crowd of people walking in an outdoor market

I’m sure you have asked yourself this question before. Should I leave my passport at the hotel when I am traveling in a foreign country or carry it with me for the day?

The answer to that depends on what your plans are for the day, where you are and what you feel safer with.

First, it depends where you are

If the country you are visiting requires you to carry your passport, you should do it. Malaysia, France and Italy are some examples.

You could still not do it. On a personal note, I don’t. I have never been stopped by the police and asked to see my passport.

There is a friend of mine that was stopped a few times and asked to present his passport. The police have never hassled him. He leaves his passport is in the hotel where he stays, and he has told them where he’s staying and that his passport is there. It isn’t hard for the authorities to verify that. They do it all the time.

TIP – One thing you could do is keep a color copy of your passport with you if that makes you feel better.

I had a friend who was in Paris for the summer. One day, she went to breakfast with friends and she left her passport on the table at the restaurant. She realized she had left it just a few minutes after leaving and ran back but it was too late: her passport had been stolen.

What are your plans for the day?

If you’re planning something, like swimming or a scuba dive where you feel like you won’t have a safe place to lock up your passport or keep it on you, you might want to leave it back at the hotel. I would.

Lock it up in the safe in your room. They are typically very safe and secure. Yes, I know they can be broken into if someone is really trying, but they typically are quite safe and unless you have someone who is really out for you, or you have done something to make the hotel staff really grumpy, you will be fine.

Typically people that try to tell you they aren’t safe, are trying to sell you something. Yes, even if it is a really legit website.

It boils down to personal preference and how much risk you’re willing to take on for yourself and those traveling with you during your trip abroad.

TIP – You might get hassled by your insurance company if you don’t lock up your ID or passport in the hotel safe.

Related: What’s the “passport issuing country” if you’re in a foreign country?

What do you feel safer doing?

You might inherently not trust the hotel staff… Or you might lose things and not want to carry your passport around with you everywhere you go.

You have a better feel for that.

Like I said earlier, my favorite way to ensure my passport is safe is to leave it in the hotel’s safe. It’s not perfectly invulnerable there but much better off than carrying it around:

  1. I have lost a few things during my travels. Luckily none of them were very hard to replace.
  2. Passports are often targeted by thieves. I’ve seen street gangs target cash, cards, and passports. They do a good job at what they do.

Here is an article I wrote on keeping your wallet safe when traveling abroad.

So I carry a color copy of my passport or my driver’s license with me. You could carry another form of ID as well. It can be hard to re-enter the US without a passport. It’s doable, but a bit of a hassle. If you do this, consider carrying a color copy of the Bio/identity page and latest entry stamp.

Also, keep a digital copy on your phone. This could come in handy as well, especially in combination with the paper one.

If you need to, for any reason, be quickly admitted to the Embassy of your country, then carrying something that can prove your citizenship can be very beneficial for you.

TIP – Don’t just leave it in your luggage! It is more likely to get stolen there.

Be careful when someone starts talking to you in the middle of a busy touristy spot. It might not just be a distraction ploy by a pickpocket. They work in teams; one distracts, the other steals.

Related: Should you carry your passport with you in Europe?

Places not to put your passport

  • An open shopping bag on top of the groceries
  • A purse that is slung over one shoulder in front of would-be thieves
  • The back pocket of your pants
  • One of the smaller outer pockets of a backpack
  • Public restroom or changing room

Places to carry your passport while traveling

  • Your backpack if you will be carrying it in a secure inner pocket or portion of a bigger main pocket
  • Your inner pocket of a jacket, vest, sweater. Preferably one that has a zipper
  • Front pockets of your pants
  • The safe in your hotel room (my personal favorite)

TIP – Be careful when someone starts talking to you in the middle of a busy touristy spot. It might not just be a distraction ploy by a pickpocket. They work in teams; one distracts, the other steals.

TIP – Do be careful if a vendor of any kind requires you to leave your passport as security to rent a car boat or scooter! Feel the situation out and see if you can leave them your paper copy. 

I just did that in Tulum, Mexico to rent a scooter but they looked pretty legit, and I knew we weren’t going to be rally-driving the scooter so I felt the risk was pretty low. It turned out fine.

Though they could have scammed us by claiming that we damaged their vehicle… or keep it if we legitimately damaged the vehicle.

Related: What do I do with my luggage after checking out from my hotel?

Should I leave my passport in my Airbnb?

Leaving your passport at your Airbnb can be safer than if you carry it with you all day, but you might feel safer if you take it with you. Passports left behind should be locked in a room safe or hidden somewhere that won’t be obvious to the host or cleaning crew. Yes, your Airbnb might not be perfectly secure but can be more secure than carrying it with you everywhere you go.

Should you carry your passport with you in Mexico?

It is not necessary or advisable to carry your passport on your person while visiting or touring in Mexico, unless you have an express reason to do so, such as exchanging money.

Should you carry your passport with you in Italy?

Although it is unlikely you will be checked in Italy, you must carry your passport at all times. The Italian government requires you to have an official ID on you. And a foreign driver’s license won’t count. 

Should you carry your passport with you in Europe? 

Having a valid form of identification is required by law in Europe. Passports or copies of passports should be carried. 

Should you carry your passport with you at all times

The chances of losing your passport increase if you carry your passport everywhere when you travel. You should store your passport as securely as you can, and carry digital and physical copies of it with you.