On a visit of mine to Zimbabwe, I met an Irish guy was staying in my hotel. While sitting in Harare‘s Africa Unity square, he had put down next to him, his moneybag. It contained his cash, passport, credit cards, driver’s licence and even a copy of his birth certificate. After some minutes, he realised that his bag was gone. Worse, his passport, ID, cash and cards were all gone. He was stuck in Harare with no means of identification. Even if his family sent money, he had no means of collecting it without ID. This incident struck me as to how valuable a passport is.
Once I have reached a city, my number one goal is to ensure my passport is kept safe. I do not want it lost, stolen, dropped in a drain, damaged or soaked in rain!
I therefore, unless required by local law, avoid wandering around a city carrying my passport. I leave it locked in my hotel safe or some other safe place. I do not carry unless I specifically need it for opening a bank account, cashing a traveller’s cheque/check (not that I do that anymore) or getting a visa. (and of course, if travelling internationally or flying through a US airport).
For ID, I carry my driver’s licence, an electronic image of my passport on my phone and a paper copy. I also have one backed up on both googledocs and dropbox. Should the police request my passport, then I can show them these and explain my passport is back in my hotel.
In fifty years, I have only had one incident where I have needed my passport. A night club in Seattle demanded I show my passport to prove my age (I was 45). The bouncer refused my driver’s licence and I went to a different club. Bizarrely, I went to the same nightclub the next night and my licence was accepted.