THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO: RED TAPE ; Your Papers, Please. Passports, Visas, Customs Forms. a World Sans Frontieres Is a Pipe Dream, Says SIMON CALDER. Here He Explains What Documents You'll Need to Travel the World - and What to Do When It All Goes Wrong. Illustration by JAMES FIELD

Article excerpt

I WANT TO LEAVE THE UK.

DO I NEED A PASSPORT?

No, at least in theory. Passport checks on departing travellers have been scrapped. There is no legal requirement to show a passport on your way out of the country. But airlines, train companies and ferry operators usually demand that you show a passport - partly to prove your identity, for security reasons, but also to ensure that you will be admitted to your destination country. One exception is travel to Ireland, where there is no legal requirement to show a passport upon arrival.

IRELAND IS PART OF THE EU, AS IS FRANCE. SO WHY DO I NEED A PASSPORT FOR FRANCE?

Ireland is an anomaly. Since it was established as an independent state, citizens of both countries have enjoyed unfettered travel between the UK and Ireland. But if you are flying, the airline is likely to demand photographic ID - which in practice means either a passport or a driving licence with your mugshot.

HOW DO I GET A NEW PASSPORT?

First, hurry up. The UK Passport Agency has announced yet another dramatic rise in the cost of the document from 2 October. You can renew or apply for a passport online at www.ukpa.gov.uk or pick up an application form from your local post office or Worldchoice travel shop. You can also go along to one of the regional UK passport offices located in Belfast, Durham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Newport and Peterborough. For further information, visit the UKPA website or call the advice line on 0870 521 0410.

Because the cost of an annual passport is to rise from pounds 33 to pounds 42 in October, anyone whose travel document is due to expire before 16 November 2005 will be financially better off to apply now for a replacement.

WITH A PASSPORT, I'M ALL SET?

Your passport may appear to be a licence to travel, complete with the Foreign Secretary's insistence that the bearer should be able "to pass freely without let or hindrance". But that cuts little ice in many parts of the world. Most countries wish to know more about you before they consider you for admission. They will require you to apply for a visa or tourist card either in advance or upon arrival. The easiest such bureaucracy is in countries such as Turkey, where you simply pay pounds 10 upon arrival - though even here it can prove tricky: at some isolated border posts, Scottish pounds 10 notes have been rejected, and some travellers report a scam where "real" pounds 10 notes are sold at an outrageous rate of exchange.

Australia's Electronic Travel Authority is a kind of virtual visa, allowing business visitors and leisure travellers to gain admission after answering a few easy questions from the airline or travel agent.

The toughest visa to obtain among large countries is for Russia, as the queues outside the consulate in west London each morning testify.

I'VE LOST MY PASSPORT:

WHAT SHOULD I DO?

Don't panic, assuming you have planned ahead. Before you travel abroad, get a photocopy of the business page of your passport, and keep it separate from the passport itself; if you have the technology, e-mail details of the number and place and date of issue to yourself. This will make life much easier if your passport is stolen.

If your passport is lost or stolen, the first port of call is to report the loss to the police and obtain an official report.

Next, contact the British Embassy or High Commission in the capital city. In popular destinations, such as France, Spain and the US, there are British Consulates in numerous other cities, too. Consular staff will normally issue a replacement on the spot if you can provide some other evidence of identity, two photographs and the prevailing fee.

HELP! MY PASSPORT HAS EXPIRED AND I NEED A NEW ONE NOW. HOW QUICKLY CAN I GET MY HANDS ON ONE?

You can renew a passport within four hours of an appointment at any of the regional passport offices. …