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Carrying your passport with you at all times?

My wife and I were in Budapest recently and on our second to the last day in Prague we decided to get breakfast outside our hotel. As we were walking behind the hotel we were stopped by two police officers and asked us for our passports. They would not accept a photo copy or cell copy of our U.S. Passports . We had to walk back to the hotel to get our passports from our safe and show them our passports. We were in the lobby of the hotel and the hotel manager came to check and see what was wrong. The police said it was a routine check. They said it was illegal to make photo copies of our passports and that we have to have our passports on our person at all times. After they checked out passports they wanted us to sign forms which we refused to sign. The manager told them tourists routinely make copies of their passports and keep the originals in their room safes or the hotel safe. The manager of the hotel told me this has never happened before. The two police officers left. Nothing happened to us and we are back in the U.S. but it was a damper on an otherwise wonderful vacation. Do you have to have your passport on you the whole time? I worry it could be pickpocketed. Or you would have to wear a money belt at all times or a neck pouch all the time to store the passport. I would appreciate any advise. Thank you

Posted by
8889 posts

It is a legal requirement in many countries to carry ID with you at all times. The only legally acceptable ID is a passport or, for EU citizens only, a national Identity Card. The locals will always carry their ID, I do.
That is the law, but you can go for many years never actually being stopped by the police and asked for ID, you just got unlucky.

There are plenty of posts on this site where people say "I have never been asked for my passport, therefore it is not necessary to carry it". Never having been asked is irrelevent, the law still says you have to carry it.

When they said "They said it was illegal to make photo copies of our passports" they probably meant that photocopies of passports are not legal as ID and you have to carry the actual passport.

Posted by
552 posts

A photo copy of a document is never accepted because it is not proof that you still have the actual document. You could have photo copied it and then sold the original for cash. Put your passport in your money belt and leave it there for your whole trip, and never go anywhere without your money belt.

Posted by
8889 posts

A photocopy is also not legal because it is too easy to fake on a computer using photoshop or something similar (for example this German ID card).
It is however a useful way to store your passport info. I have a scan of mine on my phone.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you for your advise. I'll just have to wear a money belt at all times and store the passport in it.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you for your advise. I'll just have to wear a money belt at all times and store the passport in it.

Posted by
8889 posts

worldinbetween,
You say you carried your residency card. That is your ID. You only need to carry your passport if you don't have a residency card, i.e. if you are a tourist.

Posted by
334 posts

This doesn't apply so much to Budapest, but how do you carry your passport with you at all times if you're heading to a beach or other activity where a money belt/pouch is impractical?

Posted by
3696 posts

If you are heading to the beach you, do you have any money or credit cards with you? Where do you keep you hotel key? Keep it with those items. I would think if you are at the beach and close to your hotel you could walk back with the police and show them your passport if you have nothing with you... but, as has been stated, you are supposed to carry your passport at all times.

Posted by
16745 posts

A passport should not be pickpocketed from a money belt. A beach day or Budapest baths day is the one day of my trip when I do not wear my money belt with passport and other valuables. There's no such thing as hiding it on the beach, a money belt is not waterproof, and I'd choose a hotel room safe over a swimming pool locker. I may or may not be carrying the hotel key and minimal cash with me to the beach, mostly depending on the hotel's key policy.

But if lost, the passport is replaceable. Having passport info on the photocopy (stored in luggage, on phone, with family at home) might help to speed that process (though I've seen other options in this Forum). See also Losing it All and Bouncing Back.

Posted by
10715 posts

As Worldinbetween (hi!) so perfectly puts it; it is law in Hungary that you carry the original at all times: Period. End of topic. Do what ever you want from that point forward and accept the risk and consequences if you do not obey the law. If you want some assurance that breaking the law is okay or that the punishment and inconvenience is minimal then I would suggest that the assurance is worth every penny you paid for it.

(oh, I rarely carry mine when in Hungary)

Posted by
21 posts

It is a question of weighing the risks. Is it more likely your passport could be lost or stolen if you carry it (& the resulting disruption & cost of then replacing it) or more likely you'll be stopped by the police for not having it? I've never been asked for my passport in 50 years of travel in Europe so I know what I'll do.
John

Posted by
10715 posts

I see it differently. For me its a matter if while in someone else's home as a guest will I obey their rules or not. Not being a saint I often move around Hungary with no passport on me, but I don't rationalize it; I know that I am being disrespectful and illegal. I guess having typed this, I don't like the way I fee about myself, so for now on I guess I carry it. Geeeee thanks for making life more complicated!!!!!

Posted by
12084 posts

Three day trips to Budapest, the last one a couple of weeks ago, I've always carried the passport on me. Only once was it asked for... on the train in 2010. True, with 21 trips to Europe in the last 44 years, no police or any other uniformed officer (Grenzschutz, etc) has asked for it on the street or train station.

Posted by
10715 posts

Fred, what do I have to do to get you to spend at least on night in Budapest?

Posted by
12084 posts

A good question,...something to plan for on the next trip. Walking through some of the streets this time in BP reminded me of some streets I saw in (West )German cities and Prague in the early 1970s. Nice feel to the city and I've yet to see Andrassy utca!

Posted by
10715 posts

Better move quickly. Budapest is entering the 20th century at an amazing rate. Yes, I meant the 20th century. So much of what is unique will soon be lost and we will have to move on to Bucharest to recapture some of the feeling.

Andrassy is a "ut" which is a larger artery than a "utca". When the time comes you let me know. I know of a great little affordable place two blocks from the opera just off Andrassy ut. Anyone see "Spy"? Great comedy but it would have been better if they had left out two thirds of the vulgarity. But apparently 100% filmed in Budapest where Budapest represented Paris and Rome and unbelievably Budapest.