Knowing what essential travel documents to take and keeping them safe should be a priority before you leave. This seems simple but can be tricky depending on the country you’re visiting. In some South American countries, you have to fill in an arrival form before entering the country, giving them back when you leave. This makes it crucial not to lose them.
9 Essential Travel Documents
- Passport and color copies
- Visa or Visa approval letter
- Driver’s license or International Drivers License
- Flight Tickets in and out
- At least one Hotel booking
- Certificate of Insurance with Policy Number and Contacts
- My Emergency Contacts
- Bank statement as proof of funds
At passport control in some countries, they will ask you to show proof of your flights in and out along with your Visa. This is to show them you intend to leave the country.
A good trick to get around this if you intend to stay longer or not fly out at all is to buy a more expensive flight ticket out, at a fee that you can cancel as soon as you get into the country.
Sometimes at passport control, they can ask at which hotel you’re staying, so having a hotel booking confirmation on you is important. Some even ask for proof of funds for your stay, to assure them that you don’t intend to stay and work.
They rarely ask for the vaccination proof, but having it with me gave me peace of mind. I read a story of this guy trying to get across a land border, which is more complicated than airports. The border officer asked him for his vaccination document, that he did not have. The officer gave him the choice between paying one hundred dollars or getting an injection right there. What would you choose? This is a good example of why you should always carry US dollars or euros on you at all times. Or take vaccination proof!
Passport Copies and Backups
The passport copies are useful for three reasons. First, if you lose your passport, they speed up the process of getting a new one.
Second, some hotel receptions do not immediately process your info at check-in. This means you have to leave your passport at the reception for a few hours. Leaving a copy just gives you peace of mind and you can immediately start exploring wherever you are.
Third, I always leave my passport in a safe at the hotel or hostel and have a copy with me at all times. This avoids any hassle in case I get robbed. Of course, this doesn’t work when I’m moving from one place to another.
I have a digital copy of all my documents on my Dropbox and Gmail as additional backup, so all I need to help fix any issues is an Internet connection.
Additional Personal Information
Traveling solo made me aware of certain precautions I had never thought about before. What if something really bad happened to me? How could they identify me? This made me add my personal information to my essential travel documents. I ordered customized dog tags and had them on my neck at all times (except at airport security). The information on them is simple but important:
- Surname, name;
- Emergency contact;
- Blood type;
- Passport Number;
It seems a bit extreme, but I can take it a little bit further: I always wear a duplicate dog tag, just in case… something bad happens to me, like really bad to the point that I don’t want to mention it here because traveling is all about fun and adventure and we shouldn’t be afraid, my body can be identified at all times. Cool stuff!
Adding a card with your info to your backpack and daypack is another little touch that can make a difference in case anything gets lost.