This is, in fairness, what you would call a fairly focused blog, because my research (quite involuntary, for once) was on losing a passport in Bremen, Germany.
In passing I’d like to say that if you have to lose a passport anywhere, Bremen is possibly the best place as they have the nicest police ever. Plus flights there are surprisingly cheap, and it is LOVELY.
If you are not a UK citizen, you’re in luck. The airport police can issue you an emergency travel document – go first to the police station closest to where you lost the passport, and report it there, just because if it turns up the chances are it will be handed in there. The police will give you a letter confirming you have reported the loss. You will then need two passport photographs, and you take those and the letter to the airport police and fill in quite a lot of forms and Bob’s your uncle.
Unfortunately the UK wants no truck with that sort of convenience. You need to go to the closest consulate (and good planning if you are holidaying in Berlin, Munich or Dusseldorf, whoops if you aren’t) and they will issue the emergency document. When and if they feel like it. If you lost it on a Friday afternoon, wow, bad luck because they won’t feel like it until Monday. Of all the people I dealt with during the whole fairly stressful event, the UK consul staff in Dusseldorf were the only ones who were completely and utterly unhelpful, in fact the absolute and complete pits, and I would like a word with Boris Johnson about them. Just saying.
However I learned a great deal during the crisis and that’s the point of this blog. Some things to put in place for your next trip:
- Carry 3 certified copies of your passport on holiday, and keep them in different places. They won’t replace the passport, but they will make proving your identity oh so much easier.
- One thing I always do for visiting South Africa, and may in fact do as well as the above from now on, is to get an international driving licence from the AA. Whether you are planning to drive on holiday or not, the international driving licence is acceptable identification for any situation because it states your citizenship (which, by the way, your normal driving licence doesn’t). South Africa is not the only country that can demand identification, then take your passport and not give it back. Hand over the international AA identification instead! It’s not expensive, it doesn’t take too much time to organize, and you probably won’t need it. You will thank me with tears of gratitude if you do.
- Keep copies of your insurance details with each of the above. I buy travel insurance annually, not per trip, because I travel a fair amount and I get far better cover for a better price, but I had become casual about keeping the details to hand. Never again. However, just so you know, most travel insurance should cover around £250 of your costs for emergency travel documents. If you are a UK citizen, have to spend an unexpected weekend waiting for the consulate to find time to fit your emergency into their busy schedule, and have to travel to another town to reach the consulate, not to mention booking a short-notice flight back, that isn’t as much as it sounds. Don’t assume you are fully covered for all expenses, is what I’m saying.
Things I didn’t get to try, but was told about:
I don’t know how true this is because I only found out afterwards, but it seems those indifferent sods at the Consulate could have faxed or emailed through the emergency documentation. I didn’t know to ask, and they didn’t offer because this was after all 4.30 on Friday afternoon and their minds were on more important things. However, it does seem logical that if you can send a certified copy of your passport to them from the airport police computers, they should – surely? – be able to send that PDF back? Too logical?
If all else fails and you really are stuck for a couple of days, there is a wonderful piece of local law in Germany if any of your belongings are stolen from your hotel. It would be lovely to think every country has some equivalent but no-one rushes to mention it. In Germany it has the jawbreaking name of Strenge Haftung des Beherbergungswirtes – the hotelier is liable for up to 100 times the room rate (without breakfast) for any losses suffered by the guest. In theory, therefore, you could return to the hotel and expect them to put you up for free at the very least, maybe pay your train fare to the nearest consulate, while you wait for your lazy and grossly indifferent public servant* to help you.
Ever researching on your behalf
*yup, still seething.