How sure can I be that a passport left in my hotel room is safe? On my trip, I don't need to carry it around with me every day, so would like to leave it behind.
Safes are only as secure as the users who have access.
This could be you (the guest), a presumably trusted manager, or someone with access to the room and some google-fu.
Story: I had my honeymoon in Fiji. My wife locked our stuff in the safe, and it included something we needed at the time....medicine maybe? Point is, she forgot the PIN, or it no longer worked at least, we won't say who was wrong ;)
5 minutes of Google searching, I found there's a default override PIN for that particular safe that most hotels don't change, and indeed, was able to use it to unlock our safe, get the stuff out, AND set a new PIN!
(At the end of our stay I asked to speak to the owner who we'd gotten to know, and let him know what happened. He was going to change the default PINs).
There are various factors to consider here, in my view. The questions to ask here are:
- How likely is it that you get pickpocketed? This depends on many individual factors. How alert are you usually? Do you get distracted? Have you been pickpocketed in the past? Do you look like an easy mark, for instance because you cannot fight back or run after the thief? Do you keep your passport in your back pocket?
- How likely is it that you get stopped by the police? One of the factors is "how suspicious do you look?". (Yes, I know that's not how it should be in an ideal world, but this is how real life works unfortunately.)
- How likely is it that your passport gets stolen from your hotel room? In general, you can get some information on how safe a city is by looking on guidebooks or on the internet. Otherwise, you can trust your instinct: does the hotel look safe? Is the reception always staffed? How easy is it to get inside without being stopped? In your room, do you leave your passport visible on a table, or hidden in a side internal pocket of your suitcase? Note that hotels tend to hide all bad publicity, so I don't think you will get an honest answer from them if you just ask "how safe is this place". Personally I never had troubles with hotel thieves, so instinctively I tend to underestimate this risk, but people with different experience would probably warn me that it is a mistake.
- What would happen to you if police stops you and you are without an ID? This is very location-dependent. This never happened to me, but in most countries I guess that in practice you get scolded, you spend a few hours in a police station, and then they call your embassy or accompany you back to your hotel to retrieve your passport. Again, one of the factors is "how suspicious do you look?"
- What would happen to you if your passport gets stolen? If you don't have another valid form of ID to continue your travel, it is basically guaranteed that you will be denied boarding or entry into your next destination, and you will need a trip to the embassy. At the very best, you will only need to get a new passport when you arrive home, which is a mild annoyance.
This is very location-dependent, but all things considered I think I would feel safer leaving my passport in my hotel if I don't have another form of ID to continue my trip, and otherwise carry it with me. Your mileage may vary, though.
In New York, you are not required to carry ID, and you don't have to show ID to a police officer as mentioned in this article and several others.
For London, you can view our guide here:
The UK is not like Russia or Uzbekistan where police on the street can and do stop you without cause and demand ID
Some hotels have cabinets (or safes) which can be locked with a padlock. For best security (you never know who has a key) you could bring your own padlock.