A colleague is travelling in Chile at present, and on a bus trip from San Pedro de Atacama to Arica, the bus driver insisted on collecting and holding on to all their passports for the duration of the trip.

There were no border crossings during this time, and the reasons behind this collection was not explained. Can anyone shed some light on this behaviour? I've certainly experienced it before on border crossing trips, but not within a country...

  • 2
    I can only imagine because he is afraid for people stealing stuff and then running away somewhere.
    – Bernhard
    Oct 26, 2013 at 10:02
  • 2
    I believe this practice is not even legal at least in some countries despite it being common enough. Oct 26, 2013 at 16:00
  • In many countries, hotels collect passports, even though you are obviously not crossing a border while at the hotel. Don't know if it's related to the situation with buses though.
    – user102008
    Oct 28, 2013 at 23:41
  • Could just be an easy way to do a headcount after stops and ensure that new people don't randomly get on?
    – SpaceDog
    Nov 5, 2013 at 6:28

2 Answers 2


I just talked to my friend, who used to live in Chile. He (a Bangladeshi citizen) traveled a lot in this very route.

According to him, this is a very unusual case. He never faced something like that.

Even crossing border (for Peru, or Argentina), sometimes there's no need to show passport. Also, no visa required.

I guess the driver had "something" on his mind ... ;)

  • what do you mean by 'something'?
    – Mark Mayo
    Mar 23, 2014 at 7:27
  • 3
    I'd get off the bus before giving a bus driver my passport. Apr 3, 2014 at 14:43
  • 2
    Agreed - I'd get off the bus before giving driver a passport. Even at border crossings, I'd never give it to him. Why should we? We don't know him, and he could run off with it. My golden rule is always hand it in yourself. There's no law that says he has to have it.
    – user37457
    Nov 23, 2015 at 23:13

I live in Chile and you are not legally forced to carry your passport anywhere if you stay in Chile.

You will need some form of identification though, in case the police wants to see your ID, and the only legal one for foreigners is the passport.

What the driver did is illegal.

The best advice is to always carry a photocopy of your passport and handle that if not the police is asking for your ID.

  • Actually foreigners resident in MERCOSUR countries (basically 98% of South America) (not relevant to OPs case but still) can enter and exit any of the countries using their local foreigner ID Cards, so that is certainly enough on the street. I have a Dutch friend who lives in Brazil. and at the moment (due to renewal) she doesn't even have a passport, just a Dutch ID card and a Brazilian ID card for foreigners, which she uses when flying between Europe and South America.
    – Crazydre
    Jul 1, 2016 at 11:18
  • Also for the record, I was stopped by police in Santiago once and only had my Swedish ID Card with me (it has all the personal Information that a passport does). It did lead to a couple of questions (including me explaining that my passport was at my Hotel and that I hardly ever carry it with me unless on the way to a new place). After that it was fine
    – Crazydre
    Jul 1, 2016 at 11:19

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