It’s every traveller’s worst nightmare. You’re overseas, well away from home and you lose your passport. The process of replacing it can be stressful and time consuming, but there are a couple of things you can do before you travel to make it easier.

You’re packing your bag ready for the long trip home after a great trip when you suddenly have that sinking feeling that you haven’t seen your passport in several days. You’re very diligent about keeping it safe, ensuring that whenever it’s possible it’s locked away in your hotel’s safe or in a money pouch around your neck, but you just have this nauseating feeling that this time it’s gone. You search through your things and can’t find it. The gnawing in the pit of your stomach increases. You search again. And again. And again. But it’s nowhere to be seen. What to do now?

Once you’ve established that it really is gone and hasn’t just slipped inside the back-flap of your unused, folded, woolen long-johns at the bottom of your backpack, you need to report it missing.

The first step is to contact the nearest Canadian Embassy or Consulate. This gets the ball rolling. Generally, the next step is to report its loss to the local police. Once it has been reported missing to the Government of Canada office, it is officially cancelled so even if you find it, it won’t do you any good but until it’s reported missing you can’t obtain a new one.

The Canadian government’s website allows you to download the forms you need to obtain your replacement passport. The better prepared you are, the quicker the process and the quicker you can get home. In ideal situations (not that there’s ever much ideal about losing a passport!), you can have your new passport within hours of dropping off the necessary paperwork. However, if you are miles from the nearest Canadian consulate, don’t have a Canadian passport holder in-country to vouch for your identity or have lost all your other paperwork as well, it can take as long as 21 days to obtain a new travel document.

Always carry a list of Canadian embassies and consulates

These can be obtained from the Canadian government’s website. This is useful not just in the event that you lose your passport, but also if there’s a natural disaster or you simply run into trouble. It’s better to carry the list with you in case you don’t have internet access when disaster strikes. As the Boy Scouts say, “Always Be Prepared”!

Always carry copies of your passport

Many of us carry photocopies of our passports with us when travelling so that we don’t have to carry our actual passport when we go clubbing or out for a day’s shopping. However, it’s also a good idea to carry a digital scan of your passport. While it’s good to have a jpeg of it on your laptop, there’s a reasonable chance that if your passport gets stolen, you’ve also lost your laptop. Therefore, also ensure that it’s accessible through the internet (either saved in your emails or Cloud storage) or on a memory stick—along with scans of other important travel documents—which you carry separately to the laptop. Having a scan of your passport can make the process of obtaining a replacement a great deal easier.

Always carry a couple of recent passport photos of yourself

It’s not difficult to have a passport photo taken, but when you’re in a strange city and desperately trying to get a new passport to get home, the last thing you want to do is waste time wandering around looking for a kiosk or a photo shop. Canada requires that passport photos be ‘recent’, so as long as it’s not your Grade 9 graduation photo, it should be good for a trip or two.

Have travel insurance

In most cases travel insurance will reimburse at least some of your expenses if you have your passport lost or stolen. Airline change-fees to reschedule your ticket home—or, in the worst case scenario, actually buying a new ticket home—can be expensive. Check for insurance that helps you in such a situation.

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