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Carry Passport? or leave in room?

Here is a simple one:
Joining the V/F/R tour in a few weeks.
I'm making my wife nuts, as I am anxious about pick pockets, but all of our friends who have traveled to Italy have not had an issue.

I've over-analyzed the different front pocket wallets, that wallet that flips into your pants, and the money belt that is under your shirt.

I'll have a backpack that I'll have a simple lock on as a deterrent.

Here is the question: when heading out for the tour, do you carry your passport, or is there a hotel safe? If I need to carry the passport, then that changes everything... if don't need to carry it, then keeping some cash and a card in the backpack, and then some in front pocket... might be ok
Or is it safe to have the passport in my backpack? ugh.

I've lost it. :)
Stu

Posted by
18750 posts

Just use the search box. This is discuss with the same resolution nearly weekly. Look it up. Personally preference as whether you carry or not. Front pockets are only marginally safer than carrying in the rear pocket. Both pretty risky. Never have ANYTHING of value in a backpack.

As for carrying the passport -- simple question -- Is it better to have it and not need it or to need it and not have it??? I prefer to have it and not need it.

Posted by
3027 posts

Put everything you don't want to lose in a money belt (including passport, extra credit and ATM card, currency, and emergency info) in a double zip lock freezer bag to protect against moisture from perspiration. Wear it on the small of the back. Tuck the bottom half or two thirds into the top of the undies. Wear a shirt that is not "see through". Not a pickpocket in the world can get to it without you knowing it. Never access your money belt in public and you'll soon forget you have it on.

Carry your day money and one credit card in an easy to access but a secure zippered shirt / pant pocket / or wallet that flips into your pants.

Use your day bag / back pack only for big stuff such as guide books, maps, water bottles, ponchos, sweaters, and etc. Don't use it for valuables.

Going through airport security call for a totally different protocol. If you need info on that just let us know.

Posted by
3471 posts

Have you already made images and hard copy of the title page of the passport, just in case you do lose it?

I like the idea of using a search box, since you and your wife will be able to read any number (10 to 100) posts on all sides of this issue. I think it comes down to about 50%-50%. I carry a xerox of the title page, except in authoritarian countries, or if I'm going to visit a government building (like the German Bundestag, for example) where I know I'll actually need the passport.

I have left the xerox page as security for audioguides, and I have used it to get senior-age discounts. But I wouldn't care if I had to pay full price once because I didn't have the passport. It's just so restful not to have it on me. 700+ days spent in Europe and Asia.

Here's one for you? Should you wear Tee shirts with English words visible on them ... .... ...? American Flag tee shirts?

Posted by
523 posts

I'm with Tim, I usually make a copy of the front page of passport and leave it in safe/hotel unless I know I will need it. It's up to you. My family has never had a passport stolen from the safe and have never been asked to show a passport in Europe. It could happen, though. Do whatever feels comfortable but don't overanalyze it.

Posted by
18750 posts

IMO, TC is dead on but about half here will disagree. I have known two couples who used to laugh at our recommendations for using money belts. Then they were hit. One couple lost everything -- all credit and debit cards, passports, etc. Now they are converts. Nothing like a convert to preach the gossip. Do what you want but recognize the risk level you are assuming.

Posted by
3537 posts

StuH, every time this question comes up, you will see all sorts of opinions based on what other people have chosen to do or not do. Your passport is your only legal identification and proof you are not an illegal migrant. Photocopies are well and good, but not a substitute.

As you know, RS has his recommendations, which is the reason your RS tour package includes these safety devices. You have to ask yourself whether you know what to do and where to go, if your passport and your credit cards get lost or stolen from your backpack. If you can handle that risk, then do what you think is comfortable to you. Just note that a lock on a backpack is not a deterrent - a razor blade or box cutter will defeat that. You're more likely to forget your pack in the restroom, on a restaurant chair back, in a shop, or left behind in the hotel safe, than having it stolen. But still, you have to accept the low risk and high consequences of something that no one here can predict.

Also, don't expect the tour to come to a standstill while you deal with your lost passport issue. They gave you a money belt, after all.

So, my advice is take the the belts. If you choose not to use them, or not all the time, then you can decide when you see how things work.

Posted by
3 posts

If I go to the beach I left my documents and money into the safe in the hotel. If I go shopping or sightseeing I always take passport and some money with me

Posted by
15 posts

Thanks for all of the opinions. Good thoughts

I guess it comes down to risk - you don't really need to use a seat belt most of the time. But if you are in an accident, you'll wish you did!

Posted by
1609 posts

My somewhat redundant two cents, echoing much of what has been said: never carry anything in a backpack you are not prepared to lose. Most of all, not your passport. I have a water bottle, guidebook, Kleenex, Advil, sunscreen, maps-that’s it. A backpack with a lock presents no challenge to a thief, and may advertise you have something valuable inside. They can slash your pack with a utility knife and you’ll never feel it. Then you’ve lost what you have and your backpack as well. However the biggest risk is having your backpack stolen. I have two friends who lost them with just a moment of inattention-thieves are very good, and very quick. As for carrying a passport: I’ve read on this board that it is a law in Italy. I’ve not researched it. But, having carried mine in my money belt on my first RS tour and found it uncomfortable, I now carry a copy and keep the original in the hotel safe (usually in my room). At your first meeting when the guide asks if there are any questions, ask him/her about this. There are probably a dozen other people who will be grateful for the answer.

Posted by
2641 posts

I have gone to Europe for 16 of the last 18 years for a month. I second what Frank earlier posted. I always carry my passport in my money belt. I have never read about anyone getting pickpocketed while using a money belt correctly but I have read about lots of travelers getting pickpocketed when not using a money belt.

Posted by
2832 posts

I'm a consistent money belt wearer. My passport is always in there, along with emergency medical info and all the things others have listed.

No matter your age, level of fitness or health, anything can happen that would require important details about you. Being a cynical but also hopeful type, I can imagine being unable to speak, my little purse "disappearing" and the info in my money belt being the key to helping me.

I've tried many types of money belts. The best one is the one you will wear. After all the experimentation, the only money belt I wear is an Eazymate. It was originally designed for runners, but it has all the features of a travel money belt combined with great comfort and the best security I can imagine. You step into it like your underwear and pants. It washes well in the sink or washer.

Click here to take a look. Of course you wear it under your clothes instead of the way the pictures show it. There's an image that shows the sizes for men and women. This is the only brand that I saw when I bought mine a few years ago. Now there are several companies that make similar money belts.

Posted by
25 posts

I will also reiterate that the safest place for valuables is in a properly worn money belt. Unfortunately, the hotel “safe” is not necessarily as its name suggests, as I have had money stolen out of one before. :(

And I have seen videos of how easy it is for someone to get into locked luggage, without having to touch the lock at all or cause any damage. They leave it zipped up just as you left it, and you wouldn’t even know they had been in there at all!

Posted by
523 posts

Here's my take. Since you are going on a tour, you don't want to forget your passport or other valuables in the hotel safe. The last thing you want to do is remember you left your things behind in the last hotel. If you keep your passport, extra cash and credit and or debit card(s) in a money belt, then everything is in one place. The money belt goes on when you dress. As my husband was once a victim of a pickpocket, he learned the hard way to keep only a small quantity of money in his pocket at any given time and to use his moneybelt for everything, not just his passport. This leads me to a very important piece of information: have access to another debit and credit card tied to another account. I have my own bank account with my own debit card, thank goodness. Although this put a damper on our trip, we still had the ability to get cash for the remainder of the trip.

By the way, I use the "hidden pocket" money belt. I do not use it attached to a belt, never wear one. I use a baby diaper pin to attach to the inside waistband, in the small of my back.

Posted by
4113 posts

Or is it safe to have the passport in my backpack?

At the risk of a a penalty flag for 'piling on' NO!!!!!

Posted by
15 posts

No passport in backpack. Got it.
Nothing valuable in backpack. Nada. Nothing.

Wear helmet when leaving hotel, in case of earthquake. It could happen.
Bring water, and extra food in case stranded on Burano.

Sunscreen in case clouds clear
Seat belts while on bus.

just do it
Thanks :)
Stu

Posted by
5 posts

I’ve used both - money belt and RS hidden pocket. Money belts are uncomfortable and awkward. The hidden pocket works great and I forget I’ve got it on. Passport, extra cash, credit cards, in the hidden pocket. Walking around cash where I can get to in easily.

Posted by
44 posts

I like the money belt worn around my neck much more than the money belt around my waist and I got the slightly more expensive neck wallet that RS sells, it's softer. This does make a difference, with the softer material (polyester) and wearing it around my neck I barely realize that I am even wearing it.

Posted by
1858 posts

I carry my passport with me. I carry it in my purse. I'm not really afraid of losing it particularly if there is an embassy on my route, and as I'm a city person that is usually the case. A pickpocket wants my financial items, not my PP. Besides, as our favorite, Zoe, learned and indicated, it is not too difficult to get it replaced on the unlikely event you need to do so. On the other hand, I have been asked for it while traveling out during the day and was glad I had it, and having it with me will also allow me to change my mind and not return to my hotel should that need to happen due to extenuating circumstances.

You can keep things in your backpack if they are attached to your backpack and buried down a bit. It's really not as dangerous out there as is indicated. People usually lose things because they put their bag down, or don't zip zippers, or are distracted without pulling their personnel items into their personal space. IMO. I know this isn't a popular opinion, but it is more about having a system and sticking to it, rather than being afraid of others. YMMV

Posted by
18750 posts

This is an old post but ---- Money belts are uncomfortable and awkward. ----- No they are not. A money belt may be uncomfortable for Molfit but perfectly comfortable for me. It could be related to how Molfit is wearing it. But a lot of posters successful wear and use a money belt as intended. Just because you don't like a money belt or don't want to wear that is fine. Your choice, your decision. But money belts work very well for most people.

Posted by
108 posts

I’ve got a money belt for the RS shop, two different sized neck wallets, a race belt , and a pair of pants that have zipper pockets inside zippered pockets and zippered pockets under button flaps. The manufacturer calls them pick pocket proof. I have not taken the pants on a trip yet, only acouple of test drives, but I found the pockets suitable and convenient for my passport case and real wallet ( triple secure), phone and dummy wallet (medium secure) , and handkerchief and brush (open pocket).

Clothingarts.com (I am not affiliated and my experience with their products is only academic at this point so, obviously, your experience or knowledge will be different. Business has been good recently and many products are backordered four to ten weeks out.)

Posted by
1354 posts

On 12 trips to Europe, I have never been asked to show passport inside a country except as a photo ID. I carry my driver's license for that. I do not put my passport in hotel safe-I hide it in my luggage and have never had a problem. I trust the hotel staff more than I do pickpockets on the street.

Posted by
8539 posts

One other note that has nothing to do with where you are going; but last time I checked, having your passport on you is a legal requirement in most of Eastern Europe and Belgium.

Posted by
1165 posts

On occasion you may be asked for passport or other ID to “rent” or buy something. We needed passports to buy tickets to soccer match in Florence. We went on a Segue tour in Florence and needed passports. At one of the Chateaus in France we needed an ID for audio guides (I used my passport card).
If we are beyond walking distance to our hotel/apartment we definitely take our passports. Having a passport card (while not official in Europe) works for an ID deposit. If it got lost, misplaced, stolem, not a big deal, unlike the consequences of a missing passport or drivers license.

Posted by
1354 posts

Thanks James for info about eastern Europe. Does this apply to Austria too?

Posted by
3231 posts

Absolutely no need to carry your passport in Austria.

Posted by
10934 posts

I have been traveling to Europe for decades.. like since the 70s.. lol.. usually once a year.. sometimes two.. for 3-5 weeks at a time.

I wear my moneybelt only while in transit.

I use hotel safes.

Posted by
44 posts

I usually carry a side pocket and carry extra cash, passports, credit cards, and ATM card in it. In my wallet I only carry 100 Euros in my front pocket. However if there is a room safe that works, I keep the side pocket in it. On my last trip about half the hotels had room safes. Also if the room has keys I carry an extra side pocket for the keys.

Posted by
19 posts

I use a wallet similar to the Rick Steves model. My belt goes through it and the wallet rides inside my pants on the front of my left thigh. I don't even notice it when I'm wearing it. It's very easy to duck into a men's room to access anything I need. Passport, most cash, all cards but a single credit card ride in the wallet at all times. I keep a single credit card and a small amount of cash in a front pocket. In my opinion it's better to be safe than sorry, especially when there really aren't any drawbacks to being safe.

Posted by
18 posts

Safes in room sound like a wonderful idea BUT I have had to cases on the same tour where we tried the safe - changed the code, shut the down, tried the safe and it worked - put in our goods for safekeeping and low and behold after closing the safe and coming back hours later - it didn't open. In one case we had to get management to override the safe and in another we had to have a security company come and drill the safe. Just lucky we weren't leaving the next day. Needless to say, I don't use a safe any more.

Posted by
3 posts

Several trips to Europe and 2 RS tours. 3 tour members were pickpocketed. 1 on Metro in Paris. 1 on Metro in Rome. 1 from a zippered backpack walking down the street in Florence. Luckily all 3 had their valuable stuff in their money belts. They just lost day cash. The guy with the backpack had a small wallet looking container inside of 2 zippered pockets of his backpack and still lost it and none of us (8-9 of us walking together) saw the bad guy or gal take it. He only had a few Euro in it and no cards or ID.
I wear the neck wallet worn cross draw around my neck, under my shirt which hangs on my left side just below my armpit. The strap has steel wire inside of the strap so it cant be cut. Bad guy will never see it and never get it without major event. It is so comfortable I forget it is there. My RS day bag has a long strap so when I sit in restaurant or anywhere else I put the strap inside my leg so when I get up to leave the bag will drag with me if I forget to pick it up. Needless to say I see it right away. Europe is now my playground and I make sure the fun is not interrupted by a preventable self inflicted event

Posted by
1165 posts

This question comes up a lot on this forum so thought I’d add our experience from last week.

Our thought process is that if we are not within walking distance of hotel or apartment, then we take passports. Friday we were on a train from Verbania to Domomodossola (two Italian towns 20 minutes apart by train). Officials on the train we asking for documents (passports). They were not the conductors who check for tickets. They had a clipboard and took the time to write down the relevant passport info.

We were on the way to Brig, Switzerland. On the way back from Brig to Domodossola, what appeared to be Swiss Customs were randomly checking documents of various passengers.

First time we’ve had official documents checked while on a train. Food for thought when you decide whether to take passport or leave in your room.

Posted by
3 posts

It is one of the most scarred questions for me. I always feel unsafe If I keep it in the hotel room. If I carry it in my bag still feel unsafe. Although, I never thought about the secret pocket. I need to create a secret pocket for each pant. It's a good idea.

Posted by
3339 posts

I lock it in my luggage if the room doesn't have a safe.