When You Lose A Passport
A lost passport is really not something you want to have to deal with. I can tell you, first hand, that it is a scary, complicated and unpleasant experience, especially in a country where you don’t speak the language or where you’ve never been before. Now that my ordeal is nearly over, I thought I’d share some thoughts; some advice, if you will; on being careful on an overseas trip.
Carry your passport on your person. Put it in a pouch around your waist, a sling bag, jeans with deep pockets, or in a jacket with pockets on the inner lining that you can zip up in the middle.
Do not keep all your money in one form or in only one place. Keep different kinds of money - cash, traveller’s cheques, credit & debit cards - and in different places.
Try to avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Traveller’s cheques can be reported and replaced if necessary. Cash is lost forever.
Inform your bank of your travels if it is in an unusual place, and replace the cards when you get home. Some countries are considered high risk for card-cloning.
Make note of the phone numbers and addresses of the Indian Embassy in the country you are travelling to before leaving India. Connect with them, if you can.
At every point your bag leaves your sight, check it when you get it back –passport, wallet, phone.
Do as locals do. Locals understand necessary precautions better than you, so take their advice about where to go or not, and how to carry your things.
Carry another form of ID with you. In the absence of a Passport, you need something to identify yourself. DL is best.
Finding printers if you need one, in a city you don’t know can be difficult. Carry extra photographs, ticket copies and scans of all important documents (passports and visas, especially).
IF YOU DO LOSE A PASSPORT OR MONEY OR BOTH:
Do not panic. It is complicated, but there is always a solution.
FIRST contact the Indian Embassy. The solutions are complex and expensive, but they do exist. Connect with them first.
Go to the local police and file a report. No document can be replaced without this.
Write to the embassies of the countries to which you have valid visas so they can record the theft too.
Keep copies of EVERY document and interaction.
Ask for help. Think of ANYone you might know who could help - family, friends, people with connections, people who have been through similar experiences…anyone. Support is the most important thing.
Figure out the best way to access money. Different banks and ATMs have different transaction fees to transfer money in different currencies. Finding a local who will lend you money in the local currency that you can pay back later is the easiest; it will save you taxes and overseas transfer charges. Call your bank(s) to find what is your best option.
Apply for an Emergency Certificate (EC) from the Indian Embassy. You will need the following:
Filled up forms
Address proof in the country you are in, and in India
Itinerary for your trip home, through countries that do not need transit visas. The safest such is Amsterdam, but you also have the options of Istanbul and Sao Paulo.
A letter declaring what happened, and a detailed description of your physical appearance.
Scans of the lost passport and visas in it.
Stay calm and don’t get fazed by the fact that at every point, you will have to repeat your story. Concentrate on getting home.
When you reach India, ask for an EC declaration form. You will have to fill it up before heading to Immigration.
Don’t panic. People in the Indian Immigration have seen this document many times before, and know what to do.
If you have time, take a copy of the EC before you reach India. Having one will save the time of them doing it for you.
They will cancel the EC, stamp you into the country and take a copy of the document before handing it back to you.
Keep the cancelled EC - you will need it to renew your passport and visas.
Stick to the truth. You will be cross-questioned quite a bit at every point, and you don’t want anything to appear even remotely suspicious. The truth is the easiest way, and you’ll find people quite willing to help you out.
I wish this was an experience I didn’t have to learn from first hand. For me, the most important thing was understanding that there IS a solution. It is complicated, scary, exhausting and often times very expensive, but there is a way!
I hope this experience of mine will be helpful to someone out there. Write to me directly if you have any more specific questions and I’d be happy to help in any way I can.
Keep those valuables close!