Stranded in Paris: A Lesson Learned in the Hard Way

Let me me tell you that one time when I almost became a "nomad", and it all happened while traveling in Paris. You're probably thinking: Paris is not the worst place to be "homeless" at, right? Yes, and no. It really wasn't that fun after I lost my wallet, identifications, and had to apologize to my boss for not being able to make it back to work. Ok, so here's a question for you: if you find out your wallet missing during international travels, and your passport/IDs are gone with the wallet, what would you do next? If you happened to bring copies of all the documents with you, will you be able to board the plane successfully and fly back home?

Well, I learned that lesson in the hard way: photocopies of IDs will not get you pass the check-in point at international airports. Airlines will not issue you the return tickets since you don't have the official travel documents, even though flying back to your home country. So, if you do fall into this situation, what should you do?
First of all, the moment when you find out you lost wallet/IDs/passport, make sure to report it 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 who lose stuff all the time, and they are aware of the notorious pick pocketing incidents at popular tourist sites. In my case, the police specifically told me that the chance of retrieving my wallet was very rare. So 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: https://fr.usembassy.gov/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 found 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". And that's exactly what I did. I tried the Internet cafe at Spain to print out train tickets, it was quite convenient once I found one near where I stayed. (Beware that the internet fee is charged by minutes. Time is essence. There's no need to waste time on Facebook while at the Internet Cafe. )

However, I didn't have much luck in Paris: I ran out of cash for the last city of the trip, with no money to print this confirmation letter for the embassy 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 going to do this?" It was the boldest move we made: 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 she totally understood the despair and anxiousness when something like this happened. She printed out the letter, and wished me good luck with the appointment. I was on the edge of tearing up and I couldn't stop saying Merci, Merci... Nice people are really a god sent when you are in need. I will never forget that life-saving young lady.

Once I got all the paper work and talked to the consular at the embassy, they finally agreed to prepare a temporary travel ID for me. The only thing left to do is WAIT. It took me 4-5 business days to get the approval letter, and a temporary visa to book flight back to the State. If I still have some money left, it would be a great opportunity to use the waiting time to further explore Paris. But with barely no money left in the pocket, those extra few days were much harder for me 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 touristy places, my husband and I visited natural parks (for free) during the day, and watched French TV shows at night. Let alone fancy dining...we were grateful just getting groceries at local supermarkets.
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, my husband and I jumped on the very next flight that same day back to the States. Here's a picture of me cheerfully playing a piano at the CDG airport before boarding. No words to describe how happy I was. It was such a relief that I could finally go home!
I hope this blog will provide some helpful tips on how to survive when losing important document overseas. As the holiday season is around the corner, I hope you all travel safe no matter it's domestic or international trips, with less hassle to deal with on the road. Feel free to leave a comment here if you have any questions or anything related to share. I would love to hear your stories and unique experience.


Comments

  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?

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  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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