Your passport

If there is one thing in all your travelling possessions that I would consider the most invaluable, it would be my passport. A passport is your entry, stay, and exit permit to any destination that is outside your home country. Without your passport, you will not be able to enter into a new country. The border guards will turn you back until you can present an authentic passport or a passport with a valid visa to enter the country. The guards need to stamp your passport with an entry stamp that includes where you crossed the border and the date.

To exit the country you will need your passport. The border guards will give you an exit stamp next to your entry stamp that proves that you have legally left the country. The guards also will check for the date of the entry stamp on your passport to ensure that you didn’t stay longer than you were allowed to.

I am very strict about keeping my passport on my body at all times. Many times, hostels, guesthouses, rental agencies wanted to keep my passport as collateral. This is illegal! Do not let them have it. You can give it to them so they can fill out the necessary forms, but always – ALWAYS – get it back. Place it securely in your money belt which is fastened securely inside your clothes.

In some countries, if you are found without a valid passport on your person, you will be taken to the nearest police station until your identity is proven. This process could sometimes take anywhere from a couple days to a week or longer depending on how strict the security policies of the country are. Some countries are pretty paranoid.

Inside the passport, there is a section where you can fill in your emergency contact information. Ensure that you accurately fill it out. It is also a good idea to contact that person and tell them that you are putting them down as your emergency contact.

As a precaution, photocopy the page in your passport that contains your personal information and picture. Make a couple copies of these and place each of them in a different and secure place in your main pack and day pack. Give a copy to someone you trust back home such as your parents, or close friend.

Take extra passport photos with you – even though color is more expensive, take around a dozen extras. If you are going to enter a country that requires you to get a visa, you will most likely have to produce one or two passport photos along with the application form and money. Having these photos on hand saves you from searching for a photo booth in a foreign country.

If you lose your passport, don’t panic. This has happened to other travellers before and there are processes in place to get a new one. Even if you have lost everything, including your money and gear, most embassies and consulates offer financial services to help out in this kind of emergency. You need to contact your local consulate in the country you are in. This can be found in your guidebook, tourist information centre, or on the Internet. They will inform you about how to obtain a new passport.

Proving your citizenship can be a long process. Your photocopies, identity cards, and birth certificate will help significantly. Once you have proven your identity, you are going to have to wait until your passport is printed in your home country and mailed to you.