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Wednesday June 20, 2012

Spain tops the list for lost and stolen British passports

Most British holidaymakers dread the thought of misplacing a passport while on holiday and yet every year more than 6000 are either lost or stolen in southern Europe-4000 in Spain alone- forcing the victims to fall on the mercy of the local consulate.

In an attempt to underline the importance of being vigilant and keeping thieves at bay, the Foreign Office has released a video offering advice to Britons travelling overseas. It warns that losing a passport can ruin a holiday as without one, credit card payments are often refused by hotels, car rental agencies, shops and restaurants. The dream holiday can soon turn into an expensive nightmare as holidaymakers are forced to spend precious time sorting out emergency travel documents at the consulate-fees for which cost €100 in Spain. In the worst case scenario some luckless tourists have even missed flights home when a passport has gone astray.

It is easy to be distracted on holiday whether lounging in a café, relaxing on a beach or enjoying some street entertainment offering a perfect opportunity for a wily thief to make a move. On a holiday in Seville I once stopped briefly to watch some flamenco dancers performing and a minute later discovered my purse stolen. Fortunately my passport was in the hotel safe but I was frustrated that I’d dropped my guard so carelessly and subsequently become a cropper.

A few years ago a friend holidaying in Rome told me that a scooter had swept by as she walked dreamily along a pavement, and in a matter of seconds a young man riding pillion had whipped the handbag off her shoulder causing her to fall to the ground. She unfortunately lost her passport, credit cards and cash. All the same there are times when despite great caution a passport is lost and let’s face it, it simply isn’t always convenient to leave one in a hotel safe.

Of course theft isn’t the only reason for requiring a new passport. Many moons ago during my university gap year in Germany some companions and I foolishly decided to go for a paddle in the fountain of the local park. It was a balmy summer night and in great merriment we took off our sandals and waded in. Despite strapping our bags securely over our shoulders we hadn’t reckoned on the slippery and slimy surface on the bottom. We all got a ducking as we lost our balance and slithered into the water. It seemed terribly funny at the time until I realised that my passport had been in my handbag. Worse still was having to admit such folly to my boss who just happened to hold a prominent position within – you guessed it- the local British Embassy.

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