This past fall, my fiancé and I travelled to Dubai for thanksgiving. As we were getting ready to explore the city on day one, I asked for his opinion on leaving our travel documents in my suitcase vs locking them up in the hotel room safe. I was expecting a definite lock them up response. But much to my surprise and without hesitation, he advised that we take them along with us (plot twist). I was taken aback by his suggestion because the idea of walking around with important documents never crossed my mind. When I asked for his logic, he explained that as a foreigner, it is best to be prepared for the worst and always have your travel documents, particularly passport, handy in case of emergencies. It made perfect sense at the time, during the entire trip actually. In retrospect, however, I see where leaving them in the room could be beneficial and problematic as taking them along. Having thought more through the pros and cons, I lean more towards locking them up. I’ll tell you why but first, let’s go through some issues to consider.
Likelihood of losing them
Least Likely – when locked up
More Likely – when taken along
I think this one is pretty obvious. In most cases, leaving things in a secured space decreases the likelihood of losing them. As a traveller, anything can happen as you go about your day, such as mistakenly leaving belongings somewhere or dropping them. If you constantly find yourself losing things and looking for your stuff, this may be a good reason to leave your documents locked up. On the other hand, if you are generally a careful person, you may not have too much to worry about.
Likelihood of theft
Least likely – when locked up
More likely – when taken along
Secure spaces offer more safety cushion than carrying things around. This is especially true for countries or places where pickpocketing, robbery, and similar crimes are high. If you ever find yourself in one of those areas, you may want to highly consider leaving your documents locked up at your respective lodging. But beware that even that is not foolproof for theft. While most hotel rooms are generally safe, anything can happen. Some lockboxes have master keys and codes that can be overridden. This is where it becomes really important to consider general safety of the country and city; reputation of the hotel; and location of the hotel etc.
In emergency situations where you may be required to use or show your travel documents in order to escape a situation, having them locked up in a room while you are out and about may not be the best idea. Since we cannot always predict when these would occur, it may be safest to carry them along. This was the angle my fiancé was coming from when he made the suggestions to carry our documents along with us. But from personal experiences, I feel comfortable saying that these extreme situations are less likely to happen.
This one is tricky. One the one hand, I can think about many instances where having travel documents, particularly passport, may come in handy in unexpected or unplanned situations. For instance, while in Dubai, we noticed that we were spending a lot on Ubers and Taxis and decided to get a rental car. Because we were in close proximity to the airport, we decided to go there right away to pick up a car. Having our passports handy at the time was so convenient, as they were required to complete the transaction. It would not have been the end of the world to go back to the hotel to grab them. However, it sure was nice to not go through the hassle. On the other hand, it may be inconveniencing to have to carry them around especially for folks who do not like to wear bags.
Bringing it all together
So now that we’ve outlined various factors to consider – what’s the verdict? Should you take your travel documents along with you as you go about our day or leave them locked up? I am inclined to say lock them up – BUT make sure you have extra copies with you. Take a picture, email the picture to yourself and a trusted friend or family member, and print out hard copies. Do whatever you can to have some sort of backup in case you need it. Before you go on a trip, especially an international one, make sure you research safety of the country/city, the location and reputation of your place of lodging. Take all factors into consideration and do what’s best for you. Keep in mind that at the end of the day, nothing is guaranteed.