Travel

The Consummate Traveler: Essential Travel Documents 101

BY Michele Goncalves TIMEMay 2, 2013 PRINT

I recently overheard two colleagues of mine talking about their experiences visiting a certain Eastern bloc country. While one talked about the weather and good food, the other shared a disturbing incident that happened to him.

A few years ago, this male colleague of mine was by himself and exiting a famous American chain restaurant, when someone dressed in a police uniform asked to see his passport. Having locked his passport in the hotel safe, my colleague was then pushed by this “policeman” for cash in order to release him. He had to walk home alone at night because this person took all of the taxi money he had!

This story reminded me of just how important it is to be prepared with certain critical documentation when visiting foreign countries. This is especially true given these challenging times we live in. Here is a quick list to help you be prepared for your next trip:

Photocopy of passport: You should always keep your actual passport locked away to avoid losing it or having it stolen. However, keep a color photocopy of the main page with you at all times. This can give you a better sense of security if you ever get stopped by a “policeman” to show your identification papers.

I would even ask the hotel staff to write in the local language that the original passport is locked in the hotel safe. Many goons posing as government officials may not speak English well enough to understand your explanations.

Cell Phone Photo of Passport: Take a close up photo using your mobile phone of your passport’s main page. In case you ever lose your passport, this is a quick way to have the document in an easy to transmit format. You could also save it onto a memory stick if you are concerned about e-mailing copies of your passport.

Emergency Contact List: While traveling you should always have a document with you, separate from your handbag or backpacks, that has your emergency contact information on it. Keeping it in your pocket is the best location as you could have your bags stolen or you can easily become separated from your bags if an accident happens.

If you are ever in need of help, this will be an important part of your response plan. Make sure you indicate clearly on the document what country you are from and include the country code as part of the telephone number. If a local Good Samaritan wants to help you, they will need to know how to dial out to your country.

Medical conditions and Medication: If you have any chronic or critical illnesses, allergies to bites or medications, and are on a variety of prescription drugs, it is absolutely essential to have a document on your person with this information. If you get hurt or fall ill while sightseeing or traveling (especially if you are alone), this data could save your life when medical attention is needed.

As always, I wish you all the happiest of travels.

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