In Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo, I lost my passport for three days.
After flying in from Miri, I checked into my hotel, and started being a tourist.
For three days I ate good food, saw cool sights, and bought neat souvenirs.
On the third day I started packing for my flight out to Penang. And I couldn’t find my passport.
I turned my room inside out looking for it.
Checked my bag. Scoured the bathroom. Searched under the bed. Found nothing except dust balls.
Asked the hotel staff. No one had seen anything. Nothing in lost property.
Checked the bar. Same.
Called the taxi who took me from the airport. The driver checked the vehicle personally, every nook and cranny. Nada.
Tried to call the airline. Got redirected maintenance, the information desk, and also the control tower?!
I even called the police at the airport. No passport.
With a heavy heart I decided to call the consulate.
An emergency passport was going to set me back over $150.
And was only valid for 6 months. Meaning I would have to return home to get a legit passport if I wanted to continue to travel.
So on a hunch, I took a taxi to the airport.
I wanted to check the one place I hadn’t tried – the one place I couldn’t seem to reach. The airline itself. Every time I called, the phone was busy, or I got misdirected. So I wanted to talk to their staff directly.
The people at the sales told me that they did not have a lost and found. This didn’t sound right, so I asked at the airport info desk.
As soon as I said the words “lost” and “passport”, a look flashed across the nice lady’s face. She directed me to check with the airline ground staff support desk. Which is inside the arrival section, just behind customs.
We told the security guard and explained the situation. At first he seemed reluctant to talk to us. But as I explained the situation I could see him trying not to smile. He said “anyone who loses their passport is very irresponsible”.
And let us through.
And there, at the ground staff support desk, was my passport. They explained that they found it in the plane, and tried to call. But the number would not connect. So they kept it there anyway, hoping I’d return.
So what did I learn from this experience?
Other than increasing my tolerance for adrenaline, I learned a few valuable lessons.
- Keep your passport in a designated place. I lost my passport because I didn’t put it in its special pocket. The one with slash-proof lining and a hidden zip. So it fell out of my unsecured pocket and onto the floor. All because I was tired and didn’t think to put it away immediately.
- Do not put something else in that space. I didn’t know I was missing my passport because I put the passport cover in the same pocket. Same size, similar weight. I didn’t even know it was gone.
- Physically look at your passport before moving from place to place. All of this drama could have been avoided if I had just checked my pockets properly, instead of just patting them down.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone involved went above and beyond to help me find my passport. My travel partners, the hotel staff, the taxi drivers, the airport personnel. Everyone deserves more than I can give them for their help. And none of it would have been possible if I hadn’t asked. Don’t ask, don’t get.
Has this happened to you?
What did you do to get your passport back?
And how do you keep these valuable documents secure?