Your Passport was Lost/Stolen Abroad, Now What?

Prior to this past year, I’d never known anyone who had lost or had their passport stolen while abroad. Well, while in Rome in November, my sister not only had her passport, but everything in her purse stolen (wallet, camera, iPhone, etc.) while waiting at the train station. Two weeks ago when my friend was visiting me, we discovered her wallet (with her passport inside!) missing. While it still isn’t clear if it was stolen or lost, the consequences were still the same. However, while it might seem frantic at the moment, it really isn’t the end of the world!

BEFORE GOING ABROAD

1. Make copies of your passport and anything else of value in your wallet. This includes credit cards, insurance cards, and your driver’s license. I’d also recommend traveling with a copy of your birth certificate in case you do need to replace a passport. Leave one copyΒ  of everything with a friend or family member in the USA, give one copy to your travel partner (if you have one!), and keep another copy with yourself separate from where you keep your passport!

2. Email everything in Step 1 to yourself. Therefore, if for some reason you can’t get to the paper copies, you have a backup accessible via your email.

3. Leave your social security card at home. And please people, never put it in your wallet!!! My friend learned this the hard way.

WHEN ABROAD

1. Honestly, I never carry my passport when I’m out sightseeing. There really is no reason! Keep your passport in a safe or locked up somehow at your hotel or hostel. I’ve never been asked for my passport when traveling except for at passport control. If you really think you need it, just stick a copy in your purse.

2. If you must keep it with you, always wear a cross-body zippered purse. I like to be extra safe with valuables and put them inside the zippered pocket of the zippered purse (double protect). That way if someone tries to pickpocket you, they have to open an additional zipper.

AFTER IT IS LOST/STOLEN

1. You’re allowed to panic. And freak-out. And cry. Honestly, just get it out of the way!

2. Go to the police and file a police report. Even if you don’t know if it was stolen or lost (in my friend’s case), still file a police report because it looks much more legitimate to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate when they issue you a new passport.

3. Print out new passport photos. In order to be issued a new passport, you need photos. There are photo booths at all train stations (at least in Germany!). I don’t know if this is the case everywhere, but there was actually a photo booth inside the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt. However, it is also the largest U.S. Consulate in the world so I don’t know if that’s common or not :)

4. Contact the closest embassy or consulate immediately (easy Google search or look here) and ask what you should do. Because we didn’t notice that my friend’s passport/wallet was missing until Sunday afternoon (and everything is closed on a Sunday in Germany…) and she flew out Monday, we were kind of in a panic. Even though the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt was closed, there is always someone on duty for emergencies.

5. Fill out all the required paperwork ahead of time. For a replacement passport, fill out this form. If it was lost or stolen, you also need to fill out this form.

6. Bring your paperwork, police report, and passport photos along with your passport copy and birth certificate copy with you. If you also have a copy of your travel itinerary, I would recommend bringing that as well. Because we went to the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt on a Monday morning and my friend was able to prove with her travel itinerary that she left that night, they marked her an “emergency case” and bumped her to the front of the line. We arrived around 8:00 am and she had a new passport by 9:30 am.

7. A replacement passport costs $135! In extenuating circumstances, they will waive the fee (violent crime, etc) but don’t count on it.

ONCE AT THE EMBASSY

1. DON’T BRING ANY ELECTRONICS! Cell phones are not allowed (at least at the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt). I literally brought my wallet and a book to read while I waited for my friend.

2. Store all luggage at a train station, hotel, etc. They will not allow you to bring this in and you don’t want to travel all the way to the embassy/consulate only to be told you won’t be let in.

3. Most of the time, if you aren’t the one who has lost your passport, you’re not allowed into the embassy or consulate. My friend was the one who lost her passport and they were not going to allow me in with her. However, because she had no other way to pay, I convinced them to allow me in but I was only allowed to be in the waiting area. If you’re accompanying someone, make sure to bring your own passport for identification.

4. Depending on when you travel, your replacement passport is valid for different lengths of time. Because my friend got an emergency passport, her passport is now only valid for a year. However, when she goes to replace it, she doesn’t have to pay a fee!

Hopefully you never find yourself in the situation of having lost a passport or gotten it stolen! However, if you do, this guide should make it less stressful for you. For additional information, check out this article on the State Department’s website. I know this is geared towards Americans but I don’t think the process is that much different for other countries :)

Am I missing anything or do you have additional tips? Let me know below!

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  • This is super helpful Jordan! My mom had her passport and wallet stolen in London last year and it was a pain cause it was around Christmas and New Years so the Embassy had different hours. It’s always good to be over prepared!

      • She got pick-pocketed around Buckingham Palace… she isn’t sure about the exact location, just when she found out she was sans passport and wallet full of cash and credit cards. My brother got pick-pockted years ago in Rome. They are everywhere, you just have to be careful.

        • Oh goodness, that’s horrible :( Ya my sister had someone run by her in a train station in Rome and steal her ENTIRE bag. It was horrible. The worst part was losing all her pictures from a 4 month trip around the world!

    • Oh! That’s a good one I totally forgot about mentioning :) I have my passport and other documents also in my Dropbox as well! xoxoxo

    • hahaha I know, I would definitely have a meltdown…that’s why I put it as suggestion #1 :) Once I have the meltdown, I’m usually fine! haha xo

  • Great and informative post, Jordan! I certainly hope I’ll never lose my passport or have it stolen! ;) While you definitely shouldn’t have your passport on your body (well, that’s probably alright, but not in your purse!), it’s probably still a good idea to have something somewhat official with you when you travel that has your birthdate on it, at least if you’re in your early twenties – just in case, you want to have a drink somewhere and someone suddenly thinks to ask if you’re the legal drinking age! ;) Not enforced everywhere, but I do know that some people in Germany (especially in Supermarkets!) are very strict about these kind of things, even with people that don’t really look like teens. Just thought I should add that! :)

    • Oh ya, I always carry my driver’s license because it is government issue and says my birth date! I’m definitely not advocating traveling with no identification, but maybe something that’s a bit easier to replace than a passport :) haha xo

  • This is great information to know for while traveling. Like you, I never keep my passport with my while actually exploring cities- you really shouldn’t need it, and it will be much safer at a hotel/etc. Also, while the $135 seems like a lot for a new passport, I just had to renew my passport this past year and it cost me $125 I think (I was changing my name) so while it seems expensive, it is a cost you will have to pay if you plan on continuing to travel and explore the world!

    • I had no idea it was that expensive now for a passport! I can’t wait to renew mine next year so I can finally get rid of my braces picture from 16 year old me :) Good to know! xo

  • This was so informative. I always say we need to take pictures of our documents before we leave but we never do. My sister accidentally took my husband and my passport to Scotland with her the day we were supposed to fly back to Australia. We had no idea what to do and ended up changing our flight to the next day and getting them.

    • Oh my goodness!!! That must have cost an arm and a leg to change your flight! What did you end up doing? Also, once you take the pictures once, you won’t really need to do it again unless you get a new passport, driver’s license, credit card, etc. It always eases my mind knowing I have the information somewhere!

  • Great reminders Jordan. I have all of my documents on my computer, but I usually forget to put them in a place I could access if I didn’t have my computer. I have luckily never lost my passport, but I have been on school trips where students have. In one case, we hadn’t even left the airport at our destination yet. ;-)

  • These are great tips! One time my sister lost her wallet (not her passport, thank goodness) in Spain. Apparently she left it in a McDonald’s because a girl that worked there MAILED it to the home address on her drivers license! I couldn’t believe it. I love that story :) It came with a hand-written note in broken english and said something like “I hope you enjoyed your visit to Spain!”