Think twice when leaving your passport in your car

L-R: Jose Vera Hernandez, CICAR coordinator for Tenerife; Helen Keating, British Vice Consul, Tenerife; Angeles Cabrera, co-owner of CICAR; Charmaine Arbouin, Consul for Andalucia, Canary Islands, Ceuta & Melilla; Alberto Bernabe, Tourism Advisor (Consejero de Turismo) of Cabildo de Tenerife; Esther Martin, British Vice Consul, Las Palmas; Sergio Millanes Vaquero, Los Rodeos Airport Director. Photo: British Consulate.

Car break-ins are the third biggest cause of UK passport theft in the Canary Islands and 91% of victims are tourists, says the British Consulate, which is trying to drive down passport losses as a result of theft from vehicles by partnering with CICAR, one of the biggest car hire firms in the Canary Islands with a fleet of some 12,000 hire cars.

In the past 9 months, more than 450 British holidaymakers have lost their passports in the Canary Islands, with car crime accounting for around 1 in 11 of these cases. A survey of 529 emergency travel documents issued to British tourists by British Consulates in Las Palmas and Tenerife so far this year showed that car break-ins accounted for 10% of stolen passports in Las Palmas province and 21% of all stolen passports in the Province of Tenerife.

From this autumn, CICAR customers will be greeted by warning signs in the company’s customer service areas and receive tips for keeping their belongings safe along with their hire contract. The Consulate says that being aware of the risk and taking a few simple steps to safeguard your valuables can reduce the likelihood of falling prey to thieves:

  • Don’t leave your passport or other valuables in a parked car. Many holidaymakers hire cars to explore the hidden beaches or practise water sports in the Canary Islands. Thieves target parked vehicles at secluded beaches and tourist hotspots.
  • If you have to leave belongings in the car, ensure they are locked out of sight in the boot before you park.
  • Wherever possible, park in secure car parks in well-lit areas.

British Vice-Consul in Tenerife, Helen Keating said that the “initiative in the Canary Islands complements our continued work with local and airport authorities to drive down the number of stolen passports. We welcome our new partnership with CICAR and are sure this campaign will help many Brits avoid difficult and upsetting circumstances. We hope to see other car rental companies getting involved too. Take measures to protect your passport and avoid losing out on precious holiday time and paying out £100 for an emergency replacement.”

The project, which is part of a global Foreign Office campaign urging Britons to be #TravelAware when abroad, has been spearheaded in the Canary Islands by the British Vice-Consuls in Gran Canaria and Tenerife, Esther Martin and Helen Keating, and their respective consular teams. A similar initiative in Malaga last year resulted in an 18% reduction in British passport theft from cars.


  1. We had a similar experience at the Bandama crater in Gran Canaria. Car locked when we left for the walk and locked when we returned but purse left hidden in boot had been emptied. We suspect a small white van parked in the same lay-by with sun screen up at the windscreen probably had someone in it with scanner to catch the remote locking signal. We saw the driver take the screen down and leave a little later. Suspect he does it every day ! Would be useful if there was an easy quick route to report such incidents allowing the police to target such areas.

    1. Author

      There is the FRESS app, which is used for all emergencies including crimes in progress, and has a photo function, and there’s the AlertCops app which has a geolocator to report crimes in progress. Details and links to download are HERE.

  2. Doesn’t seem to matter as we got robbed today in masca. Stopped for 1-2 mins to admire view, car was locked but handbag stolen from boot. Apparently major problem here with thieves using sophisticated electronic equipment to hack remote locking. Don’t let your car go out of sight with anything other than a towel in it. Feeling very sad.

  3. We own a family run Rent a Car business here in Tenerife and we have always advised our customers never to leave anything in their hire car. We have suffered many break-ins from customers ignoring this advice and we also advise everyone to keep their contract / rental agreement on their person, not left in the car due to personal details and credit card info that may get into the worng hands.
    Even putting things in the boot of the car is a danger as many of the thieves have scouts looking for victims putting things in the boot before they explore a remote area of Tenerife. Unfortunately, it can be easy work for a group of thieves targeting naive holiday makers but common sense does go a long way aswel. It´s good to hear that steps are being taken to advise tourists of the dangers.
    Oli Bee.

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