Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Stolen wallet/passort... now what?

While I haven't had my passport stolen, I have had my wallet (and all my money and bank cards) stolen while travelling in a foreign country... three times. It's not that I'm careless, it's just that the pick-pocketers are more skilled than I am, apparently. But what do you do if you lose it all? It can happen in an instant. All it takes is one second, you put down your bag and look away. SWOOSH!

You look back and it's gone. The feeling of dread sets in, you freak out and you think it's hopeless. A lot of travellers think they're immune to situations like this one, but truth is, it happens at the exact moment you let your guard down. So here's what to do if it happens to you.

Yeah, right. I know. Don' be hard on yourself because it happens to even the most seasoned travellers. Take a few breaths, and get yourself together. Having a positive attitude is the best way to solve the problem since we all know panic is the worst way to solve a problem.

First thing's first. Go to the police office and report the loss or theft. Get a copy of the report, it will make replacing your passport easier or file an insurance claim for pricey travel gear or rail passes. If you're lucky your bag might actually turn up again! (This happened to me 1/3 times, I actually got my wallet back, sans money though).

Since travelling even on the cheapest flights requires a passport, this is the next thing you need to do. It is your only piece of globally-accepted identification. Head to the closest embassy or consulate. Most have emergency numbers but others you'll need to go to during opening hours and wait your turn. Generally replacement passports are available within a few days. They can also arrange for someone at home to "wire" you some money if you haven't done that already.

Generally you should cancel your banking cards within 48 hours. Most major credit cards can get you a replacement within a day or two in the Balkans. Some even wire money over to you to help pay your food/accommodations in the mean time.

In some cases, losing important travel documents may mean staying put for a little longer than you planned. The most important thing is to be flexible. Cancel hotel reservations and rearrange flights as soon as possible to avoid any further penalizations. Try to keep cool, it's not the end of the world and at the end of it all, it will probably make a good story by the time you get home.

Have you ever had everything stolen while travelling? What was the first thing you did? What do you wish you had some differently in the heat of the moment?

[images from zoetnet and jackpix from Flickr, creative commons]