A Guide to Losing Your Passport
George writes for Sixt.co.uk – and he knows he was relatively lucky with his experience. Have you ever lost your passport? What happened? Let us know in the comments below.
Allow me to briefly describe what it feels like to lose your passport while abroad: nausea, a surge of utter panic, a hollow sinking in the stomach, sudden loss of facial blood, and then another wave of panic, which continues for several weeks. When I realized I’d lost my passport while traveling alone in Laos, I was in the back of a pickup truck taxi on the way to the Thai border. We were about 30 km from the capital city of Vientiane. It had vanished from my pocket somewhere between my hotel in the city and the barren stretch of road we were at when I noticed it missing. My debit card was gone too. I had $8 cash, and the cabbie demanded $5 to take me back to Vientiane.
Over the course of the next three days, I learned (the hard way) what to do when you find yourself down and out (and passport-less…) in a foreign country. Here’s how you can start to set things right again.
Conduct a Frantic Search
Look absolutely everywhere it could possibly be. Then look in dozens of unlikely places, and round out the morning by searching in completely improbable places. Tear apart your bags, chase down random tuk-tuk drivers who look somewhat familiar, scan 30 km of road in a state of near hysteria. Try to remain calm.
Visit the Local Police Station
When it becomes obvious you won’t find it, let the local police know it has been lost and give them your contact information in case any good Samaritans might possibly return it.
Visit the Local Immigration Office
The logical next place to go is your home embassy, but they’ll just tell you to go to local immigration. If you are lucky, you lost your passport in a city where there are immigration offices and embassies. Otherwise, you’ll have to travel to the nearest capital. On the way to local immigration, obtain passport photos. Report the loss, pay a fee, fill out paperwork, and endure derision from the local officials. The next day, several hours after promised, pick up your emergency one-week visa for the country you are in. (If it is now 4pm on Friday, and your home embassy is closed, wait in agony for Monday morning).
Go to Your Home Embassy
Take the temp visa to your local embassy, and report the passport lost/stolen. They will cancel it. Pay a substantial fee (varies by country), order a Temporary Passport (valid for one year), fill out more paperwork, and wait another day in agony. Then pick up your temp passport.
Go to the Local Consulate
Now, with Temporary Passport and temporary visa document in hand, go to the local consulate. Wait in a very long line. Fill out more paperwork and pay another small fee for them to transfer the visa into the passport. Then, rejoice! You can now leave the country (and must within 5 days). If you can phone home, now is the time to do it – flights can be very expensive.
File for a New Passport in Person
When you get home or back to the country you are residing in, go in person to the embassy, fill out more paperwork, and order a new official passport book (which is already paid for from your initial fee for the Temporary Passport).
Wait 2-3 Weeks
Pick up the new passport. Breathe a sigh of relief. It is a long, stressful, agonizing process. But it isn’t the end of the world. Hopefully you won’t find yourself penniless and debit-card-less if it ever happens to you (my friend once had his bike, passport and clothes stolen on an Italian motorway; but that’s a story for another time…). Good luck!