credit Card
It is never a good idea to travel with just cash or just a credit card, so it is important to bring both and to keep them separate if possible to minimize the loss in the event of theft. Choosing the right credit card is almost as important as the measures you take to keep them safe.
Not only should you pursue a credit card that offers good points for travel, but one that streamlines freezing or cancelling should you lose it and good overseas support. Some cards charge extra fees in foreign countries, others do not, and some are a hassle to cancel while others work well with you should there be a potential that your identity is at risk. Choose the best one for you.
Keep An Extra Copy (Or Two)
Should you misplace any of your documents or they fall into the hands of a crook, an extra copy stowed away could be the difference between one or two calls and a night of phone tag, website surfing and seemingly endless holds. Photocopy or even transcribe the information from your passport and other travel documents and store them somewhere safe (but not in the same place as the originals).
Leaving a copy with the other people you are travelling with is a good idea as is uploading photos to your phone’s cloud, Google Drive or similar software. Should you lose the documents, you already have all the information and can more easily report them missing and prove your identity should any other issues arise.
Treat Them Well
One of the best ways to keep your documents (and you!) safe is to treat them well. Paper documents can easily be destroyed accidentally or on purpose. Anything as simple as moisture in certain environments can cause damage over time, and if you are using copies, especially so.
Rain can destroy a passport and a waterlogged, destroyed passport is as good as no passport. Laying it on a desk next to your cup of coffee can go south really quickly and, although the whole situation is unlikely, it has happened before. Treat it like you would a brand new phone — or a baby.
Avoid Bad Situations
It is not always easy to do, but try to avoid any bad or potentially dangerous situations. If something feels off, leave the area. Scam artists, pickpockets and muggers tend to target tourists in big cities and even if you have taken the added steps to keep yourself anonymous and your travel documents safe, it could still happen. Try to leave the area as quickly and safely as possible if someone is threatening you, surrounding you or acting suspiciously.