passportPassports are very important when you live in China. You don’t just need them to prove you are allowed in the country, you need them for many everyday things. Using a Chinese net bar, you have to show a passport. Getting a bus, train or plane ticket you need a passport. Going to the bank can require a passport, especially the more bureaucratic banks typically in Shanghai and smaller cities will often ask for a passport even if you just want to withdraw some RMB from the teller. Checking into a Chinese hotel, or in some cases just visiting a person at the hotel, they want a passport.

Damaging and Losing your Passport

If you’re a tourist here for a short time, having your passport all the time isn’t a problem, and is probably very sensible. But if you’re living in China, having the passport can be a pain and risky as it can easily get damaged or stolen.

So when you come to China take some precautions.

Scan and Photocopy your passport

Before you come to China you should have a photocopy and scan your passport. With a photocopy of your passport, you can get train tickets, get into net bars to contact home or the embassy if you don’t have a laptop or internet connection handy, and it will let you get a hotel room.

If your passport is lost or stolen, a photocopy of it can be a life saver. Without some sort of ID you cannot move around China, and any little problems will quickly escalate, likely involving police. Having a Chinese contact from a tour group, company or school able to verify who you are can help, but it will still take quite a bit of time and frustration trying to convince people you are who you say you are.

You’ll want a scan of your passport as well. Keeping it on a USB on your key chain, as well as in an email you sent yourself. If your bag or wallet with the photocopy is stolen while wandering around China, you need a quick way to get a copy of your passport and visa. Most places in China will have a copy shop where they can print anything you need in a few minutes. If you have the scan in your email, a bit of talking and begging to the staff will usually let you use a computer at the copy shop or if a Chinese hotel.

Keep Your Passport Safe

When you’re in China, whatever you do, keep your passport safe. Lots of thieves will steal passports because passports are valuable, the information on them, the paper itself, and the booklet can all be used to make fake passports and ID for criminals. So they’ll pay a lot of money for them.

Also with all the red tape and bureaucracy found in China, losing your passport can leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere.

So photocopy your passport a few times, keep one copy in your wallet and one copy in each of your bags. If you live in China, if you’re going on a day trip or just doing some errands around town, keep your passport at home and use a photocopy. It will be more comfortable and safer for you.