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Passports

Some information please. This is our first trip to Europe and first using passports. All the travel catalogs show lots of items for carrying your passports. Are you supposed to have it on your person always, or can you keep in the hotel safe during sightseeing? We plan to travel with passport , license.

Posted by
2768 posts

Legally in many countries you are supposed to have your passport on you. Commonly recommended is to carry it in a money belt/other pouch UNDER your clothes and never access it unless needed by authorities. This is very rare -
I have never heard of it happening outside of a driving accident. But it could happen. That is, rare in the western/Central European countries I am familiar with. Some other countries may have frequent ID checks, I don't know.

Personally many travelers are comfortable leaving it the in-room hotel safe in some situations. I do this when staying in the city sightseeing. I worry about theft and the safe is safer. But I f I am taking a day trip to a new town or driving anywhere I always have mine with me. In those cases I couldn't get back to the hotel to get it easily and when driving accidents are a real possibility.

Posted by
8065 posts

Laws are different in each country. Please look up the ID requirements for a pedestrian for each country in case you were stopped. Or ask the forum.

Some countries it is ok just to carry a copy and your state id or driver license.

Some travelers keep their passports in a hotel room safe. Some you will hear here worry that it will get stolen out of the safe or that they will forget to take it out of the safe after check out. Some put it in a locked suitcase in their room and just carry the id and a copy of the passport.

Most of the time in 20 trips in 15 years to Europe I have locked it up in the safe in my room (as these are more prevalent today than 10-15 years ago) or left it in my bag as it is not comfortable carrying a passport especially hot weather. I have the same around the neck passport holder that goes under the clothes that I bought in 2002. Now they make these to hold smart phones as well.

Posted by
20461 posts

It is your legal ID in Europe, and the stamp you get on arrival shows you are there legally. So any interaction with authorities you will have to show it. As as side note, if you are shopping for any big ticket items you might claim a VAT refund, having your passport will help the clerk get a start on the paperwork.

Posted by
380 posts

I always carry mine. It's my only form of international identification. I leave my drivers license at home.

Posted by
14263 posts

I am on the side of having my passport with me at all times. It’s in my money belt and, as specified above, under my clothing. I also have it in a small ziplock bag so it doesn’t get damp from perspiration.

I drive to the airport so I have my driver’s license with me. It’s also handy to have as some museums/churches want you to leave a form of ID if you use an audio guide. I’m not leaving my passport but I’m ok with leaving the DL.

Posted by
8889 posts

I confirm what the others said. A passport is your legal ID, it is you proof you are in the country legally. A foreign licence is not ID and is not proof you are legal.
Some countries require you to carry ID at all times, some don't. It is very unlikely a tourist would be stopped by the police and asked for ID, but it could happen.

Finally, keep calm. A passport may be exotic to you, but everybody in Europe has one. It is not super valuable to a thief. Mine sits on the table by the door, and whenever i think I might be crossing a border, including today, I put it in my bag or (zipped) coat pocket

Posted by
1332 posts

I never have it with me unless I'll need it to check into a hotel or tour a government building. I leave it in the in room safe or else hide it in the room and take a photo of it on my phone. The chances of law enforcement demanding the physical copy of it after I show them the scanned copy I have on my phone are extremely remote. If it ever did happen, then, sure, I'd lose time out of my trip to have the officer come back to the hotel to see the physical copy. But, I can't imagine that happening as I'm not working illegally, I'm not overstaying, and I can answer basic questions without seeming suspicious.

Posted by
2788 posts

I have gone to Europe 14 of the last 16 years and have always carried my passport in a zip lock bag (to protect from moisture) in my money belt that I always wear. That way I know where it is all of the time and if I need it I have it with me.

Posted by
19 posts

Thanks to all who replied. I will be shopping for some sort of concealed passport holder.

Posted by
4012 posts

Thanks to all who replied. I will be shopping for some sort of
concealed passport holder.

I use this Eagle Creek money belt. Pick any money belt that works for you. That said, the point of a money belt is that it REMAINS CONCEALED. You will need access to it at the airport, for example, so this is NOT the time to put the passport in the money belt. If you find you need something you have kept securely in your money belt (cash, credit cards, passport), go to a private stall toilet and get what you want and then put it back in the same kind of privacy.

I keep my passport with me always because you'll never know when you'll need it.

Posted by
14263 posts

Continental makes s good point about having your passport available at your arrival Border Control point. I travel solo and am also slightly concerned about leaving money/passport unattended in my purse or daypack on the plane when I leave my seat.

I use this Eddie Bauer Connect travel wallet while I’m in transit.

http://www.eddiebauer.com/product/connect-travel-wallet/82300048

I load my phone, passport, enough money for a taxi from the airport to the hotel and a credit card in here and the rest in my money belt. I put both in my purse/backpack to go through airport security then head for a bathroom and put both of them on.

Posted by
5059 posts

Glad to see you've decided to use a money belt or concealed passport holder of some type. A month or two ago one of the regular posters on the forum made a very interesting observation. With a passport and credit cards one can go almost anywhere. Although it is very unlikely to happen, one could encounter a natural disaster, civil uprising, medical problem, or terrorism that could prevent one from returning to the hotel. Even if one had to abandon the luggage and other "stuff" at the hotel, with a passport and credits cards one would be in a much better position to cope with whatever the situation.

Posted by
1395 posts

Continental reminded me of a poster from the past. The couple had brought their money belts, but had not put them on for the flight over. They had planned on putting their items in it when they arrived at the hotel. They noticed after they got off the metro that their carry on bag was unzipped and their passports were gone.

Posted by
3521 posts

I carry my actual passport with me at all times while out of the US. I place it in a sandwich sized Ziplock baggie and then put that in my money belt along with other things like large sums of cash I got from an ATM. The money belt is then worn under my clothes and not accessed in public for any reason other than to pull out my passport (which I have had to do only once in 12 years of travelling to Europe).

A driver license/state ID is useless outside the US or your home country unless you plan on driving. If you do drive, you will also need an International Driver Permit (available at AAA for around $20) which is a translation of your actual license into a format and language that most police in the world can understand. You need to have both your actual license and the IDP if you want to rent a car.

Many people claim they only carry a copy of the picture page of their passport and that is all they would need. They also state if the police need to see the real thing, they would happily follow you back to your hotel to get it. I call bull on that. What happens in the US if you get stopped by the police and don't have ID? Best case is you get a ticket and a court date to explain to the judge why you had no ID with you. Worst case is you get thrown in jail until someone you know can show up with your ID. Why would it be any different in Europe if you find yourself in a situation requiring you to show proper ID (and the only proper ID for a foreigner is their passport)? Just carry it with you.

Posted by
4174 posts

I wear my money belt all the time. There are lots of different kinds of money belts. I've tried almost all of them. A few months ago I found the perfect one for me. It is the most comfortable one I have ever worn.

It is this Eazymate one. Obviously, it goes under my clothes, not outside like the picture. You step into it. I do not wear it next to my skin. From the skin out I have bra, shapewear, money belt, panties, pants.

I do put my passport in a plastic bag. I also use plastic bags for the cash and other items I put in the belt. Packing hint: Put the passport or whatever in the plastic bag. Cut off the zipper of the bag. Fold the edges over. This will cut down on bulk, keep the items protected from sweat and allow them to breathe a bit to avoid condensation.

Don't forget that you need an IDP, purchased at AAA, if decide you want to rent a car while in Europe. IDP stands for International Driving Permit and it is a translation of your driver license into several languages. It also has a current passport size photo of you. That goes in my money belt as well.

Posted by
19 posts

Thanks for suggestions. I do have a crossbody travel purse with RFID and wire reinforced straps and locks. Should this be sufficient? The issue will be getting hubby to wear the money belt!

Posted by
335 posts

We take both the required passport and the passport card that is required for travel to Canada & Mexico. We sometimes leave our passport in the room safe and carry the passport card as ID. Better to lose the small one if we do lose one.

Posted by
23470 posts

Mark is dead on. You have all read this before. In statistics, it is call a Type one error or type two. Better to have it and not need it or need it and not have it? Your choice. In 20+ years of travel in Europe we have had to present our passport three times at unexpected situations. I was glad to have it. Without it who knows what the situation might have been. The soldiers/police didn't appear to be in a talkative mood. In this age of heighten security, terrorists threats -- Carry it. Being an American tourists does not convey any special privileges.

Posted by
3521 posts

RFID does nothing unless you have RFID credit cards. There are the ones you only have to wave in front of the terminal without actually touching or inserting them. They will have a symbol on them that looks like a WiFi symbol. The other chip & PIN or chip & signature cards or mag stripe cards are not RFID readable. Your passport will probably be RFID enabled, but if it is a US passport, the cover has the RFID shield already built in and the passport cannot be read unless it is open.

The wire reinforced straps on the bag are helpful to prevent theft of the entire bag, but this only works if you wear the bag all the time. Placing it on the ground or in another seat while you stop for coffee or lunch means anyone who passes by can grab it and be gone before you notice. They have also been shown to be not all that pickpocket proof as well.

So get a money belt or other hidden pocket type of place to keep your own passport and excess cash. There is nothing safer.

Posted by
14263 posts

Mark, I did not know that the US passport had a built in RFID shield. Thanks for the info.

I agree the bag is fine for day use but you should still carry your passport, extra money and cards in a money belt under your clothing.

Posted by
18802 posts

det44ecsd, sounds like you have something similar to what I use. Mine is a very old Pacsafe bag that is about the same size square as a passport and just thick enough to carry a few more things. Not a perfect solution but has worked for about a dozen years.

Most of my travels are Central and Eastern Europe and I just like to obey the law. In addition to 3 times in airports, in the last two weeks, I have had to show my passport once in Montenegro and twice in Hungary (granted, pretty unusual), so it's been convenient.

Posted by
19 posts

Thanks to all for great information. We will be traveling in Germany and Poland, so I don't think it will be a huge issue. However, with the world situation right now, it is probably a good point to carry our passports. How sad that we must prepare for worst case scenario. Anyway, we are very excited for our trip next May.

Posted by
12172 posts

Your passport is your only legal ID (a US drivers license, ID card or even Passport card aren't). Your passport also verifies your immigration status (you are in the country legally). It's better to have it and never need it than need it and not have it.

That said, most of us on this site aren't the type who concern the local police (but maybe local thieves?). If you were asked for your ID and didn't have it, police walking with you to your hotel to get it isn't out of the question.

I carry mine most of the time, but there are situations where I don't (going to the beach as an example). I made a non-prescription purchase at a Pharmacie this trip and they needed my passport. They let me use a photo of my passport that I had on my phone, but they could have just as easily told me to come back with my passport.

You need your passport for certain things, checking into your hotel, buying something from a pharmacy, getting a VAT refund on a purchase and renting a car come to mind. I'm sure there are others. Normally your DL from home will work, as a substitute, to check out an audio guide at a museum, rent a bike or similar situation where they want to be sure you will return an item.

Your DL is needed to drive a car. Depending on the country you may also need an international Driver's Permit (you can pick one up at AAA) which is essentially a translation of your DL.

As for what to carry your passport in? I'm now using a neck wallet almost exclusively. I have a collection of moneybelts, neck wallets, leg wallets, hidden pockets (hang from your belt inside your pants). With slimmer fitting pants, I find I have more room under my shirt. When you walk a lot, you might also sweat quite a bit. I prefer any product that is either waterproof or plastic lined to keep things dry.

Right now, I'll carry a credit and debit card in a front pocket, a small amount of cash (maybe up to 40 euro) in the other front pocket. My lodging key in a back pocket and my phone in the other back pocket (unless I get into a crowded place). When I'm in a high risk place (metro, crowd, major tourist sight), I'll hold on to my phone and put a hand in my pocket with my credit/debit card, the things I'd prefer not to lose. In my neck wallet I carry my passport, backup credit/debit card (from independent accounts), extra cash, and other odds and ends I don't want to lose.