Having grown up in Jakarta, I like to think of myself as possessing a modicum of street smart. Jakarta is not exceptionally dangerous or scary, but I’ve been on enough public transport to know how to keep my personal belongings safe, and my senses are usually alert enough to notice unusual movements near areas where I keep my purse. Unfortunately like so many other people, trips away from home always messes up my awareness level.
On my trip to Bangkok I got a little too excited, and my attention was divided by a street cart that smelled amazing, and the photos I was taking with my phone, add to that the fact that I was already all pumped up for a concert I was attending the next day (Bangtan! Sonyeondan!), my usual level of alertness was dropped down below its normal level. We were at Central World Bangkok, enjoying the day and the energy pumping through the crowd gathered around a street performance nearby, and in the midst of all the fun, I failed to notice the moment someone sneakily undid my bag.
The fun didn’t last for very long when I realized that all my things were scattered on the ground. My makeup pouch was the first thing that caught my attention on the ground, and with mounting panic I also spotted my hairbrush and pocket mirror too. Still strapped to my shoulder was my empty bag – and the purse carrying my passport, credit cards and money nowhere to be found.
I swear the urge to kick myself in the face with a steel-toed boot was overwhelming. I’m usually smart enough not to keep everything in one place, separating and hiding money everywhere. I’m usually smart enough to tuck my real passport in a secure place at the hotel, carrying only a copy of it in my bag. Then again, I’m usually smart enough not to be that distracted.
Fortunately remnants of travels past (more on this below!) saved me from a lot of hassle. After a minute of heavy breathing, my brain kicked in and I approached the nearest authority, which fortunately for me was a police officer. I was directed to a nearby station where a translator helped me explain my story to the officers in charge. I quickly got the paperwork I needed to head to the embassy to make a temporary passport.
Now this is where your heart might break if you have several stops planned. A temporary passport will grant you one trip back home. So my temporary passport took me from Bangkok as the place of issue, to Jakarta which was my home port. I was okay with this as I didn’t have any other plans to hop across to other countries, but be warned if you do, I repeat – the temporary passport grants you one trip back home.
Losing my passport sucked big time, but at least I came away with an experience to share! … And it reminded me to never let my guard all the way down. Keep your documents in a safe place, and don’t keep your money all in one place!
Travel Tip: Stolen Passport
- Don’t Panic!
Head to the closest authorities/officials – be they security guard or police officer – and report your loss. You might not be able to get your belongings back, but you can ask for their help for a number of things, from calling a friend in the area who can help you out, to giving you the number for your embassy.
- Block Your Cards Immediately
International calls might suck your remaining funds dry, but you need to make the calls to your bank to block your cards. If you don’t have enough credit on your phone, head to your hotel for some assistance, or fire a message to a family member or friend back home to help you sort things out with the bank temporarily.
- Stolen Property Report
Go to a sizeable police station to file a stolen property report and ask for a copy of the report. If you’re lucky, you won’t need this to replace your cards and/or lost documents, but at least for Indonesia – we know this document is needed when you want to make a replacement identity card, passport and other official documents.
- Head to Your Embassy Immediately
It’s always a good idea to know where your embassy is located, and to keep the information handy. Call ahead to explain what happened and to make an appointment, if you’re located far away from the embassy, or you desperately need to sort things out on a weekend, calling ahead will make sure that you’ll have someone to receive you when you knock on the door. Wear the neatest thing you have in your suitcase as you’ll probably have to take a photo for your temporary passport.
- Keep a Copy of Your Documents!
We really do believe in ‘just in case’-s. The documents needed to make a temporary passport may vary from country to country, check your country’s requirements and scan those documents and keep them in a cloud storage or your email. Indonesians, pay attention! You need a copy of your:
- Identification Card
- Birth Certificate
- Kartu Keluarga; a family register..? Not sure if other countries have this. But Indonesians, you know what I’m talking about!
Also important to have:
- A spare $5 stashed somewhere, if you need to pay for anything.
- Spare photos of yourself, dressed neatly against a white background. Indonesian passport requires 4×6 sized photos. Check the background and size requirements for your country.
Check out our other article on basic travel safety here!
Keep safe guys!