15 Documents To Take While Traveling (Especially to India)

No matter how laid-back and fly by the seat of your pants you are, there are some important documents to take while traveling. It’s better to just put them in a pocket of your backpack and have them ready, than have to chase down a copy machine or printer at an internet cafe.

Some of these will be specific to India, but most you will need anywhere you travel. India is a little over the top on security. Like annoyingly over the top because of the terrorist attacks in 2008. Like the U.S. upping security in the airports after 9/11, India upped security everywhere.

15 Documents you NEED while Traveling

1. Passport, obviously…

2. Visa, I would think it’s obvious but actually a lot of my friends say they want to book a flight to visit and are shocked when I say they need to apply for a visa. Because I love you all so much, and the visa process can get complicated here is a step by step guide to getting your visa to India (for Americans). You need a lot of paperwork!

travel paperwork documents

travel paperwork documentstop photo credit: flickr, bottom photo (also feature photo) flickr

 3. Some territories in India require entry permits, if you have gotten one make a copy of it.

4. Copies of passport front photo page and copy of most recent visa. When will you need this? Booking a tourist quota train ticket, getting a SIM card for your phone, staying at hotels that don’t have a copy machine. They will send you out to find a copy before check-in, which is a pain in the butt when it’s 5 am and you want to sleep.

Why do they need a copy at the hotel? Because they must fill out a C Form for each person that stays with them. Your first time in India you might be shocked by how documented your trip is with the government. Copies of passports and visas for each train, bus, hotel… your entire trip can be tracked. Even if you stay with a friend (like me!) you have to fill out a form and we take it to the police station. I think 1/10 times we actually do this, so… whoops.

5. A 2×2 passport style photograph. You’ll need this to purchase a SIM card, meeting the Dalai Lama, for staying at some ashrams, among other reasons. You usually won’t know ahead of time when they’re going to ask for one, so have it handy. Print about 10 and keep them in a little envelope. I waited in line to see the Dalai Lama not knowing I would need one, but luckily I had that little envelope in my wallet! Crisis averted.

6. Driver’s license. Most often you need a local license to legally drive anyways, but at least if you’re pulled over on a scooter you can show them something that might confuse them enough to let you go. Also, I’ve been guided by an Indian that has lived in America for 20 years that you can receive an international license without a test or fee at the DMV in the U.S. I’ll find out if that’s true when I’m back in May.

travel paperwork documents

7. If you’re in college, it doesn’t hurt to take a student ID. You can get discounts at museums and attractions or even movie tickets (not so much in India, but in Europe, for example at the Acropolis).

8. If you have travel insurance (should you get travel insurance) then keep copies of that paperwork in your backpack with phone numbers of who to call when it’s needed. World Nomads Travel Insurance


9. Some places (like Uganda) required me to get specific vaccinations. These were stapled into my passport and still are there. If you have to get anything like this, keep a copy of it in case it comes loose and disappears. PS: Yellow fever for Uganda does not equal the same vaccination as yellow fever for India; there are different strains. Make sure you don’t assume one will carry over to another country’s guidelines. Immigration will turn you away on arrival without proper vaccination paperwork if it is required.

travel paperwork documents

10. If you have been given an “exit card” from the airport, like in Thailand. Keep this stapled in your passport. I’ve lost one before with no problems, but you never know what kind of mood the officer will be in.

11. I write down my debit card numbers in case my card is stolen. Sometimes I even photo copy them. It’s difficult to get a new card sent out and what I find is easier in case of a lost card is

  1. Using those numbers to book as much as I can online
  2. I can send Western Union money to myself when I need cash

This is only for when it’s impossible to get a new card sent out, because you’re moving too frequently. It’s also convenient if your bank wrongly closes your card for fraudulent overseas purchases. Even if you give them information that you’re exiting the country, it happens.

12. On that note, I also write down phone numbers. I had Visa’s ‘lost card number’ (it’s on the back of the card, which while lost obviously is inaccessible to you) so I can call them right away when I don’t have Internet to look up the number. I write down family members’ numbers in case something happens to me. I also have the numbers to my banks in case they block my card, which happens quite often.

13. I love the planning aspect of travel and I usually type up an itinerary or  list of places I’ve read about in the country I’m going to and say what sounded nice about it. It helps me make decisions later when I have to choose between two places.

Taken directly from my last itinerary:

travel paperwork documents

As you can see, I make very detailed itineraries that are helpful to basically no one including myself. So that my parents can keep tabs on me, I give them a copy of this program. Useful, huh?

14. Specifically to India, some airports will not let you enter without a copy of your E-ticket. If you do not have internet to pull this up on your phone (which they’ve just started allowing) you do need a copy of your flight whether international or domestic.

15. Last but not least, a bit of necessary paper is a journal. I highly recommend keeping at least some record of your travels even if it’s a quote you saw and liked, a tea recipe learned, or a business card you tape it. You’ll forget so much after your trip and it’s a great way to look back.

travel paperwork documents

*Bonus Tip! If you have a camera, iPhone, etc write down the personalized codes on back of them. In the case they are stolen, police will ask for this. In Thailand my friend’s iPhone was stolen and they wouldn’t even talk to her without that code. Say, someone turned in her phone- that is the ONLY way they can verify it’s hers. Since the code is on the phone, there was no way for her to know. Something similar happened to me when my camera was stolen- luckily seeing a girl cry was enough for the police to believe me.

Where to Pack it all

When it comes to packing, I keep the 2×2 photos in my wallet and the rest of the paperwork in my backpack. I keep the card I use most in my wallet, and my back-up debit and credit cards in my backpack. If I go on overnight transportation I keep it all in my purse.

As for my passport, I keep it in my purse more often than I should while backpacking because it seems whenever I need it to book something on a whim, I have to go back to the hotel to grab it. Somewhere like Bombay, that’s a huge pain in the ass. Once I’m stationary somewhere for a week or so, I keep it in the room.

hippie meme any road


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50 responses to “15 Documents To Take While Traveling (Especially to India)”

  1. Kadri says:

    Great post with useful tips. I especially like #11- write down debit card numbers. It’s pretty obvious, but I have never done it before. It’s quite important to do it, so I’m going to write down all the numbers I will need. Thank you! :)

  2. Shalu Sharma says:

    I agree with you entirely. You have covered all the things as far as documents are concerned for brining to India. Hotel people ask for passport and this is where you can offer your copies. I like the idea of scanned or copies of bank cards, I think its a great idea.

  3. bea says:

    I read your post and I have a question about the visa link you posted.
    If I am travelling within India, does it mean I can apply for another visa for India whilst still here?

    • Rachel Jones says:

      No, you only have the time listed on your existing visa then you have to exit the country and re-apply. Most cases, you need to do this in your own country- whether for visa or business.

      • bea says:

        Thanks for the prompt reply.
        Usefull post, especially the credit cards number to be written down!

      • mukesh says:

        As per mine knowlledge, Visa renewal is possible in Ministry of foreign affairs, new delhi. This facility have been newly introduced by the ministry.

        • Rachel Jones says:

          I think it depends on your country. for my boyfriend and I both we have to get our visa’s renewed in our home countries (US and UK) , the ministry will only extend a visa with a lot of paperwork !

  4. J in Beijing says:

    Great tips Rachel. It’s surprising how many people don’t realise you need visas for some countries. I had a colleague who, despite having to go through a lengthy process to get our work visas for China, didn’t check to see that she needed a visa for Vietnam! Of course, they wouldn’t even let her on the plane. I actually didn’t realise there were different strains of yellow fever. I had mine done in South America. I don’t need it for China but I’ll definitely have to check that when we travel elsewhere. Thanks!
    J in Beijing recently posted…Finding Great Korean Food in Beijing

    • Rachel Jones says:

      Glad to help :) I’ve had friends who tried togo to a country they didn’t realize they had to show proof of exit plane ticket- and they weren’t allowed to board! That would suck.

  5. Kelsey says:

    Great tips! I actually scanned copies of my credit/debit cards, passport, insurance, etc. and I emailed them to myself and flagged it in the inbox. That way, I can never lose it! …just need to head to an internet cafe if anything happens.
    Kelsey recently posted…Madrid’s Little Secrets: El Capricho Extremeño

  6. Catherine says:

    Some really great advice here, a lot of things I would not have thought of. Thanks for sharing :)

  7. Michelle says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write this! I always appreciate your posts. Your blog has definitely become one of my favorites :)

  8. Pike says:

    You being an expat in India, how do you go about renewing your Visa when it expires?

    • Rachel Jones says:

      I’m not on a tourist visa so I have years before I have to re-apply, but when I do, I will just go back to the states for a visit and re-apply. It takes about two weeks max unless you pay extra for quicker service.

  9. Looking forward to reading your post on getting a visa to India! Where do you collect your research from when you’re putting together your itineraries for new trips?
    Emily from Let’s Roam Wild recently posted…Best Restaurants in Buenos Aires

    • Rachel Jones says:

      Hi Emily, I used to use Lonely Planet ( or even worse, whichever book was less expensive on amazon), but now I use travel blogs for more info because it’s so much more personalized! and I still download lonely planet too!

  10. Taylor says:

    Thanks for sharing these tips. I will be traveling soon (not to India) but I didn’t think about doing some of these things you listed such as writing down phone numbers and those codes on electronics.

  11. Laura says:

    Really good tips! I usually keep my itinerary and running list of things I want to do in a notebook and in have a big folder I keep everything else in.

  12. Emily says:

    I’m looking forward to your post on the Visa application process. Is it different for Canadians than Americans? Also, any tips on applying when you aren’t in your home country would be mucho appreciated :)
    Emily recently posted…Dune Buggying, Sandboarding and Being Stuck in Huacachina

    • Rachel Jones says:

      I am not positive on this- but I think it is the same. I have to do a but more research before I post it BUT I read in the Indian papers this week that by Oct there are starting visa on arrival which would change the whole game!

  13. […] Loads of paperwork, photos, cards, passport & visa […]

  14. Franca says:

    Very important tips here about which documents not to forget when travelling. I remember when we started our trip we were quite new to the whole traveling world (at least long term traveling) and we were constantly looking online for a list like this one to help us get well organized and avoid not nice surprises.
    Franca recently posted…Bern’s Bears and Their Unlucky Fate

  15. mukesh says:

    You also check that whether visa on arrival facility is available to the nationality you belong.Because India is offering visa on arrival facility at major airports for many countries.

  16. […] must have your passport and in some instances a copy of your passport. You always need photos and paperwork handy in India. If the station is close you should go straight to them to book, but there’s […]

  17. […] That will depend on your reason for moving to the country you choose. It’s important to take necessary paperwork with you when you move. I keep photocopies of important documents on my computer, but luckily my […]

  18. […] copy of your passport, and a 2×2 photograph, which is one of the things I’ve told you which paperwork to have handy! If they don’t ask for all that, they are either giving you a used SIM meaning you’ll get calls […]

  19. […] that you have your passport and visa, here are 15 documents you need to take with you abroad. This has nothing to do with the visa, so not to confuse, but it’s photo ID you’ll need […]

  20. LeLa says:

    I just wanted to say THANK YOU!!! This blog is so great. I was so worried about traveling to india by myself and now i feel like it is completely possible. I know people that have ripped their hair out trying to fill out their visas and with this blog post i did it so fast. Thank you. You are awesome. Maybe we can catch up in goa in april. Ill be there studying. Anyways keep it up. You rock!!

  21. TJ says:

    Thank you for all your useful tips and tricks for traveling to India. You make my research so easy.

    P.S. You left out the don’t in the last picture, and it makes all the difference.
    “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

    • Rachel Jones says:

      thank you!!! a couple months ago I saw the photo in my photo library and saw the typo, then couldn’t remember which posts I’d put the photo on!! I never would have found this hahah – thanks :)

  22. Jessica says:


    Thanks for all your help and travel tips! I’ve referred back to your blog umpteen times for the visa especially!

    Keep up the good work!



  23. Kathleen Prengaman says:

    Should these copies of the visa an passport be color copies?

  24. Hi, Rachel! I just wanted to say thank you for this post. I was wrapping up my visa application and your tips were very helpful. I’m going to India for the first time next month, and I appreciate the advice you offered; I hadn’t thought to take extra passport-sized photos. Thanks for sharing your tips and experience! You’ve helped one more solo woman traveler!

  25. Lianne says:

    Thanks for the great tips! It’s important to be prepared. At hotels, do they keep the copies of your passports or do they give them back? I will make several copies if they keep it. Would appreciate it, thanks!
    Lianne recently posted…I’m Leaving Korea

    • Rachel Jones says:

      They take the copy only – or can make a copy for you – although some make you go get a copy and bring it back. It’s best to have many copies on hand so you don’t have to let passport out of your sight.

  26. […] 15 pieces of paperwork to take when you travel […]

  27. Sarah says:

    These extra passport photos… I have about three of them. Will the places that need them take them, or give them back?

    Thanks for all your tips btw, I’m traveling to Bangladesh and India in ten days and feel way more prepared after I read your bible…ahem, blog!

    • Rachel Jones says:

      They will take them in most instances – I would take 10! I think I did and used them all – depends on what you’ll be doing. Funnily, in this last year I haven’t used one. Hahah, it’s more for tourist activities & SIM card.

      • Sarah says:

        Thanks! That’s exactly what I needed to know. I’m thinking of just printing and cutting them myself. You think they need to be on photographic paper?

        My main points of interest are Mumbai, Goa and Kerala. You totally sold me on Goa–I can’t wait to check out Waterman’s Village!

  28. shaks says:

    Thanks Rachel, your blog is Very helpful

  29. Sean L. Mueller says:

    Hey I am for the first time here. I found this board and I to find It really helpful & it helped me out a lot. I hope to give something again and aid others such as you helped me.


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