It’s bad enough losing your passport while you’re at home, but what happens if you lose it while you’re travelling in another country? If you’ve ever gone through the experience, you know how frightening that can be. A fantastic trip can quickly turn into a real-life nightmare. It’s hard not to panic, but try to remain calm.
The good news is that losing your passport or having it stolen while abroad is a hassle, but it certainly doesn’t mean you’re stuck in a foreign country forever.
Follow these steps to prevent a major interruption to your well-laid travel plans:
Report It missing immediately
Whether you’re home or travelling to European destinations abroad, be sure to report your lost passport immediately. If you’re travelling and it was stolen, contact the local police department and file a report; you may be able to do this online rather than waiting around at a local police station. When your passport is lost, in theory, it should be useless to anyone due to the security measures built in, but unfortunately, that’s not the case as passports are routinely used for illegal activity. They’re like “gold” to criminals – while many lost passports end up being destroyed or tossed away, some do end up in the hands of criminal gangs.
Whether it’s lost or stolen you’ll also need to report it to the nearest embassy or consulate of your home country. If it was stolen, be sure and let the officer know you were the victim of a crime. Either way, inform them of the date you plan to depart from the country. If there isn’t much time, they’ll be able to get you a limited validity emergency travel document; if you have longer you may be able to get a full validity passport. Once you’ve reported it missing, your lost or stolen passport will be cancelled, so even if you find it eventually you won’t be able to use it.
Download, print and complete the application form, then book an appointment
Your hotel should be able to help with printing the form, which is available via the link above. You must then contact the British embassy or consulate closest to you, and book an appointment.
Get passport photos taken
When you go to the embassy or consulate, you’ll need two passport photos, so before you go, find a place to have your picture taken. The photos must conform to UK official standards, so check the local photo booth can provide these. Arriving with your photos will help speed up the process of obtaining your replacement passport.
Gather your documents
In addition to the passport photo, you’ll need some form of ID (such as your driver’s licence), your travel itinerary (such as your return airline ticket), evidence of your citizenship (a scan or copy of your missing passport or birth certificate) and the police report if you’ve filed one. Even if you are unable to present all these documents, the consular staff will help you replace your passport as quickly as possible.
Visit the Embassy or Consulate
Staff will receive your application and supporting documents, and your application for an emergency travel document will be considered. Unless you’ve been a victim of a serious crime or natural disaster, you’ll have to pay the applicable fee to get it replaced. If you don’t have the funds, the fee may be temporarily waived until you return home and apply for a full validity passport.
You’ll likely receive an emergency document within 48 hours so that you’ll be able to return home according to your existing travel plans. Once you’ve arrived home, you’ll turn in the emergency travel document to get a full validity passport.
Precautions to take next time
Replacing a lost or stolen passport is certainly inconvenient, but don’t beat yourself up too much about it. You aren’t the first person and you won’t be the last to have this happen. The important thing is to consider it an important lesson learned and take these precautions next time:
- Keep a photo of your passport photo page on your phone, and maybe take along a printed copy to store in your luggage.
- Carry your passport on your person if possible, in an inside pocket of your purse or in a money belt. Keep the purse or money belt in front of you, with the zippers closed.
- Once you’ve checked into your hotel, make use of the combination safe in your room if you have one.
- If you’re travelling as a family, each person old enough should carry their own passport. If one person carries them all, you risk losing all your passports at once. For young children, spread the passports out among the adults to lessen risk.
- Check on your passport regularly to make sure it’s where you think it is.
- During your travels when you have to frequently get your passport out to board a plane, don’t make the mistake of putting it in the seat pocket in front of you. Hold onto it and as soon as you reach your seat, return it to a secure spot where it won’t be forgotten. It’s easy to forget a passport, even on the shortest journeys.
This article was written by K.C. Dermody at Travelwise.