If your passport is lost or stolen on holiday, it can feel like the trip is ruined – but there’s no need to panic. It’s true that dealing with the theft or loss of a passport will take time out of your holiday, but if you act swiftly you’ll be able to get a new one – or at least an Emergency Travel Document (ETD) - without too much disruption.
Getting a replacement passport is easier than ever, thanks to new UK government guidelines: you just need to check in with an embassy or consulate, fill in a form and wait a couple of days for your emergency passport.
What to do if your passport is stolen
If you think your passport has been stolen, you must report this to the police immediately. You can usually do this by visiting the local police station. If you don’t speak the language of the country you’re visiting, you may have to wait a while if a translator will be made available.
When you report the theft of your passport to the local police, make sure you detail anything else that has been stolen and ask for a reference number. Keep this safe, as you will need it if you make a claim on your travel insurance.
The process from this point onwards is the same as if your passport has been lost.
What to do if your passport is lost
You need to contact the British Embassy, Consulate or High Commission in the country you are visiting to cancel your passport. This should be done as soon as possible, to prevent identity theft or any other fraudulent possibilities.
At this point, you should also check if your travel insurance will cover some or all of the cost to replace the passport, or any emergency costs such as extra hotel nights or flights that this causes. Some insurers stipulate that you don’t have to pay the policy excess for a lost or stolen passport, but it’s worth checking the small print.
How to get an Emergency Travel Document
If you’re not travelling imminently, then you can apply for a new passport when you are abroad. However, the replacement will have a higher price than in the UK, and will take slightly longer to get to you, so unless you are on a long trip, it might unfeasible.
The more likely option is to apply for an Emergency Travel Document, but they cost £100. There are currently 196 consulates, embassies, and high commissions around the world who can issue an emergency travel document.
When you go to the appointment you will need the following documents:
- A recent passport-quality photo.
- Any proof of your travel plans, such as booking confirmations.
- A police report or crime number if your passport has been stolen.
- Any proof of residency if your final destination is outside the UK or EU.
Following the appointment, your Emergency Travel Document will usually be available for collection in two working days. When you apply, you will be told exactly how and when you’ll get the Emergency Travel Document.
It’s possible to apply for someone else, but they will need to be a UK citizen and to take all of the above documents to the appointment and collect the Emergency Travel Document in person. If they are under-16, then one or both parent/s must be in attendance. If this isn’t possible then they will need a signed letter of consent.
Rules of an Emergency Travel Document
As its name suggests, the Emergency Travel Document is for emergencies, and as such is only available for short use. The government stipulates that you can only use it as a single journey or as a return to the UK - but you can travel through a total of five countries on the way, and these must be confirmed and printed onto the document.
For example, if you are driving to the UK from Italy then you would pass through Italy, Switzerland, France, and Belgium to arrive in the UK. This would also apply if you were on a Cruise as long as you didn’t disembark on more than five occasions.
If you change travel plans, you will need to apply for a new Emergency Travel Document, otherwise you will not get on your next flight or be allowed into whichever country you are visiting.
It’s always worth getting travel insurance, especially if you are taking expensive items with you such as a smart phone or tablet. Plus, most insurance policies will cover lost and stolen passports, or at least they will cover the cost of the replacements.
If you do lose your passport or it is stolen, it’s likely the insurance policy will waive the excess claim fee. But this isn’t always the case, so it is worth checking.
Sometimes, travel insurance will cover costs like additional flights or extra nights in a hotel while you wait for your Emergency Travel Document. On occasion, this can be rather than, or as well as, the replacement fees – so make sure to read the small print.
Top tips from the Foreign Office
To avoid losing, damaging or having your passport stolen, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has released these tips. Some are more obvious than others, but handy nonetheless:
- Always be aware of your surroundings, don’t stumble onto situations out of your control.
- Be wary of strangers who take an unusual amount of interest in you.
- Be aware of your belongings – phones and wallets should be out of sight in a bag.
- Keep your passport in a secure place such as a hotel safe, but if you are required to keep it with you, ensure it’s not visible.
- A damaged passport cannot be used for travel, so take care of it and don’t have it near any pools or water.
- Make two photocopies of your passport – leave one with friends or family and take the second with you, or store an electronic copy securely.
- If you can, use an alternative ID such as a driving licence when going out at night, or if possible a photocopy of your passport.
- For certain countries, your passport must be valid for six months after the date you travel – check the entry requirements before you go.
- Make sure you fill in the emergency details and next of kin page before you go on holiday.
- If you do need to get an emergency travel document to enable you to travel, then visit Gov.uk lost and stolen passports page.
Be reassured that this is common
If you do lose your passport or it’s stolen, you definitely aren’t alone. In fact 21,070 people applied for an emergency travel document in 2016, a 2% rise from the year before, according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Unsurprisingly, Spain is where most Brits lose or have their passport stolen, but not because of high crime rates. Spain is where most of us holiday each year – in 2016, there were a record 14.7 million visits to Spain by UK passport holders, while there were only 5,158 emergency travel documents requested.