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Passports in France

Is it necessary to keep my passport with me when sightseeing within a city? Can I get buy with just a copy? I know I'll need my passport available when traveling between cities? Just trying to cut down on what I'll be carrying on me when walking around. Thanks for the advice.

Posted by
4535 posts

Technically yes. In practicality, no. The chances that you'd need it on a daily basis are very remote. But if you did need it, a copy is of no value. The copy is just helpful if the real one is lost or stolen. Some posters here leave it in their hotel safe, the others carry it with them.

Posted by
11450 posts

I have never carried my passport with me while sightseeing. Ever,, in last 40 years,, I leave it in hotel safe. I of course do carry it in my moneybelt while actually TRAVELLING.. but once in hotel,, its in the safe. I carry my Drivers license,, as some musuems want collateral for audio guides( Louvre is one) and will ask for passport, which they plop into an open file box ,, totally unacceptable to me,, they have happily taken my DL for last 4 or 5 visits though ,, I also carry a photocopy of PP,, don't know why,, have never needed it either. When I am wallking around I usually only carry my DL and one days cash,, about 100 euros,, thats it. I ony use my CC for hotel and train tickets, and my ATM card I only use to withdraw cash every few days,, so it stays in safe too normally. If I was successfully pickpocketed ( I have had someone try) it would not impact my holiday much,, and I find the less one carrys the less they have to be all stressy, actually I would be more pissed off if I lost my lipstick , its a hard color to find.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks Pat. What you've outlined is pretty much what I was thinking we'd do as well. Sounds like it works quite nicely.

Posted by
177 posts

yup pat is correct. i just got back from france, didn't carry my passport anywhere. but my fiancee did carry hers, since she had to prove somehow that she is 25 for the discount tickets.

Posted by
186 posts

We just returned from a France, Holland, Belgium visit and I must agree with Pat. Although I carried my passport with me the whole time in my money belt, which would be virtually impossible to pickpocket, I never once had the need to produce it. If you've got a secure place to keep it while you're out, it's probably not a bad idea to do so.

Posted by
11973 posts

I carry mine because it's your legal ID and shows you are in the country legally. That said, Rick Steve's readers rarely rouse interest from the local police. While, technically, police can ask you for your passport at any time, and you can be fined for not having it, you are unlikely to be asked while in Europe.

Posted by
104 posts

I agree with Pat. I didn't need mine. Tho Brad I did not know you could be fined?

Posted by
358 posts

The only time I carry my passport is when planning on making a purchase where the VAT comes into play. Some stores will accept a copy of the passport and some will not. Otherwise my passport is locked up in the hotel safe. I have never heard of anyone getting fined for not carrying their passport.

Posted by
711 posts

I usually carry mine, but I admittedly have never needed it. I usually keep it in my money belt with my other valuables that I don't use regularly. I also carry a second secure neck pouch that I keep money for the day and a credit card for use for the day that I access more frequently. This is usually in a buttoned pocket in my cargo pants. If I run out of day cash, I can dip into my money belt to reload, but I usually carry enough in the pouch to not need to do so. I have copies of everything in my room in case I lose something.

Posted by
109 posts

We usually carry ours, or at least something with proof of identity. Most European countries require that you have it, althought it doesn't have to be on you. The catch is that in many cases you can be detained until proof of identity is established, or that you must present the document at that time (which might interrupt your travel plans to go back to the hotel to get it). That being said, in at least 50 trips we've only been asked for it twice. Once in Prague and once in Paris.
Here's some general information about ID card requirements by country: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_national_identity_card_policies_by_country#France

Posted by
5557 posts

I carry a photocopy of my passport in my Rick Steves belt pouch, once I'm in a local hotel. I agree that it's not a legal document, but since I look like a respectable citizen, I believe it will be enough to keep me out of trouble at a security checkpoint. If you have long hair or gangsta clothing, all bets are off. (I'm not being discriminatory, I'm referring to what I've seen from observing lightly-educated 19-year old soldiers with machine guns in European airports over the last thirty years.) Not in France, but in Belgium I've had no trouble getting some senior discounts with the photocopy. I'm not willing to take the risk of carrying the actual passport in stable, democratic countries. But there's a good argument for carrying it, if you have a safe place for it.

Posted by
449 posts

How about getting a passport card? It's as small as a driver's license and has the full authority of the US government behind it. Keep the passport book at the hotel and bring the card when you are wandering around. I am not sure if folks in Europe are used to seeing this because it is only good for sea and land travel between nations of North America. However, it would think that it would have more authority than a photocopy of a passport.

Posted by
3 posts

We were in Paris for a week and did not need our passports for any reason. We carried copies and left the originals in the hotel safe. I did carry then with us to Versailles since that was a longer train ride but was not asked for it. I did keep them with us in Amboise and now in Colmar.

Posted by
1014 posts

Normally, you will not need a passport when seeing a city. HOWEVER, when you do need it, nothing else will do. When buying a lot of merchandise in a store and you want a vat refund, a passport is necessary. If making a large purchase, using a credit card, any store clerk with any sense will ask for a passport. They do not say identification, they say passport. When banking in a foreign country, a passport is necessary before you do anything -cashing a travelers check, breaking up a large bill, etc. If you are in an accident or injured in a way that you need medical attention, a passport will be needed. The police can stop you, at any time, and ask for it, and I have seen them do so in the 17th, in Paris, in front of La Pergola. So, pay your money and take your chances. Me, I take mine in the under the shirt safe I have, everywhere I go.

Posted by
11450 posts

John, banking, large shopping trips, all things that will require a passport yes,, but yet,, in last 30+ years i have visited Paris i haven't needed it,, don't shop like that ( which is why i can afford multiple visits) lol

Posted by
12972 posts

Ed, I think it's a matter of hit and miss when you are going to be asked to produce the passport, aside from going into a bank for tranactions or showing it to the police. I, too, have seen the police stopped individuals and ask them for identification in Paris ( Gare de l'Est ) and in Germany. But I've never been asked myself in 40 years of traveling in Germany and France. I thought it strange this summer when using the 11th and last day on my Eurail Pass going back from Frankfurt-Paris I was asked to show ID...the only time...the passport, along with the mandatory reservation. You could be asked at a store when making a purchase with a credit card to show your passport...it's highly whimsical. In July 2007 I was at Monoprix in Paris buying a shirt, paying with my Visa card, the clerk asked for my passport, which struck me as unconventional. This wasn't my first time buying from Monoprix with a credit card, but it was the first where I had to produce the passport.....just whimsical or a suspicious clerk.

Posted by
711 posts

Hi Ed,
To clarify: Should you carry your passport? Yes, you should, but will you need it? Likely not. As you can see, some use photocopies (I've done this in the past), while others using Driver's Licenses (I've done this, as well), among other things. If you're stopped and in a ton of trouble, you could probably explain to the authorities that your "real" passport is in your hotel, and go from there. I had a bad experience on the Chilean border years ago that has convinced me to always carry my passport, but you're probably fine keeping yours safe in most European hotels.

Posted by
199 posts

Hi Ed. In 2008 I was in Gare du Nord in Paris just about to take the TGV to Amsterdam. I was with my buddy (another middle-aged looking dude) his step-son and his friend (early 20's). As we walked down the platform a man called to us. Both him and his partner showed us their badges. Asked where we were going and if they could see our passports. I told my friends to only show them your passports and don't give them any money or your credit cards. They looked at our passports, returned them, said "thanks" and calmly walked away. To this day I wonder if they were really plain-clothes police officers? I carry my passport separately from my credit cards. I keep all of my important info in a neck pouch. It's usually under 1 or 2 shirts so it's hard to lose or steal. If they want the passport then at least I will still have my money and credit cards.

Posted by
284 posts

Ed, Never know when you will need to provide police your passport in France. The police can stop you for no reason and ask to see your passport. This should be a very rare occurence. Having said that, I was taking a cab to my hotel from the train station when we were pulled over by french police. I had to show them my passport (not a copy, but the actual passport) and the cabbie had to show them his paperwork. We were then sent on our way. Edwin