Thousands of British nationals pay for emergency travel documents every month as last-minute passport replacements

Using your passport as a beermat, notebook or putting it in the washing machine are just some of the reasons why British holidaymakers are now spending millions each year on emergency travel documents (ETDs) – issued when passports are lost, stolen or damaged while abroad.

And the problem is on the rise: ‘avoidable’ cases have increased significantly in 2012-13, with ETDs issued for expired or damaged passports increasing by over 300%.


The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is urging people to save themselves the time, hassle and cost of buying ETDs by looking after their passport while on holiday this summer.

Obtaining an ETD can take several days, depending on local circumstances. You may need to obtain a police report, get passport photos, and of course get to and from your nearest British Consulate or Embassy. You may also have to replace any visas you need for your journey.  And it can cost up to £200 to replace your passport. These expenses can spiral if you need to rearrange holiday plans, so make sure you take out comprehensive travel insurance.

When we're on holiday, all we want to do is simply relax, have fun and forget about our day to day responsibilities - but don't forget to look after your passport. It's a valuable document and there are plenty of people who'd like to steal it
When you’re on holiday, all you want to do is simply relax, have fun and forget about day to day responsibilities – but don’t forget to look after your passport. It’s a valuable document and there are plenty of people who’d like to steal it

Will Middleton, Consular Director for Southern Europe, said: “Our staff deal with people every day who require ETDs for a range of reasons. Some are victims of crime, but we also hear of passports being damaged carelessly, like becoming damaged after being hidden in the freezer.

“These are situations that could have been avoided and end up costing holidaymakers valuable time and money.  We strongly advise people to look after their passport, keep it safe and check its validity well in advance of travel. Simple steps such as locking your passport in a safe if you have access to one and carrying a photocopy with you can help prevent problems later on.”

  • Key facts:

Around 80 ETDs are issued to British nationals around the world every single day, with 28,783 issued in the past year alone.

Avoidable cases have increased significantly in 2012-13 with ETDs issued for expired or damaged passports increasing by over 300%.

More than a fifth of all ETDs (6,005) were issued in Spain, one of the most popular holiday destinations for Brits.

Consular staff in the USA also issued a high number of ETDs (3,180) followed by Australia (1,618), which has seen a number of Britons having to buy ETDs as their passport was no longer valid.**

Fancy a night out? Make sure you passport is safely under lock and key
Fancy a night out? Make sure your passport is safely under lock and key

Theft remains an issue in big cities like Barcelona, which issued more ETDs than most countries (1,291) last year, mainly due to people’s bags being stolen, distraction thefts and pickpocketing.

Key tips for keeping your passport safe abroad

  1. Value your passport and look after it carefully
  2. Your passport is not always safer on you – lock it in a safe if you have access to one
  3. Make two photocopies of your passport – leave one with friends or family and take the second with you, or store it online using a secure data storage site
  4. Where possible, use this photocopy as alternative ID, for example when going out at night
  5. Make sure your passport is valid
  • For certain countries your passport must be valid for six months after the date you travel – check the entry requirements before you go