As much as we try to be prepared and cautious while traveling abroad, sometimes the worst can happen. Maybe you were gawking near the Spanish Steps in Rome or waiting for a train in Brazil. You could have even been lunching at a Hawaiian café when your passport was stolen.
Regardless of where you are, don’t panic: passport theft is more common than you think. You’re not the first victim and you certainly won’t be the last. Not to say that thieves are looking to steal passports specifically; it’s more likely that it was inside of a bag or jacket that was nabbed.
Even if the local police aren’t any help, the United States government has taken steps to help citizens abroad without their ID. You have to have a passport to get home and they’ll help you get one quickly.
Contact the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy immediately. The consulates are in large cities and the embassies are in national capitals. They’re there to navigate diplomatic issues and they’ll help you. Ask to speak with the Consular Section, report your passport lost or stolen, and inform them of your travel plans.
Before they issue you a new passport there will be a couple things you’ll need to provide. Hopefully you have another form of picture ID, another passport photo, a travel itinerary (airline or train tickets), and perhaps a police report. You’ll have to complete a form that describes what happened when your passport was stolen, or give a sworn statement before the consular office. Then file an application for a new one.
A police report isn’t mandatory to get a new one, though it can be helpful. But don’t waste your time on one if it means missing a flight.
One of the best things you can do is have at least one high quality copy of your identification page in your passport. Store it in a separate bag; it can help speed up the process significantly.
An adult replacement passport is valid for a full 10 years and a minor’s replacement for five years. But if time is of the essence the consulate will issue you a limited validity, emergency passport. It will cost you $110 to replace your passport but, if you can’t afford it, the State Department will waive the fee until you get home.