So you’re traveling abroad and your passport has gone missing? Lost? Stolen? Left in the seat back pocket on the plane and as you’re walking out the gate you realise but the staff won’t let you go back and won’t go back themselves despite knowing its exact location on the plane??? Been there!
How do you cope when you lose your passport overseas? Here are 9 tips to remember if you get yourself into this situation…
How do you cope when you lose your passport overseas? Here a few things to remember if you get yourself into this situation…
- Have a photocopy of your passports front page (with your details and photo) back in your home country (ideally at a loved ones house) and two copies on you (one in your hand luggage and one in your suitcase/checked luggage. Ideally have a digital copy on your email account.
- Report the missing passport to the local police in your area and your police in your home country (your family can do this part for you because they have your passport number on that photocopy!) – this will be useful in case anyone tries to steal your identity (unlikely but better to be safe than sorry!)
- Report the missing passport to the airport in the city you are in and wanting to leave. Again, this is so they are aware in case anyone tries to use it (you don’t want you clean travel reputation to have any black marks on it that could complicate your future travel).
- If you in fact lost it at an airport/ on a flight know that airlines will have a system in place for lost property but they (at least a certain airline that shall go unnamed) have no sense of urgency or care for the emergency factor of your situation. Don’t expect compassion from airlines (except Air NZ – those guys rock!). My recommendation would be to hold your ground that you need assistance. We trusted the system and walked away from the gate, knowing our passports were just 30m from us, tucked in the seat back pockets. If they push back on this, it never hurts to get a little tearful and tug on their sympathy strings (See tip #7 to see how this worked out for us).
5. Once you have informed the local authorities, re-trace your steps if you have lost your passport. A kind passerby may have handed it in to a local shop near where you left it so scope out the areas where you were before you noticed it was missing. If you know it was stolen – it might be a bit of a waste of your time to search your surroundings but if you’re unsure, it pays to look.
6. Contact your nearest consulate (Embassy if you are in the countries capital). Be aware there may not be one in your city. This is an important step because they will need to issue your emergency travel documents if you do not recover your passport. Check they are operational and know your situation in advance. Be aware, some consulates close over holiday periods. As ridiculous as that sounds, our NZ consulate in LA was not able to issue documents between the 23rd December – 4th January. Don’t even get me started on how useless that is – when the most people are trying to travel for the holidays they shut down and become completely useless to their people for two whole weeks!
7. Go to the airport to re-book your flight if you need to, rather than doing so over the phone. We went to the airport to see if we could get onto our original flight (3rd January) because our home consulate in Wellington NZ had advised us that it would be at the airlines discretion to let us on the flight – needless to say – they did not. When we walked up to the ticket booth to re-book a new flight for three days later we got lucky with a very kind man who re-booked the same flight plan for our new travel date free of charge and with an upgrade to premium economy on our second leg! So those silver linings do come – it probably didn’t hurt that I was standing there crying and he felt sorry for me.
8. Make sure you have funds/accommodation to stay in your current city/country while you sort things out. We were lucky enough to have my boyfriend’s cousin’s friends living in the city we were stuck in (San Francisco) willing to have us sleep on their couches for three nights while we dealt with the consulate, saving us another three nights in a hotel.
9. When you know what you need to get, move quickly! Our consulate required new photos, hard copies of forms, and money orders which had to be obtained from a post shop via cash. These all had to be couriered out of town the moment their office opened so we were running around San Francisco trying to get everything sorted. The process will cost you big time! Emergency travel documents cost $340USD per person. But it does get you a new 10 year passport when you’re back home.
To be honest, my no. 1 tip of what to do when you lose your passport overseas… JUST DON’T LOSE YOUR PASSPORT!!!