Travel Safe Thursday

How to Keep Your Passport Safe While Traveling

Passports are the most important item you will own while traveling in a foreign country. The only thing you should guard more carefully is your personal safety. Anything else you lose, even all you cash, can be replaced easier than your passport.

So how do you keep your passport safe? The two main choices are to carry it with you at all times or to leave it in the hotel safe.

The answer is simple: carry it with you. Hotel safes are not as safe as you might think. Even though you set the combination before using it, all have security codes to allow the hotel to open it should you forget your combination and to allow them to open it for the next guest should you leave with it locked. The latter happens so frequently that in some hotels, the cleaning staff has the codes. Since the security codes are rarely if ever changed once set by hotel security, you are at risk to current and former employees who might be tempted. Every safe has a code for just this happenstance. The hotel might go up with you to the safe and open it, or they might just give you the code. Armed with this four digit number, you can open your safe and retrieve you fiver as just and quickly and easily as any sneak thief or former hotel employee.

The best way to carry it – some say the only way – is to buy and use a money belt. A money belt isn’t a belt so much as a pouch that goes under your clothing around your waist.

You can buy a money belt at most online travel stores. Rick Steves has a good one at ricksteves.com. I recommend paying the extra for a silk one. They are more comfortable and do better in hot weather when you might get a bit sweaty.

Wear the money belt under your pants, out of sight. Besides your passports, keep the majority of your cash and credit and debit cards there but not all of them. One thing you don’t want to do is to pull it out to make purchases, exposing its location to a potential thief. A money belt is good protection against pickpockets but not against armed or forcible robbery. Always hand over your valuables it you think you might be injured or killed if you don’t. Better the hassle of replacing your money and passport than time in a hospital or worse.

To avoid displaying your money belt, start the day with enough cash so that you can buy routine purchases without digging into you money belt. Keep out one credit card if you tend to charge purchases and a debit card if you are due to replenish your supply of local currency.

This blog entry was excerpted and condensed from the book, The Geezer Stays Safe While Traveling: Avoiding Danger, Scams and Thieves. The book covers this and other similar topics in more in depth, with additional advice for women and solo travelers.

The topic for the next Travel Safe Thursday (July 17, 2014) is What to Do if Your Passport is Lost or Stolen. Don’t miss this important blog post with surprising information.

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