Keep travel documents safe

When you are travelling, especially overseas, you will need to take more than your driver’s licence and credit card with you. Not only are the following documents essential, they also need to be kept safe and close to hand:

  • passport
  • tickets and itinerary
  • driver’s license
  • reservation documentation for hotels, tours, car hire
  • travel insurance documentation
  • credit cards and travel cash cards

Before you travel, you should make two copies of the above and any other important documents you might be carrying. Leave one copy at home with someone you can reach in an emergency. Keep the other set with you in a safe place, separate from the originals. Another option is to scan your documents into a computer as a PDF file and e-mail it to yourself, allowing you access to your documents from wherever you have an internet connection. It’s also incredibly useful to have the overseas contact numbers of your bank and credit card provider written down, should you need to contact them while you are away.

En route to your destination, the safest place to keep your documentation is directly on your person, as there will be less chance of you being separated from your documents. A carry-on or handbag is not secure as they aren’t always under your control and can be easy to snatch or opened without you noticing, for example when you are filling out boarding passes or browsing through duty free. There are several products available which allow you to either carry these items around your neck, or across your body. And some, such as Pacsafe, are made from materials which are very difficult for even the most determined thief to slash through.

When you reach your destination, ask at your hotel reception where is the safest place to keep your documents. It may be in the in-room safe, or perhaps the hotel safe is a better place. Don’t hide them under the bed, or in your luggage, for as clever as you think you are being, anyone who wants to get your hands on your documents and cards has most likely seen it all before.

Sightseeing or lying on the beach may be an important part of your trip, and you shouldn’t miss out for fear of losing or having your documents stolen. Take only what you need with you when out and about, i.e access to cash, your hotel key and a map! Unless you’re planning on hiring a car, or using your passport as identification, these should remain locked up in the safe back at the hotel.

While many of us are happy to keep all our bank cards in the one purse or wallet when at home, this is foolish when travelling. Keep at least one in a different place, preferably not on your person. If you lose all your cards on the road it is very difficult to get replacements.

If, despite all precautions, your documents do get lost or stolen, the next line of defence is to be prepared to act swiftly. Here are some tips of what to do when documents or cards go missing:

  • Stop your cards immediately. Don’t hope that they’ll turn up eventually. Your bank or credit card provider should be able to help you access funds while overseas in the event your cards go missing.
  • File a police report. Even if you believe you’ve lost, rather than had stolen, your cards and documents, a police report will not only be required for insurance purposes, but also to have emergency travel documents issued.
  • Don’t panic. Even if you’re overseas in a foreign country, the Australian embassy in that region will have seen it all before and if you have taken the precaution of copying your documents, the staff there will work to get you home safely.
  • Advise your travel insurance company as soon as possible. This is the very reason you pay for insurance and the experts are the best people to call on when you need help.

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