Essentials

How to get home without a passport

I was in charge of the very important task of driving our English car back to where it belonged. I planned a relaxed trip home via the kinds of AirBnbs I love- all libraries and tea and cute churches in tiny villages. I hopped in the car and had a singalong all the way to the Black Forest. Germany is one of those countries where you have to register when you are staying at an address. My AirBnB host therefore asked for my passport number when I arrived. That’s when I realised that I- the smug multi-passport touting dual citizen- had forgotten all those passports. So how do you get home without a passport?

Option One: you can blag it. I had digital copies of my British passport and my old Irish passport. I read about people turning up at ferry ports and airports with passport left safely in their hotel rooms. It appears that it is possible to plead your case. But, as the lady at UKBA told me, that requires patience. You may have to wait around for hours while calls are made to verify your identity. I was a little concerned about using this strategy at Calais of all places: they are probably a bit over-anxious there these days. But for those more adventurous with more time on their hands, this is an option.

Option Two: emergency travel documents. Most countries seem to have some system of obtaining these through an embassy/consulate. For a British citizen, ff your passport is lost, stolen, or you don’t have it for some other reason (interestingly vague), you can contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. They may be able to issue you with this wonderful creature called an emergency passport. It’s yellow and beautiful and solves all your problems. You have to fill out a form online and pay £100. If your passport was stolen, you have to produce a police report. You will need evidence of citizenship (your passport number, digital copy of your passport, birth cert, etc). You have to visit an embassy or consulate in the country where your passport went AWOL (very annoying when you are 40 minutes from the Luxembourg City embassy but instead have to stay in Germany and drive 4 hours to Dusseldorf). You need to have a recent passport photo. They say it can take 24 hours to issue the passport but mine was ready in less than an hour. You have to declare the exact route you are taking and provide evidence of your travel plans because the passport is only valid for one journey (or sometimes for two if you are going to another country and then returning home). The exact dates and the countries you are entering are written in the passport so don’t get this information wrong.

The issue with this option is that an emergency passport does not waiver your need to have an appropriate visa for where you are visiting. You may need to contact the consulate of the country that you need a visa for and complete their processes, to either obtain a new visa or for them to update their records with your new emergency passport. How long that takes I cannot say…

Option 3: your country doesn’t have a consulate where you are? Countries in the EU have an agreement that you can use the services of another EU country’s embassy/consulate if there isn’t one of yours in town. Otherwise, you should find your closest consulate in a neighbouring country and ask them whether there is any agreement that would allow you to use the services of another country’s consulate where you are. There will sometimes be organisations that are embassies or consulates in all but name. If you’re really worried, you can always ask before you leave which country manages your home country’s diplomatic relations in your destination country.

In my situation, I was lucky. I drove up to Dusseldorf, handed over the cash and photo, had lunch and returned to pick up the passport. I then drove through Belgium and France and took the ferry home to the UK. George posted my Irish passport to a friend’s in the UK. I picked it up and flew happily back to Austria. Problems solved.

Key advice: carry a few passport photos with you. Keep digital copies of your passports accessible in some way while travelling. Call your embassy or another friendly embassy as soon as you can- they are there to help.

The Yellow One
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