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Jaunted's Top Five Passport Safety Tips

June 22, 2009 at 10:32 AM | by | ()

Last week, a friend of ours was pickpocketed in Israel, losing a passport as well as cards and cash. And before that, in April, another one of our friends was pickpocketed outside a bar in Rome. The thief made off with his wallet but fortunately, his passport was back at the hotel.

Aside from an incident of a missing 50 Euro after a visit to the Vatican, we've luckily managed to avoid the serious pickers, but that doesn't mean we're immune. And because nothing is so stressful as having to prove your identity, navigate a foreign city with limited funds, and possibly rebook your flights, we're going to try to save a few souls by presenting our Top 5 Passport Safety Tips.

5. Have paper copies of your passport and travel documents.
Time to prepare: 20 minutes
This is the most basic form of passport backup, something which has doubtless gone on since the invention of copying machines. Before departing, take paper copies of your passport, credit cards (front and back for customer service numbers), and itinerary information with confirmation numbers.

We recommend three copies of your passport and two of the others; leave one of each copy in a same and easily-found spot at home, leave another with your family back at home or at your office, and take the third copy of your passport along with you, but stored in another non-checked bag.

This way, should your passport or credit cards get stolen, you already have a backup passport copy for heading to the consulate and can make a single call home to get all of your credit card information.

4. Invest in some MacGyver-type gear.
Cost: $10-50
The under-clothes storage belt isn't just for the visor-wearing bus tour travelers anymore; they've gone high-tech. Items like Flight 001's "Boarding Pak" and the steel RFID-blocking passport cover are as modern as they are functional—and that passport cover will even block people from stealing your identity virtually.

Of course, for the old-fashioneds, there's always leg safe, bra stash and the dubiously-named Pocket Monster.

3. Keep your passport stored separately from cash and cards.
Time to prepare: 5 minutes
When we turned to Twitter for suggestions on avoiding pickpockets, the most popular tip was to keep the minimum amount of everything important—cash, cards, tech goodies—on you, and be sure to store them on the front of your body. For example, @jonberrydesign leaves his passport hidden away in his luggage in his hotel room, and head out on the town using this minimal wallet, tucked into his front pants pocket.

Likewise, @brianepeters has felt the pain of loosing valuables to thieves, and yet has not given in to fanny packs. It's all about "everything in the front pockets NEVER back pockets or backpack."

2. Scan a copy of your passport, cards, and itinerary
Time to prepare: 15 minutes
While basically a technologically updated version of our number 5 tip to take carbon copies of your IDs, the power to email stuff to yourself should never be underestimated. @flyboyvancouver agrees, and keeps it consulate-ready in his Gmail. Since scanning produces a far better quality image than say, taking a picture of your passport, try to scan it and email the file to yourself.

This is also advisable for keeping your credit card information, itinerary, and other ID information easily accessible, so long as you've got a nice tricky password for your email account. Been pickpocketed at Oktoberfest in Munich? Head to a 24-hour easyinternetcafe, log on for cheap, and print your missing info.

1. Create a private Flickr photoset for storing scans of your documents
Time to prepare: 20 minutes
You know those scans of your passport, cards, and itinerary you just took to email to yourself? Well, if your inbox is too hectic or not exactly trustworthy, then follow our favorite way to backup information: upload and make it "private" on Flickr.

Create a photoset with all of your private scans or hi-res images of your passports, credit cards, and itinerary, and you'll then be able to access and print them even in internet situations where people might be finicky about allowing you to check your personal email (such as at a hotel reception desk). Even better, the files are available for download, to then be emailed if you want that additional safety. But because this is the internet, we don't recommend taking a trip and then leaving these sensitive files on your Flickr, even marked "private," during long periods of staycationing.

We know there are plenty other creative ways of practically fusing your passport to your body, but at all times remember to be aware and cautious or shady situations. There's no need to bring your passport out clubbing nor is your AMEX needed for afternoon shopping in the medina. Nonetheless, be extra-watchful within the Vatican; we've seen too many crazy petty crimes go down there to trust that the Pope is watching out for your passport.

Got any other passport tips we should know about? Put 'em in comments below.

Related Stories:
· Would You Pay For Your Passport Stamps? [Jaunted]
· Passport Coverage [Jaunted]

[Pickpocket wallet: Archie McPhee Seattle; pickpocketer: reallysadgit]

Archived Comments:


thanks for the inclusion in the article!  A very slight correction is that I keep the wallet mentioned in my front pant pocket, not a shirt pocket.  Here's a link to the image and details:   http://bit.ly/cvq6W  (And by the way, Oktoberfest is in Munich)  :)


Thanks! Yep, totally know about Oktoberfest as I've been to it. Just meant to put Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin and then never went back to change the city. ACH my fault

Use a Password on Scanned Files

Email can be intercepted and read, and so can the scanned files in email. Put a password on the doc or PDF that you send to yourself.

Avoiding passport/money disaster

While you're right on the money about making copies of important documents, I would not recommend some of the above. (Also not totally sure about the emailing of the credit card info.) Instead, we always recommend to travelers that they keep their passports and credit/debits cards on their bodies, under their pants, at all times. When we travel, we use a money belt large enough to hold the passports and cards and some cash. This belt is stuffed under my pants. For these crucial items, never use a fanny pack and never use a backpack. Our only travelers who have had problems have broken the above rule: They have been using fanny packs or a pocketbook or wallet just tucked into a pocket, or their moneybelt was worn under a T-shirt, not pants. And also: room safes have never seemed that safe after watching a maintenance man take apart the one in my room with a screw driver.

Hotel Safe

I try to always leave my passport locked away in the hotel safe -- that way it can not be picked.

Never had an issue...

..with a hotel safe. I've locked up cameras, cards, passports, money. Yes, somebody might know how to break into it, but we are talking about being safer not invulnerable.

Front pocket isn't foolproof

I recently had my wallet pickpocketed from my front pocket on the Paris Metro... so this method isnt foolproof by any means. Chaining my wallet to my pants would probably have prevented this...