It is a complete show stopper. Someone has stolen (or you have lost) your passport. What do you do?
Generally, most, if not all people, check that they have their passport and that it has not expired, long before the taxi arrives at the door. The only exception is regular and business travelers who tend to assume that their passport is where it always is and rarely check to make sure the thing is still in date. If you are a regular or business traveler, now would be a good time to make sure your passport still has at least 6 months left to run.
For the purpose of this piece, however, we are looking at what happens when you lose or have your passport stolen abroad or, worst of all, on your way to your destination via some connecting airport. (Also, this is for British folk, really!)
If your passport has gone whilst overseas or whilst en route, then the only place you are going to be able to go is back home. Home, in this instance, means the country of your passport issuance. The local Embassy will only provide you with documentation that will get you home. If you are a British passport holder but happen to live in Manila and have your passport stolen in Hong Kong, whilst travelling to Japan, the documentation you will get will enable to get from Hong Kong to London only. The Embassy cannot provide a temporary or emergency passport.
If you do travel to foreign climes in abundance, then you should make a photocopy of your passport and leave it with a trusted person. If your passport is gone, then they can at least, send a copy of the passport to the local Embassy. Make a copy of the passport on your smartphone as well. Such will not act as a replacement, but it will help to show who you are.
If your passport is gone whilst en route, then the rest of the trip will need to be cancelled. The only place you are going is back home! Expect to get a fairly rough ride at any intermediate stop - especially if it is the USA. Even though you are a victim, you are not likely to be treated as such.
You need to contact the following people:
1. The Embassy. They will arrange emergency documentation to get you home, cancel your stolen passport and arrange to get you through any security or border controls so that you can return home.
2. Your Insurance company. Most provide cover, in varying degrees, in the case of lost or stolen passports, as well as cover for curtailment. It is wise to check now how much cover is offered as the loss of a passport really is, as I say, a show stopper. You may need some emergency cash and possibly the cost of a ticket home.
3. Your airline. Airlines have a mixed response in these cases, depending on how experienced the person is with whom you are communicating and of course, your approach and attitude. It is important to make sure you are talking with an experienced supervisor or the most senior person available. Talking to a (no disrespect) new hire check in person is not "talking to the airline". If you are changing airlines at an intermediate stop, then the convention is that the responsibility rests with the "delivering airline" until you are handed over to the next airline (note that there may be issues with how your trip is ticketed, so you would need to speak with your travel agent as well). Airlines are not under any obligation to take you back home for free; that only occurs in the case of death of a (very near) relative. That said, some airlines may assist with travel back home - after all, they can see the distress, the issues and airlines are not in the business of compounding what is a very challenging problem.
4. Your travel agent. (as long as you have one, of course!) We will need to cancel any hotels or other arrangements and make and necessary arrangements for your return. We are also able to notify any parties that you wish and generally, save you a lot of mobile talk time.
It is, of course, strange in this day and age, how debilitating the loss or theft of a passport can be.
Most countries have names and identities logged on various databases and that includes photographs and even fingerprints or retinal scans. It should be possible to check who you are, what visas and permissions you have and much more, just by entering your name or, if you have followed the advice mentioned above, by entering your passport number. After all, a passport is more times than not, just used as a means of accessing information.
Even in this great age of technology, entering and/ or leaving a country still depends on a few pieces of paper, bound together in the form of a booklet. So please, guard that document well!