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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 copy 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.
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.
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!