Think Twice Before Putting Souvenir Stamps In Your Passport

If you're a world traveler, your passport more than likely looks like a kaleidoscope of varying inks, designs, and shapes revealing what countries you've been to and when. In all essence, your passport is your travel memoir on paper: a detailed recording of every country you've ever been to, and a proud reminder of all you've experienced.

But have you also collected in your passport what is commonly referred to as "souvenir stamps?" According to the Robb Report, these novelty stamps are given to international travelers when they arrive at locations such as "Checkpoint Charlie" in Berlin, or Machu Picchu in Peru, perhaps even the Galápagos Islands, or Easter Island — to name a few.

While commemorating your journey to any of these locations is indeed a highlight in your lifetime, before you head out on your next big adventure overseas, doing a full review of the stamps in your passport, ensuring you don't have any souvenir stamps, could save you unexpected delays and possibly being banned from traveling to your destination.

Souvenir stamps: The official rules to your issued passport

Applying for, and receiving a passport marks a sense of accomplishment and freedom. But honestly, how many have actually read the "Important Information" on pages 5 through 7 in their U.S. passports? If you're one of many who haven't, the U.S. government has outlined some priority topics that bear reviewing.

For instance, page 5 outlines several, bold-faced, warning statements officials want the holder to be firmly aware of. One being, that your passport is "U.S. Government Property." Meaning, you may have paid for your small booklet to travel abroad, but you don't own it. Your passport is an official government document, and by law you must surrender it upon request. You also cannot and should not deface it any way.

The second notification: "Alteration or Mutilation of Passport." But how could a souvenir stamp be classified as altering or mutilating a passport, you ask? Quite easily actually. Within the fine print of that notification statement, it clearly states, "Only authorized officials of the United States or of foreign countries may place stamps or make notations or additions in this passport."

So, that Sherpa standing next to a Llama in Galápagos that is grinning from ear-to-ear to eagerly stamp your passport with his handmade stamp — unfortunately, he's not an authorized official, and anything he adds to your passport can quite literally invalidate it, leaving you stranded on your trip, and quite possibly facing unexpected expenses — as reported by The Sun happening to a British woman back in 2020.

Alternative options for collecting souvenir stamps

Bear in mind, it's not just U.S. passports that these warnings are for. If you're the holder of a foreign passport, such as an Australian passport as reported by The Daily Mail, and you have any of these stamps in your passport booklet, you risk potentially being banned from your flight as well.

If you should find, while reviewing your passport pages, that you have one or more of these novelty stamps affixed, and you're planning a new trip abroad, consider applying for a replacement passport with clean pages before you leave. Not only will this ensure that your new passport is not invalid in any way, it brings you peace of mind as well that your trip will be successful.

And, if you want to commemorate your travels to any of these unique sites with souvenir stamps, opt for bringing your old, canceled passport you're no longer using, or better yet, a travel journal or diary. Utilizing any of these alternative options are both legal and worry-free.