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Passport -- hide it or carry it?

Usually when overseas we have left our passports hiddin in our suitcases in the hotel room. Apart from needing it for the Reichstag Dome tour, is there any reason we would need to have it with us while touring Berlin? To me, it seems more likely that we would just lose it or have our pockets picked than that the hotel maid would rummage through our luggage and steal it. I know Rick suggests a money belt worn under the clothes -- but is there any reason we would actually need to show the passport?

Posted by
126 posts

FWIW, I have traveled throughout the US and Europe for nearly 40 years, and never once has a hotel maid stolen anything from me. If you still manage to be concerned, pick a hotel with a room safe. We leave our passports in the room in our suitcases with iPads and laptops. They're still there when we return. You have a much much much greater chance of dropping/misplacing your passport than having it stolen.

Posted by
23365 posts

Well German law requires you to always be in the possession of legal ID, and the only legal ID for most North Americans in Germany is your passport. Driving licence isn't legal ID, nor is a picture of your passport.

How often do you need to prove your identity at home? You'll probably not exceed that in Germany.

But what if your hotel had an emergency and you couldn't get back to your room? Or if you had an accident of some sort and needed a hospital? Or if there was a reason for police or others to need to or want to identify you?

Germans only need their identity document which easily fits in a wallet.

There are other times you will might need it, such as proving your age for a discount or checking into a hotel or using a rail or transportation pass.

Posted by
4968 posts

"Rick suggests a money belt worn under the clothes -- but is there any reason we would actually need to show the passport?"

You're right that you are more likely to lose it yourself than to lose it to a room break-in.

But when it's strapped to your tummy, it cannot be lost (by you) or stolen (absent a total physical assault.) And youu might need to present a passport to authorities in the event of some incident or accident. Things happen.

If it's in your suitcase, it isn't "hidden" - that's the first place a room thief would hit - and no matter what has happened to one person or another person, there is still a chance that your suitcase or your room will be targeted at some point - a greater chance indeed than the odds you'll be assaulted.

So do as Rick suggests.

Posted by
1063 posts

I’ll get the popcorn ready. These threads are always fun. I never carry my passport with me unless I’m certain I’ll need it. And yes, regardless if local laws demand that I carry ID at all times. Since I’ll never use a moneybelt, I’ll take the chance. I do always have the hotel business card in my wallet along with the room number written down in a code that only people who had Mr R in my high school for physics, calculus, and computer science would understand.

Posted by
1554 posts

Well German law requires you to always be in the possession of legal ID

You have to have an identity card (§1 Personalausweisgesetz / identity card act), but you don't have to carry it around with you. Nor does §48 of the Residence Act for foreigners contain any such obligation.

Posted by
6027 posts

Except when transferring from one location to another I've always left it in my hotel safe. Of course if I think I might need it for anything I would carry it with me in a secure place.

Most countries that require you to have official ID require that you either have it on you or have access to it within X amount of time. I've never felt that I was breaking any laws leaving it in the hotel room.

Posted by
11404 posts

I leave it in hotel safe - unless talking a train out of town to do a day trip .

Posted by
465 posts

In the hotel or stateroom safe when ever possible. If not, on me in either a money belt, inside zippered jacket pocket or pacsaf/travelon cross body bag. Have never needed for anything but airport/eurail security or hotel check in.

Posted by
1878 posts

This quetion comes up every month or two. It's a personal choice. Technically you may be required to show it to authorities, but I have never heard of someone getting in trouble for not having their passport on them. I find that when I try to carry my around in my money belt it gets bent up. At some point a damaged passport could become invalid. That and it's not that comfortable sitting done with a rigid object in my money belt. I think I'm more likely to lose it carrying it on my person rather than leaving it in the room, safe or not. I leave it in the room.

Posted by
3973 posts

The only time I have used a money belt was in Africa and would never use one in Europe or America. I always leave my driving licence and passport in the apartment and it’s never been an issue.

Posted by
6100 posts

I always leave my driving licence and passport in the apartment and it’s never been an issue.

Using this logic 90%+ of homeowners do not need fire insurance, because their house has never burned down, nor do most drivers need auto insurance, as they have not had an accident.

Not picking on Jennifer, but the comments along the lines of 'its never happened to me , so it probably won't happen to you', can lead to a false sense of safety that may or may not be warranted.

Just think it through when you choose your course of action

Posted by
7579 posts

I agree with Nigel. I keep mine safely with me. You never know what may happen in life and I prefer to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

Posted by
30929 posts


I also agree with Nigel and always prefer to have my Passport with me. It always stays safely stored in my Money Belt in a zip-loc bag (to prevent damage from perspiration). I feel this is especially important for a solo traveller, as I have been injured during travels and was unable to get back to the hotel. The Passport was the first thing the ambulance crew and hospital asked to see. If it had been necessary for me to be transported home by air, there's no way I would have been able to get back to the hotel to retrieve my Passport.

Posted by
843 posts

This topic does come up often, and I prefer to carry our passports with me. I like using an Eagle Creek hidden pocket rather than a money belt. Taking things out of it in public is usually not an issue since there is no need to lift up clothing, and if a pickpocketer becomes aware that I am wearing such a thing, it also is not an issue since they cannot access it unless I am to be mugged or my pants are taken off of my body.

Posted by
7639 posts

I leave mine in my hotel, usually in the safe along with a few other items.
In 33 years, I have never carried my passport in Germany. The law states you have to have one, but you do NOT have to have it with you. If the police want it that bad, they will go with you. I have used other forms of ID the few times there was some interaction with the police. They never questioned me about my passport.

If you are driving a car, you should have your passport, going across borders you should have it. Check your train route, sometimes they go over a border if you are near-by.

Raise your hand if you have personally had a housekeeper steal anything from you that you left in your room or if you have had anything stolen from a safe. No 2-hand or 3rd hand stories, hearsay or rumors. I spend a lot of time on TA as well as this page and never, ever has someone said this happened to them. Reading hotel reviews, never ever have I read that either of these 2 things has happened to anyone.

Posted by
164 posts

I'll "jump in." I used to keep my passport in my suitcase, but on a Rick Steves Tour the guide advised us to have our passports with us at all times, so I started carrying it (I'm a real rule follower).
I have been asked for it a couple of times unexpectedly. The last time was in Paris when we were Christmas shopping for our grandkids. The sales clerk asked for my passport when he filled out the VAT form. It made getting my refund instantaneous at the airport. I just swiped the card he gave me at the airport and the $ was credited immediately to our credit card account.
I do feel better knowing my passport is with me at all times.

Posted by
707 posts

Keep it with you securely, you never know when you will be asked for it unlikely though it may be. My wife uses a money belt and I use a neck wallet. If you have it with you at all times, you will never leave it in a hotel room etc. when you check out. We were asked once in three weeks in September when checking into hotels even though we had long standing reservations. We also had to show our passports when taking the ferry from France to Ireland which is an all EU trip. Even though we noticed that folks in Ireland were speaking about the US in the past tense, a US passport still is valuable and you should treat it as such. Likewise you should follow the letter of the German law, it is a law, not a suggestion.

Posted by
17642 posts

I once returned from my day out and found that the maid had left the key in the lock of my room. Fortunately, nothing was missing, but so much for nobody being able to get into your room. But in 20 years, I've never lost anything from my neck wallet, so that is where my passport is going to be.

Posted by
7639 posts

Irv, the EU is not the United States. When you cross a border from one EU country to the next, you need your passport. When you check into a hotel, you need your passport.
Note, it is NOT the law to have your passport on your person in Germany. The law is that you have to have one available, so having it in your home or hotel room is perfectly legal.

Posted by
4073 posts

A US Passport isn’t a hot commodity anymore. Keep it in your room, no one wants it. The law doesn’t require you to carry it.

Posted by
638 posts

Having a passport lost or stolen (less likely, yet it is possible) is going to totally screw up your vacation. You need it to return home to the US. I really don't get what the problem is with an under the clothes money belt. I wear one every day for five week trips in hot weather and it doesn't bother me. After the first day you don't even notice it. And then you don't worry about it being lost OR stolen. It's also a place to keep the 'extra' debit and credit cards.

And just because most people ALMOST never get asked to show a passport mid trip, and most people have never had their rooms broken into, and most people have never lost anything - doesn't mean it won't happen. If it were a huge deal to wear a money belt you might say the small risk isn't worth the big inconvenience. But it's not a big inconvenience. There's a reason Rick and all his other guide book author friends encourage it.

Posted by
3315 posts

It's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Although they rarely occur, there are times when one can not return to the hotel -- accidents, terrorist incidents, natural disasters, fire at the hotel (one burned last year in the UK), and health issues just to mention a few. Don't mean to sound like Debbie Downer but those things do happen. Another poster once opined that with his passport and credit cards he could handle just about anything.

Posted by
4116 posts

We do two types of travel:
1) Multi day tours or cruises (ocean and river);
2) Do it yourself trips where we either rent a car or use rail travel and book our own hotels/B&Bs/day tours.

When on a tour our cruise, we follow the guidance of the tour director or cruise line. Sometimes you are required to take your passport with you, other times you are advised to take ID and/or a photocopy of your passport. Our passports would be secured in our cabins on the ship or if on a land tour our hotel safe.

When on a do it yourself trip, Example, we did a four we drive tour of South Wales and England in 2017 and most of the time kept our passports on our persons, except when we were at a hotel or B&B for more than one night or traveling to the next location.

We have visited 78 countries and I have lived in two foreign countries for a total of 9 years. While working for the US Army in Germany, we never carried our passports with us, but had our IDs that were proof that we were employed by the US Army under the Status of Forces Agreement. While traveling, I have never lost a valuable due to a pickpocket, but had three instances where family members, all women that had their wallets or purses snatched. Had they had their passports with them, it would have been a disaster for us at that time. Also, we have had friends that we met on cruises that had pickpockets take something. I would never go out in Barcelona, Madrid or Paris without wearing a money belt or equivalent. My wife has a pac-safe purse.

Northern Europe is safer regarding pickpockets, but still not immune from them.

I would never leave our passports "hidden" in suitcases in the hotel room. In the old days before rooms had safes, we would deposit our passports and then airline tickets in an envelope in the hotel safe.

One minor issue with wearing a money belt in the Summer in the Mediterranean is that it is hot enough for your perspiration to seep into the passport. Not good, so I put the passport in a small ziplock bag.

Posted by
449 posts

What if there is a hotel fire while you’re out sightseeing? I say carry it.

We were in Mexico years ago and didn’t have our passports on us. There was an emergency and it was hell convincing authorities who we were. I’ll have mine in my pacsafe crossbody bag, which I seriously do not remove until back at the hotel.

Posted by
12086 posts

This last trip in October I always carried the passport in my jacket whenever I was out and about, had to wear that jacket since it was cold enough for that. I never left the passport in the hotel room or in the room safe. It was on me in the inside zipped jacket pocket, another line of defense.

To avoid having the maid enter your room, I have the sign posted on the door "Nicht stören." My hotel room is never disturbed with that sign posted outside.

Posted by
3216 posts

I have made 60 trips to Europe, combination of business and leisure, over the past 20 years. Very seldom have I been asked for my passport other than when clearing immigration at the airport. I have only had to show it at exactly one hotel in the Czech Republic. The only border crossing where I needed to show it was entering Switzerland. I still carry it with me in my money belt the entire time I am there.

I was asked on the Paris RER train recently for my passport. I and my travel companion had ours. The family sitting next to us did not and they were escorted off the train at the next stop.

Why not follow the rules and just carry the thing.

Posted by
6740 posts

So we use state-issued ID in the States, and within the Schengen zone I'm lucky to be able use just my French ID card, but outside the Schengen or the States, I don't carry one passport--I carry two passports at all times.

What are you one-passport sissies whining about! Just be careful or use one of those neck or money belt things. You never know when you'll stumble on the purchase of your dreams and need to show your passport for detax.