The musings of a wanderer......

That One Time my Passport was Stolen…..

So in my last blog post I alluded to that one time on my first international trip where my passport was stolen. The year was 2006. I was super green to the world of travel and still under the delusion that at 27 I would likely get ID’d on a musical pub crawl in Dublin. And that when I did get ID’d I thought my driver’s license wouldn’t suffice so I had best have my passport on me. How naive.

It was a Saturday night. After bouncing around between several bars that evening and making friends with many locals and an American couple we ended up at a dance club. As memory serves me there was dancing involved. My recollection is part memory, part drunken photos. I ended up with a stolen passport, but somehow didn’t have my camera taken. My travel mate’s camera wasn’t as lucky. So after the bar closed we ended up on the street in front of the bar and this is where I realized I was sans passport. Initially I thought I’d just put it somewhere else in my purse. That initial feeling where you think you’ve lost something is awful. It feels like burning in your throat followed by a fluttering in your upper chest. Oh Shit. My passport isn’t in here.

After the initial shock subsided the water works kicked in. Followed by us madly banging on the bar door for them to let us back in. They were in the process of cleaning up. We checked to bar floor, the bathrooms, but no passport. Shit. They also stole my US work visa which was affixed in the passport. Double shit. Adrenaline and being scared shitless are powerful antidotes to alcohol. I sobered up pretty much stat. We went back to the hotel. I called my parents. I cried likeĀ  baby. Through sobs I told them of my predicament. I called the Government of Canada’s emergency assistance number. In retrospect it wasn’t a true emergency. But let me tell you it was an awful feeling being abroad without a passport.

Lucky for me there was a Canadian consulate in Dublin. Unfortunately, they were closed until Monday. Remember how I said prior to this that I was under the belief that embassies were open 24/7. Like 7-11. Nope. It still cracks me up that I thought that!! So here it is in the early hours of Sunday morning and we are to fly out early Monday afternoon. After a few hour of restless sleep we went to the police station to file a police report, I got passport photos taken, and printed off an application for a temporary passport. Then we did what anyone would do- went on a ghost tour of Dublin later that night. Because what else could we do?

So Monday morning we show up at the consulate with all my papers. Unlucky for me the lady who could’ve issued me a temporary passport had called in sick, so the best they could do was to issue me an emergency passport which was basically an 8×10 piece of paper with a couple stamps and my picture on it. It would get me from Dublin to London, but not back to the US (where I was living at that time). In London I was supposed to go to the embassy there and they would be able to issue me a new passport. So I boarded the flight to London. And then in London the airline (which shall remain unnamed) allowed me to get onto the flight to LA. With an 8×10 piece of paper as my ID. So get on the plane I did. In my head everything would be ok once I landed because they have my fingerprints on file and they can see that it’s me, and that I’m legally allowed to work in the US. Wrong. Dead-wrong.

I landed in LA, and immediately the immigration people were less than pleased at my arriving from the UK with only a mildly-official piece of paper. I was pulled from the immigration counter to a separate area where I was left to wait for what seemed like a couple hours. In this waiting area were other people- most did not speak English, but like me were in varying degrees of immigration greyness shall we say. Eventually I was brought to an office were it was decided that I should be put back on the returning flight to London….except that the flight had already left. So then it was decided that I had 3 days to get a new passport and work visa or I would be asked to leave the country.

Now here’s where my luck was good- I was living in Orange County, just outside of LA, where there was a Canadian consulate, and where for an absurd amount of money they can issue you a temporary passport and an expedited permanent passport. And lucky for me living in Orange County I was only 2 hours from the Mexican border to get a new work visa. Work visas are only issued upon arrival to the US. Had I not been close to the Canadian or Mexico border this already costly ordeal would’ve included a flight out of the US so I could get a visa coming back in.

So in the end it all worked out. It ended up costing many hundreds of dollars, some gas down to Tijuana and a couple boxes of tissues, but I got a great travel story out of it. In fact I’m exactly the person you want to be traveling with if your passport ever gets stolen. I know exactly what to do. Stay calm. Locate the nearest embassy or consulate. Visit during business hours. Voila.

What’s the most stressful thing you’ve had happen while traveling??



  1. Carol-Anne

    My most stressful experience was in Hong Kong. I arrived very late at night. To get from the airport to close to where I was staying I had to take a train and a taxi. I had all of my important documents and most of my currency together in one folder. The desk where you bought your train ticket was busy and there was no queuing. After I bought my ticket the next person was pushing behind to get served. In my tired state I left the important documents folder at the airport, only realising when I got to my hotel and had to pay. I had enough money to pay for the hotel but nothing extra like food. One of the men at the front desk was not so pleasant about it, actually saying how could you be so stupid. Having had no sleep, I got up as soon as the buses started and got the first bus back to the airport (seeing that I had had no sleep, Mr mean hotelier seemed to soften). I went back to the desk and luckily they had my folder and everything in it. I actually cried tears of relief!

    • kristinewanders

      Carol-Anne, I’m so glad that situation worked out for you. As I was reading it I could so easily picture how stressful that would be, especially having to go thru it on your own. Your story has proved what I strongly believe- that people are more good than they are bad. I’m so relieved that your documents and money were there!! I hate that feeling of realizing you’ve lost something that is very important. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Jenny

    I recently made a trip back to the UK. Different areas though. I lost an umbrella and a bra although I believe that to be my error and I wish I had a better story for the bra missing. I do miss that camera. The camera was taken a couple of days earlier though. I think you are correct we did go to a dance club. Coming back I didn’t know you were detained until I tried to find you to give you your bag. I was only glad that my flight was running late because by then you had gotten a temporary stay. I am glad that you still love travel and that the experience didn’t ruin it for you. I may log as many miles as you for travel but mine is work related. I don’t get to see as much but I certainly try.

    • kristinewanders

      Jenny, glad you are still able to get some travel in! Will have to try and catch up when I’m next home!

  3. Kerri

    Lost my passport twice but it was soon recovered both times! First was in London, and like you, I was naive enough to carry it with me when I went out drinking. I had it in a tiny purse with a wallet. When I got back to my friend’s place that night, realized I did not have my purse. I cried and cried, had to miss my flight to Amsterdam the next day until I could get in touch with the embassy or the bar. Thankfully when the bar reopened at like 2 or 4pm, I called and they said they found the purse in the bathroom. I was able to find a cheap flight the next day and a extra night with my friend (lecturing me.)

    The other time was sober and in Thailand. I was taking a baht bus from the bus station to the border of Myanmar. I was only person in the back as it reached the border. I checked my money belt to make sure I had a passport photo for crossing the border, and thought it was best to put the money belt in a secret pocket in my backpack then be taking things out of it while wearing it at the border. But I was not looking as I slipped it in my backpack, and it did not go into the pocket but rather fell down behind the seat! As soon as i could off the little bus and it pulled away, i looked into my back and realized it was gone. There was a tourist police station right there. I ran there crying. They found THE one police officer who spoke English. I told him what happened, he gave me a police report to fill out and then gave instructions to the other police, and then he left. I sat there filling out the form, thinking I still have some cash and credit cards in another pocket, I will just have to go back to Bangkok, get a new passport, and cancel the rest of my trip (still was planning 5 more months of traveling!) I started thinking I of what my options were and started actually feeling calm. I remember thinking “well I have my health and life.”
    The English speaking cop returned. With my money belt! He jumped on his motorcycle and chased down the baht bus and found it! He had a photo of the bus driver handing it to him. Then we got a photo of him handing it to me. He said it was for their Facebook. He gave me his name, which I think it still on bookmark in one of my books about Buddhism.

    I did have cops hassle me in Ecuador once for not having my passport on me. I had a photocopy but they wanted to see the real passport. Someone said because of all the drug trafficking that goes through there. We offered to walk the cop to our hotel to see it but he ended up letting us go.

    • kristinewanders


      You were so lucky both times, although it’s hard to know that at the time. I will never in my life forget that sinking feeling of realizing my passport was gone. It was sobering and so awful- but now I’m much better prepared for on the road emergencies!


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