The story about how I lost my passport in Argentina and was asked to lie in 3 police stations

Rosanne @soyrosaAugust 2018 · 7 min read


For almost 2 hours yesterday I thought I lost my passport. I didn't, it just fell out of my bag while staying with friends the past few days. I already booked an appointment at the city hall to request a replacement, because I need the passport to pick up my drivers license. Sigh. All the fuss made me remember the following story in 2010:


My friend Ilona and I had been travelling through Argentina for almost 2 months now. We were in Mendoza where we had done some 'parapenting' with two cool dudes who happily drove up the mountain in a crappy jeep while we were holding tight in an open-roofed back being scared to death - falling out of the car was a realistic foresight, and at this point the drive up the mountain seemed ten times as scary as the idea of running off a 1500 meter high mountain.

We had booked the tickets in a small office and somewhere in Mendoza, and in that same week we had also booked tickets from Mendoza to the region of Salta and Jujuy, from there to Las Cataratas (the amazing waterfalls close to the border with Brazil), and then off to Buenos Aires - our return flight to The Netherlands already booked.

After parapenting for the first time in our lives and eating lots of hotdogs (perritos) we packed our suitcases - we would check out of the hotel and go to some sort of spa for a day, before taking a 20+ hours bus ride to another region in the country.

Somewhere during the packing I realized I was missing something - what was the last time I had actually seen my passport?

After 10 weeks of packing and unpacking the same suitcase and shoulder bag I had built up an 'intuition' for all the things I needed to check in my head. I unpacked the suitcase in full, repacked it, emptied my shoulder bag, but no: no passport to find!

I told Ilona: "Do you think I can start panicking already?", because honestly, I wanted to cry - I felt very very naked in a foreign country without my passport, it was my first 'big travel adventure' ever and what did it mean to lose a passport in another country? (No internet loaded smartphones in our pockets back then!)

Ilona simply said "No", and stormed towards the hotel reception to check if they found something. When they didn't, we ordered a taxi to drive us around town.

First we checked on the little office we booked our bus tickets. In Argentina we needed to share our passport number every time we booked a ticket, so that was the last time I saw it. The little office recognized our faces, which was fun, but no, they didn't find a passport!

We asked the taxi driver to bring us to a police station. In our mediocre Spanish we might not have been able to explain exactly why, or what, or the driver simply didn't know better, but: he brought us to a station where the agents were wearing weapons like sticks and even guns, because it was a center 'disruptive youth' was brought after their nights out drinking and misbehaving and such.

A stern looking woman with weapons on her hips picked up the phone and called something I had never heard of before, but have only ever seen in Mendoza: Policia Turistica, or, a specialized tourist police force.


A man and a woman in uniform came to the Police Office to chat with us. They spoke English (which is probably what the 'Turística' part was about) and asked us about what happened to the passport. They took us to their Policía Turística bus, and the man started to take notes:

"When did you realize you lost the passport?"
> Just this morning
"How did you lose it?"
> I don't know, sir

He stopped scribbling notes and shook his head. "You can't say you don't know!", he told me. "If you don't know that it was stolen or lost it will be hard to get out of the country"

He then told me the following: "You have to tell had a blue bag (bolso azul) that was stolen at Mr. Dog (a hotdog place) yesterday at 10 PM because it was hanging on your chair, easy to grab."

I didn't know what I heard. The police told me... to lie?! I didn't have a blue bag, and it didn't get stolen! I didn't even... or wait, I actually did eat at a Mr. Dog that night before! How did he know?! Did he know?! Or was it a crazy coincidence?

It was all very confusing and overwhelming and in that moment I just went with it. He handed me his notebook where I had to write down the 'facts', namely the blue bag, the Mr. Dog, the fact it was stolen at 10 PM because I had been so stupid to not keep it closer.

I handed bag his notebook with his lie in my hand writing.

What now?!, I thought.

The man and woman drove us in their bus through Mendoza, to another, more friendly looking, police station. The woman spoke to another police officer very briefly: "Their passport got... stolen" - she said.

Did I imagine this, or did she pauze her sentence and did they exchange a very meaningful eye contact?


I will never know, but the woman took the notebook of her colleague, scribbled the notes in her own notebook, and went with my 'lie' in it in an office, where it was copied, by hand!, on another form.

Why she first copied the notes in yet another notebook only for it to be copied on a form I will never understand.

In hindsight the most confusing thing of it all was the inefficiency with which a 'stolen' passport was processed and how many man hours were put into driving 'dos chicas' around the city and help them get through it. I'm not complaining, because it would have been daunting to have to go through it all by yourself, but still - why?!

The handwritten 'copied' form then was put in my hands and the man and woman gestured to follow them. Again we were sitting in the bus, again driving to another part of town. I had to hand over the form to a woman, who was going to type over the form on a typing machine (!), then asking me to sign it.

After I signed it I thought I was done with it. I had seen 3 police stations and at least 5 people had had to deal with my one lost passport. At this point the same lie was already copied in some way or another 4 times. But no, the police people asked me to come with them again. What else would they want from me?

They brought me to a shopping mall or something similar, my memory is a bit blurry at this detail, but I was brought into a tiny office with 1 desk and 1 person sitting behind the desk. Another police person of some sorts. They pointed to the telephone (you know, with a cable and all), handed me a phone book, and told me I could now call my bank (my creditcard was in the back of my passport :')) and the Dutch Embassy in Buenos Aires so I could arrange everything needed - like blocking my card and requesting an emergency passport so I could get out of the country in two weeks.


It was a crazy experience, but all the separate offices all seemed to have their own purpose. The fact they even let us call to The Netherlands and Buenos Aires (to be clear: I had to pay for two small sheets of toilet paper in most of the toilets I visited in Argentina) to arrange our affairs actually blew my mind.

Honestly, the Policía Turística in Mendoza: I hope you will read my post someday, because I might never have said: Muchas gracias por todo!

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I have been fortunate to have never have lost my passport, but I did have one stolen once along with a bag with cash and camera etc in it, which I stupidly left in the back seat of a work car while in a pub in Bosnia, I was also lucky in that I knew it had been stolen as I saw the window smashed and me and my friends bags grabbed out the window of the pub

Luckily I was working there and my office worked out the temporary replacement for when I travelled home a week later and was able to get a new one

but I can truly imagine the panic one must face when disovering a passport is lost or stolen

I t was good they helped you to make a story that would make getting a repacement easier

Rosanne @soyrosaAugust 2018

Ohhh - losing your camera is such a nightmare! Glad it was all very clearly stolen and replacements were arranged - did you lose your memory card with files? Because that of course is the real nightmare for us photographers :D

Yes, I was incredibly lucky I met the right people and was brought under the protective wings of the Tourist Police :D I still wonder about so many details of it all though - but apparently a simply 'lost' passport would not have been able to give me the emergency passport I needed to get out of the country... The idea!


yeah I find that a lost passport wasnt a good enough a reason for a temporary passport quite bizarre

Luckily it was only a point and shoot camera and I had taken no photos that day

Rosanne @soyrosaAugust 2018

Ohhh - lucky you didn't lose files.

Yes, an honestly 'lost' passport should have been enough, right? Like a lost passport can't be a real thing but a stolen one is?


Yeah its crazy how goverments work all over the world


Happen to me once as well in South Korea. But lucky I found it...happy you worked it out...never lie...but you gotta do what you gotta do...

Rosanne @soyrosaAugust 2018

Haha! Yes, if the police tells you to lie you lie! LOL! He must have seen my very puzzled look though :')


@soyrosa Incredible, I imagine your face, all confused, I am glad you didn´t end up in jail

Rosanne @soyrosaAugust 2018

Haha - me too! Yes, my face was confused for a few hours at least that day :')


What a bizzaire experience! Actully, it could have gone worse, they could have not believed you saying who you are and thrown you in jail. A young pretty girl from The Nertherlands, what drugs did she bring in with her 😎😄

Rosanne @soyrosaAugust 2018

It was crazy! Lol! And yes, all the assumptions they could have made if I didn't have a passport anymore and came from the Netherlands... ;-)


Ah man, I can totally feel you panicking here lol.. I am happy to read it all went well, but trust me the asking to lie isn't only there.. When we went to the immigration office here, we were quite "late" you have to be there within 2 months (I believe) but as we didn't have our own apartment from mid september-end of january, we were quite late ;)
So when we had to fill in all these forms, and state from what date we arrived here, my boyfriend was asked to change the date, and sign the document, so he could process it. He literally told him what date to write down and sign it. The shitty thing is I didnt remember what date it said, and sometimes they ask us to fill in the date of arrival, and then I am still scared that somewhere at the government the documents won't add up, and we get in trouble lol.. But I guess no one will ever see the other documents, as they can't access each others system, but still, it feels pretty weird that a government office tells you to lie,right? lol

Rosanne @soyrosaAugust 2018

Oh MY! Hahaha! To know that you have lied about a date on an important form and not remember what date! The first time your realized that you must have started sweating a bit :')

It's so weird if the official institutions ask you to lie - what more happens 'behind the scenes'? Truly truly interesting :-)

wales @walesAugust 2018

Isn't it dangerous there for westerners?

Rosanne @soyrosaAugust 2018

No, at least not back then, I honestly don't know how the country is right now. But I've felt safe for 10 weeks there and I was traveling with another young woman, so :D


Whoa, that is a scary and exciting and frustrating adventure.

Sometimes I think how odd it is that we need passports. I mean I though we were moving to a 'global' world, but I guess that just means for trade.

This is scary, indeed. When I'm abroad I'm always obsessively finding, holding, then replacing my passport. It'd be pretty scary to lose it, but at least you made it out fine in the end.


That was weird, and I bet it made you more conscious about your passport since then.


What a crazy experience in 2010! 😱 So glad you found the passport this time!