People walking on a walkway to the City of London School

Passports are not required by law to be carried with you at all times in London or the UK. Most people leave theirs in their hotel safe so as not to lose it while out on the town. 

There is of course more to this conversation, so let’s dive a little deeper.

What I do

I don’t like carrying my actual passport around with me while I am are out and about, a copy of my passport and your driver’s license has been sufficient as identification over the years in London and elsewhere in Europe. 

Passports and other valuables should always be kept in a hotel safe, according to the US State Department. That is what I do. Take a picture of it and keep that handy on my phone, but leave my passport in the hotel safe.

Remember that carrying your passport with you also increases the risk of it being stolen or lost.

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

But do I need to keep my passport on me in London?

If you are stopped by the authorities, you could be asked for both your passport or some form of ID that states your nation of origin. They can detain you if they would like while they review your paperwork and situation. The police are unlikely to require you to identify yourself unless you’re involved in a serious incident like a drug bust, terror raid or a fight though. 

Some other times you will need your passport in London, are checking into your hotel, changing money or renting a car. When you rent a car, you will also need to show your driver’s license. 

Even when you go out for the night. London bars will typically be fine seeing a US driver’s license. So you should be good without your passport for the night. 

You might feel differently if you are younger, or look younger. Then you might want to bring it so there aren’t any issues.

What is a valid ID in London?

There are a couple of types of ID you can use in the UK, depending on what you need it for:

A passport

A driver’s license with a photo on it

Biometric Residency Permit

Valid age-proving documents (like the PASS card)

Where should you keep your passport when in London? (Tips for traveling with your passport)

These things are important for keeping your passport safe and keeping track of it while you are in London or most any other international city or country.

Keep a color copy of your passport with you.

I have a friend who was in Cancun for a break from the winter weather in Minnesota. 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.

Leave it in a safe in your hotel

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 to get you, or you have done something to make the hotel staff really grumpy, you will be fine.

Typically, people who try to tell you that hotel safes aren’t secure, are trying to sell you something… or are paranoid. Yes, even if it is a legit website or a close friend.

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.

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

Carry a color copy of my passport and/or your driver’s license

You could carry another form of ID as well. If you were to lose your passport it could be hard to re-enter the US. It’s doable, but a bit of a hassle. Consider carrying a color copy of the Bio/identity page and the latest entry stamp if you do this.

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.

Don’t just leave it in your luggage! 

It is more likely to get stolen there. Either by hotel staff, airport staff or pickpockets.

Be careful if someone starts talking to you in the middle of a busy touristy spot.

It might be fine, but it might not. It could be a distraction ploy by a pickpocket. They work in teams where one distracts, the other steals.

Be careful if a vendor requires you to leave your passport 

They might do it legitimately, with no ill-intent, 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 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 kept it if we legitimately damaged the vehicle.

If it gets stolen, notify the authorities asap

If you do get your passport stolen, it’s important to notify the nearest authority and file a police report with as much information as possible:

The date, time, location (street address if possible), what color was the vehicle, license plate number, details of how you had your belongings (wallet or bag) open, etc.

Photocopy your passport two times

Make sure one of them is kept with someone who can email, text or fax it to you in an emergency, and the other you could keep with you at all times. 

Do the opposite of what I have suggested

Or carry the original passport and leave a copy in the hotel and pic of it on your phone in case you need to replace a lost original.  

To avoid losing any of these documents while traveling, I store copies of all documents, as well as a list of credit card numbers and phone numbers online.

Note – Having a copy of your passport won’t replace the original if your actual passport is lost or stolen and you need the original. But a copy might make things easier for the embassy staff and yourself if you need to get a replacement.

Make sure someone at home has a copy of your passport in case of an emergency

If you have any issues or if there is some unforeseen emergency, having someone who isn’t on the trip but is highly responsive and responsible keep a copy of your passport, digital or hardcopy, can be helpful. 

It certainly isn’t necessary, but for the same reasons that organizations ask for emergency contact on their applications and waivers, it could be good to have someone available to help with proof of your identity back home. 

Put an emergency contact person’s information inside your passport

And on that note, it would be good to paperclip in the back cover of your passport an emergency contact that has critical information about you and backups of your important documents. 

Do I have to carry my passport in London?

As I mentioned earlier, it is good to have a valid form of ID of some kind on you in London. It depends on your personal preference and how much risk you’re willing to take on for yourself and those traveling with you during your trip abroad. 

Do you need a passport to travel by train in London?

You don’t need a passport to board a train in London, you will need to have a ticket or pass that allows you to ride. But they won’t ask for ID.

Do they check passports on trains in London?

They don’t check passports on trains that are traveling within London. If however, you board a train in London that will be crossing into any other country they will check passports.

Can you travel without a passport to London?

If you are coming from the U.S., no, you cannot travel to London without a valid U.S. passport. And if you are traveling back to your country of origin from London, you will need a passport as well. 

Hope you have found this post helpful!