If you want to travel the globe unimpeded, you must first have the perfect passport.
And we mean perfect. This requires much more than just stuffing it in your backpack and going.
Did you know you can be denied entry into a country, or — even worse — prohibited from leaving a country is your passport doesn’t meet certain global standards?
This happens. Recently, a friend of your correspondent was trapped in a foreign country for not having more than three pages of his (valid) passport available for stamping. That’s how hairy it can get out there.
With that in mind, here are a few surefire tips to get you out of the gate.
Get the big one
The rule of travel thumb is that you need at least four clean visa pages in your passport if traveling internationally. When getting or renewing a passport, always opt for the 52 page passport book … and keep track of what’s left.
If you’re a big international traveler, it’s well worth investing in a second passport ($170), even if your first one is a chubby 52-pager. That way you can hit the road while your other book is out being processed for your next international jaunt — some countries require you to send the passport away for pre-visa processing, which can kill spontaneity and add stress for any traveler. (FYI, second passports are only good for two years.)
Back up your files
In addition to the double book, you want to back up your book, by making copies of your main passport pages. If lost or stolen, this will help expedite the replacement process. Start by sending a copy to yourself via email. Then send hard and email copies to family, friends and/or a work colleague. Also throw one hard copy in your suitcase, or place it where your passport isn’t. It’s called CYA.
It’s well worth going the extra mile and paying extra fees to have new ($110) or renewed passports ($110) expedited. If dealing directly with the government, pay their expediting fee ($60) and their overnight delivery fee ($20.66) for quick delivery on the back end. Also, send it out via a trackable service (FedEX or UPS).
Phil Otterson, the president of the travel service Abercrombie & Kent, knows a thing or two about travel, having been to more than 100 countries. “We recommend VisaCentral for the fastest and most dependable [passport] service,” he says. “They are in daily contact with embassies, consulates and passport agencies and keep abreast of the most current passport and visa regulations, which frequently change. Visa forms can be confusing and their staff can answer any questions you may have.” The services offers expedited passport and visa services, as well as passport renewals, first-time passports, additional pages, replacement of lost or stolen passports, children’s passports and second passports.
The service really comes in handy when a problem arises.
“We had a client flying from the U.S. to London en route to Uganda to go gorilla tracking,” says Otterson. “On the plane, he met other A&K guests and discovered they all had visas for Uganda. He didn’t realize he needed one, although it was highlighted on every document he received from us. VisaCentral arranged for him to go to the Uganda Embassy in London to get an emergency visa on a Saturday.”
After all the trouble you went through to get it, the last thing you want to do it lose it. Or have it get beat up. Having a case for it is essential if you’re going to keep your documents in tip-top shape. A nice classic YSL case or passport wallet will keep it, and you, in the right place.
— Karen Loftus