For frequent international travellers, passports get a lot of love...and wear and tear. For many, a slightly dog-eared travelling document is a badge of honour. Recent stories have emerged however of people being refused travel due to passports that have even the slightest of imperfections, showing how important it can be to keep yours in good condition.

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Damaged or just well-worn? That might depend on who you talk to. Photo by Frederick Bass

One such example that has come up again and again over the last two years is Indonesia, a country that seemingly has tightened up entry restrictions on damaged passports as part of a wider initiative to stop illegal immigration. However, it’s not always clear exactly what constitutes an acceptable level of wear and tear and, instead, they’re leaving it to the airlines to enforce. If border agents in Indonesia deem the passport to be of unacceptable quality, the airline will be fined A$5000, which has led them to be very cautious in allowing people to board. 

A few high profile cases have hit the headlines since 2018. First was a British couple who were refused entry for their honeymoon after their dog had chewed the man’s passport. While UK border agents assured them it would be fine as all the details were intact, they were forced to return to London. Another case saw an Australian teenager being refused entry because of slight damage to the spine of the passport which had gone unnoticed. Her family theorised it could have happened from using e-ticket machines. 

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Airlines are forced to be extra cautious with the new restrictions. Photo by Image Source

According to media reports, this month, another UK couple were refused entry to Bali and Malaysia due to the man having a small tear on the photo page of his passport. This led to them losing £7,500 that had been spent on the trip.

Television personality Georgia Toffolo sparked interest on social media in December when she shared tearful updates with her followers after claiming she was detained in the Maldives for having two pages missing from the middle of her passport. She eventually got through, but stories like this have made travellers more aware to be cautious of taking care of their own documents.

While the law applies to all international arrivals to Indonesia, Australian travellers have been hit most heavily, with more than 20 reports of passengers being denied boarding since 2018. More than a million Aussies alone visited Bali that year.

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A damaged passport could cost you a holiday here. Photo by Fredi Daeli/Shutterstock

In the wake of the spate of refusals, it’s worthwhile having a thorough check of your passport before travelling anywhere, especially to Indonesia. Generally, wear and tear is alright once all the personal details and data are clear and legible and there is no water damage. If you’re unsure, you’re advised to check your local passport office for further help.

This article was originally published on 16 January, 2019 and updated on 28 January, 2020. 

This article was first published January 2019 and updated January 2020

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