Travel Advice: Is a photocopy of your passport enough?
-By Frank J. Yacenda
I think most travelers have heard how it’s important to carry a photocopy of their passport when traveling. That’s valuable advice, both to help prevent having your passport pick-pocketed on the street, and also to assist with replacing a lost or stolen passport. But I had an experience this week that also confirmed the importance of having your passport and other key documents in digital form.
I learned first-hand the value of carrying a photocopy of one’s passport some years ago while serving as Vice Consul at the U.S. Embassy in Suva, Fiji. A group of people, some Americans, but also folks of five or six other nationalities, showed up in my office one day. They had been staying at a guest house on one of the out islands and someone stole the guest house’s lock box, which held all the guests’ passports.
What impressed me was how some of the non-Americans had photocopies of the information pages of their passports, as well as a copy of the page with their U.S. visa. This helped them obtain replacement passports from their home embassies, and it helped me verify that they had U.S. visas previously so I could more readily re-issue them with visas when they got their new passports. Other than the poor Germans, who had to wait three weeks for their foreign ministry to issue them replacement passports out of Germany, most everyone was able to get on their way again in less than a week, and those photocopies definitely helped.
Ever since then, I always keep one or more photocopies of my passport, including any key visa or visit permit pages, with me, and I carry the photocopy, not the actual passport, when I go out and about locally while outside the U.S.
But what about keeping a digital copy of your passport?
I’ll spare you the details, but the bottom line is that to pay for some flights on Tropic Air this week I was required to send over a copy of my passport and a signed credit card authorization form to their reservations department. So here I am on Roatan in Honduras with no printer, no scanner, and no photocopier. What was I to do? As it turns out, I have a copy of my passport on my laptop’s hard drive. Also on my hard drive are facsimiles of my signature, and my initials. So with a few key strokes I was able to copy my facsimile signature onto the airline’s authorization form and email it along with the copy of my passport, and in a few minutes I had my e-tickets.
Now they might have insisted on a copy of my credit card, and while I have digital copies of some of my cards, front and back, I realized I don’t have all of them. So that’s something I’ll remedy when I’m back in the U.S. It also would be useful to have digital copies of airline frequent flyer cards, and even one’s health card and other important records. And while the airline didn’t ask it, I do have my driver license as well as my auto insurance card in digital form on my laptop.
Whether you keep them on a laptop or your smart phone, or both, you might run into a circumstance, as I did, where digital copies of your key documents and other items, like your signature, can literally save the day. So if you haven’t already made digital copies of these things, maybe it’s time you did. And also keep that photocopy of your passport with you, too.
Frank Yacenda is a former U.S. diplomat and consular officer, and has lived, worked, and traveled all over the world. He’s currently making an extended visit to Roatan, Honduras, and is planning an upcoming return visit to Belize. Frank has been a long time visitor since the 1970s, when the country was a very different world and Belize Airways was still a flight option.
Travel Advice: My 2 Cents
I agree wholeheartedly with Frank in regards to having digital and photocopies of your passport handy and carrying them with you while traveling over the real thing.
I will even go one step further on digital. In addition to having pics of my passport on my laptop, I also email myself copies and keep pictures of my passport on my phone. This way they are easy to pull up when needed.
On more than one occasion a picture of my passport on my smart phone has helped me get through ID issues here in Belize. I also do the same for my drivers licence and other important identification too.
Around San Pedro Town
Since this was a passport specific topic and the featured image covered that, I am adding some pics from the past few days while walking to or from various places.