What to do if you lose things—passports, credit cards, and other important items—while traveling in Paris

Rule #1: Keep all your truly important stuff in a moneybelt—this includes your passport, credit cards, driver’s license, insurance cards, plane tickets, rail passes, traveler’s checks, and the bulk of your cash (minus about €40–€60 in your wallet for petty cash throughout the day; if you need more, pop into a bathroom and dip into the moneybelt's stash).

Make sure you wear the moneybelt under your clothes as intended.

There. Short of a thorough mugging (practically unheard of in Paris), you will now be unable to lose anything truly important.

At worst, if you get pickpocketed, you will have lost up to €60. Plus one wallet. No biggie.

What if you lose your passport?

If you lose your passport, go immediately to the nearest consulate of your home country. For U.S. citizens: france.usembassy.gov/pass-lost.html

Do not cross an international border, do not collect €200. Without a passport, you are a nonentity. You need a replacement posthaste.

Bring along a photocopy of the information pages of your missing passport (that would be the two pages facing each other with your picture and vital information; don’t bother photocopying the cover), those passport-size photos you packed, and any other form of identification you still have with you.

It will take time to process it all and issue you a new passport, so get ready to shack up in Paris and wait.

What if I lose credit cards & traveler’s checks

First of all, you were keeping all of those in the moneybelt, remember? They shoudl be nearly impossible to lose.

But just in case...

On your Backup Info Sheet, you should have the U.S. phone numbers to report stolen or lost cards for all your credit cards and bank cards, as well as the serial numbers of each of your traveler’s checks. Since you were careful to keep this list separate from the cards and checks themselves, you are in pretty good shape.

Should your cards or checks get lost or stolen, contact the issuing bank(s) immediately.

In case you forgot to write down the emergency numbers, here’s a cheat sheet of local toll-free numbers in France you can call (though double-check these numbers first):

  • Visa: 0800-90-20-33
  • American Express credit cards: 0800-90-08-98 or +33-(0)1-47-77-72-00 (or call the U.S. office collect: 801/864-6665)
  • American Express traveler’s checks: 0800-90-86-00 (or call the U.S. office collect: 801/864-6665)
  • MasterCard: 0800-90-23-90 (or call the U.S. office collect 314/542-7111


Of course, reporting cards as stolen means that if they turn up two hours later at the bottom of your bag, there’s not much you can do about reactivating your accounts until after you get home.

Although in the case of genuine card theft, every second counts in reporting the loss in order to cut the thief off at the pass. It might be prudent to find a phone and quickly contact the last hotel, restaurant, or other place you may have left your wallet or purse.

If this doesn't produce a lucky break, hang up, call the credit card company, and get ready to play Creative Vacation Financing as you continue your trip without the aid of plastic.

Most credit card issuers delete your old account number and create a new one to transfer your account into, which means you need to get new cards. Cards you can only pick up, of course, once you're back at home.

This is the time when, as American Express commercials have been trumpeting for years, carrying good old-fashioned traveler’s checks can save the entire vacation. If you lose the traveler’s checks you can get them rather speedily replaced in Paris or any other big European city.

Remember: write down the identification number of each traveler’s check as you cash or use it. When you’re in your hotel room each night, take out your Backup Info Sheet with its master list of numbers and cross off the used ones. If the balance of checks gets stolen at some point, you need to be able to report exactly which ones are gone if you want them replaced. The check issuer will tell you where to pick up the new stash.

What if I lose anything else?

Everything above deals with losing your monetary means and important documents. That’s because these are the only things to be concerned about. The loss of any other item (clothing, toiletries, whatever) will be annoying, but not insurmountable.

Even if you lost something incredibly valuable, like the heirloom jewelry you inherited from Great Aunt...

Wait a minute. That’s right. You never, ever, pack pointless valuables to take on vacation. Never. That way, there's no way you can lose them. Case solved.

Look at it this way: If you lose all your luggage, you’ll just have to come home looking like a European, having refit your wardrobe at flea markets, department stores, and Paris boutiques. (Note to fashionistas: No fair losing your clothes on purpose just so you can restock.)

The Paris lost and found

If you lose something in any public space in Paris—like on the Métro or in a taxi cab—go to the police's special Service des Objets Trouvés (36 rue des Morillons, 15eme; Tel. +33-(0)8-21-00-25-25. Métro: Convention).

It's open Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5pm, Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm.




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