You’re travelling and having an amazing time in a faraway land when suddenly, you realise that your passport is missing! Panic sets in and you start tracing back frantically all the previous events in your mind. “What to do now?!” Hopefully, that has never happened to you before and I hope it never will. Unfortunately for these two ladies, it did.
Tung Wai Hau, a Malaysian university lecturer, flew to UK for a work assignment. She had planned for a leisure tour of the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands before her assignment began. After enjoying the sights in London, she flew to Sweden. It was at Gamla Stan, the original area where Stockholm city was founded, that the incident happened.
“It was winter. I was wearing a thick coat and carrying my day pack. The streets were already quite empty by 4pm. I was walking alone in the old city when suddenly, I had a hunch to check my bag. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that one of the compartments was exposed. I quickly rummaged through the bag but couldn’t find my money pouch, which also contained my passport! Fear struck me as realised that someone had stolen my pouch!”
Wai Hau told herself to stay calm as she retraced her steps. She looked into drains, hoping that the thief would just take the money and dispose the passport on the streets. By then, it was getting dark and freezing. She decided to quit looking and headed to the nearest police station instead.
Next, meet Jaimel Aquino Gallardo, a Filipino key accounts manager. She was having a holiday in Russia with four friends. “We were eating at a restaurant in St. Petersburg. When we were about to pay the bill, I turned around to get my bag and realised that it was gone!”
“At first, I was more concerned for my stolen camera and photos. Then, it dawned on me that I can’t leave Russia without my passport!” Jaimel and her friends asked the restaurant owner if they could check the CCTV to identify who had stolen the bag. Unfortunately, the owner declined. Then they called the Philippines embassy in Moscow for advice.
“I was told to go to the Philippines Consular Office in St. Petersburg the next day, the embassy would send my travel document from Moscow and I should be receiving it before noon.” Jaimel also had to make a police report.
How did it change the way they travel?
For Wai Hau, she’s learnt not take things for granted. She opined, “All this while, I’d considered Sweden and Scandinavian countries to be safe; now, I don’t assume anymore. I make sure to carry my day pack in front while keeping my passport at the bottom-most portion of my bag, where people would not be able to reach it directly.” She added, “Remember to spread out the cash. I was lucky to still have some Swedish Kroners in the other compartment of my daypack. I also had some cash stored at a friend’s house in the UK.”
Jaimel, on the other hand, makes sure to “never hang my bag on the chair when dining out in restaurants now. Also, I’d leave my passport in the safe at my hotel, and bring a photocopy when I go touring.”
What advice would they give to fellow travellers?
“If you lose your passport and you’re alone, don’t roam around anymore like I did. While waiting for my exit visa, I still went back to the restaurant the next day, hoping that someone would return my passport. When the embassy staff learned about it, she scolded me. I am technically an alien without papers in Russia and who knows what could have happened,” Jaimel shared.
Wai Hau advised, “Be street smart, vigilant, and trust your hunches. Stay calm if you have lost your passport as there’s no point in worrying. I really don’t think any sane immigration officers would like to detain you. They will assist you to get the necessary documents to get home.”
A step-by-step guide on what to do if you lose your passport abroad
• Go to the nearest police station and make a report with your original IDs or photocopies, if the originals are also lost or stolen. (see infographic)
• Go to your nearest embassy or consulate with the police report to apply for an emergency travel document. You will be required to fill up the necessary forms, provide your passport photos, and pay for the application.
• You will be issued with an emergency travel document that enables you to return home. It is likely that the document allows for a single journey only. You will be allowed to transit. However, the number of transits depends on your country.
• Make sure the police report is translated to English. It will be required when you apply for a new passport upon returning home. Bear in mind that translation services for official documents are very expensive, so you may want to get it done at the police station or embassy. However, it is up to their discretion to assist.
• In case the police report is not translated, go to a local police station after you have returned to your home country. Make another report in the local language, and bring it with you when you apply for a new passport.