As a lifelong traveler, I’ve always kept a minimalist perspective on material items. I try not to acquire too much clutter or set too permanent of roots in any one location, since these can become obstacles in the way of exploration. Generally, my checklist goes: phone, computer, wallet, passport. Almost anything else is immediately replaceable.
As time has gone on, I’ve seen my fair share of wallets left in bars, phones dropped in oceans, and computers smashed in transit – so even losing those things, I’ve learned, is not necessarily a cause for panic. It’s my passport, however, that has quickly proven itself to be my most valued possession.
With nothing else, no matter how dire a circumstance becomes, this single document can identify me to the world and send me home. Having a strong passport (not all passports are created equally) is essentially a golden ticket, unlocking the world on your terms. Freedom, spontaneity, and efficiency are a traveler’s Holy Trinity, and your passport is the Eucharist.
So, if that fateful day arrives when your Holy Trinity is jeopardized by a lost or stolen passport during your travels, it’s important to act quickly. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to maintain your travel schedule or return home.
What to Do if Your Passport is Lost or Stolen:
1. Take inventory of your personal documents.
If you lose your passport, it’s important to gather whatever remaining important documents you have to identify yourself. This can include birth certificate, driver’s license, and credit cards. Documents regarding travel may be useful too, including plane tickets, hotel invoices, or any other type of travel confirmation.
Note: It’s important to always make photocopies of your passport and important documents. These can be used to validate information. It may also be useful to purchase a Passport Card, which can be used as identification in case the passport is lost, or if you want to leave your passport in a safe location at the hotel while you explore during the day.
2. Contact your closest embassy or consulate.
The first real action taken after losing your passport should be to contact the nearest consulate or embassy of your home country. They will be able to assist you in applying for an expedited passport to be sent to your current location. In many cases, this can be done within 24 hours. You will have to fill out paperwork and validate your citizenship and identity. Contacting the embassy before you arrive is a good way to find the checklist of documents you will need. To maximize efficiency, you can print the application forms and fill them out before you reach the embassy.
You want to get your new passport request processed as quickly as possible, so avoid any hiccups in the process by arriving with all of the necessary documents. In many cases, you can also directly contact the state department of your home country if you’re in a location far from any qualifying embassy or consulate.
If possible, have valid checks and plenty of cash on hand to process the expedited application fees.
Note: The embassy/consulate may be able to take the new passport photo for you, but it’s not a guarantee. It’s best to always travel with extra passport photos so you don’t run into any issues.
3. File a police report.
If you think your passport was stolen, you may want to consider filing a police report. This will help protect you against identity theft, while also flagging your document in case someone tries to use it without your knowledge.
4. Follow up.
Once you’ve received your new passport and safely returned home, the major stress is over with. However, your original passport is still out there somewhere, so it’s important to keep an eye on your legal security for a while. Your home country will make sure that your old passport is no longer valid for use, but it still contains important personal details. Monitor your bank accounts, emails, phone records, and any other bills or accounts you have to make sure there aren’t any fraudulent attempts to gain access to your money or identity.
As perhaps the most important document a person can own, your passport should be guarded with the highest level of precaution. Any experienced traveler knows, however, that adventure comes with uncertainties, risk, and unexpected mishaps. If you lose your passport while traveling abroad, don’t panic. By keeping a cool head and following the steps above, you can get your new document quickly and be back roaming the world again in no time.
Tyler Sorce is an American chef and writer from New York City. His mission is to visit every country on the planet and share his experiences along the way. You can follow his travels and favorite dishes on Instagram: @tyler_sorce