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Carrying a passport in Paris?

I found this topic sometime back in the travel form but I cannot now locate it. Does anyone happen to know when it was published? Or does anyone have advice for the pros and cons of caring a passport while in Paris, or other parts of France for that matter?

Posted by
7630 posts

You'll get divided opinions on this.

I wear a moneybelt and I carry my passport when I am out and about during the day in Paris. Sometimes I'll leave it in the hotel room if I am just headed out nearby to dinner but in general always have it with me. I know others are comfortable leaving it in their lodgings but to me it is your only form of acceptable ID and shows you are allowed to be present in a country.

Now, this sounds completely paranoid, but I always want to be able to complete an exit strategy without returning to the hotel in case of something horrendous happening. I know I've got better chances of winning the lottery but I always have my passport, my extra credit and debit cards and my extra cash in deep storage in my money belt. I can go anywhere including home if I need to.

Posted by
1141 posts

Always on me. But I can deal while I step three doors down for pastry--just extra careful crossing the street.

Posted by
1010 posts

I seem to remember versions of this but can't recall if it was on this forum or on the RS Travel Facebook site. If I remember correctly the law is that you must be able to produce a National Identification upon request, which means a driver's license is not adequate. From their the conversations go downhill on leaving it in the safety of your hotel room because whomever replied has never been asked to show it. Personally, I carry mine in a moneybelt at all times because losing it or having it stolen from your room would be a significant pain in the butt.

Posted by
1069 posts

There are two requirements for carrying identification:

  1. You must carry official government identification (does not necessarily need to be from the French government). This is required of everyone to include French citizens.
  2. You must have proof you are in the country legally - only your passport fulfills this requirement. Passport copies are not proof of your being in the country fewer than the 90 day Schengen limit. Only the dated entry stamp as an integral part of your passports does this.

Of course carrying your passport fulfills these requirements. I have talked with American Embassy staff and was told that during the busy vacation season, they process almost 200 requests per week for replacement passports which have been lost or stolen. A lost passport can be very expensive as you may not leave the Schengen zone until your passport has been replaced and new, one way airline tickets home are not inexpensive nor is extending your hotel reservation.

I recommend carrying some form of ID, a drivers license for example, and leaving your passport nearby such as in the hotel safe. If anyone really wants to take your status beyond a simple presentation of ID, your passport is never far away. US drivers licenses, those marked with the gold star, are official, government identification documents.

Posted by
4805 posts

Actually there are a number of threads on this, France and about everywhere. Lots of varying opinions and thoughts. My take:

  • Yes, in many places, as a visitor, you are required to carry your passport on your person.
  • However, if I am just wandering around the neighborhood or out for a meal, I typically leave it, and nearly everything else back at the hotel.
  • If I am going to be out all day, taking public transport or venturing more than an easy return to my hotel, then I usually pack it along with everything else.
  • If I am taking the train, heading to another town, and certainly if I am crossing a border (despite Schengen) then I always have it on me.

Your major concern would be if there is some event that raises Police alerts or just Security checks that seem to happen in conjunction with transport systems. Of course, common sense would dictate having some type of identification on you at all times in case you are hit by the proverbial bus, that need not be your passport, but something.

Posted by
8889 posts

There have been many posts about this on the forum, and they usually descend into heated arguments between two sides:

  • According to the law, you must carry valid ID with you. And for a non-EU foreigner, the only legally valid ID is a passport.
  • Many consider a passport a super valuable item which is a target for thieves (which it isn't) and want it keep it locked away. A passport is also a pain to carry all the time (it is big).

And AFAIK nobody has posted that they were asked for their ID by the police when out on the street, and were arrested for not having their passport on them.
Think of it this way, you need a driving licence if driving, but how many times have you been asked to show it?

I do not have a good opinion of money belts. I have never owned one. They are for use carrying valuables when travelling between destinations in high theft-risk areas, for items you do not trust in your luggage. They are not for use when you are just out for the day.

Conclusion: do you want to obey the letter of the law, or do you want to remove the small risk of you loosing it (and accept the miniscule risk of being asked for ID by the police) and leave your passport in your hotel? Your choice.

If you are crossing a border you absolutely do need to carry your passport, though I admit I have crossed borders without a passport in the past.

Posted by
1010 posts belts...They are not for use when you are just out for the

Why? Also, check your trip insurance for theft, including your credit card insurance, my credit card specifically says theft from a room safe is not covered unless there is physical evidence of the room being broken into. Seems like a very good reason to use a moneybelt instead of the safe.

Posted by
6125 posts

US drivers licenses, those marked with the gold star, are official, government identification documents.

Outside the US, I doubt the gold star would mean anything, even if its presence was understood.

All it is good for is ID for domestic US air travel. ( apart from driving privilege)

Posted by
2661 posts

I always carry mine with me other than as someone said, to go get coffee or a pastry. Then, it’s with my wife. Seldom will we leave it in the room safe when we go out for the day.

Posted by
4943 posts

Using a drivers license as an ID is a peculiarly American thing. It doesn't tell anyone you're there legally. European countries have national identity cards. US laws and customs do not supersede all other countries' laws. Sure, plenty of average-looking middle aged people get away with not having their passport with them - police like to avoid paperwork there as well. But I wouldn't count on it if you look like a migrant, or stumble into a high security area.

Posted by
285 posts

I've been stopped on the street and asked for ID, I have also been on a bus that was stopped and everyone (including the driver) was asked for ID, Neither times have I had issues because I always carried my passport until I was issued my French documents which I now carry all the time.

Just seems easier than explaining why I don't have any ID in a language I am not fully comfortable speaking when under stress

Posted by
443 posts

I have always felt my passport was safer in my luggage in my hotel room than on my body. And the consequences of losing the passport are too big a hassle for me to want to risk. However, when I renewed my passport this year, I ordered the new, optional Passport Card. My plan is to carry this out and about with me. It isn't valid for air travel or immigration, but is a U.S. Government issued ID. And if it is stolen or lost, it isn't nearly so catastrophic or PITA as losing a passport.

Posted by
8569 posts

I always want to be able to complete an exit strategy without returning to the hotel in case of something horrendous happening. I know I've got better chances of winning the lottery but I always have my passport, my extra credit and debit cards and my extra cash in deep storage in my money belt. I can go anywhere including home if I need to.

My thoughts exactly. With my passport and credit card I can always get home. I keep everything in a Hidden Pocket type moneybelt that hangs down inside my pant leg. I hardly feel it. I never leave home without it.

I never use the hotel safe for three reasons.

--One, they always seem to not want to open when you are in a hurry to leave.

--Two, it's easy to forget something in the safe. I once found someone's cell phone in a room safe.

--Three, there are a few universal override codes that hotels use to get into a locked safe. They are easily found on the internet. (And that's also why hotels state they are not responsible for items stolen from room safes.)

Posted by
1010 posts

This link states that a Driver's License is not valid ID for EU nationals so I would have to think it's not valid if it's from the U.S.

I have always felt my passport was safer in my luggage in my hotel
room than on my body. And the consequences of losing the passport are
too big a hassle for me to want to risk.

We have polar opposite opinions on the same topic. I keep it with me for the same reason, to much hassle if I were to lose it. Love this forum for all the diverse opinions.

Posted by
30 posts

From tales I hear from acquaintances of pickpockets stealing wallets or handbags, it is good to remember that Paris is the most visited city in the world, and the chances that you might be asked by a policeman your passport (and I mean walking about in the streets, doing regular tourist activities), are close to zero.

But the consequence of having a passport stolen is a ruined holiday. The alternative would be having a photocopy of the passport with you, and the original back at the hotel, as this should be enough for most situations.

Posted by
1141 posts


All issues solved.

Except looking like a doofus.

But I never fear any potential pick-pocket siti'ation.

Posted by
1069 posts

The only correct answer is to carry your passport.

Anything else is a trade off - full compliance vs. document safety/convenience.

Anyone who has traveled on cruise ships to Schengen countries around the Mediterranean or Baltic knows that cruise lines keep your passport while you are visiting the port city, sometimes you venture out well beyond the port city. This is done somewhere in the Schengen zone every day. You are told to carry government identification such as a drivers license or govt identity card. Library cards or student IDs do not qualify, but you will not have your passport.

I have been stopped by the French police several times, usually while driving, and my drivers license has sufficed. These were routine stops and my being in the country legally was never questioned. As a practical matter, I protect my passport, keeping it relatively close but not necessarily on my person. If someone really wants to check my visitor status, it´s always relatively easy to do. Passport copies are pointless to carry as proof of valid entry into the country as only the entry stamp as in integral part of the passport can do that.

If I visit a Préfecture or some other government agency on business, I have my passport. Otherwise, the risks of losing a passport outweigh the possibility of my being arrested for simply keeping it near.

Posted by
341 posts

Thanks so much everyone for all the great input. I think everyone is right. So… My current plan is to leave my passport at the rental where I am staying (very small chance of someone breaking in and stealing it, but no safe available). I will carry, as I always do my drivers license (no star on it, oh well) and a paper copy of my passport. Realizing that the paper copy of my passport does not have an entry stamp on it I will take a photo of my passport after it has been stamped. I would think that these various strategies together might provide even the French police with at least some doubt as to whether or not I am a dangerous criminal. Of course, I could produce my passport if I was allowed to go back to the apartment. I completely agree with those who are not comfortable carrying their passports in their pocket or purse. Never! I use a waist money belt while actually traveling from point A to point B. But it has enough credit cards, passport, euros, emergencies numbers etc. in it to make it fairly thick and it is quite uncomfortable for daily wear. Unfortunately, I have neck issues and cannot wear a money belt around my neck. My husband and I have been stopped twice by French (Metro/bus) police but all they wanted to see was our stamped tickets. On that note, be very sure that you discard any used tickets as evidently the stamp does not always show up so it may look unused but if, in fact, it is used again you can get a big fine as we found out, much to our dismay..

Posted by
4124 posts

Paris, especially at the RER from CDG airport is terrible for pickpockets.

Seriously, you must have a money belt or at least a neck wallet with most of your cash and passport secured.

When I go to Europe, I always put my passport in my hotel safe and carry a photocopy of the passport. I lived in Europe for four years and never carried my passport. I always carried my driver's license even though I might not be driving.

Posted by
119 posts

IMO, If a country's law requires visitors to carry their passports, it seems pretty clear that that's what we should do, regardless of how inconvenient or worrisome we might find it. It's the law.

Posted by
11411 posts

I don’t carry it - unless taking a daytrip out of city ( in case trains go on strike or break down or whatever and I need to get a hotel room )

I haven’t carried it around since 1976 .

And I’ve never worried about an “‘exit plan “ - guess I don’t have that gene . Mind you I’ve only been to mostly 1st world countries - if I was visiting a third world or war torn country I would of course act differently

Posted by
2409 posts

Paris has a US Embassy. I am not worried about losing my passport when I largely am traveling near an embassy. It’s not that time consuming to replace my passport in the unlikely event it is stolen. I am more concerned with losing all my money so I do separate my financial cards. My passport is often just in my purse.

Posted by
45 posts

I have never carried my passport on me while out for the day except on my last trip.
rented a car in costa rica and the law says you must have your passport on you while driving . so on the 1st day driving , took my passport with me for the day ….
when for a hike on arenal then off to the hot springs and of course I fell in . camera , phone and passport all in the river . phone worked right away , camera took over a week to dry out and work and luckily the passport dried out and was ok again .

the only way ill do that again is have a dry bag inside my pac

Posted by
771 posts

Identification and proof of legal entry are two different things. The only proof, generally, that tourists have of legal entry is the passport stamp. That is why a passport or other proof of legal entry is supposed to be carried with you at all times. Your decision of course. But keep in mind that ID documents and legality of stay documents are two different things.

Posted by
21 posts

I’ve been carrying my passport with me either in my money belt (if I don’t anticipate needing it), in my travel scarf with secret pocket (nice for the plane/airport), or in my locking cross body bag (if I will be checking into a new hotel/will otherwise need easy access). My daughter has been using hers as proof of eligibility for free/reduced cost entry, so she has been using her travel scarf or locking cross body bag.

I worry more about NOT having my passport when I need it vs. losing it/having it get stolen. I put it in a ziploc bag before it goes in any of the three places I carry it to protect against sweat or other liquids.