Do Tourists Actually Have To Carry A Passport Around With Them Everywhere In Europe?

When embarking on a trip, everyone's list of travel essentials looks a little bit different. If you spend some time scrolling through social media, you'll likely come across thousands of travel influencers sharing their lists of must-haves. Depending on the person, everything from comfortable walking shoes to anti-humidity hair products and the perfect little black dress may make the cut. If you packed every single item that has been claimed as a "travel essential," you'll likely fill multiple suitcases. Most of these items aren't really crucial, but there is one essential that every single tourist needs to remember when embarking on an international vacation — a passport.

Passports are legal documents that verify a traveler's identity and serve as official permission to enter and leave countries. Regardless of whether you're traveling for business or pleasure, you'll need a passport if you travel abroad. If you arrive at the airport without one, you won't even be allowed to board your international flight. Some travel experts suggest that tourists keep their passports on hand even after they've arrived at their destination. Others suggest carrying paper copies of your documents instead and leaving your real passport locked up safely in your hotel. If you've ever wondered whether or not you need to carry your passport on your person while galavanting around Europe, we're here to help you sort through the facts. According to the U.S Department of State's Smart Traveler Tips, you should carry copies of your passport ID pages with you at all times while traveling abroad.

When should you carry your passport with you while traveling throughout Europe

Whether or not you'll need to have your physical passport while sightseeing in Europe seems like a pretty straightforward question. Unfortunately, there's no clear consensus on whether or not you should keep it with you at all times. Some travelers claim that the safest option is to have your passport with you always, in case you need to show legal identification or leave a country quickly due to an unforeseen circumstance, like a natural disaster or an evacuation. Other travel experts insist that keeping your passport on you increases your risk of losing it or getting pickpocketed while traveling.

Sometimes, it's going to be crucial to have your passport on hand. On travel days, the necessity of having your valid passport, as opposed to a copy, is undebatable, even if you won't be passing through immigration. In Europe, the Schengen Borders Agreement allows for free travel between European countries, without border checks, but you'll still need your passport because officials can reinstate border checks without notice. Your passport is your only legal form of identification when you're abroad, so you may need it to check into your hotels or make purchases. Italy, for example, requires that everyone carry a legal form of government identification with them at all times. If you're not an EU resident, that means your passport. Be sure to check individual requirements in each country you plan on visiting.

How to keep your passport safe while traveling

Outside of travel days, many travelers agree that it's fine to leave your passport safely locked up at the hotel, as long as you carry a copy, which can include a photo of your passport page on your phone. Your passport getting lost or stolen while traveling is one of the ultimate travel blunders. It can quickly put a huge damper on an otherwise perfect European vacation, and you'll have to jump through some hoops in order to be able to return to your own country. If you happen to lose your passport while traveling, you'll want to notify the police immediately. Then, you'll be required to appear at the nearest United States embassy or consulate in person to apply for a new passport — and you'll have to pay the passport application fees. According to its website, the U.S Department of State "will make every effort to assist you quickly," so that you depart on your scheduled flight home. 

In order to keep your passport safe when traveling abroad, ensure that it's protected. Invest in a waterproof passport cover to protect it from getting damaged by the elements. Avoid keeping your passport in any pockets of your clothing or accessories — pockets are easy targets for petty thieves. A money belt with a zipper compartment that can be worn inside of your clothing is the safest option. You should also keep your passport separate from other items that you will need to access more frequently, like cash and credit cards.