It had to happen eventually, and last week it was my turn for disaster to strike. We won’t go into the fine details, but to cut a long story short, I lost my passport, credit and debit cards, my iPhone 3GS and several thousand baht in cash – all in one hit. Here are some of my random thoughts about things you should think about if disaster strikes. Although these are all related to my experience in Bangkok, most should apply anywhere.
- Cancel your bank cards. Although I did this as soon as possible, I found some transactions on my statement that I did not recognise. I should be able to dispute these transactions and get them refunded. The banks will send out a replacement card, which will take a few days to arrive. These will be sent to your home address, do not expect the banks to do you any favours by posting the cards out to you in Asia, or wherever you are.
- Get a police report. This is hugely important as you will need this report for many things. Get yourself down to the local police station. I went to Lumpinee station, where the staff speak English. This was relatively painless. They will take all the details of the incident, the report will be written up in Thai, stamped and signed by an officer. You will then be given a copy of this. Keep it safe!
- Arrange funds If you have a backup ATM card available, that was stored seperately to your lost items, then you should be able to go online and shuffle some cash around to withdraw. If you don’t have a backup card, then things get a little more tricky. In this situation, you will need to get on the phone to a friend or relative to arrange a western union transfer or something similar. If you can’t do this, and really have no other options, then your best/only option is to talk with your embassy.
- Contact your embassy. For a UK citizen, you will need to fill in form LS01 to report the lost/stolen passport and then fill in another form to apply for a new replacement passport. You will also need 2 passport photographs (tip: these can be arranged in the mall directly opposite the UK embassy for around 30o baht). All UK passports in this region are processed in Hong Kong I was told that the waiting time was usually 2-4 weeks and can only be collected in person, in Bangkok. I am due to leave in 14 or so days so they have requested urgent processing for me. Right now I have my fingers crossed. If I cant get my passport in time, then the following point applies.
- Get a temporary travel document (if required) If you need to leave the country and cannot postpone your trip, you will need to apply for a temporary travel document from the embassy. In the case of UK nationals, this can be done in one afternoon. This will allow you to fly to different countries but will cost extra.
- Replace your Thailand visa Once you have received your new passport, you will need to go to the Thai immigration bureau head office to obtain a replacement visa. For this, you will need the original police report, your new passport and I will also take any other ID or paperwork I have, just to be on the safe side. I was told it can be done in one afternoon.
- Re-arrange airline/travel tickets If you apply for a new passport in Bangkok, then you will normally need to collect it in person, at the same place. This may mean you will need to re-arrange your travel plans. Contact any airlines or other travel companies as soon as possible to re-arrange or get a refund if possible. Your trusty police report will be the key here. Lost/stolen passport issues are something airlines deal with on a regular basis.
- Claim on your insurance Go through any insurance cover you have and read the small print, then make a claim for as many of the costs and lost items as you can. Keep any receipts you get given and don’t forget you will need the all-important police report. In addition to travel insurance, be aware of any other policies, such as house, or phone insurance that may randomly cover you for some things.
Although I need to stay in Thailand until my new passport arrives, after speaking to Air Asia on the telephone, they have confirmed that I can still travel domestically within Thailand, with a photocopy of my passport and the police report. So, I’ll be off down to Phuket and Krabi soon for some beach time.
Why losing your passport is bad news. Lessons to take away
Visiting my embassy and applying for a replacement passport has taught me few lessons. Obviously, being in the middle of SE Asia, I really want my passport back as soon as possible. If you have had a passport lost or stolen before, then this will hold up the processing time of a new passport signficantly (apparently), as they will need to investigate and do more checks on you. For many travellers, such as myself, the passport is the main form of ID and is used for many things such as renting vehicles, hotels, checking in to domestic flights and obviously, leaving to move on to another country. It’s just plain hassle being left with no passport!
Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune, but great minds rise above them. – Washington Irving
The important part… What lessons have we learned?
- Keep a photocopy and/or a scan of your passport handy. Also consider your visa. I have a 1 year non-immigrant O type visa for Thailand. Having a photocopy or scan of this is handy if you have any problems with immigration while your passport if being processed (2-4 weeks for UK).
- Always have a backup plan (or 2) for funds. Luckily I had another VISA debit card stored seperately. Using online banking, I can shuffle funds around and use this to withdraw cash or pay for things. Don’t keep your things in one place. At the very least, keep one backup card in a different place to the others.
- Make sure you have online banking setup, and activated for all your accounts. This way you can always shuffle money around. With the modern days of instant transfers, if you need to, you can transfer funds to a kind stranger / fellow traveller who can then withdraw using their own card in a nearby ATM.
- Backup your data. Although I was lucky enough not to lose my laptop and hard drives this time. If I had, it would have been a complete nightmare. If you can, backup to the cloud, especially all your important travel images and videos.
- Use a safe. If your hotel room has a safe, make use of it, especially for your passport and bank cards. If you go out drinking, leave your valuables in your room, in the safe. If you must take valuable things out with you, maybe consider getting less drunk.
- British Embassy guide to being a victim of crime abroad
- British Embassy guide to lost or stolen passports
- Information on lost passports from the Thai Visa Forums
If anyone has anything to add, or any experiences to share, please leave a comment.