Losing your passport is a traveller’s worst nightmare, as Kate from Jayride.com found out on a recent trip to the UK. Here are her tips for navigating this stressful situation.
I consider myself a diligent and savvy traveller – organised and secure, keeping a watchful eye on my belongings at all times when overseas. Despite this, I somehow managed to misplace my passport while travelling across the United Kingdom recently. I’ll never forget that sick, prickling heat of panic that washed over me as I searched my daypack over and over again, pleading with the travel gods that it was still somehow in there. It wasn’t, and I was faced with the overwhelming task of getting my new Aussie passport before my flight left four days later.
Losing your passport in a foreign country can be a nightmare, but by preparing for this worst-case scenario, you can make this travel disaster situation much more manageable.
Before you leave home
Make copies of everything
Take colour copies of EVERYTHING with you when you travel – your passport, your visa if you have one, your driver’s licence – and keep them somewhere separate to your actual passport. Email a digital copy to yourself and someone at home you trust. It’s much easier to get your passport replaced when you have access to all your passport details, like your passport number, and it helps prove your identity when applying for your emergency passport.
You can also download an app called KeepSafe, a PIN-powered photo locker app which allows you to store digital copies of important documents like passports, credit cards and healthcare cards, as well as other valuable photos, securely.
Take passport photos with you
If you lose your passport, you’ll need to supply new passport photos for your emergency passport application. Remember: passport photo dimensions can differ in different countries (i.e. American passport photo dimensions differ to those in Australia and the UK), so it’s always good to pack a set of passport photos before you leave so they are the correct dimensions for your country. Get them done at your local Post Office before you leave for your trip, as there are strict guidelines on what can be accepted as a passport photo, and low-quality photos or ‘selfies’ won’t do the trick. Arriving at the embassy already equipped with passport photos will help quicken the process of replacing a passport.
Look up where your nearest embassy is before you travel
You have to visit an embassy or consulate of your country in person in order to obtain an emergency passport, so find out where the closest one will be on your travels before you leave. Most embassies and consulates are located in major cities, so it’s good to have an idea of where you need to go rather than searching for the information in a panic-driven state. It’s important to note that most embassies and consulates are closed on weekends and holidays. However, there is usually a 24-hour phone number you can call, so it’s worth saving that number in your phone before you leave.
Handy hint: these websites are useful for finding your consulate or embassy if you’re from Australia, the UK or the USA.
Purchase travel insurance
Travel insurance is one of those things you hope you don’t need, but when you do, boy are you glad you have it. Do your research before you leave to find a comprehensive travel insurer, as the cost of an emergency passport, emergency visa, delayed and/or cancelled flights and new itinerary (if you need to travel to find an embassy) can add up very quickly. Most policies should cover some of the cost of altered travel plans, extra accommodation and passport fees at the very least, but always check the smallprint and shop around for the policy that best suits you.
Tell your bank you’re going overseas
You should do this anyway when you travel overseas so that your financial institution doesn’t mistake your overseas transactions as fraudulent and then cancel your cards. This is obviously not ideal when you need to pay the emergency passport fee and any other expenses that crop up while trying to replace a lost or stolen passport.
Tell your phone provider you’re travelling
As with your bank, it’s a good idea to tell your phone provider you’re going overseas, lest you find yourself in the situation I was in, where I was making so many (distressed!) calls back home that my phone provider disconnected my service, assuming it had been stolen and taken overseas. I then had to use the hotel phone to contact my service provider to beg them to reinstate my phone. Better still, download an app like Skype, WhatsApp or Messenger to contact people at home using WiFi, which is usually available in hotels. You’ll save yourself the shock of coming home to an astronomical phone bill, like I did.
Let your bank know you’re going overseas so you don’t end up with a cancelled card, and take photocopies of any important identity documents as well as your passport
While you’re overseas
Report a lost or stolen passport
You’re required by law to report the loss or theft of your passport, so this is the first thing you need to do. Call your country’s consulate or embassy to lodge a report. You’ll be asked for your passport number, which is why it’s important to have photocopies handy.
File a police report if your passport has been stolen
If your passport was stolen, you’ll usually need a police report in order to claim travel insurance. Procedures vary depending on which country you’re visiting. This can sometimes be a lengthy process, so weigh up your options. If your flight is imminent and you simply don’t have time to spend half a day applying for a police report, you could skip it and go straight to the embassy, but check with your insurance provider to determine your best course of action, as it is often recommended that you file a report with local police.
Find your nearest embassy or consulate
As mentioned above, to obtain an emergency passport you’ll need to visit your country’s embassy or consulate in person. You’ll need to bring along some forms of identification, like a copy of your passport or driving licence. It depends which country you’re visiting as to how long the emergency passport application process will take, but it’s often possible to have an emergency passport issued within 24 hours.
Remember, most consulates and embassies are closed on weekends and holidays and will not be able to issue an emergency passport, unless they deem the situation necessary to issue one (and not because you have a flight that evening). This may mean that you need to adjust your travel plans accordingly if you lose a passport on a weekend, or can’t get to your embassy during the week. If you’ve been a victim of a crime, it’s important to let the consular officer you’re dealing with know.
Replace your visa
If you’re travelling on a visa, your country’s embassy or consulate cannot replace this for you. You will need to visit the embassy of the country you’re visiting and enquire about replacing an emergency exit visa. You will need your emergency passport for this, so it’s important to replace that first before trying to get an emergency visa.
Delay your travels if needs be
Sometimes this is inevitable. You simply can’t cross any international borders without a valid passport, so breathe, accept that there’s nothing you can do to speed up the process and delay your travels until you have replaced all the necessary documents. Your job will still be there, your house will still be standing, so try not to stress too much and accept that these things happen, and you’ll get through it. You’ve got this.
When you get home
If you find your passport
If it turns out that your passport was safely hiding in your luggage all along, (after you’ve sighed loudly in exasperation) put it away someplace where you’re not going to confuse it with your new one. It’s already been cancelled and therefore permanently invalid, so you can no longer use this passport for travel, and attempting to do so can result in hefty fines.
Apply for a new passport
Your emergency passport is designed to get you home quickly and thus has a very limited life, so if you plan to travel overseas again in the near future, you’ll need to apply for a brand new passport when you get home.
Laugh; it’s all part of the travel experience
Things go wrong. These things happen. While it’s stressful at the time, you’ll get through it and end up with a sense that you can overcome whatever travel mishaps comes your way in the future… and you’ll have a great travel story to tell people at dinner parties.
One other thing I’d mention is that I’d already booked my transfer to get me to the airport and home again before I left for my trip. It really was a welcome relief to be picked up from my hotel and taken to the airport without having to organise myself after such a stressful few days! One less thing to worry about…
If you’re travelling soon, you can pre-book your airport transfer on Jayride.com to ensure a smooth and seamless trip, without the long airport taxi queues. Search and compare thousands of airport transfers today.