Lost My Passport


I’ve lost my passport too many times while traveling. It happened in China, it happened in Thailand, it happened in Sweden, and I’m sure it will happen again.

I hate losing my passport, but it’s something most travelers will go through at some point in life.

There are a few outcomes when you have lost your passport. Either you’ve misplaced it and you will find it by searching, or its gone forever and it’s never coming back.

You’ve Misplaced Your Passport. Check Your Belongings.

More often than not you will have simply misplaced your passport. A bit of searching will usually return it. If you have lost your passport here is exactly what you should do.

First, stop what you are doing and calm down. Search your bag and all your pockets in all your clothing. Take it slow, and search thoroughly, like real thorough. Do you have a camera bag inside your backpack? Check all the sections in that too.

Did you know that more often than not, lost passports are actually found misplaced in luggage? Don’t be that person that reports their passport missing and finds it half an hour later.

You’ve Left Your Passport Behind. Retrace Your Steps.

If your lost passport doesn’t turn up in your belongings, then think about where you last used it, then where you last saw it, and all the places you have been since.

Here are some of the most common places to leave your passport behind:

  • In the hotel; check under the blankets and in the safe
  • Hotel reception while checking in or out
  • Train station while buying a ticket
  • Motorbike rental shop
  • Mobile phone store while applying for a sim card
  • In a pub or bar, usually while drunk

Try retracing your steps to the last place you saw it. If you walked, then walk. If you took a van transfer or an uber then try to contact the company. Before going back to your hotel, give them a call.

I recently left my passport behind at the hotel reception in Hanoi. It was the first day of our two-week motorbike trip, I was so excited to hit the road that I totally forgot to grab it. When I realized it was not with me, I panicked because you cannot check into a hotel in Vietnam without it.

With a bit of pragmatic thinking, I realized where it was, went back and picked it up. We were delayed by two hours on the first day, but I had my passport.

You’ve Actually Lost Your Passport. Cancel It and Make a New One.

Once you are sure you have lost your passport or had it stolen, then it’s time to take the official route. Again, don’t panic, just follow the procedure.

Most countries will require by law that your report your passport lost or stolen. You need to contact your embassy in your country of travel to cancel your passport. Call or email them first, then you will likely need to arrange a face-to-face meeting at the embassy.

To report your passport as lost or stolen you will need to confirm your identity and cite your passport number. I definitely suggest keeping a scan of your passport in your phone or computer, so you can easily look up the details.

This is what you need to know once you report your passport lost or stolen:

  • It will be canceled permanently, even if you find it in your bag an hour later
  • If you try to use a canceled passport you can be arrested
  • You won’t be able to cross international borders until you have a new passport issued
  • It will generally take about 3 weeks to get a new passport issued

You will then have to go to your embassy and apply for a new passport. Here you will find contact details and locations of almost all embassies in the world.

To apply for a new passport, you will generally need the following, but not limited to:

  • 2 x Passport photos
  • Another form of identification such as a birth certificate, drivers license, etc… If you do not have all of these on hand, you will need someone from back home to scan them, and possibly have them sighted
  • Payment for your new passport. Usually $200+

How Much Does a New Passport Cost?

New passport applications are commonly upwards of $200. Some countries like Australia even charge a penalty for losing your passport.

You will also have to pay for additional flights which you have missed by not being able to board, and up to three weeks additional accommodation while waiting for a new passport to arrive.

All in all, losing your passport can be an expensive experience, easily resulting in over $1000 of unplanned costs.

The good news is that all of this and many other mishaps can be covered by a decent travel insurance policy. Check out my article here which breaks down the benefits of travel insurance.

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