What To Do If Your Bag and Passport Get Stolen In A Foreign Country
Getting your gear stolen can be a nightmare. Add in being overseas and having your passport stolen as well, and you’ve got a situation most people would hit the panic button over. Don’t worry. Here’s an easy guide to help you know what to do if your bag and passport get stolen in a foreign country. It could help selvedge that dream trip.
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. If you’re worried about language, the place you’re staying at should be able to help you out. If not, the Google Translate app is actually pretty amazing.
2. Contact your local embassy or consulate
Depending on where you are in the world, this might be harder or easier than you think. However, it’s key when losing a passport to call or visit your country’s foreign embassy to move through the next steps. Here are quick links to lists for the USA, UK and Australian embassies abroad. Give them a call first to talk about 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.
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. Otherwise, as at your local accommodation for a nod in the right direction. 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 when telling your friends about ‘that time I had my passport stolen’.
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 you should be able to eventually recoup the cost. If you’ve had every cent stolen along with your bag, then ask family or friends to wire you some emergency money. If you’re a USA, UK or Australian citizen you should also be able to nominate someone to pay the fee on your behalf by filling in a credit card form.
5. Get in touch with your travel insurance company
It’s always good to get in touch with your travel insurance company as early as possible when you know you need to make a claim. If you have a police report, then it’s great to keep it handy when on the phone (or chatting online) to your insurer. Depending on your coverage, you might even be able to get a fast claim that will help you replace some of the stolen gear while still on your trip. If not, at least you’ve started the claims process and will recoup your costs of the theft sooner.
6. Replace your lost gear while you wait for your new passport
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 get out and see what bargains you can find. Again, you might need to borrow cash to do this but, assuming you’re insured, you’ll get it back in the long run. Make sure you keep receipts of any purchases as well, since they’ll make any claims you lodge much easier.
7. Pick up your passport from the consulate
When it comes to picking up your passport abroad, most of the time you’ll have to head to the embassy or consulate in person. Again, a hassle, but make the most of any trip and plan to see other attractions while there. Most embassy staff are well-traveled and will know some great local hidden spots too, so make sure you ask them for hot tips on things to see in the area.
If you do happen to be reading this before you’ve had your gear and passport stolen abroad, then it’s always best to go with some prevention. I’ve mentioned travel insurance already, so research your options and make sure you pick one suited to your situation.
Also, take photos of your passport and other ID with your phone, then upload them on the cloud before you go. It will be much easier to prove who you are to both police and your consulate, plus recall your document number when filling in paperwork. Same goes for your travel insurance information. Keep it on the cloud or even in your email, so you can access remotely when in a pinch.
It’s also a good idea to take your passport out of your main bag and put it in a room safe where you’re staying. 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 a room safe where you’re staying (or don’t trust it) here are some portable safe options that pack flat in your luggage.
There are also plenty of anti-theft travel backpacks out there that not only give you some extra peace of mind while abroad, but have amazing function to make your adventures even smoother. Here are a few options that protect your gear with lockable zips, RFIDsafe pockets, and anchor straps on them that will attach the whole bag to an immovable object when you need to set things down.
By Tim Hawken
Tim Hawken is an Australian writer who enjoys surfing, Indian food and romantic midnight strolls to the beer fridge. He has clocked up visits to 23 countries on 5 continents (and counting). Find out more about his weird world by heading to his website, or following him on Instagram and Twitter.