Whether you're getting a passport for the first time, or just renewing an old one, here's the cheapest way to get it and how to avoid sites charging extra. Prices are going up on 27 March - but if you're due to renew in 2018 you can beat the hikes.
When do I need to renew my passport? Passports are valid for ten years but some countries require you to have at least six months left on yours. If you don't, you may be refused entry – we've heard one story of a family's four-year-old girl being refused entry to Turkey because she had less than two months left on her passport.
Countries that require at least six months left on your passport include China, Egypt, Fiji, Indonesia, Israel, Kenya, Pakistan, Thailand, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
New Zealand requires you have a least a month left, and many countries also require visas so check before you travel – Gov.uk has a full country-by-country list of entry requirements.
Okay then, what's the cheapest way to get a passport? The only site you'll ever need to go to is the Gov.uk website. It has options for getting your first passport, renewing an old one or getting one for your child. Here are the costs and how long it takes:
- Adult (three weeks) – £72.50 (£85.50 for the jumbo 48-page passport)
- Adult (one week) – £103 (£111 for the jumbo 48-page passport)
- Adult (one day) – £128 for the four-hour premium service (£137 for the 48-pager)
- Child (three weeks) – £46 (no jumbo option)
- Child (one week) – £87 (there's no premium one-day service for child passports)
However, it's worth noting that these prices will go up on 27 March - by £3 for online applications and £12.50 for postal applications.
How can I avoid the price hikes? You can renew early - and you can do this even if your passport doesn't expire until 26 December 2018, without losing out. That's because when you renew, the time left on your existing passport is added to your new one, up to a maximum of nine months.
So let's say your passport's due to run out on 26 December 2018. You can renew on 26 March and pay the current cheaper prices - but you won't lose any time on your passport and your new one will be valid until 26 December 2028.
Even if your passport expires just after 26 December 2018, it may still be worth renewing early and losing a few days from your expiry date. For example, if your passport is due to expire on 31 December this year, and you renew on 26 March, your new passport will be valid until 26 December 2028 but it may still be worth it overall.
If you need a new passport, for example if you've changed your name, make sure you apply before 27 March to beat the increase (though if you've changed your name and already have travel booked, be careful, as the name on your passport will likely need to match the name on your booking).
Renewing seems pretty straightforward. Why do I need a guide telling me how do it? Yes, it is pretty straightforward. But more than 300 people in our shyster sites poll were caught by one of several sites that look like the official Government site for passports, but charge people £20-£100 on top of the official passport fee. Many are just expensive form-filling services, though some also offer a 'checking' service.
If you do need help, the Post Office's Check & Send service ensures you've included the correct documents, that your photos don't breach any of the restrictions and that you've filled in the forms correctly. It'll also send your application by special delivery, all for the cost of £9.75.
Unfortunate for those who've got caught, but I'm pretty savvy. So I STILL don't need a guide on this. Perhaps you don't. But the main objective of this guide is to remove the confusion for those who do.
We're deliberately optimising this guide so it'll appear high up in search results when people look for "passports", or "passport renewal". This way, we hope people will click on this site, and use the official link in the first answer, rather than clicking on any unofficial sites which charge extra.
A friend was caught out by this. Is there any way they'll see their cash again? It's very difficult getting a refund, but it's not impossible.
The sad thing is that these sites are legal. They're offering a service, some similar to the Post Office's Check & Send, it's just that they're charging up to 10 times more for it.
Saying that, if you do know someone who was caught, it's well worth suggesting they write to the shyster site (speed is of the essence so emailing is probably best), saying that they want to cancel their contract and get a refund. Beware calling their expensive phone lines though – they typically charge £1.50/min. We've written a template letter to help. Please let us know how you get on.
You can also report the incident to the Competition and Markets Authority or Trading Standards by calling the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0345 404 0506.
MoneySaver ShinyDoc managed to get a refund. "I renewed two passports using this service [a shyster site]! But I noticed almost immediately and asked for a full refund, which I received about 24 hours later. The full amount was credited back to the account I supplied."
See our Shyster Sites guide for more information about how to go about getting a refund if you've been misled by passport sites, ESTA sites, EHIC sites and more.
What about Brexit? Will I need a new passport? Although your passport says European Union on the front, it's actually issued by the UK Government, so it's a UK passport. What the Brexit result will mean for travel within the EU is one of the bigger unknowns that will be part of negotiations, but until we leave the EU (likely to be at the end of March 2019) things should be mostly unaffected.
In December 2017, it was announced that the cover of UK passports will be returning to blue after we leave the European Union. But the Government says you'll be able to keep using your current burgundy passport until it's due for renewal - the new blue passports will only be issued when people renew or apply for a new passport.
Have your say! Have you been caught by a shyster site? Join the forum discussion to share your experience, especially if you got your money back.