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Passport- To Carry or Not to Carry

Bonjour !
I am officially 1 month away from leaving on my first trip to Paris ! So excited I can't stand it. I have been studying the metro and bus maps, trying to pick up a little French for ordering in restaurants, planning my itinerary (a nightmare- for another post), but my question today is : Should I carry my passport or leave it in the hotel. I recently called the French Embassy here in Florida to see if there was "travel info" I could have sent to me, but NON. The lady was very nice and gave me lots of suggestions, and safety tips. One of which was do NOT carry your passport, leave it in the hotel safe. Just carry a copy of the passport. I've read that it is "law" to have to carry it, but as this was from a French Official, I tend to believe her. Your thoughts or experiences?

Merci.

Posted by
3346 posts

The advice from the embassy employee is the same that you will see from a lot of people here. Just carry a photocopy of the photo/information page of your passport and leave the real thing in your room safe. I prefer to carry my passport with me 99% of the time. But always safely under my clothing in a neck pouch (DH uses his moneybelt). I keep it in a zip lock bag to guard it from moisture.

Posted by
12979 posts

It varies. When I am out and about on a day trip, say to Versailles, Fontainebleau, Meaux, or Amiens, etc., I always have the passport on me. In Paris itself, most of the time, I carry it, not always. I've changed my behaviour on recent trips in France regardling the passport. Basic rule now is I carry it more often than not, regardless if required or not.

Posted by
3346 posts

Keep the passport safe and sound at the hotel safe. You're not getting
home without it.

One could argue that a few ways

  • is a hotel safe actually safer than a moneybelt or neck pouch? Or just more comfortable?

  • what happens if, God forbid, something happens and you can't get back to your hotel? (Accident or attack)

• actually you could get home if something happened to it. But it might take a couple more days and some work.

Posted by
676 posts

I don't carry it when out and about. I've never needed it when going around the city, and am willing to face the music if an official requests it (what are they going to do, deport me?). But I can be darn sure I'll need it when I head for home.

Posted by
3655 posts

Awhile back an experienced traveler (sorry I don't remember who) stated he always carried it with him and gave an interesting and very wise rational. Basically he said that no matter what happened, as long as he had his passport and credit cards he could do whatever necessary in the event unforeseen circumstances prevented returning to the hotel. Natural disasters (earthquakes and other weather related events), terrorism, an ordered evacuation, and a fire at the hotel are just a few things that could prevent one returning to the hotel. Many will disagree, that is their right, and I respect that right. But I'd rather have it with me and not need it than not have it have a need for it.

Posted by
3339 posts

There is absolutely ZERO consensus on this board.

I would not dream of NOT having my passport with me at all times when I'm overseas; it's my internationally accepted ID. It's inside the money belt which no one knows you wear unless you absentmindedly pull it out in public.

I also keep a photocopy of my passport info page in the hotel safe and leave one at home with my husband if I'm traveling alone or with my brother if my hubby is with me.

Posted by
11973 posts

This is an open debate here. You can see that there are various opinions.

Mine: Your passport is your ONLY valid ID. Not only are you required to have ID but your passport, and only your passport, proves you are in the country legally. I carry mine with me with a few exceptions (beach, spa, swimming pool).

Having said that, it's important to note that most RS readers are seen as low to no risk by the police in the countries we're visiting. The chances of being asked for your passport other than when checking into lodging, making large purchases, getting transportation (rental car, train/plane ticket) are fairly slim. The risk in not carrying your passport is pretty small. If, for some reason, you did need it, there's a good chance you would be able to go back to your hotel and get it.

I did have an unexpected reason to need my passport last trip. I rarely get indigestion, maybe once every two or three years. When I do it can be bad for more than a day unless I kill it with antacid. Last trip I had indigestion and went to a pharmacy. They needed my passport or couldn't even sell me antacid.

Posted by
5262 posts

Brad's experience, bizarre as it seems, validates my preference to carry the actual passport in my neck wallet. I also carry a photocopy of my wife's, and she of mine. A couple of years ago we tried to go into a synagogue in Athens, which was guarded by a police post (sad comment on the state of affairs there). He let me in with my passport, but was reluctant to let my wife in with just the copy she was carrying that day. We looked about as low risk as anyone could. It was Athens not Paris, and an unusual situation (less common than needing antacid, for instance).

But this is not an issue to obsess over as you excitedly plan your trip. Bring a copy of the face page of your passport to keep somewhere other than with the passport, so if it's lost you have the information to replace it. Then carry one with you, and keep the other in the hotel. Chances are 99.99% that it will make no difference either way, and the .01% could break in either direction. Have a great trip!

Posted by
2440 posts

I'm one of those who always has my passport with me - and leave a copy in my suitcase. It's with me, and therefore I don't have to worry about where I left it.

Posted by
308 posts

I like to have my passport in my money belt at all times because I think I'm more likely to forget my passport if I leave it in the hotel safe.

At the Picasso museum in Paris I had to leave my passport as insurance to use the free audioguide.

Posted by
2916 posts

it's important to note that most RS readers are seen as low to no risk by the police in the countries we're visiting.

But how do they know they're RS readers? :-)

I never carry my passport when I'm in France; my wife does, in her bag. Only on very rare occasions won't we have it with us.

Posted by
2057 posts

I have looked these up before, not going to this time, but there are two specific requirements.

  1. You must possess a government issued ID when in public. This is true in most, if not all countries in the EU.
  2. You must be able to prove you are in the country legally.

In reference to the former, any ID will suffice. It need not be a passport, any ID will do.
In reference to the latter, only a passport can prove you´re in the country legally. Photocopies mean nothing because they do not make an integral document showing your ID, picture, passport number and entry stamp.

In a practical sense, keep your passport safe and nearby. I should think that your hotel room is sufficiently nearby. Do not however, leave town without your passport. If you take a day trip to Dijon, take your passport.

Posted by
546 posts

Absolutely DO NOT carry your passport while out for the day. (Unless you are visiting the US embassy for some reason) It is folly. And anyone who tells you you need it for Identification is just misinformed.

The same goes for your tickets. All of it are much much safer in the hotel room/safe.

If you are really convinced you must then carry a photo copy. That is sufficient.

I have lived and worked and traveled in places as diverse as Egypt, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, France and Switzerland and about 30 other countries I have NEVER carried my passport while out for the day. And it has saved me from untold problems.

Posted by
1159 posts

As to leaving your passport for use of an audio-guide -- I once witnessed a young man at the audio-guide desk -- he was the last customer and the last remaining passport was NOT his!
Ooops ...
After witnessing that, I only leave my drivers license, which I carry with me when out and about instead of my passport, which I leave in my hotel room or apartment. And even in situations where I do have my passport in my neck pouch, I won't leave it. It's never been a problem at a museum.

Posted by
3346 posts

I have NEVER carried my passport while out for the day. And it has
saved me from untold problems

I'm intrigued. How has NOT carrying your passport (properly secured) saved you from untold problems?

Posted by
9914 posts

I'm on the side of always carrying it. I travel solo. I have it in a ziplock baggie (to forestall the sweat discussion) in my money belt which I do not get in to in public. I have my deep storage money and CC's/DC's in there unless I am going to the ATM. I do carry my driver's license to use in museums if I need to leave something to rent an audioguide.

In an emergency (as mentioned above, not just terrorism but other emergencies) I want to be able to get on a train and go without trying to get back to a hotel. I really don't have travel fear but I do choose to be prepared.

I also agree with it validating your legal status in a country. I do remember in the dark ages when the Immigration officers boarded the train when you crossed the border from Netherlands to Belgium and Belgium to France, lol!

Is anyone going to think a gray-haired, overweight, senior American female tourist is an illegal? Not likely but I want to abide by the laws of a country I am visiting.

Posted by
70 posts

It's your decision, but we run study abroad trips, and our students are absolutely NOT to carry their passports with them at any time (unless we'll be crossing a border, of course!). I can't imagine why you would ever need it--in 10 years of traveling and working abroad, no one has ever randomly asked to see my passport--I"ve only used it for customs/immigration, or other official business. I've never had any problem with my license being accepted as an id, and this counts the 3 years I lived in France. You should definitely keep a photocopy though, and I'd even update that now to say have an electronic version you can easily access as well (it helps should you need to replace your passport). In 5 years of working with students and international travel, we've had countless purses snatched or pockets picked, but not a single passport stolen.

Posted by
2927 posts

In a city with an American Embassy or Consulate, I just carry my passport in my purse. I leave my passport card and a copy of my passport in my security system in my suitcase along with back up credit card and ATM. If I'm not near an embassy/consulate, I will possibly wear a security pouch or keep the backup information in a spot separate from my original stuff, but on me. So to answer you, I'd just put my passport in my purse when traveling in Paris. However, I'm not adverse to reversing the system and leaving my PP in my suitcase and carrying my PP card and PP copy. Basically, I don't think it makes any difference other than what makes you feel comfortable. Six to one, half a dozen of the other as people say.

Posted by
12979 posts

Re: leaving your passport in order to use an audio guide...the hostel where I've stayed has something similar. To get your card key from them at check-in, they want a picture ID as collateral, so to speak, (I told them as"hostage."), so I handed over my Calif Dr Lic. You don't turn over a photo ID, you don't get the card key that opens your room, dorm or private. I don't know if anyone handed over a passport. I gave them my Dr Lic, did feel nervous about that the first time, not know knowing what the hostel's security system was. Obviously, at check-out when you've turned in the bed sheets, instead of leaving them on the bed, you get the photo ID back.

Posted by
996 posts

Again, loads of various opinions here. I never carry my passport with me UNLESS I am transferring from one hotel to another. Then I have my passport with me. Otherwise, I carry a color copy of my passport with me.

Posted by
2466 posts

If you have a United States passport it clearly says that you can carry a color copy.
I'd leave the real one in the hotel safe. It's a pain to replace the original.

Posted by
11450 posts

I do not carry my passport about.. and I do get audio guides.. I use my DL and they have accepted that at both the Louvre and Orsay.. no way am I handing my passport over to be put in an unlocked drawer( and that is what I have seen them do at the museums)

I have also bought lots of drugs at pharmacies without showing my passport.. was it Brad who said he had to... how bizarre..

Its in my hotel safe unless I leave the city on a daytrip ( in case I get stuck somewhere and need to get a hotel room) .. and when I am in transit I carry it in a moneybelt or my purse ( inner zipper pocket.)

I have seen police stop and ask for id.. but they seem to stop people who look like Roma... not fat white middle aged tourists.. ( moi)

Posted by
8293 posts

Sadly, we seldom stay at hotels upmarket enough to have room safes, so always have our passports securely tucked in money belts We do leave them in the safe of a cruise ship cabin just for the convenience. Few, if any, cruise passengers are practicing pickpockets, in my experience.

Posted by
2916 posts

Sadly, we seldom stay at hotels upmarket enough to have room safes,

No need to say "sadly," Norma. We don't stay at hotels very often, usually gites by the week, but when we do stay at hotels, they rarely have a safe. And we would never leave our passports in the safe. Not for fear of theft, but for fear of forgetting them.

Posted by
3655 posts

momo516

...we've had countless purses snatched or pockets picked, but not a single passport stolen.

Don't mean to be argumentative or snarky, just curious. Did any of your students use money belts and if so was anything every pilfered from them?

Posted by
2466 posts

You don't need a passport for a pharmacie. You only need it for official business, such as getting a visa.

Posted by
118 posts

I've never needed it when going around the city, and am willing to face the music if an official requests it (what are they going to do, deport me?)

Fellow travelers in some other groups I belong to said the French police can detain you up to 4 hours for failure to present appropriate ID. I would hate to have 4 hours of my vacation down the tubes when I could have prevented it by simply carrying my passport. Definitely something I would like to get verified.

Posted by
13715 posts

If you believe it to be the law to carry it, then what is the question; obey the law.

Posted by
3493 posts

If you have a United States passport it clearly says that you can carry a color copy.

Yes, the US Department of State says to make copies of the picture page of your passport to help if you need to have it replaced while you are outside the US. Nothing about the copy being valid for any other purpose and only that it will "help" expedite the replacement process.

Posted by
1126 posts

I won't weigh in on the "carry or leave at the hotel" question, but I wonder why everyone sounds like they're making a physical copy of their passports. I either take a picture of it or use a scanner (preferred option). Then I store that copy on my phone and email a copy to myself so it sits in the cloud on an email server. I feel better about being able to access one of those two copies versus a paper copy.

Posted by
5697 posts

@Paul -- some people do paper copies because batteries sometimes run down or phones drop into sinks or ....
But then, I'm a belt-and-suspenders type.

Posted by
13715 posts

Paul, the OP is going to France!! What if Gypsies steal their phone, access their cloud account and use the picture of the passport to get fraudulent credit cards that they use to buy airline tickets to move their extended family to Boston?? It can happen!!! I have had a photo-realistic tattoo put on my left cheek. That way if i am found face down on the street....... Lets see if the Gypsies can get their hands on that!!

I still suggest following the laws of the country that you are visiting. What ever those may be. I think you will find similar advice on the US State Department website. Beyond that i can think of a dozen arguments for and against.

I spend most of my time in the old Warsaw Pact countries and they all require that I have my passport with me and so i do; despite the fact that there is one city that is a second home and i feel as comfortable there and am as familiar there, as with my US home...

Posted by
13715 posts

Oh, and i also have copy on the cloud and my family has scans as well.

Posted by
11450 posts

barbra .. cleaning staff don't want your passport( and we put it in the safe) .. nor to the desk staff, in fact its a bit insulting to think that desk staff would steal your passport.. I am not sure what you think they do with it..

Posted by
308 posts

This topic is more fun than the roller bag versus backpack debate!

Posted by
8293 posts

Yes, Rita, and a lot more interesting than the never-ending, never conclusive, rather boring discussions on the necessity, or not, of the International Drivers Permit.

Posted by
3329 posts

I believe that some of the angst over having passports stolen stems from the days when the photo could be removed, making the passport usable for someone else. I also think I remember warnings in those days about how U.S. passports were prime targets for certain types of thieves. No more. Presumably you all have current passports, so you know they cannot be tampered with without invalidating them. They don’t have information that would allow someone to inflict financial damage. Yes, it’s a real pain to need to replace one while traveling, so you need to consider whether that’s more likely if it’s with you on the street or locked in your room.

Posted by
13715 posts

Rosalyn, obviously you havent seen any recent spy movies. they can make anything..

Posted by
3329 posts

James, you are correct. I haven’t seen any recent spy movies. However, if “they” can make “anything,” why would they need my passport to do it?
Seriously, while I understand the frazzled state of mind that can result from the constant need to keep track of belongings in unfamiliar territory, I think we should promote some common sense to counter the paranoia that seizes so many travelers.
Forgetting the passport . . . Well, that’s a different story. Since my husband left a good pair of pants in a hotel, I have a rule to always check the closet before leaving. Safes are generally in the closets, so it has been easy to expand the rule to include them.

Posted by
13715 posts

Rosalyn, you are correct! I hadnt though of that. Things are worse than i had imagined. Besides if they want you, they will find you. No sense in trying to hide. There is no hiding!!!!

Posted by
2927 posts

The wonderful Zoe had input on a prior post. She indicated how easy it was to replace her passport; Something in the area of an hour and a half and the cost ended up being reusable for the permanent replacement...? Does anyone recall where this input was? I can't find it now.

Again, there is no right way as we all have different exposures in life. Personally, as a person living in a city, I am used to many people and watching my purse, so I find the money belt/hotel safe overkill in general, other than for organization. I don't wear my safety belt usually, but I know exactly where my backup important cards and documents are located as a result of having one, but people could devise another system. That being said, when I travel solo, I might wear my money belt more depending on where I am, particularly in transport. Again, just keeping items separate and easily located. However, I find it so much more convenient to have the PP, CC and Debit in my purse, just like when I'm at home. And as I said previously, if I'm traveling in and out of a city with an embassy or consulate, I have no worries, easy replacement. I prefer carrying my passport so I can leave at a moment's notice if needed...I'm like Pam in this area (and other areas, lol). I've also had my license rejected as unfamiliar in favor of the passport when using my CC to purchase items.

Posted by
8889 posts

I agree with what James and Rosalyn say. Way back, no spy movie would be complete without some baddie changing the photo in a passport and using it. No more. Photos can't be changed. Lists of stolen and lost passports are forwarded to other countries' authorities. When they scan your passport at immigration, they are checking it against this list. A stolen passport has little value.

Perhaps some of the Angst is due to a passport being exotic. Something you only get for foreign travel. In Europe "foreign" is a few 100Km away, "everybody" has a passport including children, and people carry their national ID cards all the time, and these can be used for international travel within Europe. My passport just sits next to my wallet and keys, so I can put it in my pocket when I leave home.

Posted by
2466 posts

The passports are all digitally controlled now. Fingerprints and everything - easier to scan.