Losing your passport while travelling can feel like the most stressful thing ever – I know from experience. My passport was stolen in Hanoi, Vietnam, along with all my ID, credit, debit card, and all of my cash. On top of this, I had a dead phone with no charger, because it had, by fluke, broken that very same day. It felt like drowning. Everything that kept me going away from my home country was removed from possession. Luckily, Ian was with me, and so I didn’t have to worry about ordering a credit card to my hotel, or getting a cheque sent to me – what a mess that would have been. (If you are in that situation, though, notify your bank right away, and they can send you new cards. I’m with CIBC, and they covered the costs of international calls for fraud. Check with your bank – they likely do the same).
First and foremost, breathe. It’s okay. It happens to lots of people, and it’s not the end of the world. My biggest worry was that it would hinder our travel plans, and it did – but only slightly. We were scheduled for four more days in Vietnam, and we ended up spending seven more – but we got to see more of the beautiful country, so it’s all good. We had to cut Cambodia out of our schedule – we missed a couple flights, but we only had two days there anyway, so I’d rather go back someday and do it more justice. The biggest thing I lost out of this was money – it was an expensive learning experience, but there are far more important things than money. My most important takeaway was to not let it ruin your trip – we didn’t, and I’m so glad I didn’t spend every day worrying about it.
Let me outline one important detail for if you’re travelling to a few different countries, which we were: if you are unable to present any form of physical ID to the Canadian embassy, they cannot give you a passport. Period. They won’t accept photocopies or photos. They will have to issue you an emergency document to send you to your home country – I’m not sure whether it’s immediate, but I got the impression that the date is somewhat flexible, depending on your booked flights, etc. Seems kind of ridiculous in the digital age, eh?
This was almost the case for me – all my ID was stolen, so I had no way to prove who I was through physical evidence. Our flight home was in Thailand, but I wouldn’t have been able to reach it. However, if someone can present a document for you in your home country, they’ll accept it. By a stroke of luck, I had a family member at home who was able to present my birth certificate to passport office.
Let me outline for you everything you need to do to keep travelling.
- File a police report. This is extremely important, as the embassy and visa services, depending on where you are, require special circumstances to process your new documents without one. Many hotels will only accept you as a guest if you can present a passport, so it’s important to show them this instead. Your original passport will become invalid as soon as it’s reported missing – be 100% certain that your passport is gone before you do this, because it’s not reversible.
- I received my stamped police report the night after I lost it – if you lost yours early in the day, you could get it the same day, but I lost mine around 10PM. We went to the police station in the morning, and they contacted our hotel to be able to communicate our issues better. Around 8PM that night, they called to tell us to return and get our stamped report.
- Have passport photos ready. These are necessary to receive your passport. We were directed to a photo shop after contacting our embassy in Canada, where I paid 100,000VND (just under 6CAD) for four passport photos – we got two extras in case they were necessary for my visa to exit Vietnam. We went to the store Sunday evening, and received the photos Monday morning, delivered personally by the photographer with his motorbike.
- Visit your country’s embassy. We were extremely lucky in that we were in Hanoi, where one of two Canadian embassies in Vietnam is located. If you’re in a different area, try first to contact the embassy and see what they say – you may be able to complete the process by mail, but I’m doubtful. When you get to the embassy, they will ask about your ID and outline the process – if you don’t have ID on you, they only issue a 2 year passport, as opposed to 5 or 10 years. Sucks, but that’s the way it is. In your current country, they will issue you a temporary passport, which is valid for one year. However, you will have to mail it to passport services once you return to your country – from here, they will mail to you your permanent one. You are required to do this by law within two weeks of your return to Canada. You will have to pay three fees:
- Temporary passport fee
- Permanent passport fee
- Lost/Stolen passport fee (really adds insult to injury, this one)
The total price, after their extra credit card charges, was 355 CAD. (cue this broke student sobbing).
We went to the embassy on Monday morning, and my temporary passport was ready on Wednesday. We were in a different city at this point, so we picked it up on Thursday afternoon. I think the processing time may have been even shorter if I had had ID.
- Get the proper visa, if necessary. If your stay requires a visa, go straight to immigration services. In my case, they directed us to a travel agency that dealt with visa services. They kept my passport to be stamped by police. If felt a little iffy giving away my passport after having received it half an hour earlier, but it all worked out. We handed it to them Thursday afternoon, and we got it back on Tuesday at 5PM. The weekends make the process way more complicated, so try to avoid them if possible – if we hadn’t let Hanoi, and applied for my visa on Wednesday, we may have had it by Friday.
That’s it. Your passport should be valid for any country you’re passing through, but contact your embassy within them to see if they have any special requirements.