What To Do If Your Bag and Passport Get Stolen In A Foreign Country
1. Call the Police
You might be nervous about getting the police involved because you either don’t speak the language or have heard they can be corrupt. At the end of the day, however, the vast majority of police forces around the world are there to help. Not only is there a chance they can recover your gear, but you’ll need a police report if you want to claim any travel insurance for lost items.
In non-English speaking countries, try to get a written translation of what you what to say beforehand (ask the concierge staff at your hotel or your Airbnb host for help). Better yet, get a bilingual local to go with you to the police station.
In some countries, the police might be reluctant to issue a report because it means more work for them. If you are unable to persuade them to do so, try to get some sort of receipt or acknowledgement slip that proves you were there.
2. Visit your local embassy or consulate
Depending on where you are in the world, this might be harder or easier than you think. However, when you lose your passport, you need to visit your country’s foreign embassy as soon as possible. Here are quick links to the Singapore, USA, UK and Australian embassies abroad. Be prepared to travel if you are not in the capital, where most embassies are located.
Give them a call first to discuss your situation. If you have immediate travel plans home, let the embassy know. An emergency passport can normally be issued within 24 hours, especially if you’ve been a victim of theft. For Singaporeans, here is more information on what to do if you lose your passport overseas.
3. Get a passport photo taken and send in your paperwork
Once you’ve acquired the correct forms to complete, make sure you fill in all of the information clearly and send them off. Any mistakes can lead to a delay in getting your new passport. You’ll also need a photo to send along with the paperwork, so find a local place to get that done. In many countries, Post Offices will have the facility to do this. While you’re there, take a couple of funny shots too, just to take the stress out of the situation. They’ll be a great little token to keep.
4. Gather some money to pay for your new passport
You might think that because you’ve had your passport stolen, your embassy would issue you another one for free. Not in most situations. Thankfully, if you have travel insurance, this should be covered along with your gear, so pay up knowing that you should be able to eventually recoup the cost. If you’ve had every cent stolen along with your bag, ask family or friends to wire you some emergency money. You can also ask them to transfer money to the account of a trustworthy travel friend.
Quick tip: Keep your emergency cash in a money belt. A lightweight money belt, worn under your clothes where no one can see it, is the most inexpensive way to avoid grab-and-run theft. You can store your cash, credit cards, smartphone and passport in them. They are also metal-free, so you don’t have to remove them when you go through airport security.
5. Cancel your Cards
Remember to contact your bank if your missing wallet contained credit or debit cards. You will need to cancel it quickly to avoid fraudulent use. You can then order a new card to be sent as soon as possible. Be aware that most banks will only send to the address on record, usually your home address. A family member will then have to send it abroad to you.
Quick tip: Before you go, it’s a good idea to make scans or photocopies of your various credit or debit cards. Also, make a note of your bank’s specific number for reporting lost or stolen cards.
6. Get in Touch with your Travel Insurance Company
If your travel insurance policy offers protection for loss of passport or other belongings, you should be able to make a claim. Contact your insurer and enquire about the documents you must submit to make a claim. Many insurers maintain a 24-hour hotline. They can help you locate the nearest embassy and offer assistance in the event of lost passports, so make good use of it.
Depending on your insurance plan, you might be able to recoup the costs incurred while dealing with your lost passport. This might include travel expenses and hotel accommodation incurred while trying to get to the embassy, the cost of a new ticket if you are forced to miss a flight, as well as the cost of replacing your passport.
7. Replace your Lost Gear
If you’ve had your clothes or other essentials stolen, now’s the time to start replacing that gear. Going shopping overseas can be fun, so embrace the silver lining and see what cheap bargains you can find.
If you happen to be reading this before you’ve had your gear and passport stolen abroad, then it’s always best to travel with some protection. Travel insurance is a big one, so research your options and make sure you pick the most suitable one.
Also, take photos of your passport and other ID with your phone, and then send them to your email. It will be much easier to prove who you are to both the police and your consulate. Same goes for your travel insurance information. Keep it in your email or on the cloud.
It’s also a good idea to take your passport out of your main bag and put it in the safe at your accommodation. This will avoid everything being stolen at once. It’s one thing to have your bag stolen, and a whole other problem when your key travel document is involved. If you don’t have access to a safe (or don’t trust the safe in the room), here is a portable safe that can be pack flat into your luggage.
There are also plenty of anti-theft travel backpacks that will give you peace of mind while abroad. Safe travels!
This article is adapted from Pacsafe’s Travel Blog.