How to keep your passport safe

Mel is heading to China and has heard stories of passports being stolen by muggers in the region. She’s asked Leon for tips on how she can keep her passport safe and secure.

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Q. Mel
I am going to China and I’ve been told I have to keep my passport on me at all times. I’m a bit worried about the gangs that snatch passports and I’m also concerned about leaving it at the hotel. How do I keep it safe?

A. There are quite a few countries that require you to carry your passport at all times, such as China, Hong Kong, Italy and France (to name a few) and, yes, it does put you in a tricky predicament if you’re worried about its safety.

First, I would suggest the safest place is handing it to the front desk for them to put in their safe. This way you’re safe from dodgy housekeeping staff and thieves getting their hands on it.

Second, I would suggest using the hotel room safe, although, there is a chance that staff could access it.

Depending on the type of hotel in which you’re staying, you’ll have more chance of it being stolen by muggers, pickpockets or snatch and grab gangs than you would losing it in the hotel.

If you do have to carry it on you, it’s best to do so in a money belt, although, if you look like a tourist (which you probably would in China), muggers will assume you have one on, making you a more attractive target.

You’re probably getting that there is no guarantee for passport safety, so I’m going to give you some tips on how to handle it should anything actually happen.

Always have copies of your passport when you travel and always leave a photocopy of your passport at home. It’s good to have a laminated copy of your passport to carry with you in countries that require you to have one on you at all times. That way, if you’re pulled up by the authorities, you can say “this is a copy, my original is in my hotel safe (or wherever)”.

Leave a spare copy in your luggage, maybe one in your wallet and maybe one in the book you’re reading. It’s also a good idea to take a photo of your passport so you can have a copy on your phone.

And if a mugger is going to take your passport, chances are, they’ll take your wallet and phone, too. So, make sure you have a cash passport card with some money on it and a spare sim card back at the hotel.

You should contact the local police and the Australian consulate or high commission if your passport is stolen. They’ll guide you through the next steps. You will have to pay for an emergency replacement passport.

There really is no guarantee, but if I had to boil it down, this is what I would do:

  • have a laminated copy to carry on me at all times
  • keep my original passport at the hotel, either at the front desk or in the room safe
  • have a photo of it on my phone
  • do my best to make sure I don’t lose or have my passport stolen.

I hope this helps!

If you have a Travel SOS question, send it to [email protected] and we’ll do our best to answer it, or find someone who can.

Have you ever lost your passport overseas? How did you handle it?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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