Gystilyn O’Brien 01/22/2019 – unpublished

International travel is always filled with the unexpected. Even the best laid plans are often shifted, and one quickly learns that although it is good to have an itinerary, it is also good to be flexible in ones plans. Reservations are lost or don’t go through, planes, or boats, or trains, are delayed. Sometimes an unexpected new friend derails your plans in lieu of a grand adventure. For better or for worse travel is filled with the unexpected, and one of the more annoying forms of the unexpected is the issue of a stolen passport.

Often theft of this kind is related to bag theft, and often while in transit. Easiest places to have a bag stolen are train and bus stations. It’s easy to relax into the swing of movement, and it’s easy to trust strangers. It’s also easy for a professional theft to disappear. A good thief will wear bright colors and then ditch them once the bag is acquired, making them impossible to track. So what do you do? What are the steps to take?


Okay, lets be real here, you are going to panic. Panic is fine. It’s a natural response. That said, it’s not going to fix anything. So pause, take a few deep breaths and sit down for a second. The first real step is make sure you are safe. Take a moment to evaluate your surroundings. Are you in a safe place? Take stock of your environment, your possessions, and your party, if you are with other people. How’s everyone doing? Does everyone know what’s going on?

Step Two: File a police report

Most transit stations have a police desk. An information booth can certainly direct you to a local beat cop or a station. There are three reasons to report your loss:

  1. Due-diligence – so that your local embassy knows you did your best when it comes time to get your new passport. You’ll want to take a copy of the police report with you when you file for a replacement passport.
  2. In the event they find the person, and or your passport, they’ll have an address to send it to. Give them your home address, you’ll probably already have a new passport by the time anything comes of this. Still, it’s a good idea to be able to retrieve lost property.
  3. You want this theft on file in the event anyone in that country tries to use your passport for identity theft. Once stolen and reported your identity is put on a ‘watch’ list. Anything strange, and the identity will be evaluated, which is useful in not racking up dept or international charges.

Step three: Plans

It’s going to take anywhere from three days to a week to get a new passport. Time to rearrange some plans. You need to figure out where your nearest embassy is, how you are going to get there, and the days and times it’s open. Be aware of local holidays. Some countries have them every week. Give the embassy a call; they are usually very helpful. Most of this information will also be online, as this is what embassy’s are for. Keep in mind that most hotels will want a passport for check in. You may need to arrange for a friends help. Sometimes they will accept a paper print out of your passport if you explain the situation. Be honest. People are generally helpful. Remember, you may need to re-book flights. Talk to airport desk people, tell them whats going on. Often they have systems set up to aid in issues like this.

Step four: Embassy

The fastest way to get a replacement temporary passport is to have your documentation in hand. In a best case scenario that means you took pictures of your passport, ID’s etc., before you left home, and they are either in a doc in your email, or your friends or family members have them. Print out copies of those. It helps to print out the “lost/stolen passport” form from your embassy and have that filled out. You’ll also need two 2″x2″ head shots – a photo booth will usually do, though in the modern day you could probably find a shop that does passport photos. Be sure to have called your embassy so they know your coming, ask them questions like what you will need, time expectancy, etc. Bring your police report if you can. Fee’s are usually around $200ish, and they can have a new passport to you in 20 minutes, or 5 days, depending on their resources and what country you are in. You will need to get an actual replacement passport when you get home. These temporary passports are usually good for about 60 days.

If you don’t have print outs of your passport that’s okay too. You will need to prove you are you, usually some mix of social security number, various ID’s, past address’s, bank knowledge, etc. They have methods and systems, it’s just more complicated. Most embassy people are nice if you are honest, polite, and organized. An embassy’s purpose is to help those needing help, and so where issues arise they tend to take them seriously.

At the end of the day you’ll find that most of your heart knocking panic wasn’t really nessissary. Yes, it was an inconvenient pain in the bum, but it wasn’t really hard to fix, and ultimately no one was hurt. At least you learned an interesting life lesson, and now you know what to do and how to help others in need. Most of life’s little drama’s tend to work that way. It’s all part of the adventure!