Order your passport in advance
Over the years the passports became more and more expensive, but the good thing is: your new passport is valid for ten years! If you do not have a passport or if it has expired, fill out an application online with the U.S. Department of State.
Make sure to check the expiration date from time to time. Most foreign countries demand that your passport is valid for at least six months after the final day of travel.
The busiest time for the American government to issue a new passport is, of course, summer. Always order your passport in advance. You do not want to miss a prepaid trip and lose money just because you did not get your passport in time.
One of the easiest ways to get your passport quickly (from 24 hours to two weeks) and without the confusion of Passport Requirements, use US Passport Now’s online service. It will help you to get the passport back in the time frame you choose.
Before going to a foreign country, I encourage you to check U.S. Department of State website for other relevant information on traveling abroad.
What if you lose your passport in a foreign country?
Even if you have a copy of your passport, you can get stuck in another country for some time.
What to do
- If you have access to the Internet, go to the US Department of State website for the instructions
- Report your lost passport to the nearest US consulate or embassy. Here is the website where you can find the contact information of US embassies around the world
- Tell the consular officers about your situation. Also, let them know when you have to leave the country.
- If your passport was stolen, you could file a police report, but it will not help you to get a new passport sooner.
- Bring to the embassy or consulate the following: a new passport photo, driver’s license or other ID, travel itinerary, photocopy of your lost passport, or any other evidence of US citizenship.
- You will be charged $140 for your replacement passport.
- If your travel plans allow you to stay in a foreign country for a while, you’ll get a replacement passport in a few days.
- If you have to leave the country very soon, the consulate will help you to get a limited validity emergency passport in 24 hours (at home, you have to exchange it for a full-validity passport). But do not count on 24 hours, because consulates or embassies do not issue passports on weekends or holidays. There is an exception to this – life or death emergencies.
In some countries, the law requires all citizens and tourists to carry passports all the time. However, to avoid the loss of my passport, I have on me only copy and leave the original, the most of my cash, and other valuables in the safe at the hotel. On the road, between hotels, I hide the passport and money in the money belt under my clothes.
There were quite a few situations when people from my travel groups misplaced their passports but were lucky to get them back. You can read stories about these “lucky” travelers in my blog “Passport stories.”
Always check if you need a visa
US citizens do not need visas to travel to many countries. But don’t count on it. Always check in advance if the country on your itinerary requires a visa. Go to this article to find detailed information about visas and how to get them.
When we (my husband and I) purchased a group tour to India, we presumed that American citizens do not need a visa to this country. When we found out that the Americans do need visas, there were just a couple of weeks left before the trip. You can imagine how stressful this situation was for us, especially after I found out that the Indian consulate was closed for several days for Divali celebration.
We were lucky to get our visas on time, precisely one day before we had to fly to New Delhi. I do not wish anybody else to have such nerve-racking experience.
By the way, this is not the rest of the story with our trip to India (though the rest has nothing to do with visas). In Fort Lauderdale airport, at the check-in counter, we had a big surprise: the ticket agent did not find our electronic tickets to New York (the group tour had to start from New York, not from Florida).
Long before that trip, I was checking airfare prices on Travelocity but eventually forgot to complete ticket purchase. At that time, I had a hectic business, and this matter just slipped my mind. Fortunately, we still were able to buy the tickets on the same flight but had to pay double.
Since that time, we always make sure that our visas and passports are ordered well in advance.