Protect Thy Passport: Safety Tips for Your Passport When Traveling
by Audrey Scott
Oh, the places your passport can take you. That is, if you keep it safe and protected. It really doesn’t take a lot of work or expense to take a few steps towards passport safety and peace of mind when you travel. Whether you’re on a Holy Land Pilgrimage or traveling elsewhere, here are a few passport safety tips for your next trip abroad.
1. USE A PASSPORT COVERNot only does a cover keep your passport in good shape, but a passport cover from another country can be used to keep things low key and to keep people guessing. My passport cover is from the Czech Republic.
2. KEEP YOUR PASSPORT IN AN RFID BLOCKING SLEEVE OR COVERUsing an RFID blocking sleeve for our passports is something that we’ve started doing the last few years as hacker technology has improved. Same goes for protecting your debit and credit cards. It’s just better not to take any risks.
And, the RFID blocking sleeve also serves the purpose of providing an additional level of physical protection for the passport. It’s inexpensive and easy to buy a set of RFID blocking sleeves for passports and credit cards or to buy a passport cover that already includes RFID blocking technology.
3. MAKE A LAMINATED, WALLET-SIZED COPY OF THE MAIN PAGE OF YOUR PASSPORT.This is our top passport safety tip. Think of this as the updated version of “carry a photocopy of your passport.” And it’s easy to make at the neighborhood copy shop. While it’s necessary to hand over your actual passport to a border guard or immigration officer, there are countless other situations (e.g., hotel desks, credit card ID, local transport booking) that may require nothing more than something with your name, photo, and passport number on it.
That’s where a credit card-sized laminated photocopied version of the front page of your passport (that fits easily in your wallet) comes in handy. And, it won’t disintegrate as rapidly as a regular paper photocopy. You’ll be surprised how often this official, yet not-at-all-official, piece of plastic works.
Here’s the big advantage of this laminated passport copy — it’s one more opportunity to keep your passport in your money belt (or wherever you happen to store it), locked away at the hotel, and one less opportunity to accidentally leave it somewhere. Be sure to keep the copy handy (we keep ours in our passports), but away from your passport original.
A U.S. Passport Card
Note for U.S. citizens: It’s also possible to apply for a U.S. Passport Card that is essentially an official version of the laminated copy. The cost is $65 for 10 years, the same length of time as your passport. It can also be used as an official identification if you are traveling to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
4. KEEP AN ELECTRONIC COPY OF THE VISA TO THE COUNTRY YOU’RE TRAVELING IN ON YOUR PHONE.Every time you enter a new country take a photo of your visa from that country and keep it handy on your phone. This will show the date you entered, the date the visa expires, and that you are in the country legally.
This was one that we learned on a recent trip to the Comoros Islands. Not only did the police during a road stop in a random village want to see our passports (and we used our laminated passport copies for that), but they also wanted to see our visa for the Comoros Islands.
5. MIND YOUR PASSPORT.If you’re at home, keep your passport in a secure, dry place. (And no, running your passport through the laundry does not qualify as “minding it.”) On the road, keep it in your money belt or some other place that is zipped or locked up, out of sight and hard to get to.
The worst place to keep your passport?
Stuffed in the back pocket of your jeans or an exposed pocket of your backpack. It screams, “Please lose me!” or “Please steal me!” We’re astounded by how often we see this on the road.