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Would You Pay For Your Passport Stamps?

June 16, 2009 at 9:42 AM | by | ()

Is it illegal or is it good, clean fun? The stamping of passports for souvenir value seems as old a tradition as buying those horrific gift spoons, and this rampant passport defamation continues today, except now they're charging for it.

In our travels, we've run across the three biggest profiters from this racket: Liechtenstein, San Marino, and Berlin, although the latter is by far the worst of them.

In the picture above, the passport pages bear four fake stamps from the old Allied and Soviet sides of Berlin, stamps which could possibly invalidate the passport. There's even a discussion thread over at Lonely Planet regarding the legality of this tourist stamping, with particular attention to the prevalance of it around Berlin's Checkpoint Charlie. For 2€ each, you have your pick of the stamps, ranging from 4 different US sector versions to 2 Soviet designs, and even a few French thrown in for good measure.

While Berlin represents the grayest area of souvenir stamping, the practice is super popular in tiny countries which mainly make their living off of tourism anyways. In Liechtenstein, the "Visitor's Center" will hook you up with a colorful and well-inked stamp for 1.50€, and The Republic of San Marino offers the same deal for a pricey 2.50€ at their Tourism Office.

We'll be truthful here: we've fallen for the Liechtenstein and San Marino deals, but spurned the Berlin stamps because, well...because East Berlin no longer exists as a separate sector with a border to cross for a stamp. There is a real fear of invalidating your passport with these babies, not to mention looking like a doofus for flaunting invalid stamps. Check out our recent snapshot of one such Berlin stamping "booth" in action.

Did we make the right choice by passing up the Checkpoint Charlie stamps? Have you gotten souvenir passport stamps? Do you love them or have you lived to regret them? Let us know in the comments, lest we panic and run to the post office for a new passport application.

Related Stories:
· Passport stamp at Checkpoint Charlie [Lonely Planet Thorntree]
· Passports Coverage [Jaunted]

[Passport photo: In Soul; Liechtenstein stamp: Gimmelwald.com; San Marino stamp: VirtualTourist]

Archived Comments:

Passport Stamps

There is a passport stamp booth at the entrance/exit booth at Machu Picchu in Peru. There quite a few people getting them while I was there. I, like a nerd, was too afraid to have my passport stamped. I'll stick to the official ones...I've a had a couple surly border agents give me issues about things in my passport. I would pay for the Lich or San Marino ones..it's a minor cost.

Berlin Stamps

My friend (Australian) and I decided to get our passports stamped at Checkpoint Charlie. For a few days afterward, until our next flight, we worried that we'd possibly made a stupid mistake that would cause us any number of hassles down the road. However, to date neither of us have had problems as a result. We're both quite happy with them actually. Though they are really pricey!

Novelty Stamps

There is no problem whatsoever with anyone getting any novelty stamps in thier passport. Infact I go out of my way to get stamps I "shouldn't have". As a holder of an UK passport I can enter any other EU country and sometimes not even get my passport glanced at, but I often ask for a stamp even though I'm not entitled to it. The border guards don't care what you do with your own passport as long as they see the picture page can verify you are who it says you are. I have stamps from Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Checkpoint Charlie which I have paid for as well as requested entry/exit stamps from Germany and Switzerland and I've never been refused entry to any country, no ones even given them a second glance! Get whatever you like in your passport no one will care (unless you have an Israel stamp and go to an Arab country, or a Cuban, Iranian, Iraqi or North Korean stamp and go to the States that is)!

Paying for passport stamps

Absolutely all stamps are important from travels...even if you have to pay for them. And I paid 10 Euros for all 13 of the Checkpoint Charlie stamps. Next year I will be in Vaduz and San Marino and I will again pay for the stamps. A traveler is physically there to get them...it isn't like you received them from a mail-order catalog. And, I even did something illegal...I photocopied my visa to Cuba and glued it into my passport. That could (in the next eight years) keep me from getting home to the US as you aren't supposed to have any notation from Cuba. So far so good!