I Lost My Passports – What to Do When You Lose Your Passport in Seoul, South Korea

I cannot sleep this frustration off tonight that is why I am still awake writing this down and this would be lengthy. As a frequent traveler, I know that my passport should be secured at all times but this kind of disaster or unfortunate event can happen to anyone, even probably with the seasoned travelers out there and it happened to me last March 21st, 2018.

As fate would have it, I lost it on the day before I am bound to head back to Manila, Philippines. Realizing it at dusk when the embassy is already closed. Fortunately, I still made my flight and was able to get home safely minus my 2 passports (an important old one and the new passport that just got released months before). Imagine the double whammy, if not quadruple as most of us Filipinos would have to wait months before being able to get a new passport and aside from that the uncertainty of not being able to make your flight and get home.

So this was my recipe for my own disaster:

  • A cup of complacency: Since it is my 4th time to visit Seoul, South Korea – I knew how safe it was walking around with your stuff neatly tucked in your back pack without fear of bumping into pick-pockets. Maybe time has changed, I don’t know but with that in mind, I did not truly bother putting my guard up to protect and double check my stuff which was a big big horrible mistake on my part.
  • A sprinkle of tiredness: I do not know if this played a part but I was kind of tired from the first day until our 2nd to the last day – when I lost my wallet containing my precious documents. Navigating around the city and nursing tiredness, lack of sleep and sore body from all the walking are not great combinations.
  • A whole lot of stupidity: my stupid mistake was to put my passport wallet in my jacket pocket. It was said to be snowing that day with a bit of rain and I had to wear 3 jackets to secure my tropical self from freezing. Since the wallet contained my money I had to place it on my pocket without really putting my guard up that I needed to separate and secure my passports and put it in my backpack. This frustrates me the most because I know for a fact that I should always always make sure that the passports are secured at all times. Maybe it was complacency, but I know too that stupidity as harsh as it may sound played a big role on this disaster.

So how did it happen? Well somewhere between exiting Yeoido Station to walking to the Bus Stop for Bus No. 11 to get to 63 building (stop in front of St. Mary’s Hospital) to walking inside 63 building and going to the toilet to freshen up and perhaps the walk to the Han River across the street, I dropped my wallet. It was so cold that I couldn’t bother making sure I had my wallet with me. I only realized that I lost it when we were at the second stop of Bus No. 11 to get back to Yeoido Station from 63 building. Frustrating story to tell and still feeling disappointed with myself as I type this but that is the gist of it.

Anyway I know some of you did not come across this blog post to read my stupid but harrowing experience but to know how to get home to the Philippines with a Lost Passport. Here’s what happened and what I did upon realizing that I lost it – excuse me it could be a bit dramatic and narrative for your taste as I really have to get this frustration out of my system:

  1. DO NOT COMPLETELY PANIC AND YOU HAVE TO BE RATIONAL: I can never tell you to not panic because I definitely panicked a little or more when I realized that I lost it and had to tell my friends who, bless their kind hearts (Jamper and Anj) were so considerate of me that they had agreed to walk back to 63 building in a freezing cold for about 10 minutes just so that I can retrace my steps. You are allowed to panic but do not lose your rationality over this because you will not be able to think straight.
  2. PRAY THAT YOU ARE SURROUNDED WITH GREAT COMPANY AND PRAY TO YOUR DIVINE BEING FOR THE SITUATION TO BE BETTER: My friends helped me through this and were as calm as possible about the situation. This helped a lot. I never heard them ask me why I put it where I put it or what was I thinking instead asked me how can they help and just said let’s go find it. They talked to the cleaning lady, the information and our classmate who works in DFA to ask what to do in case of emergency like this. They were so considerate that I am thankful I was with them during this trip. I also said a little prayer that hopefully, my wallet can be returned as I am in South Korea.
  3. REPORT THE LOST PASSPORT TO THE LOCAL POLICE: In my case, we did this after we have talked to the Philippine Embassy (4th Step) its closed so we couldn’t go there anymore – still this is very important to report your lost passport to the police station. We reported my case in Myeondong Police Station. They were very helpful as I needed to have my police report stated in English so that I can use it as another supporting document for my affidavits. Never forget this step, it would save you a ton of headache. Side note, I was told that if this has been reported to one police station, they have a centralized system and if someone finds it and returns it to the station, the Police Station will be the one to send it back to the Embassy especially if the owner has already left the country. Just hope that the embassy gets to update you should they get a report of your lost passport being found.
  4. GET IN TOUCH WITH THE PHILIPPINE EMBASSY RIGHT AWAY: For my case, since my friends contacted the embassy while I was retracing my steps outside. They were able to talk to Sir Glen and told him that our flight is the next day and I needed to get home, he mentioned that I needed to be in the embassy before 9AM so that they can accommodate me right away.

To get the details on how to report a lost/mutilated passport and get a travel document so that you can go home, go to http://www.philembassy-seoul.com/ and or http://www.philembassy-seoul.com/consular.asp to read the requirements under Travel Document (http://www.philembassy-seoul.com/consular.asp#pt5)

For your convenience, prepare the following as stated in the website:

  1. 4 pcs. passport-size pictures of the applicant
  2. Duly accomplished Affidavit of Lost Passport form (they have a copy at the embassy)
  3. Duly accomplished Travel Document application form (they have a copy at the embassy)
  4. Copy of lost Philippine passport, if available
  5. If there is no available copy of the lost Philippine passport, submit any of the following: NSO/PSA issued Birth Certificate, Alien Registration Card, NBI Clearance, or at least 2 government issued documents/IDs indicating the applicant’s full name, date and place of birth, gender

Be ready to pay $55 (USD) for the travel document application form and the affidavit of Lost Passport – if you do not have the cash, please borrow from your friends if possible. My friends were so generous they lent me their extra money as my wallet contained my extra money as well as my prepaid visa card.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

You should always have a soft copy of your passport page 2 at all times, even the old ones as this would help you get identified faster and is part of the requirements. Also make sure that you get your passport-size pictures ready to save time. I have a side story for this but I probably shouldn’t be including it here. Also bring a copy of your flight itinerary as a supporting document.

5. GO TO THE PHILIPPINE EMBASSY IN SEOUL: Bring your documents with you as stated in the requirements. How do you go there? Please read this link, there is a map and instruction there too: http://www.philembassy-seoul.com/about_us.asp but for the purposes of easier understanding and faster way to get there, here is what you need to do:

  1. Whichever station you are going to get on first (BTW, it pays a great deal to download the Train App in my case I use KakaoMetro everytime. It is also worth it to get your own local 4G unlimited Data sim when you get to the country) you may get off at 2 options:
    • Noksapyeong Station (Line 6) and take exit number 1. If you have luggage with you, I took exit 2 so that I can use the escalator and walked to exit 1.
    • CROSS THE STREET, never walk straight and get on the Bus Stop along the same stretch as exit one. I did it and it took me 30 minutes to go around the area. Well I had time to spare since it was 6:30AM and the embassy opens at 9:00AM. Ajeossi was mad at me for getting on the opposite direction. Again CROSS THE STREET to get on MINIBUS Number 03 – this is a green bus bound for Grand Hyatt Hotel – your stop is Grand Hyatt Hotel.
    • Make sure you have enough t-money credits with you (as this can also be used in the taxi)
    • Get off the Grand Hyatt Stop (Last stop before they reroute) then walk back to that steep/inclined road where the Philippine Embassy is. Take note the announcement in the minibus is not like the ones on the train that has English translation but you will be able to hear “Philippine Embassy” on it.
  1. Or Get off at Itaewon Station and take bus number 405 and get off the same stop, Grand Hyatt Hotel. Walk down the steep/incline road for the main entrance. You can see the Philippine Flag on that building

Provided all documents are clear and you are able to settle the fees, if your case is an emergency – you will be able to get your Travel Document in about 30 minutes to an hour depending on the number of people they are serving.

6. TAKE THE TAXI TO SEOUL STATION (EXIT Number 15): In case you have a flight to catch and you brought your luggage with you – as this happened to me. Take the taxi to Seoul Station – it would cost about 5000 won to 6500 won and God willing the taxi accepts t-money. The front desk employee Mr. DK (I heard one of the staff call him that) thoroughly helped me throughout the process. He was so concerned with my case that he had searched how I can get to the station fast and he even talked to the taxi driver to make sure I get off at Exit 15 where the entrance for the All Stop Train to Incheon International Airport Terminal 1 is the nearest. He even helped me with my luggage and for that I will be forever grateful.

7. TRAVEL DOCUMENT: This is how your travel document will look like once they are done. So make sure you have the copy of your current passport’s 2nd page as it would be needed in the document. Note that they will also give you the Affidavit of Lost Passport (original) and you will be needing these two documents with you when you get a new Passport.

Travel Document

8. EXPLAIN AT THE CHECK IN COUNTER THE TRAVEL DOCUMENT: Here is when the confusion happened during my check in. My travel document as you can see in number 7 had a space for exit visa stamping. You see, I made it to my drop off baggage on time as I previously checked in online. I had to be there by 11:55AM and I made it at 11:45AM with 10 minutes to spare but they wouldn’t initially allow me to drop off my baggage because of that space provided. I told them that it is exit and they needed to help me get my bags in and then I can find the immigration after as it already my passport for reference. I have not yet exited so why would I have a stamp for it? They made a call and they allowed me to get my baggage checked all 18kg which I had to drag from hotel to the embassy to the airport. Thank God, it was not 30kg! I thank the S.Korea government for the efficiency of their public transport and the honesty of their taxi drivers.

9. IN BETWEEN THIS CHAOS – GET A NEW PASSPORT APPLICATION SCHEDULE: Knowing how long of a wait it would be to schedule for a new passport as the DFA is currently updating their online appointment services and I had a flight booked for July, I had to act fast and check the online appointment. I initially had Legaspi City (near my hometown) for April 2 but with inactivity (so the site says) I lost it but luckily found another schedule that is April 6 but in Lucena. I still thank my lucky stars despite this challenging circumstance. Note that the DFA site states that when you lose your passport this will be considered as NEW application and that you would need the same documents for NEW Applicants. Read here how: https://notflataspancake.com/2018/03/27/how-to-replace-your-lost-valid-philippine-e-passport/

10. WHEN YOU ARRIVE IN THE PHILIPPINES: The work is not yet done my friends, you have to get an affidavit of loss and have it notarized as it is part of the NEW Passport application requirement together with a police report. The affidavit of loss provided by the Philippine Embassy in Seoul will be applicable but I still had one made because I needed to state that my other old passport was also lost and it contained my Active US Visa (this is another story to tell on what to do when you lose your passport with Active US Visa. And I am a bit sad about this). Also the affidavit provided by the embassy was written in Filipino.

You also have to get POLICE REPORT for this as additional requirement. I have my police report in Myeongdong but I also ensure that I have one made here in the Philippines. I had to restate what had happened and provided them copies of my travel document, affidavit of loss from the embassy as well as the Myeongdong Police Report for their documentation. It would be a hassle but you have to do this to lessen the hassle of going back and forth when the need arises.

For those who have an active US VISA just like I had in my old passport, you should call the hotline of the US Embassy in the Philippines. Please note that as per customer service, this will be considered as again, new application as there is no replacement visa provided in Manila. Also for safety purposes, there is a need to report this to Fraud Prevention. I will posting about this separately. Please make sure you have secured several copies of your documents for this as it would probably help you further – which I do hope it would in my case and they still grant me one.

In this experience, I met different kinds of people:

  • Those that a really concerned about your situation that they would do the best they can to ease it. Special thanks to my friends: Anj and Jamps for being calm and collected with me during the situation despite being tired as well. To Hazel, who even called lost112 despite me telling her the situation 2 days after – she’s a professor in a university an hour away from Seoul. To Jemos, who asked his friend what I could do if lost my passport with US visa. To Sensen, despite not being in touch for so long, when Anj and Jamps messaged her about the situation, she responded with numbers to call in the Philippine embassy as quickly as she can.
  • Those that would be considerate and empathize with you despite not knowing how they could help you – that alone is already a big help. The front desk guys in our guesthouse, the cleaning ladies and the information staff in 63 bldg.
  • There are people that will disappoint you and would treat you like you are just a nuisance.
  • There are foreigners despite language barriers, will help you seeing how tired you are (thank you to the Ajumma that showed me the elevators in the train station while I was on my way to the embassy)
  • People that would shrug you off like you are not of an important matter

All these you will meet but most of all, you will meet a version of yourself. You get to know yourself a little better by seeing how you handle the situation. I think, I did pretty well despite the circumstance with great help from my friends. Rationality and maturity come into play. You have to be calm and collected. As challenging as this may seem but I need to focus to the What Is and not the What ifs of this situation from now on. All I can do is appreciate the “what is/are”. I got to go home on time despite losing money, passports and my necklace and I got to know myself a little better.

But still, I am allowing myself to be a bit frustrated and just wallow a little. I wish this helped you, whoever is reading this that needed help, if you have made it this far in this post, may you be able to get home safe and sound.

Tip: Whenever you travel, if you can, bring with you passport sized pictures (4-6 pieces), scanned copy of your government issued identification cards – print them too, print your passport page 2. Would probably save you time and head ache.

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