When traveling abroad, there are so many do and don’ts that we must keep in mind in order to keep ourselves safe in a foreign country. In planning one of my trips for 2019, Kiera and I came upon the question of whether to keep your passport on your person when traveling or to leave it in the hotel safe. Kiera is a firm believer in keeping your passport in the hotel safe along with a copy of the passport. I, on the other hand, can see why some people would leave it in the safe and why others would keep it on their person. So I decided to google the question, hoping to find a definite answer, but all I found was a 50-50 split. In looking through several travel forums, there was no common answer. So Kiera and I are going to go through both sides of the question in order to understand both options.
For those people who choose to carry their passport on them, the two most common reasons I’ve seen was:
1. It is often your only form of valid ID in a foreign country and
2. If anything were to happen where you needed to leave the country immediately, you’d rather have your documents with you than having to detour to the hotel to get them.
These are very valid reasons in my opinion, because what if you have an encounter with the country’s police and they ask for ID, or an encounter with any official, business owner, tour guide, etc who may ask for identification. Of course you could give them your driver's license, but what happens if they don’t accept that as ID. You also simply never know what may happen when abroad, and if an evacuation is needed immediately, you may not even have time to go back to your hotel. Some may say, well this isn’t something that happens often or these are extreme cases. But it is an extreme case that is unpredictable and requires preparedness at all times. It’s just like when we buy travel insurance, you may not end up using it but being prepared is better than not being prepared. Another reason I came across dealt with travelers who don’t necessarily stay in hotels or who may not always have access to a safe or secure place to put their passport. This is especially true for backpackers who often stay in hostels, with host families, and basically living out their backpack for their whole trip. Leaving their passport somewhere secure in this case may not be an option, so holding it on your person is the only option. And then let’s also address the fear of having your passport stolen from your room. We all know of a situation where belongings were stolen from a hotel room, so, while a rarity, it’s not hard to believe that someone can steal your passport from your safe. While it is a secure location, hotels tend to have backdoors to get into a safe if the customer forgets their code or there's a malfunction. It is important to acknowledge that the safe really isn’t a 100% secure location. Anyhow a safe can be accessed by someone other than yourself, your valuables are never 100% safe. We know this to be true of hotel safes. Now, knowing that, would you rather keep it on your person and in sight at all times, or rely solely on the safe to protect your documents. And for those who say well what if your purse gets snatched with your passport in it or what if someone pickpockets you: a disguisable money belt or neck belt is the answer. If you wear it underneath your clothing and disguise it so it isn’t known to the thieves that you are wearing one, it makes stealing it that much harder. These are only a few reasons that I came across or could think of, but I’m sure there are other reasons why certain travelers carry their passport on their person rather than leaving it in a secure location. Kiera on the other hand is going to present reasons as to why she’s a firm believer in keeping it in a safe.
For me (Kiera) taking my passport everywhere with me is not an option. I’m already a clumsy and forgetful person. I can loose my car keys and credit card in 5 seconds flat! So when I travel I have anxiety when I have my passport on me, but what if i need identification? I carry color photograph copies AND my US driver's license during the day AND have a photograph of my passport on my phone at all times. While I know that the laws vary from each country about what constitutes ID, I personally have never encountered a problem using my US driver's license within Europe. I have stayed in hostels and hotels and have felt safe leaving my passport in both environments, all the hostels I’ve stayed in have individual lockers that are either code or card dependent to open and the hotels have safes.. For me my main worry is that I will be mugged on the street, I can live with people stealing my cards / cash and driver’s license but my PASSPORT?!? (*Insert Soulja Boy Meme Here*) Especially at night if I go out to party, the last thing I want to worry about is having my passport on me, I will lose it! I know I will, I lose everything!! For me there are two worst case scenarios when dealing with your passport abroad:
1. You having your passport on you at all times:
a. You get mugged / lose the passport
b. Contact the nearest embassy to replace your passport,
c. Hopefully you were not attacked and/or assaulted during this incident
d. You could potentially wind up with no cash, no cards, AND no passport
2. You leave the passport at the hotel in the safe:
a. An employee would have to break into your safe to get your valuables (highly unlikely)
b. There is most likely video footage of this theft / person entering your room
c. Most likely you were not present and in harm's way
d. You will have to contact the nearest embassy for your passport but will have your cards and cash (that was on you), and your US driver's license, which is some form of ID that the embassy identifies.
For me this makes the most sense because unless someone is mugged on the street and their hotel / hostel is robbed (you literally would have to have the worst luck) then you have at least some form of identification that is secured. And while traveling around, I have not had any personal issues using my US Driver’s license and/or a copy of my ID when dealing with police, or places I need identification to get into.
Although I was playing devil’s advocate for those who travel with the passport on their person, I’m a leave it in the safe kind of girl, for the exact reasons Kiera mentioned above. I lose everything and anything, and not having to worrying about losing your passport while abroad is one of the benefits of leaving it in the safe. But essentially in boils down to your personal preference and your travel plans. If you are kicking back on a beach somewhere just relaxing, there’s no real reason why you can’t leave your passport in your safe, but if your backpacking through a country, more often than not your passport is going to be on your person. If you don’t lose things easily like us, then losing it wouldn’t be a worry of yours. Some people just feel comfortable having their passport with them at all times, while others feel comfortable knowing it’s in a safe and secure place. But if one things for certain there is no consensus on this matter, so it boils down to what you feel comfortable doing.
What is your take on this debate? Do you leave your passport in a safe or do you rather carrying it with you at all times?