Losing a passport is one of every International traveler’s biggest fears. A passport is the only form of internationally accepted identification, and in many countries it’s required to check into a hotel, exchange money, or even drive down the road. While everyone understands that a passport should always be safeguarded against loss, theft and destruction, bad things happen. Even the most experienced travelers can lose their passport.
First Rule: Don’t Panic
When you realize your passport is lost, carefully retrace your steps. More times than not, you simply placed your passport in a different compartment of your bag or left it on a counter.
If you retrace your steps and strike out, it’s time to report your passport lost. Contact your country’s embassy or consulate as well as the local police to file a report. This initial step is vital – it will help make sure that the missing passport is rendered as invalid and prevent someone from using it in your name.
Expert Tip: If you happen to find your passport after officially reporting it lost, make sure you do not try to use it. Instead, notify the authority you originally contacted and report its discovery. Trying to use an invalid passport is a great way to meet the local police force…so don’t do it.
Start Applying For a New Passport ASAP
Once your passport is declared lost, it’s time to apply for a new one. Ideally, you would have a copy of your passport somewhere in your bags that you can show to the local embassy staff. It’s also helpful if you have some kind of photo-ID with you (like a driver’s license). Most of the time, the embassy or consulate can print you a new passport in a day or two as they can find your paperwork electronically.
If for some reason you have no ID other than your passport, the process is more difficult. Your fingerprints must be taken and compared to the official record, and this process can take a few days. You may need to arrange a longer stay at your hotel, change your flight plans, and call your employer to let them know you’ll be extending your trip.
How To Avoid Losing Your Passport In the First Place
First, you should always be aware of your important documents. If your passport is always kept on your person – such as in a passport holder that goes around your neck – you don’t have to think about it too much. If you toss your passport in some luggage pocket as you rush out the door, not only are you more likely to forget where your passport is, but you’re also more likely to have it stolen as you won’t pay the proper amount of attention to that particular bag or luggage pocket.
The best idea is to keep your passport either on your person or in your personal travel bag that you carry at all times. However, if you’re staying at a trusted hotel with a safe, you can either check your passport at the front desk or lock it in your room safe while you sight-see.
It’s also a good idea to use care when showing anyone your passport. There are more than a few stories of “official looking” people demanding to see your passport, only to run off with the document as soon as they have it in their hands. A good rule of thumb: If someone walks up to you and asks to see your passport, you should be very careful. If you walk up to someone, you don’t need to worry as much.
Finally, passports are often forgotten by travelers who are boarding planes, trains, checking out of hotels, etc. Before you leave a place, check to make sure you’ve got your passport (and your wallet too while you’re at it).
The good news is that losing a passport isn’t a major problem. Good luck in your travels!
Author Laurie Mellson recommends the website OnlineClock.net to all travelers. The site has a free alarm clock that is easy to set compared to most hotel alarm clocks. The site also features an online stopwatch which can be helpful when you’re trying to monitor your time at a web cafe – see http://stopwatch.onlineclock.net/.