It’s almost midnight, you’re somewhere you don’t know from Timbuktu, and all you want to do is check in to this comfortable-looking hotel and get some sleep, before embarking on some adventures tomorrow. But as you reach into your pocket for your passport you feel a sickening drop of your heart as your fingers close around nothing but empty space……
Losing a passport is a reality that many travellers face at some point on their journey, and as a fellow survivor of this seemingly cataclysmic travel disaster, I’d like to share a few tips to help you get through this stressful occurrence. Remember, you are neither the first nor last traveller to misplace or lose a passport, so you do have options!
If you have been pick-pocketed or had a bag stolen, then skip straight to point number 3.
- Be Prepared
OK OK, you might say that this is irrelevant if you’ve already lost your passport, but I can’t say enough about the value of being prepared for a potential passport loss. Take photos of your passport (and other important documents like credit cards, driver’s license, visas etc.) and store them in a separate place to your originals. Email them to yourself, or store them in a Cloud online so that they are always available.
Another step you can take to be prepared is to compile a list of the contact and location information for your embassies in every country you visit. This will make contacting one of them in the event of a lost passport much easier.
Keep a few extra passport photos somewhere in your luggage, so that you can easily produce them should the need arise.
- Search carefully and retrace steps
Yes, your passport is normally right here. In your pocket. That’s where it always is. There’s no chance it could be anywhere else…or is there? Believe me when I say it is far easier and quicker to thoroughly search all your bags right now, than go through the procedure of getting a new passport only to find yours a few days later nestled in an unexpected corner of the suitcase. Take a deep breath, go somewhere quiet, and search methodically and calmly through all your gear.
Talk through your recent steps with your travel partner and try to track where and when you last saw your passport. Did you leave it in a previous hotel, or on a bus, or in the seat-pocket of a plane? Make some phone calls to previous accommodations and ask them to carefully check your room and their lost property. Again, it is far easier and cheaper often to retrace your steps than have to get a new passport.
- Contact your embassy
If all the above options fail and you’re absolutely sure that your passport is gone for good, then it is time to contact your embassy in the country that you are in. Look it up online, or refer to your previously compiled list.
Getting a new passport from an embassy can take a little time, and normally is impossible on the weekend. It might take a few days and feel like a never-ending process, but have faith – your embassy has done this before and is there to help you.
- File a police report (if necessary)
Sometimes you will be asked to file a police report regarding a lost or stolen passport. The procedure for this will differ depending what country you are in and how the police department there works. Most probably you’ll need to go to a police station and fill in some paperwork, which could take a few hours.
- Don’t panic, be patient, and stay flexible
This could be the most important point on the list! Losing a passport is absolutely one of the most stressful things that can happen on a trip, but always remember that staying calm and being patient and polite is almost always the best way to get things done in any country in the world. You WILL get back on track with your travels, and you WILL get home. You just need to get calmly through these few days of bureaucracy. It might be that this take a few days and you need to adjust your travel plans accordingly, so stay flexible, smile, and good luck!