I lost my passport in Hungary

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I’m posting this in the hopes others who find themselves in this predicament will find this online and find it useful. I certainly found comfort in this guy’s tale.

I took a side trip to Hungary this past weekend and inadvertently lost my passport.

So now what?

This all happened on a Friday night. Thank God for a smart phone. And data roaming be damned. I quickly googled for the embassy in Budapest and called the emergency after hours number. After declaring myself an American citizen, my call was escalated to the oncall duty manager.

Here’s where definitions of emergency differ. I has a flight out of Budapest Sunday morning. This was a “blocker” for me. The US Embassy in Budapest is closed over the weekends (even for emergencies). Not an emergency to them.

The best the duty officer could offer me was to arrive Monday morning, identify myself as an American and I’d be escorted in to get a temporary passport.

I tweet’d looking for help. I crowd sourced getting help. You have no idea how helpful that alone was. (thanks everyone!) I had people sending me DMs and text messages and replies to my tweet. It felt good to know I had this network of people willing to help me.

Saturday I retraced my steps (no luck) and moved my return flight to the last possible one on Monday. It was mentally really hard to have any fun the rest of Saturday.

Sunday. Budapest is hot, hot like Yucatán hot. Budapest is also a very walkable city. However, because of the heat I spent most of of my time going from one free wifi coffee shop to another. I also scouted out my embassy.

Monday morning. Embassy opens at 9am. I’m up at 7a, dressed and fed and out by 7:45a. Way ahead of schedule. I got to the embassy at around 8:15a and told the guard I had lost my passport and showed him my California drivers license. He disappeared for a bit and then opened the gate for me. He told me to leave my bag with him, it’ll be easier to get in (made sense to me – I wanted as little drama as possible).

Currently, my most valuable possession.

I had to empty my pockets and literally turn off my phone before going through the metal detector. The guard there put all my belongings except for my ID and money into a box.

I grabbed a ticket and waited a few minutes until hey called my number. I had to fill out a passport application & lost passport form, get passport photos ($5.41), pay $135 for a new passport and wait 20 minutes for them to print out my passport.

At least I had alternate ID. The gentleman behind me had nothing but a copy of his passport which didn’t seem to be of any use. I talked to him a bit. Same thing, lost his passport and everything else he had in his “pouch”. At least my stuff is all separate.

Total time in embassy, 1:19. Didn’t have the patience for the metro and took a taxi to the airport.

So basically a huge inconvenience. Meant having to change a number of flights around (not free). Meant staying longer than I had packed for or planned to in Budapest.

Also, screwed my work schedule. Also, expensive mistake.

Souvenier from Budapest.


So lesson learned. Don’t lose your passport. But if you do, lose it during the week and not the Friday before the weekend.

If you’ll indulge me,

Single points of failure suck. I can’t help thinking that this whole passport concept is a single point of failure. I lost it and was screwed. Never mind that I had a couple credit cards and a California drivers license with me -and- a color copy of my passport.

I also have a this biometric data that’s physically attached to my body and REALLY hard to lose. I felt like I had all these tools to conclusively prove who I am and some computer could verify I was okay to fly.

Back in Paris

I learned long ago that home is wherever my stuff is. My stuff – laptop, luggage – was in Paris. I’m back in Paris, still far from my home but I can’t tell you how much this feels like home!

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Categories: Non Work

3 responses

  1. Lipe wrote on :

    How does it look when the US embassy treat you like a terrorist?
    that’s how they make us feel when we try to visito your country :)

  2. Jim wrote on :

    “I had to empty my pockets and literally turn off my phone before going through the metal detector.”

    How do you figuratively turn off your phone?

  3. philikon wrote on :

    Sorry to hear about the hassle, but it sounds like you got off easy. FWIW, in some countries (e.g. Germany) address the single point of failure can be avoided by allow you to have two passports in some cases. They’re pretty much needed if you want to travel to Israel and then some Arab countries, for instance.