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A warning against souvenir stamps in your official passport, what to do instead


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Tina Sibley, a native of the United Kingdom, considers herself a well-travelled person. However, while trying to board a Qatar Airways flight out of Thailand in February 2020, she learned that certain stamps in her passport can cause serious problems.

“An excited traveler, I showed up with my passport at Qatar Airways last night to be told I couldn’t fly due to the Machu Picchu stamp in my passport,” Sibley shared in a Facebook post. “I thought the guy was laughing. But not.”

A worried Sibley went to the British embassy in Thailand to present her case, only to receive more bad news.

“The embassy listened to my situation and said it was nonsense,” he wrote. “My passport was valid and as such they were unable to issue a replacement. They told me to explain that to Qatar Airways and if they didn’t accept me, to go with another airline.”

However, at the airport, both Qatar Airways and Emirates did not accept his passport either.

So what exactly was the problem? A seemingly harmless novelty stamp from Machu Picchu.

According to Travel + Leisure, there was confusion about the validity of the souvenir stamp that thousands of other travelers probably have in their passports. Beyond the popular stamp that visitors can get at Machu Picchu, super travelers are also looking to collect others: the “Checkpoint Charlie” stamp from Berlin, the Antarctic heritage stamp from a pilgrimage to Antarctica, or the Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch passport stamp from Wales. , to add to your official collection.

That said, Sibley’s stressful experience and page five of all US passports serve as a warning to avoid unofficial stamps on your official document.

Photo Credit: Blake Guidry

The fine print in your passport

On page five of every US passport, international travelers will find a note stating that “Passport Alteration or Mutilation” is unauthorized and that “only authorized officials of the United States or foreign countries may affix stamps or make notations.” or additions to this passport.”

Authorized officials include US Department of State personnel, US Customs and Border Patrol officials, diplomatic and consular officials of foreign countries, and immigration officials at international borders. In other words, getting a stamp at Machu Picchu just doesn’t count.

“The Department of State advises US citizens to avoid the use of novelty stamps in the US passport. The Department could potentially consider novelty stamps ‘harm’ to the US passport,” a State Department official said. Travel + Leisure. “We cannot comment on what damage or alteration to the passport could cause the Department of Homeland Security or the government of a foreign country to prevent entry at the border.”

What to do instead

Despite the disappointing news, there is still a way to collect souvenirs through novelty stamps. Instead of using your official passport, travel with a journal where you can keep your souvenir stamps and memorabilia from your trip. That way, you won’t have to worry about getting home, and at the same time you’ll have a special keepsake that houses your travel adventures.

As for Sibley, she finally got an emergency passport after a bit of back and forth, begging and pleading with the embassy. Surely this time, he won’t be filled with anything but official stamps.

Related: What to expect when getting a same-day passport


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