Your passport is what allows you to travel internationally. Unless you are just planning on traveling your home country and possibly a couple of neighbouring countries, you will need to look after your passport like your life depends on it! It is the most sacred possession you will take with you.
There are a few ways you can ensure the safety of your precious passport. I may sound dramatic but I have been in a few situations where I’ve wondered whether my passport is ever coming back to me or terrified I’ve lost it.
I was on a bus going through the Cambodian boarder when a military looking man (holding a gun) came onto my mini bus and took all the passports for ‘checking’ I was wary but I didn’t really want to mess with this guy for starters and everyone else was willingly passing them over so it made me feel a little more confident, although I was scared to death. My passport didn’t come back to me I had to go and find it. One man shouting at me ‘You go, you go, that way, that way!’ another shouting ‘Girl, security, now, passport, go’. Oh so confused. Eventually I ended up at a little wooden shack with a man cramped inside puffing his cigarette in my face with one hand on a stack of passports and holding a stamp in mid air with the other. He asked how long I’d be In the country for and why I was there. Felt like I was in interrogation. He grabbed mine from the top of the pile and shoved it in my face ‘This you?’, ‘Umm, yes’ I replied nervously. Quick stamp of the passport and I was shooed away.
I was thinking, the girl stood behind me looked almost exactly like me, small, blonde long hair. What’s to of stopped her accidently taking my passport. Didn’t seem like the best system.
End of the day, I got my passport back. I held it to my chest for the next 10 hours.
I went straight to an Internet Café and printed out 10 copies of my passport. 10 was excessive but I wanted to have spares. It is also an idea to print out a smaller, passport sized copy of the main page (the one with your picture on) and laminate it. Keep it with you and instead of handing over your real passport to hostels and travel companies, you can hand this over instead which will be sufficient. They just want something with your face, passport number and DOB on it. (Some countries actually offer this sort of thing so it is worth checking with your Embassy).
Take a picture of your passport on your phone and any VISA’s that get stamped or stuck into your passport. Believe me, this has saved me a few times. It’s worth it, even if you are getting multiple visas every few months. I sent a copy of my passport to my Dad as well, just in case. It’s always good to leave a copy with someone that isn’t traveling with you, including yourself.
Keep good care of your passport too. Invest in a waterproof sleeve/ cover. I got mine from Paperchase which is a small stationary store in England. You can buy these online or even in airports for cheap. Try and keep all the pages flat and away from liquids. If you are going white water rafting, leave it at home. Don’t leave your passport lying around your hostel room or poking out the top of your day backpack. You might think it’s only useful to you, but you would be so wrong.
If you have a safe in your hotel/ hostel room, use it. Try not to take it out. This is where the laminate comes in handy. Doesn’t matter if you get it wet or even loose it, at least it’s not the real thing.
When it comes to your passport, don’t trust anyone. Not the hostel owner who wants to keep it in her safe for your stay or the police man who wants to ‘scan something’ in a shed 2 miles away. It always stays with you! Be firm on this, it’s easy to give in to people especially when they pretend they don’t really speak English. Just tell them ‘You can’t have my passport, end of’. If you feel comfortable the person genuinely needs the information let them take a copy in your view then take it straight back. The only place you can trust someone with your passport is at an airport, quite unusual that they actually take it off you or away from you. Although, it has happened to me.
I have been traveling in Asia a few times and I usually rent a moped whilst I’m there. I’ve been stopped by ‘police’ a number of times. I’d hand over my passport and they would ransom it. The first time they told me I needed to pay them 200THB (£5) to get it back and then they would ‘let me off’. I felt relived every time thinking well, glad I got away with that. A few times later I was asked to pay 2000THB (£50), I didn’t even have that much cash on me but I was furious. I asked why I had to pay such an amount, what was I doing wrong? I assumed it was because I didn’t have a Thai driving licence just a UK licence. He told me ‘You English, rich girl, you pay’. I couldn’t help but laugh, I thought ‘Me? rich? Ha!’ I hadn’t showered in a couple days, covered in sun cream, wearing a grubby old top, did I really look like I was rich?
It was only later I realised, compared to him I probably was rich but I wasn’t about to let him have my hard earned cash.
I told him I didn’t have any money, just my passport and my room key. He told me I should come back tomorrow with the money. I said ‘yeah kaaaay’. Obviously, I didn’t. But from then on I never gave my passport to them, just told them I didn’t have anything on me at all. Kept everything (key, money, passport) in a small bum bag under my clothes.
If you do for some reason have your passport stolen, or loose it, you can contact your local embassy. It takes a few weeks but you can get a new one. My friend lost his whilst traveling, and had to pay only £80 for a new one but it took 5 weeks to get to him.
Keep it safe. Treasure it. You’ll want to show your grandkids all your stamps one day!