After 7 years of travel, Drew and I finally had a crash course in what to do when your passport’s stolen in the middle of a trip. It’s inconvenient, jarring, and time-consuming, but nothing you can’t handle with a day or two of hassle.
In case you’re unlucky enough to need such a list, here are a few pointers for getting an emergency passport when yours is stolen abroad, (and a few tips for those stolen credit cards too).
No matter what, file a police report immediately.
Filing a police report can feel like a joke, but you don’t really file a police report in order to initiate a police investigation. You file it because you’ll be asked for it multiple times throughout the passport replacement and insurance claim process. For this reason, make sure your name is included somewhere in the police report. (This may sound ridiculous, but our travel companion’s name nearly got left off of the police report despite his brand new laptop being stolen, and this could have cost him the full reimbursement he later got from his credit card company.)
Filing a police report is annoying and time consuming, but it’s a necessity. If anything of value was taken, just do it and make sure you do it within 48 hours of the occurrence, as some insurance claims will require this.
Cancel your cards
If you’re a travel hacker, this part can take forever. Here’s hoping you have an international phone plan like T-Mobile. I always travel with all of my credit cards (and my entire luggage was stolen) so I just systematically called each bank and told them any card I have with them was stolen.
Find out the hours of the nearest US Embassy and make your way there.
This part might be the trickiest, especially if you have no money, but all of your stolen passport solutions lay within the US Embassy.
Not every major city has a US embassy, but many of them do. There’s a directory of all US embassies here. The embassy hours are very short, often closing as early as 1 and the process can take all morning, so you’ll want to arrive right after opening time. If you already have an upcoming plane ticket of some kind, you won’t need to make an appointment– just show up and take a number. (My feeling is that they aren’t super strict on this- so even if you don’t have an upcoming plane ticket, you may still be fine showing up without an appointment, especially if all of your credit cards were stolen and you need help getting funds.)
If at all possible, arrive with $145 per replacement passport already in hand, plus a few dollars more for the replacement passport photo, (which you can get there at the embassy). If your cards and cash are all gone and you have no way of getting that $145, don’t worry, the embassy can give you a temporary ID specifically for use at the local Moneygram/Western Union so you can wire money from your bank account to yourself. Like I said, all your solutions lie within the embassy.
Get your emergency passport
You’ll need to fill out a few forms, take your passport photos, and pre-pay for your passport. If you have a police report, they collect it here along with any other form of identification you have.
While the rest of the process is very much like an ordinary passport renewal, unlike the standard process, the folks in this department are very ready for complicated situations with limited forms of identification on hand. In our experience, they were friendly, empathetic, and non-plussed by our lack of ID’s. (Even worse, the only ID I had left was the driver’s license with my incorrect last name.) They’re completely capable of providing an emergency passport even if you have no form of ID on hand. Just give them your name, social, and whatever details you can remember about your former passport number, and expiration date.
After a little more waiting, they’ll give you an emergency passport along with your completed forms and police report. If you were smart enough to arrive right at opening time, chances are good you can get this all done in one day. If it weren’t for the complication of getting funds without a credit card, the process otherwise only took about two and a half hours, I’d say.
The emergency passport is a pathetic little booklet of no more than a few pages. It almost looks fake and has definitely caused some “hmm-ing” in the times I’ve used it at small airports. But small as it is, it’s got more longevity than you might think. The emergency passport lasts for a whole year and don’t worry, you won’t need to double pay for your real passport. When you’re back home, all you have to do to get your real passport re-issued is mail in the emergency passport along with the materials given you by the embassy, (receipt, passport photo, and proper forms), and you’ll get a real passport mailed back to you without any extra charge needed.
What happens when you have no credit or debit cards?
We had a few hotel nights to cover as we made our way towards the embassy, and we opted for Airbnb. Airbnb is handy in these instances because you can pay with PayPal. If your PayPal is attached to your bank account, this means you have a way to access your funds for a room even without your debit or credit cards.
Once you have your emergency passport on hand, you can transfer money to yourself from your own bank account, for instance using Moneygram or Western Union.
Filing insurance claims
Many rewards cards offer a purchase protection if a recently purchased item is stolen. The item of course must have been at least mostly purchased with the card offering the protection. Most cards will require you to initiate the claim process within 3 months or so, and will need you to submit the original receipt as well as your police report. A few more specific details below.
When filing a claim for a stolen item that was purchased with a Chase credit card no more than 120 days ago, call 1-888-320-9656 and request the paperwork for filing a claim. Make sure you call within 90 days of the item incident. All in all you’ll have 120 days to complete and submit the paperwork. You will be required to submit that police report. (More info here, and here)
When filing a claim for a stolen item that was purchased with a Citi card no more than 90 days after purchase or delivery, call 1-866-918-4670 “as soon as possible” and then you’ll have 180 days to submit all necessary paperwork and forms. Again, you’ll need to submit that police report.
When filing a claim for a stolen item that was purchased with an Amex card no more than 120* days after purchase or delivery, call 1-800-322-1277 as soon as you can and yes of course, you’ll need that police report. *(Weirdly enough, residents of New York, Indiana, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Northern Mariana Islands only have 90 days of purchase protection after purchasing an item, not 120.)
(If you’re needing to file claims related to car insurance provided by a card, your window of time for filing may be even shorter.)
Just as I’ve already stated multiple times within this article, the most important thing is to file a police report immediately and get yourself to an embassy. Yes it’s a huge hassle, but the folks at the embassy are equipped with all the solutions for getting you either home safely, or back to the rest of your vacation plans.