Stranded in Paris: A Lesson Learned in the Hard Way

The one time when I was very close to becoming a nomad was a year ago while traveling in Paris. You probably will say, Paris is not the worst place to be stranded at, right? Yes, and no. It was not that much fun after I lost my wallet, identification card, and had to apologize to my boss for not being able to make it back to work on time. Ok, so here's a question for you: if you find out your wallet missing during international traveling, and your passport or other ID cards are gone with the wallet, what would you do next? If you happened to have a copy of all the documents with you, will you bring those copies to the airport and hoping to get them renewed once you fly back to your home country?

Well, I learned that answer in the hard way: the photocopies will not even get you through the check-in point at airport. Airline will not issue you the return tickets since you don't have the official travel documents to enter your own country. What is the proper procedure if you do fall into this situation?
First of all, the moment when you find out you lost wallet/IDs/passport, make sure to report to the local police as soon as possible! Why the police? will they start an immediate search and get your wallet back? Most likely, no... Local policemen have seen tourists losing stuff all the time, and they are aware of the notorious pick pocketing at popular tourist sites. They positively told me that the chance of retrieving my wallet was very slim. Then what's the point of reporting it to the police? The only reason is that police has the power to issue a statement saying what you lost, at what time, and what place. Only with this statement, you can move on to the next step, which is: Visiting your country's embassy/consulate in the traveling city.

Here's the official website of U.S. Embassy in Paris for U.S. citizen services:   Once you got an appointment on the website, you have to print out the confirmation page and bring it with you. Here we got another problem: no wallet, no money, where can you get the appointment letter printed? Ok, let's say you have some cash that was luckily left in your luggage. What kind of places will provide printing service in Paris? I have a couple of suggestions: 1. Hotels. Some large hotels have business center or printing service for a low fee. 2. Google Search "Internet Cafe". I tried the Internet cafe at Spain to print out train tickets, it was very convenient when you needed. (Beware the internet fee is charged by time, so there's no need to waste it on Facebook while you are at the Internet Cafe. )

However, in Paris, I ran out of cash, I don't have any money to print this confirmation letter for the appointment in the next day. I was desperate, and anxious. While I was wandering the streets with my husband trying to think what to do, there was this local business store, through the french windows, you can see a young lady sitting in front of her laptop with a nice shiny printer right next to her! My husband and I exchanged a look and wondered "are we really gonna do this?" It was the boldest thing we did: Two strangers walking into a store and demanding the lady to print out a letter for us!

Just kidding, we did not force her to do that, we kindly explain our situation and get her empathy about me losing green card, and poorly stranded in this country that I barely know any language of. Guess what? That young lady happened to study abroad in the U.S. before (what's the chance?!), and totally understood the despair and anxiousness when something like this happened. She printed out the letter, and wished me good luck with the appointment. My eyes were on the edge of tearing up and I couldn't stop saying Merci, Merci... Nice people are really god bless when you are in need. I will never forget that life-saving young lady.

Once you got all the paper work and talked to the consular at the embassy, they should be able to take care of your temporary travel ID from there. The only thing left to do is WAIT. It might take about 4-5 business days for you to get the approval letter, or a temporary visa in my case. If you still have some money left, it's a good opportunity to make full use of those waiting time to further explore Paris. But if you are like me, barely any money left in the pocket, those extra few days might be a little bit hard to get through. I was extremely tired from two weeks of traveling in Europe. My shoes were not happy about all those mileage that I put on them. So instead of rushing back to those touristy places, my husband and I went to free natural parks during the day and watch French TV shows at night. No fancy dining, just getting groceries at local supermarket.
Here's me at the park, bored of all the waiting.
The moment when the embassy contacted me and told me they had my temp visa ready, we jumped on the very next flight back to the U.S. that evening of the dame day. Here's a picture of me cheerfully playing a piano at the CDG airport before our flight. No words to describe how happy I was. It was just so great to know that I could finally go back home!

I hope this blog will provide some inside look of how to survive when losing important document overseas. Hope everyone will travel safe, less hussle,  and enjoy all the eventful journey and adventures ahead. Feel free to leave a comment here. I would love to hear your voices and amazing stories.


  1. Love your story!

    I am in a lost passport situation right now. I lost my passport in my house, I recently got married and my name is different. Not sure what steps to take to get it replaced soon since my husband is traveling for work and wants me to go to the UK (we live in Houston). Any suggestions? He leaves 12/11/16 :(. I do have a photocopy of my passport - will it help?

  2. I'm sorry to hear that you lost your passport. Did you go to the embassy and try to reissue a new passport? I don't think a copy of the passport will let you pass by airport security though.


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