What to Do If Your Passport is Lost or Stolen While Traveling

November 26, 2014

Imagine this. It’s Tuesday, it’s getting late, I’m reading in bed before falling asleep (no need to imagine THAT too much :-) and suddenly the phone rings. And it’s my Mom. As someone who’s been living abroad away from family, only getting in touch with home via email or skype, getting a phone call from Mom at midnight is scary. Obviously something happened. With a heavy heart I pick up the phone:

– Mum, what happened?

– Hey! Yes, we are in trouble.

Heart sinks deeper and my sharp autopilot thinking switches on:

– Are you safe? Tell me what it is?

– We are in Paris with your sister, we were on our way to London and on a layover we went to the city center. Sat down at a café on Champs-Élysées and my bag got stolen.

– What was in the bag?

– Money, passport.. Well, everything…

Thank God they are experienced travellers and know exactly what to do in this situation. But do you? Do you know what to do if your passport is lost or stolen while traveling?

Keep calm. It’s just a passport

Rule #1 – don’t panic. Passport is important, it allows you to travel and cross borders. But that’s it. It’s an important little book of colourful pages, but it’s not your life and not the end on the world if you lose it. Take a deep breath. Good. Now let’s get you a new document so you could continue your journey.

Go to the police office

If you are ok and you don’t need medical help, go straight to the nearest police office and file a report. With this report you can: a. confirm a loss of your possessions b. be able to claim all claim-able things from your insurance company (you did have a travel insurance, right, riiight?) and c. apply for a new passport/travel card.

Important note: have a passport sized photo on you while travelling. This will help tons in this situation.

Find your embassy

With the police report you then need to head to your embassy or consulate in the country you’re at (if applicable) and apply for a temporary ID that will allow you to either continue your travels or return home.

In my Mom’s case, they needed one to return to Ukraine because of the visa regulations with the UK and EU – they couldn’t continue their journey without both those visas, so the only way out was to go back home on a direct flight.

If you need money

The reason my Mom called me was to ask if I knew anyone in Paris who could lend them some cash so they could last the day (they only had 2 Euros in cash – all credit cards and the wallet were gone!). Sad situation to be at, but remember step one? Don’t panic.

Be prepared

Better safe than sorry, these things are already a habit in our family. This was not the first emergency we’ve experienced, we travel well prepared. Do these every time you go abroad and thank me later.

  1. Scan all your passport pages before EVERY trip, your tickets, insurance, birth certificate, hotel bookings and send them to your own email address. In case of emergency, it’s going to save you a lot of time having those scans handy.
  2. Print all of those out in 2 copies and have one in a different bag than your original documents and leave the other one at home with someone who’s going to be on standby as your emergency contact.
  3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Don’t have all your money in one bag. Keep a small sum somewhere close to your body. Inner pockets, hidden wallets, anything that you could feel on yourself at all times. This is seriously important.
  4. If you can, keep your phone and passport there too.
  5. Have a few passport-sized photos somewhere else than your bag. This is useful, don’t ignore this one please.
  6. Have a local sim card or any other means of getting in touch with your emergency contact. Day or night. What really helped in my Mom’s situation was that her phone wasn’t stolen, it was also fully charged, the charger was in my sister’s bag and they had a post-paid sim card so they could call with no limit. That saved a lot of time and stress. A lot.
  7. Be always aware of your personal belongings. Don’t wear your bag on one shoulder, especially to the side of the street (Asian experience – when the motorbikes can snatch it from behind as you walk since it’s a different driving side than at home).

Just be mindful, not paranoid, but mindful. It’s an easy habit to get used to, you won’t notice the effort of thinking about these things after one or two trips, I promise.

How it all ended

So how did it all end in Paris? One hour and one Facebook status update later I found a friend of a friend who happened to be visiting Paris and she was eager to help. Kate, Sasha, you guys are our saviours, thank you!

We found the money, we found some backup options for accommodation (thank you Facebook friends!) and Dad booked them a hotel. 3 people on the line – one in Paris (the ‘keep calm and file the police report’ one), one in Ukraine (the one with the credit card and access to all scans and copies) and one in KL (yours truly, the ‘I have 700 friends on Facebook’) – we managed to get it sorted in a few hours.

Next day they went to the embassy, received their temporary IDs and had their flights booked and at night they both safely arrived to Kiev. Phew! Thanks to the Universe and all the synchronicity that happened along the way! And thank God they were prepared and knew what to do. Now you do too. And hopefully you will never need to use it.

Safe travels!

p.s. A week later the bag was found somewhere in Paris and my Mom was contacted that it is now at the local Lost & Found. We hope to snatch it out of there somehow, but the regulations are, apparently, if the documents found, they send them to the embassy and the embassy destroys them. Because what if someone used them for anything illegal? Sad.. Trying to get hold of people in Paris to give it a try anyway.

p.p.s Lol, the Lost&Found lost the bag.. Eventually someone went there on our behalf to retrieve it, but they couldn’t find it. By that time my sister was already in Germany on a school trip with a new passport and visa and my Mom was with a new passport as well. So all’s good, just very very ironic. Be safe guys!

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