Your passport is the most important document you will ever own, as a traveller at least. If the worst should happen and your passport is stolen, do not worry – this need not mean the end of your trip. An inconvenience, definitely, and extra expense for sure, but in most cases you can continue travelling with just a few minor adjustments. After having my passport stolen in Ecuador, here is my story of how I managed to get a replacement passport while travelling.
Please note, this post is based on my own personal experience as a British national travelling in South America. Each nationality and each country has its own rules for issuing and accepting emergency travel documents, so please do contact your embassy for clarification before you make any onward travel plans.
Report it to the Police
First thing is first; report it to the police as soon as possible. Many countries have a dedicated Tourist Police who are trained to deal with crimes against tourists, and your hostel or hotel will be able to call them for you if you need help. Figure out exactly what was taken to include on the report, as insurance companies won’t replace items like phones and cameras without a crime number and theft report so this is must. Make sure all of this is detailed on the report. It can be a stressful experience but try to stay calm and keep a clear head. Read the report carefully before you sign it – I later realized my report didn’t include my stolen passport so had to go back for a new one!
Contact your local Embassy
As soon as you can, contact your local embassy to report your passport stolen. They will cancel it, and so prevent anyone using your identity to travel. British nationals can report their passport stolen online here.
On your embassy website there will be instructions of the next steps to take. This will usually involve making an appointment at your closest embassy or consulate which will probably be in the capital city of the country where you are, or in some cases in neighbouring countries.
http://www.embassypages.com has a list of all the embassies and consulates for countries around the world.
How to get a Replacement Passport
Make an Appointment at the Embassy
In my case, I called the British Embassy in Quito to check the next steps. They were very helpful (when they were open) and answered the questions I had. The only downside was that I tried calling them on Thursday afternoon after returning from the police station, to find they closed at 4.30pm, and opened only to take phone calls the following morning. The first available appointment was on Monday morning, so I snapped it up, and prepared to spend the weekend in Baños without my passport.
I wanted to leave Ecuador as soon as possible, so made an appointment for an Emergency Passport, also known as an Emergency Travel Document. If you have just arrived in the country, and plan to stay for a while, it may be worth applying for a new standard passport, which will be valid for the next ten years. Emergency Passports are designed just to get you home, or for last minute journeys, and will be retained by immigration when you return to the UK, meaning you will need to apply for a new standard passport when you return home. Ask them for advice if you are not sure what is best for you.
Logistics of my Appointment & Where to Stay in Quito
If you are in Ecuador when your passport is stolen I suggest doing what I did, and arriving in Quito the day before your appointment to avoid delays. I travelled up to Quito on Sunday afternoon, and luckily managed to see a friend from Barcelona who happened to be in town – my silver lining on this huge black cloud! The appointment was at 9am on Monday morning at the British Embassy, so I stayed overnight as close as I could get without breaking the bank, so I could be on hand throughout the day.
The address of the British Embassy in Quito is:
Ave. Naciones Unidas and República de El Salvador
PO Box 17-17-830
British Embassy Access, opening hours and contact details
I stayed at Altura Rooms & Suites around the corner, which was great for what I needed. If money is no object then there is a Sheraton Hotel right next door. The Altura cost more than I would usually pay for a hostel, but its location really couldn’t be beaten. It is behind the shopping mall that is opposite the Embassy, so if you have to wait around you could either go back to the hotel, or hang around the mall, which also had wifi.
Remember: if you have insurance, they will usually cover reasonable costs of accommodation while you are replacing your passport, so I actually got the money for the hotel back.
Altura Rooms & Suites
El Día N37-62 y El Comercio, Quito, 170102, Ecuador
Preparing for the Appointment
For my appointment I had to bring:
My travel itinerary – in this case all I had was my flight from Bogota back to the UK. I explained I wanted to leave Ecuador as soon as possible, and that Colombia would be my only destination. A British Emergency Passport is valid for travel in up to 5 countries, the details of which will have to be included in the document itself, so if you are travelling to more than one country (including a change of flight or stopover in another country on the way home) you have to provide details of this, including dates of travel.
A passport-sized photograph – According to the gentleman I spoke to over the phone, any passport style photograph will do. However, if you are able to get photographs which are also valid for the standard UK passport you will be able to use the same set of photographs for that when you get home. There are very strict requirements for that in the UK, details of which can be found here. Photo requirements may vary for other countries, so do your research.
A police report for my stolen passport – I needed the original copy that I was given at the police station, a photocopy wasn’t acceptable. As soon as you get the police report I suggest scanning it and getting a couple of copies in case you need them.
Proof of residence for your return journey – This only applies in certain cases if you are not returning to the UK and you are resident in another country. I printed out a copy of my bank statement including my home address just in case, but it wasn’t needed.
My appointment was at 9am on a Monday morning, so I was careful to arrive around 10 minutes before. The Citiplaza building has glass doors, I peaked inside to check that this was the right place! I opened the door, and told the security guard I had an appointment for a replacement passport at the British Embassy. Security is unsurprisingly tight here, and the first thing he did was ask me for some id, which obviously I didn’t have! He wasn’t ready to let me pass unauthorised without id, so called up to the embassy for someone to come down and collect me. There is a bag scanner to x-ray your belongings before going through a second set of glass doors to the lifts. I was nervous – what if they didn’t grant me the emergency passport? What if I would have to return home early, without going to Colombia? I felt like a criminal, not a victim of crime, as I had to leave my phone with the guard.
The embassy representative called me into a little room, with a glass screen rather like a bank teller’s desk, but it reminded me more of a prison visiting room! Of course this is all designed for the safety of the embassy workers but it didn’t help me to relax one bit. However, once we got started the process was easy, and the lady who I met was kind. She went through my paperwork, checking the facts one by one, and also made sure that my old passport had been cancelled. She wasn’t sure if my photograph would be acceptable, but after checking she confirmed it was.
Usually the emergency passport can be issued on the same day, but the printer wasn’t working, so she wasn’t sure if that would be possible. I grimaced, I just wanted to get out of here! She took down my email and promised to let me know as soon as the replacement passport was ready – hopefully before 4.30pm as that’s when they close for the day! I thanked her and left, crossing all my fingers and toes that I could leave today. I set off to explore more of Quito, keeping an eye one my emails, and returned in the afternoon to the shopping mall across the road from the embassy.
I switched on my wifi again to find an email from the embassy an hour ago, confirming my replacement passport was ready and I could have it today if I collected it by 4.15pm. I looked at my watch – it was 4.12pm! I ran out of the mall and dashed across the road, in the pouring rain. I reached the embassy, and I was in luck! I collected my shiny new, gold emergency passport that would let me leave Ecuador. I breathed a sigh of relief – I can carry on my journey! I headed to the bus station to leave Quito for the second time, and headed for Colombia.
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