Getting your passport lost or stolen is every travellers nightmare – this happened to one of us while we were on a layover in Istanbul, Turkey, here’s the scoop of what to do.
This post is written based on our experiences in Turkey, but the process should be similar in other countries. Let us know if you know of any differences in other countries.
Prevention is better than cure!
Presumably if you’ve ended up here, reading this, it’s too late and your passport is already gone. However, if you are reading up prophylactically – let me assure you that no amount of caution is too much.
Here’s a few general pointers.
- At no time ever carry your passport in your pocket – and especially not a back pocket. This is how the passport in question got stolen – it fell/was pickpocketed out of a jacket pocket.
- Don’t carry your passport with your wallet or other item, that you take out and use regularly. This can easily get lost or stolen, since more handling = more risk.
- Never leave your passport behind a door which is not locked – if you stay in a shared space such as a hostel, make sure you lock away your valuables.
- Get a travel pouch for credit cards and passports, and never let it leave your body, unless you are swimming or showering (and then make sure there is someone to watch it at all times).
- Never leave your passport with a third party as a security for anything – renting a motorbike, drinks tab at the bar etc.
- Have a second, backup passport at home with someone that you trust, that if something goes wrong they can courier you the spare.
- And finally – make sure you have electronic copies of everything – then at least you will be able to print out a copy to show the bus stations, hotels etc.
Ok, so despite all this, something goes wrong and the passport still goes missing. Now what?
Don’t try and fight the system. Acknowledge that you will have to change your travel plans, and that this is going to cost you a lot of money.
South Africans (not sure about other nationalities) can no longer get a temporary passport from their embassy. This has been replaced with a ETC – emergency travel certificate. This is a horrible move, since the ETC is valid for one direct flight home only.
I’m going to repeat that, because it’s the crucial piece of information on here.
One direct flight home only.
This means that you cannot fly onwards anywhere, and you cannot fly via dubai/qatar/ethiopia etc – this is only valid for a single, direct flight. I’m not sure what happens if you are in a country that has no direct flights, you will need to speak to your embassy.
Firstly, go to the nearest police station and make a statement. The police initially wanted us to go to the embassy first, this is incorrect. Don’t take no for an answer until they let you make a statement. This statement must include the passport number and your details in full.
While you are busy with this, phone your consulate and get detailed instructions – the process might differ slightly from country to country. If you are in a country without a consulate (eg. Georgia, Mongolia etc), you’ll need to phone the consulate in the country responsible for your destination – South Africans in Georgia for example refer to the embassy in Kiev, Ukraine. Download Skype on your phone and load up some credit for international calls.
Once you’ve got your police statement, this then needs to be translated into english by an official translator.
You then need 6 standard size passport photos.
You then need to pay the ETC processing fee – in Turkey it was 11 euros. You will probably need to go to a bank to make a deposit.
You then need to go to the airport/airline company and cancel/change your tickets, unless your next flight is directly home. This was an exceptional mission in our case, since we were on a layover and our bags were already on the onward flight.
Once you’ve got all this, head to your consulate – you’ll need to fill in forms and get fingerprints taken – these need to be submitted to Home Affairs in South Africa for approval, and can take 1-3 working days.
Upon approval of your application, you then need to give them your flight details, which get put on the ETC. You cannot take any other flights other than the one, direct, flight home that is on the ETC.
Once you’ve got the ETC in your hands – get the direct contact details of whoever helped you at the embassy, that if there are any problems at the airport they can phone him/her directly, especially since international flights are often not in working hours and you might struggle to get through to your consulate/embassy.
Good luck! If this ever happens to you, let us know how things went and if anything needs to be updated.