I’m a bit of a travel snob. I’m the person that secretly (but loudly) judges you when you do a travel tour. What’s that you purchased six Lonely Planet books on special? Bless. What? You haven’t had surprise meat prepared on a random island off of New Caledonia? That’s cute.
All hail Sue the Queen of #authentic travel! Observe my heavily stamped passport and feel your inferiority.
However, I was brought sharply back to reality when I went through every tourist’s nightmare: A Stolen Passport. My Turkish passport was stolen on the streets of Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia along with my wallet and travel dignity. I bet if I had read a Lonely Planet this would not have happened!
Here are my tips for how to deal with a stolen passport/wallet overseas:
The obvious stuff
- Don’t travel the streets with your passport. I’ve been travelling in certain countries where not having your passport on you is an offence, but after this I’d rather face the police. If you have to travel with your passport hide it… best bit of advice I got after the event is to put it in your shoe. Your passport will smell like blue cheese but at least it’ll be safe
- Cancel all your credit cards. Whilst they were mostly likely after your cash, you don’t want to have to pay for random hipster purchases on Etsy.
- Get a police report. The embassy and travel insurance companies will need a copy of the police report in order to help you out, so it’s super important to get one of these as soon as possible after the event. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a battle to get one of these in Mongolia because of the language barrier. We managed to find a police officer that knew some English and we muddled through, but call up hostels, embassies etc to get a translator.
- Contact your embassy. You have to report a stolen passport and it’s going to be the embassy that gets you out of there. Unfortunately my passport was stolen Saturday night, so the Mongolian Turkish embassy was closed. I contacted an office in Istanbul instead and they were able to advise about what I needed to do.
- Contact your travel insurance company. They’ll let you know exactly what you need to do money wise
It’s ok to cry
I did a lot of crying on the streets of Ulaanbaatar. Cried on the phone with my Mum. Cried because I couldn’t reach my Dad. Cried because my Aunt was being so helpful. Cried because I couldn’t talk to my boyfriend, because he was doing the Inca Trail (on a travel tour mind you). IT’S OK TO CRY.
It certainly provided amusement to the local Mongolians.
Go to your Embassy
Go to the embassy as soon as possible. My passport was stolen on Saturday, and I was told that no one would be there on Sunday. I later found out that the staff were there on Sunday anyway, so I would recommend dropping by just in case.
Be pushy! I was initially told it would take 3-5 days to get an emergency passport. But after some pushing (crying) they were able to give me an emergency travel document (basically a passport of shame) within 24 hours.
Expect to trek about
I had to get this Travel Document of shame stamped with a Mongolian entry stamp, in order to leave the country.
This involved me travelling to the Mongolian Department of Immigration. I thought this would be in the middle of town. It was not. It was 45 minutes out near a field full of cows that I had to push past to get into the building.
The staff were helpful and I managed to get a stamp of shame on the Travel Document of shame. Keep any receipts for taxis/trains, as you can claim the cost of them back on insurance.
If possible, travel with two passports
I’m lucky enough to have two passports, and because my Australian passport was still with me, I travelled back to Australia on my that passport. However, I could not leave on the Australian passport (as I had entered on my Turkish), but I could travel with the Australian once clearing Mongolian customs.
If you do have two passports I would recommend keeping them in two separate bags, to ensure you have a backup if the worst happens.
I was in Ulaanbaatar for an extra two days and met some really nice people. I went for brunch with some friends of friends. I also got to go to the Black Markets that I had avoided going to because it was notorious for pick pocketers (I at that point had nothing to steal so I had a leisurely jaunt).
I met a really nice Turkish family at the Turkish embassy that put me in contact with their daughter and we went out to dinner together. Having my passport stolen gave me the opportunity to explore Ulaanbaatar!
Whilst I would not recommend for you to have your passport stolen, it turned out to be a bit of an adventure. I have since bequeathed my travel crown to more deserving candidates (Laura to name one), and invested in one of these:
I’m sure you recognise Sue from my previous blog posts – as my best friend and travel companion we have eaten our way through New Caledonia, Jordan, Israel, Russia, the train, and Mongolia. If you would like to follow her adventures, make sure you check her out on Instagram. You can also look forward to my next post about Mongolia which will include my favourite ever photo of Sue as she showed off her archery prowess. Hint: she is no Katniss.