Let me tell you about a reoccurring nightmare I had right before I traveled to Dubai. In the weeks leading up to my flight, I dreamed I got on the plane, arrived overseas, got to customs, and (you guessed it) didn’t have my passport. Sometimes it ended in me being arrested. Other times I just cried as I made the 24-hour flight back home. EVERY TIME I woke up in a cold sweat. It was rough. I was so filled with the determination not to leave it behind, something far worse happened.
I just read an article about the top 4 ways people get their passports stolen. Even the thought sent chills up my spine. Three of the four ways include distractions by nefarious characters, but the one that stood out to me is unsuspecting tourists giving their passports to plain clothed police officers. To make sure you aren’t being scammed, the article pointed out several signs to look for; 1-other people are being stopped as well and you aren’t being singled out, 2-officers have some sort of badge or patch indicating they are who they say, 3-they are only asking for your photo ID and nothing more. If you still feel uneasy, go to the nearest police station or hotel lobby where there are witnesses and depending on where you are, someone who can translate.
My best advice, other than keep your wits about you and keep your passport in some type of hidden money belt or pouch, is not to carry it around with you. Obviously check first, but in most places you can get away with just carrying a copy of your passport. I usually have several printed out with my itinerary and a version saved on my phone. As for the original, put it in the hotel safe, in an interior suitcase pocket, or even a plain travel coffee mug (also good for hiding money).
Be safe not sorry!