running belts, Smartphone Tips, Travel

Five Clever Tips for Keeping Your Passport Safe

keeping your passport safeWhether you are heading out of the country for a far-flung family vacation, or jetting off to some exotic locale for a honeymoon, it’s important to remember to keep your guard raised while in an unfamiliar place.

That doesn’t just mean protecting yourself and your loved ones either, but also your belongings and your important travel documents. Your passport is your key to get back home and your core form of identification in a foreign country, so keep these five tips in mind for keeping your passport safe.

1) Store It Safely In A Money Belt or Running Belt

running beltThe best way to keep your passport safe while traveling is to keep it as close to your person as possible. Handbags and backpacks can be misplaced or put down, and things can easily fall out (or be picked out) of your pockets. A money belt will keep your most important belongings in a safe and secure place that is easily accessible to you, but not to anyone else. Some world travelers even opt to wear their money belts under their clothes so as not to draw attention while in unfamiliar places.

Of course, there are numerous types of money belts available. eHolster has a specialized running belt with two stretch pouches perfect for stowing not just a passport, but also your wallet, your smartphone, your car keys, hotel key, emergency cash, and any other important travel documents. Other brands like Eagle Creek and Landing Gear are also known for travel money belts.

2) Keep Your Passport In An In-Room Safe At Your Hotel

in room safeSome world travelers like to limit the number of things they take with them when exploring new cities or locales, and leave things like passports and other key documents inside the hotel room. If your hotel room has a safe or some other secure place to store your passport, it’s a good idea to take advantage of this. Be sure the safe is one that you set the access code and not one that comes with an access code. After all, you never know whether or not you can trust hotel staff, and it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the document that will enable you to get back to your home country.

If your hotel doesn’t have a safe, you can judge whether or not to leave your passport in the hotel based on the reputation of the hotel itself, the feel and atmosphere of the place, and whether or not there are any good, secure hiding places. Otherwise, keep it in a safe or hidden in your money belt. Neither option is perfect, but there’s peace of mind to be had by having your passport tucked against your stomach or hip rather than sitting in the drawer at your hotel.

Alternative: Ask the Front Desk

If your hotel room doesn’t have an in-room safe, but you don’t want to tote your passport around as you explore a bustling city, head down to the front desk and ask if there is a safe in the back where they can store guests’ valuables. Not all hotels will have this option, but many will be happy to keep your passport safe in exchange for a solid cash tip.

3) Only Access Your Passport When Necessary

The benefit of carrying your passport and other belongings in a money belt, versus a backpack or pocket, is that would-be thieves won’t know it’s there. By tucking your money belt under your clothes, you are better able to blend into the crowd in a foreign environment, instead of instantly identifying yourself as a tourist who probably 1) is carrying valuables, and 2) doesn’t feel completely comfortable with where they are. With that said, if you simply go into your money belt anytime you need to pay for a meal or check your phone, then you are going to quickly identify yourself as a target and show thieves exactly where you are hiding all of your things.

As an alternative, have a backpack or purse that you can use as your “day bag.” Stow anything you might need to access regularly (your phone, your camera, cash and credit cards, etc.) in your day bag, and keep your most important items (your passport, your driver’s license, your hotel key, airline tickets, emergency cash, etc.) in your money belt. This way, if you get robbed, it will be a blow, but not nearly as disastrous as it could have been.

4) Know Where You Are Going

mapOne of the best things you can do to protect not just your passport, but yourself while visiting a foreign country, is to simply look like you know where you are going and what you are doing. In other words, don’t play the tourist stereotype.

Instead, do your homework long before you get on the airplane and jet off for a trip. Decide which attractions you want to see and which restaurants you want to visit, plan daily agendas for checking them all out, and map out how you are going to get from point A to point B and so forth. Will you take public transportation or will you walk? If you are planning on walking, how far are the distances, and which streets will you take? Will you be in a safe part of town, or an area that is regarded as a bit sketchy? Also, will you be getting back to your hotel after dark? If so, it’s good to have a backup plan to avoid walking in potentially poorly lit parts of the city.

Bottom line, the more fleshed out your trip plan is, the less you will look like a fish out of water. It’s also not a bad idea to research how locals dress and to learn about different local customs and trends. You want to blend in as much as possible, because the more invisible you are, the less likely it is that a thief is going to target you or those belongings you are hiding in your money belt!

5) Know How To Respond To An Emergency

pick pocketIf your passport does get stolen, there are a number of things you should do immediately, such as contact the local authorities, followed by the U.S. embassy in the city you are visiting. Online, it’s easy to find procedures for reporting the theft of a passport and canceling the document so that the risk of identity theft is minimized. By familiarizing yourself with these emergency procedures before your trip, you can avoid the sense of paralyzing panic that often strikes tourists when their passport is misplaced or stolen overseas.