• 15 necessary documents to take while traveling

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.

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. Use websites like iVisa to see what countries you need a Visa for. You can get your visa to most countries through iVisa directly for a small processing fee. I’ve used this site many times and love it.

India Visas:

Coming to India for LONGER than 60 days? 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) and another guide for an India visa for those from the UK. You need a lot of paperwork!

Coming to India for less than 60 days? I recommend using ivisa.com who gets you an E-tourist visa without all the paperwork.

3. Some territories in India or other countries 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.

PS: If you don’t want to deal with getting a SIM card, Trabug is a travel phone that you can have shipped to your hotel in India. This phone has the internet and all kinds of India travel apps on it. It’s more expensive than a SIM, but SIM cards are sometimes a huge hassle for foreigners in India. You don’t want to be in India without access to the internet.

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 photocopy 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 (this post explains my technique) 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 all these travel documents

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 backup 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.

If you’re reading this it’s probably because you are a planner at heart like I am. Check out my blog post about how to plan a trip from scratch without stress here. You can also see where I get all my flight deals from (I have a site that I love) in this post. This article is where I buy my travel clothes.

Pin these 15 necessary documents to take while traveling for later:

15 Documents To Take While Traveling (Especially to India)


About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Hippie in Heels, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. Kadri March 24, 2014 at 4:46 am - Reply

    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! :)

    • Rachel Jones March 24, 2014 at 8:13 am - Reply

      glad it helped!

      • Kathie September 8, 2016 at 10:33 pm - Reply

        Another safety tip when writing down bank numbers, phone ID numbers, etc is to write them backwards. Once someone has tried to use your info without your card the bank will put a hold on it until you call them.

        • Rachel Jones September 9, 2016 at 1:08 pm - Reply

          That’s a great idea!! Really good advice, thanks!

  2. Shalu Sharma March 24, 2014 at 10:05 am - Reply

    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.

    • Rachel Jones March 25, 2014 at 12:21 am - Reply

      Thanks Shalu! I’m a little over the top sometimes, but better safe than sorry.

  3. bea March 24, 2014 at 4:41 am - Reply

    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 March 24, 2014 at 8:13 am - Reply

      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 March 25, 2014 at 3:27 am - Reply

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

      • mukesh April 4, 2014 at 3:09 pm - Reply

        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 April 5, 2014 at 6:33 am - Reply

          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 March 24, 2014 at 5:11 am - Reply

    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!

    • Rachel Jones March 24, 2014 at 8:14 am - Reply

      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 March 24, 2014 at 6:06 am - Reply

    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.

    • Rachel Jones March 24, 2014 at 8:15 am - Reply

      Great minds think alike ;) I do the same! and I have it saved on my hard drive of my computer. Being OCD has it’s benefits haha

  6. Catherine March 24, 2014 at 3:53 pm - Reply

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

    • Rachel Jones March 25, 2014 at 12:21 am - Reply

      No prob, Catherine! Hope it helps you out on your next trip.

  7. Michelle March 24, 2014 at 11:15 am - Reply

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

    • Rachel Jones March 25, 2014 at 12:21 am - Reply

      Oh that is so nice Michelle! I’m so OCD, I had a little too much fun writing this one hahah

  8. Pike March 24, 2014 at 5:28 pm - Reply

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

    • Rachel Jones March 25, 2014 at 12:23 am - Reply

      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. Emily from Let's Roam Wild March 24, 2014 at 6:13 pm - Reply

    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?

    • Rachel Jones March 25, 2014 at 12:24 am - Reply

      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 March 26, 2014 at 11:29 am - Reply

    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 March 27, 2014 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    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.

    • Rachel Jones March 28, 2014 at 4:42 am - Reply

      That’s perfect! Being a little bit organized can help your trip a lot :)

  12. Emily March 27, 2014 at 4:50 pm - Reply

    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 :)

    • Rachel Jones March 28, 2014 at 4:45 am - Reply

      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. Franca April 3, 2014 at 7:50 am - Reply

    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.

  14. mukesh April 4, 2014 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    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.

  15. LeLa October 9, 2014 at 7:56 am - Reply

    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!!

    • Rachel Jones October 9, 2014 at 5:02 pm - Reply

      Tht’s awesome. I’m so happy the visa information helped you. I’ll be in Goa in April so let me know.

  16. TJ February 3, 2015 at 3:27 am - Reply

    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 February 3, 2015 at 2:32 pm - Reply

      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 :)

  17. Jessica April 1, 2015 at 7:07 am - Reply


    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!



  18. Kathleen Prengaman June 11, 2015 at 2:21 am - Reply

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

  19. Rhonda Rogers June 22, 2015 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    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!

  20. Lianne August 10, 2015 at 7:34 am - Reply

    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!

    • Rachel Jones August 10, 2015 at 1:40 pm - Reply

      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.

  21. Sarah January 19, 2016 at 12:10 am - Reply

    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 January 19, 2016 at 10:26 am - Reply

      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 January 19, 2016 at 10:11 pm - Reply

        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!

        • Rachel Jones January 20, 2016 at 11:00 am - Reply

          Yep it’ll have to be on photo paper. Enjoy Vaayu, it’s great here! :)

  22. shaks May 16, 2016 at 8:43 am - Reply

    Thanks Rachel, your blog is Very helpful

  23. Sean L. Mueller June 28, 2016 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    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.


  24. Elizabeth December 15, 2016 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    I’m in India now and I’ve forgotten to bring extra photos with me. Can I get photos taken while I’m here? If so, where is the best place to go to get them?

    • Rachel Jones December 15, 2016 at 7:50 pm - Reply

      yes, there will be so many little shops doing this, don’t worry!

  25. Abby December 24, 2016 at 1:08 am - Reply

    Hello! Did you need a driver’s license to get into India/through airport security, or was just your passport and visa enough?

  26. Anonymous January 12, 2017 at 2:22 am - Reply

    Great list! The only thing I would add is a copy of medications in case they are lost while traveling

  27. Bill Carlson January 12, 2017 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    In the US you can get a international drivers license by applying to the AATA (American Automobile Touring Alliance). It costs $20 USD for one year and is valid in India. Some of the motorcycle tour operators in Mumbai require you to have one. Pretty simple application and you do not have to take a test,but you must a valid state license.The AATA has a web site.

  28. Trudy Eastland June 5, 2017 at 9:00 am - Reply

    Rachel, I will be traveling to India soon and am reading all of your information. I am really nervous about going. What do you do when you go through customs? If you can help me I would so appreciate it so much…

    • Rachel Jones June 5, 2017 at 6:17 pm - Reply

      Hi Trudy, customs is no problem unless you travel with a lot of cash or something you need to claim – but did you mean immigration? for immigration you just need to show your visa and explain why you are visiting.

  29. Greg June 14, 2017 at 3:05 am - Reply

    Love it. Tops!

  30. Kate June 29, 2017 at 9:48 pm - Reply

    I’d just like to say your blog is amazing!!! I’ve just bought my flights to come to India for 15 days in December by myself and this blog has been invaluable! Thank you!! I had a question about the photo’s, do they have to be proper, taken in a booth photo’s, or can I take them on my phone and print on photo paper?

    • Rachel Jones June 30, 2017 at 12:14 am - Reply

      Thank you for the nice words about my blog. I took my photos myself with an iPhone back in the day but then took them to Walmart and printed them (just plugged my phone in with USB). It DOES have to be on photo paper!

  31. Miguel Neves August 17, 2017 at 4:02 am - Reply

    Hi again Rachel. I took Typhoid and Hep A vac only because I’m not going to anywhere tropical… Do they ask the Yellow Fever vaccine on arrival if your going to Rajasthan or further north like Varanasi or Rishikesh?

    • Rachel Jones August 17, 2017 at 12:53 pm - Reply

      Yellow Fever they ask for some nationalities but it’s for all of India not certain places. USA/AUS/Canada/Europe/UK for sure don’t have to show yellow fever

  32. P. Gioko January 29, 2018 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    Very helpful tips for traveling out of country here. I honestly did not know some of the things you have listed here were that important, like bringing along extra photos. Nice job!

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