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The Most Sought After Document in South America

By Charles R. Barrett

Summary: Charles Barrett offers some helpful tips to ensure that you minimize risk associated with a lost or stolen passport.

Expat Safety - The Most Sought After Document in South America

Your US Passport is one of the most sought after documents in South America. A stolen, then altered passport is worth thousands of dollars on the black market. Here are some helpful tips to ensure that you minimize risk associated with a lost or stolen passport.

  1. When you arrive in Ecuador, you should make a color copy of your passport. Carry that with you and not your original. Have the color copy Notarized by a Notario, then use that notarized color copy for any customs or legal needs you may incur. Put your original passport in the safe at your hotel. If there isn't a safe then hide the passport, but do not leave it where it is easy to find.
  2. When you take your passport to some official, have the notarized color copy along with your original passport, to show the official they are identical, but do not leave the original with the official – only leave your color notarized copy with them. In discussing this issue with one of the leading lawyers in Cuenca, Ecuador, he emphasized there is no requirement to leave your original passport with any official.
  3. Do not leave your passport with your own lawyer unless you have been to their offices and you totally trust them. Again there is not a legal requirement or reason to leave that passport. One story this lawyer told me was of a man who came to him. This Expat sent his passport to the lawyer he was using, only to have that lawyer disconnect his phone and move his office. The man could not find the lawyer or the passport.

Losing your passport in any foreign country is sticky matter, so do your best to know where your passport is at all times. Having one or two backup copies provides some measure of safe guard. Also, you should know how to contact the nearest US Consulate in Ecuador in case you do lose your passport. They can help you to get another copy if necessary.

Other helpful tips for travelling in Ecuador

Do not carry your wallet or purse with you with all your identification and credit cards. Carry one or maybe two cards with you and a color copy of your passport. Keep each card in a different pocket if possible, so that if something happens maybe you'll only have to give them part of your money or one credit card! (Theft of personal property is something to be aware of when walking around the streets of Ecuadorian cities.

Before you leave the US, notify your credit card companies you are going to be out of the USA and inform them where you will be using your card. Have the contact information for your banks and credit cards in case you need to call them.

Don't wear expensive jewelry items when walking around in downtown areas! This is a red flag for attracting petty theft!

Other than these alerts, be careful and have a good experience. If you would like our free 14 page “HELPFUL FACTS ABOUT ECUADOR” just write me

About the Author

Charles Barrett retired Political Consultant and Marketing Professional for 25 years. Charles is with Relocation Services of Ecuador (RSE), which specializes in the Manta, Cuenca, Loja and Quito areas of Ecuador.

AGS Worldwide Movers

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Comments about this Article

Jan 9, 2012 10:53

Very good advice that I will take to heart. Thank you for reminding me about keeping my passport safe..

Jan 10, 2012 10:21

Charles, I was considering Ecuador as a place to live and possibly open a tourist business. However Correa really makes me nervous being he is very friendly with Chavez and the president of Iraq. The Iraq president is scheduled to visit Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba, and ECUADOR this or next week. I had a business in Venezuela but had to close it due to Chavez. Would you have any comments on this? Regards, Scott Boswell

Jan 10, 2012 15:07

Protecting your passport should begin before you walk out your door to go to the airport. Passport theft in airports has become quite common and it can, and does, happen in every airport in the world. There is a temptation to simply carry it in a readily available pocket or some other means for quick access. This is exactly what pickpockets are hoping for. When you leave your home have a plan. I use a satchel, OK so it might be more of a purse, that has a mail compartment that has both a zipper and a cover flap. I can still get my PP in a few seconds but it would be difficult to snatch. When you present your PP at check in never lay it down on a counter, not even for a second. Hand it directly to the agent and when they hand it back put it directly back in your safe carrying place. For more info on travel safety check out my book Smart Safe Traveler.

Jan 12, 2012 08:17

Here's something everyone should do with their passport no matter where they're travelling... Scan the first pages of your passport and email the scan to YOURSELF. Then, if your passport is lost or stolen you can recover the important information from any computer that can access the internet anywhere in the world. You should also do the same thing with your cameras, notebook computers, etc. Write down their serial numbers and email those to yourself.

Mar 14, 2012 18:29

Good advice, tho you should also have a copy of the page where they "stamp" you into the country.

Jun 14, 2012 18:54

I picked up a wonderful habit while travelling in Venezuela many years ago. It was suggested to me by an Expat living in Caracas where daylight armed robberies are commonplace and pickpockets rampant, especially on the Metro. Take your last, old, worn out wallet on your trip and put twenty dollars of the local currency in the wallet with some one or more old expired credit cards. [I highly suggest scratching off the CVS code on the back for additional measure] Now carry this wallet in your normal pocket location in another location carry your necessary cash for the day, a credit/debit card if you like and a copy of your Passport / tourist card if you have one. I like to take rubber band and wrap around a hundred bucks of local currency, a credit card and that copy of my passport or tourist card and keep it in my other pocket. If I am to get robbed I present the wallet with all those bills in it and the robber will see what he wants to see. Do not try to tell the robber that you have no money; they will shot you dead as they will never believe a Gringo does not have money. You are a rich Gringo and always will be. If you think I am exaggerating please stay at home as you are too stupid to take good advice and will end up dead. Leave all the rest at the hotel safe. BTW, if the country you visit provides you with a tourist card after immigration entry at the border, you can usually freely and legally travel the country with only this tourist card on your person as ID so that you can leave your passport back at the hotel. BTW, I have never been robbed but I have latin friends that have and I had friend get pocket picked right in front of me without realizing it until the pros had disappeared into thin air. Course my friend was an idiot because I told him not to put his wallet in his back pocket and he refused to take my advice.

Sep 18, 2012 17:43

Excellent strategy, similar to my own when I was a constant traveler a few years back. I kept my "robbery money" in my purse and the rest of my valuable stuff was in a zippered pouch hidden in my clothes, with any really big amount riding beneath the insoles of my shoes. I would leave my passport in the entry/exit city with a reliable hotel or travel agent. Never ever did I admit to being American, I was always Belgian or Dutch (few robbers know much about their of those countries or what a phoney accent might sound like). When I met fellow tourists, I rarely was anything but an innocuous Canadian. These strategies got me through some truly harrowing situations. This was a few decades back, when--I am pretty sure-- things were far more lawless than today.

Nov 26, 2012 15:15

IIf this is true do you know someone that will give me $1000 for mine and then I'll just go to the embassy and get another for a hundred or two. This is a hysterical article...

First Published: Jan 05, 2012

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