A trip abroad should be a wonderful experience, but for many US citizens, it can turn sour because they lose their documents or have them stolen while traveling. As inconvenient and perhaps even as frightening as this might seem, losing your documentation is not an insurmountable challenge, and wherever you happen to be in the world, there will be people and systems in place to assist you.
Losing a passport
Undoubtedly, losing your passport when you are abroad is a major problem. US citizens, as well as visitors coming from overseas, require a passport to re-enter or enter the US. If you follow the advice of the US State Department, and it is recommended that you do, then an incident involving a lost or stolen passport should be reported to the local law enforcement agency as well as to the local US embassy or consulate. You will have to arrange for an emergency appointment at the embassy or consulate, where you will be issued a new document; in many cases, one will be issued within a 24-hour period. You should be aware that the new passport that will be issued to you is valid for one year only, and upon your return to the US, it should be replaced with the traditional ten-year documents.
Losing a driving license
If you are going to be driving abroad, then you will likely bring your US driving license with you, as well as any foreign driving permits you may require, as most countries will not recognize a US license in and of itself. Even if you are not going to be driving abroad, a driving license is a useful form of secondary identification. What should you do, however, if you lose your driving license when traveling overseas?
Many states oblige residents to file a police report on a lost or stolen license, and you will have to do so upon your return. Retain a copy of your license and especially your license number, because you will need that number for when you go to obtain a duplicate license.
Losing a credit card
Losing a credit card is a particular worry because it could be used to withdraw and spend money, costing you funds you may not have and that, in any case, are not anyone else’s to spend. Losing a credit card may also leave you short of funds, and if you have lost other documentation as well, such as your passport, your time abroad may be extended out of necessity, leaving you in a position where you need access to additional monies.
Your bank will have procedures in place for putting a stop to further transactions on your credit card(s) and will initiate replacement of the relevant card(s). With financial institutions now operating 24/7 thanks to online and telephone systems, getting in touch with your bank in an emergency situation has never been easier, even if you are abroad. Your bank may also agree to wire money to you, or someone at home may do the same, using a service such as Western Union. If your credit cards are lost or stolen, your hotel will typically try to work with you. In many cases, hotels will accept a check being forwarded as payment. Alternatively, if you have a family member or friend at home willing and able to assist, they can contact the hotel with alternative credit card details and arrange payment on your behalf.
Losing your airline ticket
Developments in technology mean that losing an airline ticket is not, in many cases, as serious an issue as it once was. The arrival of the electronic plane ticket ensures that tickets are never really lost, as such, because the airline in question can print off a new boarding pass.
What may well happen if you do lose your airline ticket, however, is that you will be asked at check-in to step to one side until other passengers have been accommodated. Airlines would want to ensure that no one else tries checking in using your name, for one thing. You will agree that having to wait at the back of the check-in line is hardly the greatest inconvenience. It is vital, of course, that you bring relevant contact information with you when travelling abroad. Have contact details for the relevant US embassy or consulate in the country or region you are travelling in, and have the contact information for your bank also, in case you need to get in touch with them to cancel cards or initiate money transfers.
Photocopy your documents
A good piece of advice is to photocopy all of your relevant documentation before you depart for an overseas trip. Make two copies – one to leave with a family member or friend at home and the other to take with you on your trip. Leave your contact information with the person, or other persons, so that they will be able to get in touch with you in an emergency situation. Carry the photocopies you bring with you separate from your actual documentation so that it does not get lost or stolen together. The documentation you should photocopy includes your passport ID page; your visa for the country or countries you are visiting, if applicable; your travel itinerary; hotel booking information; airline tickets; credit cards; driver’s license; and traveler check serial numbers, if you are taking any with you.
Other key documents lost during an overseas trip can be replaced too, of course. To get your social security card replacement, for instance, it is as easy as going online and making an application. It is vital that you read up on the requirements for travel and what to do in the event of an emergency in your country of destination before you go. Forewarned is forearmed, as the old saying goes, and you will find that different parts of the world have different systems and procedures in place.
To conclude, if you do happen to lose important documentation when traveling abroad, do not panic. Documentation can be replaced, and there are people on hand with the experience to know what to do to ensure that you get back home safely.