Passports and Travel Documents
Your passport is your most important travel document. If it’s out of date you won’t be able to leave the country, if you lose it getting home becomes complicated.
You should check how long you have left on your passport at least 2 months before you’re due to fly off into the sun. Leave this any later and you run the risk of not getting a replacement in time, or you will have to pay for the premium express service.
Having a passport that expires a day or two after you’re due to return may not be enough. Some countries have a rule that passports must have at least 6 months left after the date of departure, or they won’t let you in.
You may need a visa to get into some countries, so check before you book as these can be expensive and time consuming. If you are refused a visa you will not get your holiday money back. Do not be tempted to travel anyway. If you do manage to get on the plane, you will be sent back when you arrive, probably after a night in the cells.
For countries that issue a visa on arrival you may need blank pages (generally 2). So you should also renew your passport if you are running out of blank pages. You should also renew it if it’s falling to bits.
Some of teenagers may still be using a child passport, which can be used until it expires, so in theory someone could be using a child’s passport even though they’re 19 or 20. The advantage of having a child passport is when it is time to renew it is for a 10 year adult renewal passport.
If you’ve never had a passport then you should allow at least 6 weeks as you may need to attend a passport interview.
For more information on passports visit www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Passports/index.htm
If you need to replace your passport when you’re away then you will need to contact the nearest British Consulate. You can find the embassy or consulate details for your destination on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website www.gov.uk/fco
If your passport gets lost or stolen then one of the first questions you’ll be asked by the local police (you will need to get a police report) and when in the embassy is ‘what was your passport number?’
So you should scan your passport and other important travel documents such as your flight times and e-ticket number and email the picture to a web based email account, such as Hotmail, or preferably a secure internet vault (speak to an IT expert about the best way to keep your information safe). Then you can access the details from anywhere in the world. You could also give a copy to somebody back at home so that they have a record of your itinerary as well.
You won’t be able to use the scanned image as a passport (I have been asked this in the past) but it will speed up the process for a temporary replacement.
- Write the full details of your next of kin in your passport.
- Take a second means of photo-identification with you.
- Keep your passport in the hotel safe and carry a photocopy with you.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has a service called LOCATE. If you register your trip then the embassy and crisis staff can then give you better assistance in an emergency such as a tsunami or terrorist attack.
As well as being able to contact you on a local emergency, this service can be used if family and friends need to contact you.
It only takes a few minutes to register your trip on the FCO website and it’s also free.