Planning your trip abroad? Documentation is the main part before the start of your trip. Money exchange, train ticket booking etc require you to submit your passport, visa copies flight bookings etc. Most travellers hands out copies of the required documents with ease to a stranger. I am not one of them.
Take a look at what I do to keep my passport or rather all documents safe and prevent misuse
Why the extra pain?
You must be like why do all this and not just handover my documents copy to the concern. How does it matter? It does
Let me show you the risk factors involved at various touch points
Your passport copy can be used to issue currency to some other passenger who has breached his limit on a single passport. Try asking the same on your next visit to the money exchange.
Your passport copy can be reused to activate prepaid sim cards on your name for locals who can't benefit tourism sim tariffs
Your passport copy can be reused to buy train passes/tickets on your name for locals who can't purchase tourism passes/tickets (JP Pass among locals is good purchase with the tariff it offers on bullet trains)
Ok got it. What do I do to avoid it?
Watermark your documents for each journey
Before your journey you know exactly which touch points would need your documents. Watermark them with the basic details before handing them over. For a currency exchange I watermarked mine with basic details
Given to: Thomas Cook
Location: Oberoi Mall
Month & Year: May 2018
That's how my passport looked when I submitted
Same was done while purchasing JP Pass with watermark <Given for JP Pass on DD-MM-YYYY>
Many vendors will deny accepting the same. Tell them you will take your business elsewhere. If they are genuine they will make the efforts to accommodate the proofs with watermark. I had no issues when I explained them the reasons.
How to do it?
Photoshop - If you know how to use if or anyone in office its the best option. Here's a quick guide if you have it installed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEplS8bIVWI
Powerpoint - You would have used it at some point in your life. How to do it? Here https://support.office.com/en-us/article/video-add-a-watermark-to-your-slides-1246244d-f465-4e4f-b9f9-49acdae00ff1
Word - How to do it? Here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9CobqHFNzs
There are many mobile apps which help watermark your images but you don't know what do these apps do with the images. Many are offline apps but why take the risk.
Use the apps if above options are not available
You will require passport copies on foreign shores. Take watermarked & original copies with you always. It's much safer than handing over your passport to unknown person for xerox purpose. Give them the copies and show passport for validation
I took watermarked copies for sim purchase, currency exchange and hostel requirements
WHILE TRAVELLING IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY
Yes it's recommended to carry your passport with you always. That's the only identity you have in foreign shores. But I never carried mine with me while roaming in the city. So what did I do?
Make a set of the below documents and also mail them to you email id
Colour copies of your full passport and visa
Hostel/Hotel booking (Get a stamp from the hostel/hotel on the booking paper)
Updated contact nos of the hostel/hotel you're staying (Police would want to call them)
Plane ticket of inward and outward journey
Having the above set of documents also help in case your passport is lost and you have to seek help from the embassy
Your local details
Print labels before travel or put handwritten labels in your travel doc pouch and passport. Labels should contain your local hotel/hostel address and your local contact number.
This would help if your travel docs are found and someone wants to return it to you
Security lockers in reception area
I always book hostels which have security locker facility in reception area with CCTV camera. I keep my passport and other documents in the locker and use my own lock.
Tip: Carry a waterproof mobile cover or pouch and keep your passport in it
Tip: Cover your hand and use the padlock if it works on combination
Reception in hotels
Some hotels provide passport deposit facility at reception. This is also a safe way to keep your passport.
Alert: Do this only if you get a receipt for the same. (I would still prefer a security box with my lock)
Need to carry passport
There will be some occasions when you would have to compulsorily carry your passport with you. (Eg: Trip to Macau from HK) Take a few extra steps to safeguard your passport
Get a nice sturdy money belt and keep your passport next to your body
Tip: Keep petty cash aside and avoid having to remove belt in public places
Backpack with back pocket
Get a backpack with a pocket at the back. Keep your passport and other valuables in the pocket. Most bags don't have locks for such pockets. Just use a safety pin and lock it up.
Whichever way you wear the backpack the pocket will face your body
Never hand over your passport
I follow the same rule I use in Mumbai for my licence when the traffic police stops me. I never hand over my licence to him. I hold the licence and ask him/her to see all details they want. Once handed over to them you are at their mercy.
You never know the scams running in foreign countries. Never handover your original passport directly to any police officer. Give them copies of the passport first. In case they demand to see the original don't hand it over immediately. Check if your can get them inside a supermarket before you show them the original passport. (Helps as they have CCTV cameras)
I was at few occasions stopped by Police in European countries for routine check. Not having the original passport with me I had to explain them in length and show them the proofs I had with me. Also told them how difficult it would be for me if my passport was stolen.
It's a little pain explaining them all but keeping my passport safe gets me one less worry while I roam in a foreign country :)
Safe Travels !!!!