OMG! He lost his passport during holidays in Africa.
Every traveler’s worst nightmare is losing documents during holidays. We know that well — it’s happened to one of our clients from the UK. To get stuck in a foreign country because of missing or lost travel documents can ruin even the most wonderful trip. Luckily, many diplomatic missions have procedures in place to handle such stressful situations. We publish this article as a cautionary lesson but also as guidelines for all travelers.
Austin, his wife Clara, and their two children (the names have been changed to protect their identities) arrived in Namibia to spend their first family holidays in Africa. Before we left the airport, they exchanged money at a bureau de change. Having arrived at their hotel in Windhoek’s city center, they checked in to refresh and rest before their 10-day safari trip through Namibia officially began. But while the family was still napping, Austin decided to take a walk around the city.
He went to a cafeteria; greeted by friendly personnel, he enjoyed freshly roasted African coffee. When Austin wanted to pay the bill, he reached into his moon bag — which he always uses when traveling — and realized he had the local currency that he had bought at the airport with him, but his passport was missing. Initially, Austin thought that he had simply left the document in his hotel room. After returning to the hotel, Clara and the children woke up to help Austin look for the document. Clara found the three other passports in her handbag, but Austin’s was still nowhere to be found. He then tried to remember when was the last time he saw it. “Maybe, tired after a long flight, I left it on the counter of the currency exchange at the airport and it fell into the wrong hands?” he thought.
What to do in such a situation?
The first thing is to act fast. The family called the airport’s help center and lost property office but to no avail. Then, Austin immediately contacted their tour guide. Namib Star customers are assisted by a private guide who is at their disposal 24 hours a day. Jacque, our tour guide, advised them to contact the embassy, the British High Commission in Windhoek. Austin immediately called and booked an appointment. In the meantime, they went to the police station to report the loss of the travel document.
From Jacque’s perspective, as a tour guide, his priority was to ensure the comfort of his customers — but now, the whole 10-day trip through Namibia was in doubt. “My main concern was how to save the trip,” he states. “My clients were worried that their dream family holiday was ruined, but my job was not only to handle the emergency but also to reassure Austin and his family. I told them that, probably, we could still depart because the trip would start only the next day, before the appointment at the embassy. I contacted my colleagues from the industry and they told me that if we supply all the required documents during our appointment at the embassy, they might issue it before we return from the safari trip.“
They already got the police report which stated that the passport was lost or got stolen at the airport. This is the application form we filled out online:
The other documents required to apply for an emergency travel document (ETA) — sometimes called an “emergency passport” — were:
Passport sized photograph
They got it at the print shop in the Central Business District in Windhoek next to their hotel.
£100 fee was paid using Austin’s internet banking.
Form of personal identification
They provided a copy of his driving license. Acceptable personal identification document is a photo-card document which includes: a driving license, a national ID card or other valid documentation relating to immigration status or permission to work.
Proof of travel
They printed out his ticket which he got on his mailbox but you can provide proof of your travel plans, for example booking confirmations (or detailed written travel plans if you cannot book ahead).
With all of the documentation in place, Austin and our tour guide, Jacque, headed towards the office of the British High Commission in Windhoek for their scheduled appointment.
They departed for their dream safari holiday the following day. The emergency passport was issued within two days, ready for collection when the family returned to Windhoek.
In this story, a number of overlapping factors allowed the trip to continue as scheduled, without the need to reschedule the family’s return flights. The passport had been lost before the trip even began, and so we had enough time to apply for the ETA. Also, it happened during the hours of operation of the public offices so we could act immediately and collect all the required documents promptly. Although it initially was quite a nerve-racking situation, local authorities — together with the British High Commission in Windhoek — proved once again that Namibia is one of the safest countries in Africa and one of the top safari destinations for family holidays.
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More useful information about travelling in Namibia you will find on Namibia Travel & Tourism Forum.
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