When travelling abroad, your passport is the only document identifying you as a bona fide Indian citizen. Therefore losing it (or getting it damaged) under whatever circumstances can be a serious problem. Although there is no foolproof method to prevent a passport from getting stolen lost or damaged, you may take some precautions before leaving home.
Make photocopies of your passport and travel documents before leaving. Carry one set of the copies in your luggage and leave another set with your family or friends. Also, email them to yourself and to a family member or a friend. In case you lose or damage the photocopies too, then you will have the details on email or if required your family member or friend can email the copy to the authorities. Although it is not compulsory to show a photocopy of your passport if the original is lost, the backup will help you with the required details, including passport number, when lodging a complaint. Also, it is prudent to buy a travel insurance that includes cover for loss of passport. If you have booked the trip through an agency, note their contact numbers, especially any emergency number.
Despite all precautions, if you happen to lose your passport, do not panic. Be prepared for being questioned at every step. Fake passports (often prepared based on the details obtained from a stolen passport) are a lucrative business all over the world and hence loss of passport is not looked upon kindly by the authorities. They have to confirm that you are a genuine victim. So replying to queries in a coherent manner is very important.
Lodge a police complaint about your lost passport as soon as you find it missing. This is crucial since you will need a copy of the police report to get a replacement. Most travel experts advise obtaining three certified copies (with signature and seal of the station police) of the police report. Contact the nearest Indian mission (therefore it is prudent to carry a list of the emergency contact number of the Indian missions in the cities you are travelling to) who will confirm the genuineness of the request and either provide you with emergency travel papers or help you obtain a duplicate passport (can take time). Inform the agency from where you bought the travel insurance of the loss of passport and follow their instructions for a claim or emergency funds.
Losing your passport while in transit can be more troublesome because you cannot leave the airport. The airline you are flying with may or may not help you at this juncture. Contact the airport immigration counter immediately. Take their advice regarding how to lodge a police complaint and call the local Indian mission. Call your insurance agency. Be prepared for questioning at length at the immigration department at the transit airport and when you return home.
While plastic money has made life easier, especially if you are travelling abroad, your credit or debit cards may got misplaced, stolen or compromised. So before leaving home, make a note of the card numbers and the emergency telephone numbers of the bank from where you have obtained the cards. Apart from saving them on your phone, keep them on email too, in case you lose the phone. Before leaving, contact your debit/credit card issuing bank to find out if they have a system where they can make a note of your card number and warn you if they suspect any fraudulent transaction or believe the card has been compromised. Also, ask them if and how you can obtain emergency card replacement and/or emergency funds.
As soon as you notice the card is lost or it has been compromised, immediately have the card blocked either through your internet banking account or by calling the bank’s customer care service. Card issuing agencies such as Visa and Mastercard also have their helplines and systems to help you with lost, stolen or compromised cards. Make a note of their country-specific emergency numbers prior to your journey.
Veteran travellers advise carrying passport and debit or credit cards on your person in a secure passport holder or a travel wallet. If you are carrying them in a bag, let it be one with a strap that goes around your body – may help to prevent snatching. Investing in a slash proof backpack can be a wise choice but bags do get stolen too. Also, you need to be extra careful in public spaces and transport.