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Passports. Carry with us or leave in hotel safe?

Hi Everyone,

What is your guidance on carrying our actual passports with us during our trip vs. leaving them in a hotel safe (if one is available) and only carrying the color copies? We will be making color copies of our passports and carrying them with us during our two weeks.

We are travelling to Amsterdam, Ghent, Paris, Toulouse & Barcelona. We're aware of the pickpocket rings in most tourist sites and while we've never had trouble before, this will be our first time in Barcelona where we hear they are particularly active.


Posted by
3487 posts

Passport copies are not valid for ID. Mainly because they are too easily faked with Photoshop or similar software. They may help get you into the US Embassy if your actual passport is stolen so you can get a replacement, but that's about it.

Get a money belt/neck pouch/hidden pocket and cary your passport in that and of course keep the money belt out of sight while in public. It you are asked for ID, it is much quicker and simpler to have it with you than trying to explain it is back at the hotel. And in Europe, the only valid ID anyone will want to see is the passport. Driver license is not ID in Europe.

Posted by
8889 posts

A regular question.
Note, your passport is your only legally valid ID. Unless you are an EU citizen, no other ID is valid. What is valid as ID in your country is irrelevant.

  • Some countries require you to carry your ID (your passport) at all times. However, many tourists "wing it" on the assumption the police rarely stop tourists and even less often insist on ID.
  • There are some circumstances where you need to show a passport, checking into hotels, airports, when you have a self-print rail ticket with your name on it, and when crossing borders. If you are doing any of those, you need your passport with you.
  • Some places require ID for example to lend out headphones. As private organisations they can accept anything they want as ID. They may accept, for example, your Driving Licence, or they may insist on a passport.

In short, except for specifiy situations above you are probably OK leaving a passport in the hotel.

Pickpockets are overblown. They do exist, but a closed back or zipped pocket will stop them. They are not interested in passports; as soon as a passport is reported stolen it is listed in a worldwide database and cannot be used to cross borders. PIckpockets are after your cash and cards.

Posted by
1643 posts

Hi Steve,

Granted, some Euro cities are more susceptible to getting pick-pocketed of valuables. My experiences, I never had any issues.

If you decide not to carry it, then make a copy and leave original in hotel safe.

In Italy and Sicily, I preferred to carry my PP (concealed of course.) Also, I consider it my life line. In the extreme case of an evac emergency, I know I have my PP, a credit card and some Euro stashed.

My own preference, I also include an index card or two (inside my PP) with some general, but important medical and other ID info - immediate family's number, doc's name, blood type, any meds I may be taking (even vitamins) or allergic to, etc.

In case of anything or a situation where I could not speak, I would want the Euro docs to treat me quickly and correctly based on my personal med info.

Posted by
306 posts

I used a neck pouch and wore it under my clothes. My husband bought a small flat wallet large enough for ID a credit card and a little cash and placed it in his front pants pocket. I carried the passports. We had no problems. Just be aware of your surroundings.

Posted by
2545 posts

Contrarian view: my passport is the one thing that, if lost, will require a lot more than just a phone call to replace. I leave ours in the hotel safe and carry color copies. I use my drivers license for audio devices in museums, never a passport.

Posted by
9562 posts

I'm in the "carry it with you camp". I travel solo and wear a money belt with my passport (in a ziplock so it doesn't get sweaty), extra money plus the DC/CC I won't need for the day. Incidentally, I had my purse picked in Paris a couple of years ago. They only got my pouch with OTC meds etc (and darn it my good hand cream!) but I felt no one even near me before I noticed my purse was open. They are good.

This sounds so negative and paranoid but I want to be prepared in case something dreadful happens and I need to evacuate myself from a troubled area. What if I can't get back to my hotel?

I also want to have my official identification with me. I'm old and gray and could not be mistaken for anything other than an American tourist but I also want to obey local laws in case anyone needs to see ID. Have I ever been asked for my passport? Not since about 1976 when crossing the border between Belgium and France.....

Posted by
897 posts

I'm in the "keep it in your money belt with you" camp. I've heard stories of people stealing them from the safes in the hotels. (My one exception to this is on a cruise--I do feel OK leaving the passport in my room safe in that case, but often on international itineraries, they make you take it with you when you debark, so it's a moot point.) I would definitely not keep it in a purse or backpack, but I feel quite confident that I'm going to feel someone reaching down the front of my pants into a moneybelt. :)

Posted by
107 posts

Everyone has their opinion so here mine. Two thing I want to always have with us: Cash & PP. In the 5 RS tours we have made we have many sad stories from other travelers. We never leave the Hotel without both: 500 cash each and our PP in Ricks money belt under our clothes along with a our list of hotels. We never take them out in public and we use other separate safeguards for our daily use items.

You will love Barcelona. We had no issues there last year.
Safe travels

Posted by
1878 posts

I leave it in the room, in a safe if there is one or not. Not on the nightstand or otherwise in the open. When I have tried carrying it in my money belt it always get bent up. If damaged it may not be accepted which to me is a greater risk that the possibility that it will be stolen from my room. It just feels more perilous to me to carry it everywhere. I have slept overseas for close to a year of my life and so far, so good.

Posted by
139 posts

Have been to Italy, France, Spain and Greece and have never carried my passport with me. In fact, I have only kept it in a pocket in my suitcase when I am not in transit. I will be traveling to Belgium and Amsterdam this fall and now thinking I may reconsider this. I do not think I would want to carry it with me but maybe leave in hotel safe. Just worried I may forget to retrieve it when I leave! I guess I have always felt quite safe in Europe, even more so than big city America.

Posted by
13424 posts

I wonder how much gets left behind in the room safe? I'm a tad uncomfortable without my passport. I use an old pacsafe pouch. One they dont make any longer which is a shame cause it was just large enough to hold a wallet and passport.

The last time I researched it, about 3 years ago, Belgium and most of the Eastern European countries required you to carry your passport.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks all for your responses! Really appreciate your insight and time you took to respond! Steve

Posted by
13356 posts

I do not think I would want to carry it with me but maybe leave in
hotel safe. Just worried I may forget to retrieve it when I leave!

Renee, without getting into the legalities of having a passport on you or not, if you put valuables into the hotel safe, stick something else that you KNOW you will miss in with it as a reminder, like a shoe. We've made it a habit to empty the safe before going to bed on the last night in a hotel but that routine might not work for everyone.