You can’t travel abroad without a valid passport. Everyone knows this, and everyone planning a trip can find out how to easily get a passport issued. But that’s not the end of the story. Here are five important tips for avoiding passport hassles that can ruin even the best planned vacation.
1. Make a photocopy of the signature and photo pages of your passport to carry with you as you travel. Keep it in a safe place, but keep it in a separate compartment or bag from your actual passport. If your passport gets lost or stolen, that photocopy will be helpful in getting a replacement.
2. Check the passport to be sure it is valid for at least 180 days AFTER your return date from your trip. Most destinations have rules about passport validity, so don’t assume that because your passport is valid when you depart, it’ll be sufficiently valid for your return. For example, if you’re going to India on Nov. 1 and returning Nov. 15, your passport should be valid though May 15, 2010. If it’s set to expire before May 15, 2010, get the passport renewed before you travel.
3. If you’re planning to visit a destination that requires a visa, and you need to get your passport renewed for this trip, do the renewal BEFORE you apply for your visa. The visa will be stamped into your passport, so if you get the visa first, you’ll have to apply (and pay for) the same visa all over again when you get your new passport.
4. Check to be sure you have enough visa pages in your valid passport, as many destinations require a certain number of blank visa pages for you to be able to enter the country. This is different from getting a visa in advance. In this case, the visa is stamped into your passport at passport control upon your arrival. Sometimes it’s free and sometimes you have to pay a fee. But regardless of cost, the pages need to be available. Typically, If you are short on visa pages, you won’t be able to board your flight in the first place, and that means plenty of disappointment all around, not to mention plenty of lost money trying to catch up to your tour or paying penalties to change flights, etc.
5. Unless you’re traveling daily from one city to another, use the in-room safe or the hotel’s safe deposit system, and store your passport together with your other valuables. In some countries, it’s virtually impossible to easily replace your travel documents, and in most places, you won’t need to carry your passport with you all the time. For identification, consider carrying your driver’s license or other small document that identifies you. Even a driver’s license will be replaced more easily than a passport. And unless you plan to do extensive banking transactions or purchase very expensive items which qualify for VAT reimbursement, you will hardly ever need your passport as you travel, except to cross borders from one country to another or to board your flights.