T+L India reader recounts the time when she lost her Indian passport while honeymooning in Sweden and the series of events that followed. Read on to know what happened and whether or not she was able to retrieve it. Text and photographs by Niyati Shah
My husband and I were on our long-awaited Scandinavian honeymoon when the unthinkable happened! We were happily exploring the best of Helsinki and Finland and had boarded an overnight cruise to our next stop on the third evening of our Scandinavian adventure, which was to Stockholm, Sweden.
We reached Stockholm the next morning and decided to stop at a McDonald’s before we checked into our hotel. We would very shortly come to realise that this was the worst decision of the trip. A veggie meal later, when we got up to leave, I realised that my handbag, which was on the seat next to me was missing. It had my passport, all my Indian ID cards, my credit cards, and a bunch of money. Very soon, it became clear that the handbag was stolen and with it, our honeymoon excitement too.
It was only the fourth day of our 14-day honeymoon, and our initial thoughts were panic-inducing. Being a Sunday, the Indian Embassy too would not be open. The only thing left for us to do was to lug our bags and our sunken hearts to the nearest police station and file a complaint. We started calling our families to inform them about the event. And, with each passing moment, we felt more and more dejected and certain that we won’t be able to continue with our honeymoon.
Back at the hotel, we were also hit by the realisation that even if we manage to get a new passport from the Indian Embassy, I would still not have a valid visa, since my Schengen visa was in the stolen passport. Every article that we read online, made us more certain that we will not be able to continue with our trip. We even revisited McDonald’s to enquire the staff on any updates. We checked all nearby bins in the hopes that the robber would have discarded my handbag and had just taken the cash. No such luck!
The next morning, we were up early and reached the Indian Embassy. We had several discussions with the helpful staff there who presented us with two options:
1. Either we take an emergency travel certificate with which we would have to take the next flight back to India. This would mean the end of our trip; we would have to cancel all our remaining bookings and book a new flight ticket back to India.
2. We take a new handwritten passport, in which I could try to get a new Schengen visa and continue with the trip. For getting a new Schengen visa, the Indian Embassy would not be able to help out.
My husband and I were not keen to end the trip so soon; we chose to get a handwritten passport. Another thought that ran at the back of our minds was about how soon would we get the new passport and visa, which was a big gamble at this point because we had a train the next morning leaving Stockholm to our next stop, Norway. We were unsure whether to cancel our future bookings or just wait and see how the day panned out.
Three hours later, my husband and I walked out of the Indian Embassy with a brand new hand-written passport and some new-found hope. We had read articles about Indians losing their passports abroad and getting a travel certificate to return to India, but we had not come across a single article about getting a new passport with a Schengen visa re-issued while in Europe.
Our original visas were issued by the Norwegian Embassy in India since the majority of our trip was planned in Norway. At around 12:30 pm, we made our way from the Indian Embassy to the Norwegian Embassy in Stockholm. There was no one at the Norwegian Embassy gate to let us in, just a speaker and a camera to speak into. An officer asked us about our requirements via the speaker and when we told her about our situation, she bluntly told us that there is nothing they can do to help us.
With a sinking feeling, my thoughts were to head back to our hotel and think about our next steps but my husband insisted we keep waiting outside the Embassy. I thought it was futile, but we continued pacing outside for the next 10-15 minutes in front of the security camera and soon someone stepped out to ask us how they can help.
We explained our situation to her and showed her the new hand-written passport in which I needed a new Schengen visa. She was unsure about the procedure and if there was anything that could even be done since they had never received such a request. She went back inside with some of our details and said she would look into it. We were still not allowed to enter the Embassy, and so my husband and I found ourselves a bench, just outside the Embassy.
Thirty-odd minutes later, I got an email from the officer, who had stepped out to meet us, asking for some additional documents such as our itinerary, travel insurance, hotel, travel bookings, etc. I should add here, that having photocopies and scanned copies of my original passport, visa, insurance and all our bookings were very helpful in this process.
A couple of hours and after several email exchanges later, we finally got an email from her that we can now enter the Embassy. Upon entering, she apologised for keeping us waiting outside. She sounded positive about getting us a new visa. For the first time since the previous morning, we both felt that maybe things were finally going our way and that we would actually be able to hop onto our train the next morning.
A few more formalities later, she clicked a picture of me which would be used on my visa document. And some more time later, she presented me back with my passport and a valid Schengen visa in it.
We started the day at 09:00 am at the Indian Embassy with no passport and no visa. And at 04:30 pm we walked out of the Norwegian Embassy with both. We will forever be grateful to the staff at the Indian and Norwegian Embassies in Stockholm who went out of their ways to help us salvage our honeymoon. And, this is our unbelievable story of how we got a new passport and a new visa in a foreign country within a matter of just a few hours.