How to stop losing your passport and protect it from theft

Person holding an Australian passport

Nicola Dowse

Posted April 27, 2023

Here’s how to avoid forgetting where you’ve placed your passport, plus how to keep it safe while travelling and what to do if it is stolen.

You’ve saved, planned and booked a much-needed overseas holiday. Now all that’s left is to pack your bags and hop on the plane – but where is your passport?

A valid passport is an essential document for international travel, yet it’s also something which many of us are guilty of putting away somewhere “safe”, only to forget where it is when we really need it. 

During the 2019-2020 financial year, 31,073 Australian passports were reported either lost or stolen according to the Australian Passport Office. During the same period, Australia was the most reported location for local passports to go missing, highlighting just how many of us lose our passports at home. 

How to stop losing your passport at home

Along with keys, passports are a common item to lose. The reason for this comes down to the fact that they are a portable object, according to neuroscientist Daniel Levitin. In a 2015 TED Talk, Levitin says, “The hippocampus is really good for things that don’t move around much, but not so good for things that move around, so this is why we lose car keys and reading glasses and passports.” 

The solution sounds simple: always return your passport to the same, easily recalled location, such as a safe or cupboard. But bear in mind this location should also be somewhere that is out of direct sight of anyone outside the home, as passports (as well as keys and wallets) that are easily visible can tempt potential thieves into opportunistic crime.

One method is to have a folder or other filing system specifically for any important documents, including your passport. Then, whenever you have to take your passport out for identity or travel reasons, make a concerted effort to return it to this location after use.


A woman in a suit using a safe in a hotel room

Using your hotel room's safe is a good idea when you can't keep you passport with you. Photo: Getty. 

How to keep your passport safe while travelling

Keep your passport in the same place 

The same principles to keeping your passport safe at home apply while traveling as well. Designate a secure location to keep your passport and always replace it in this location after using it. For example, keep it in the same, secure pocket in your carry-on luggage or consider using a money belt.

If you’re staying in the same accommodation for a few days, it may be safer to keep your passport in your room so long as there is somewhere to secure it. This might be a room safe, lockable wardrobe or lockable suitcase. 

Keep your passport to yourself

Smart Traveller advises to never hand your passport to anyone and only take your passport out when necessary, such as when going through immigrations at an airport. Some tour operators may request your passport for genuine reasons, but you should still insist that they make a photocopy (or provide them a photocopy yourself) rather than allow them to hold on to it.  

In general, it’s a good idea to travel with at least one photocopy of your passport’s photo page, or a photograph of it, as it can be helpful if it does go missing. 

Protect your passport from damage 

Keep your passport dry and avoid keeping any boarding passes or tickets next to the photo page, as ink can bleed and obscure important details. A little bit of wear is fine, but damage such as tears, cuts, removed pages, signs of tampering, and any marks that obscure details on the passport photo page can prevent you from travelling. 

It is illegal to deliberately damage your passport. 

Add your details

Australian passports feature a contact details page where you can write in your contact information. Filling this out can make it easier for your passport to be returned to you should you lose it while travelling. Use a pencil to fill out the page, as it will allow you to update your details should they change.


A woman making a phone call in a hotel room

Australians can access 24/7 help if they lose their passport while travelling overseas. Photo: Getty.

What to do if your passport is lost or stolen 

Don’t panic if you lose your passport while travelling. Australian citizens travelling on an Australian passport can have a new passport, temporary passport or provisional travel document issued in an emergency by either contacting the nearest Australian embassy or consulate, or by calling the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre number (+61 2 6261 3305). 

It’s especially important to access Australian government help if your passport has been stolen, as it puts you at risk of fraud or identity theft. 

You may need a police report to claim any losses pertaining to losing your passport, so make sure you report it as soon as possible (ideally within 24 hours) after you notice it missing.  

How much does it cost to replace an Australian passport? 

As of January 1, 2023, an Australian passport costs $325 for those aged 16 and over, while a child’s passport costs $164. Australians aged 75 and over can also opt for a $164 passport with a validity of five years (compared to the standard adult passport which is valid for ten years).  

A lost passport overseas will cost you $204 ((plus additonal surcharge fees) to get an emergency passport. These passports are only valid for up to a year and have restrictions placed on them in some countries. Because of this, it’s a good idea to apply for a new passport when applying for your emergency passport (so that your new, ten-year passport is ready for you once you arrive home).  

A replacement passport is different from an emergency passport. They are issued when you still have two or more years left on your current passport but require a new passport for reasons such as minor damage, change of identity details (e.g. name or sex), have run out of visa pages or have had your passport compromised in a data breach. Replacement passports are free with a valid reason, otherwise they cost $204 (plus additonal surcharge fees).  

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