Travel in Europe-Why You Need A Tourist Passport

Official & Tourist PassportBeing stationed in Europe, the opportunities for travel are amazing!

Living in Vicenza, you can travel to at least seven countries driving for less than half of a day. Cheap flights abound. If you don’t believe me, just check out all the budget airlines in Europe.

Because most popular travel locations are countries that belong to the European Union (EU), the passport is almost a non-issue. Though you may be stopped at a border crossing, most likely you will not. European Union countries have open borders with one another. If you fly from one EU country to another, you don’t usually have to go through customs. So again, no passport.

Even though you should always have the passport to prove your citizenship, you won’t get your passport stamped in EU countries.

So, why bother with a tourist passport? If no one is looking at my passport, why shell out another hundred bucks for a second passport?

First of all, the government issues the maroon no-fee passport for official travel only. The no-fee passport signifies that you are a government dependent and the Status of Forces Agreement protects you. Your visa is attached to the no-fee passport. If there is a natural disaster (think Japan Earthquake), the no-fee passport allows you to be evacuated with American military forces. The passport is for official use. Period. (I admit, I am a rule person. If there is a law, I try to follow it. I don’t download illegal movies. I wear my seatbelt and try not to speed.)

**AS OF 2012, THE OFFICIAL PASSPORTS ARE NOT MAROON ANYMORE, THEY ARE ALL BLUE!**

Also, some countries may not accept your no-fee passport if you are not traveling for government business. Nothing could be more disappointing than planning some great R & R travel and then being turned around at a border. This type of mistake could cost you a lot of money if you have non-refundable reservations.

There are some safety considerations for Americans visiting other countries, as well. If you are toting around a no-fee passport, you are identifying yourself as connected to the United States government. Anyone who has watched more than five minutes of American Forces Network television knows there is always potential for terrorism. If you are carrying an official passport, it could make you more vulnerable *IF* an incident occurs while you are on vacation. (Even though, we know that in almost all certainty, it won’t happen.)

What about travel to non-EU countries?

You may want to visit some countries that are not part of the European Union. Because travel to countries such as Croatia is inexpensive, many people stationed in Vicenza love to visit. However, you will have to go through a checkpoint and possibly customs to get in and out of Croatia and other non-EU countries. On the upside, if are looking forward to having your passport stamped, this is where you will get that stamp!

My take on the tourist passport…

Before you leave the United States, apply for your tourist passport. Make sure everyone in the family has a tourist passport. You may not want to hang around and wait for them to arrive once you are in Europe and so close to all the places you will want to visit.

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9 Comments on “Travel in Europe-Why You Need A Tourist Passport”

  1. […] wondered why in the world you would need a tourist passport in addition to the government passport? Here is your answer. Didn’t find what you are looking for on the blog? Ask your […]

  2. Jennifer S. says:

    I have a question. We are pcs’ing to Italy soon and we have our “no fee” passports (done at the passport office on Kirtland afb) but they are blue. You are showing a maroon one as being official. Did we do something wrong?

    • Jennifer S. says:

      Never mind. I was looking at my passport and I found a page that stated it was an official passport. I guess official passports and travel passports look the same now! Saves money for the government! : )

    • Peg Crippen says:

      They have recently changed the passports to blue so that military personnel don’t stand out so much when they are traveling. So, you are right, I need to update my post!

  3. I was actually about to apply for a tourist passport when I found out that I needed the government passport to get over to Germany, so I am actually glad that I *didn’t* apply for it. We found out in August that we’d be going to Germany in November, so I wouldn’t have had time to get both. When I asked the lady who took my application for the government one about the rule, she said that what it is is not that you aren’t allowed to use it to get in to another country but that the country is allowed to deny you entry if they want to. She told me France is notorious for doing that. Considering that some do have open borders, I figure we will go to those first and I can just get a tourist passport a few months ahead of time if we plan to go anywhere that requires a flight or a drive we couldn’t turn back from.

    • Peg Crippen says:

      I actually had my tourist passport. I do carry it when I travel. I have only had to show it when I came back into Slovenia from Croatia which is not in the European Union. Amazingly enough, I’ve never been asked to see it anywhere else. You probably would be able to travel without a tourist passport in most countries, because no one will check.

      • Yeah I’ve heard most of the ones in the EU have open borders with the countries beside them so if you’re already in the country they don’t worry. It’s just if you’re flying back and forth. I actually got to see my passport the other day and it isn’t the maroon one I thought they gave for the no-fee one. It looks just like the other one the outside. The only difference is it directs to page 26 on the inside and there it says something about only being valid in conjunction with my status living abroad (which in theory would mean I could use it places that would be traveling a reasonable distance around where we’ll live, but not to take a trip to somewhere outside the EU).

  4. It’s only countries in the Schengen agreement where you don’t need ID. If you try to enter one of the others (e.g. UK, Romania) you will definitely need some ID and probably your passport if you are from the US.

    • Peg Crippen says:

      Sarah, Thanks for sharing that with me. I guess I knew about the Schengen agreement, but did not think much about how it relates to travel! Hopefully everyone is travelling with passports already. I know I always carry mine when I go outside of the local area that I live. Some may not, though.