I’ve been fortunate enough to do a bit of travelling in my time. I wouldn’t call myself extensively travelled or anything, I’ve never had the budget for that, but nevertheless I’ve been a few places. I like to think that I’m careful and mindful of my surroundings, but it would be fair to say I’m not super vigilant. I definitely like to be aware, and I know that wherever I go I will always look like a tourist, despite trying not to, but I don’t wear my backpack on my front, I don’t have a money belt, and I don’t clutch my handbag like it contains all my worldly possessions… which is never does! I suppose I try to look like somewhat confident and comfortable as a deterrent to those who might like to fleece travellers.
This year in Nice France, my confident and comfortable look came somewhat unstuck when I got robbed at the train station… actually on the train. It’s hard to look like you know what you’re doing and where you’re going while lugging a giant heavy suitcase around.
That’s learning point 1: Do you really need all that stuff you’re taking on holiday with you?
I’ve had lots of good times on holiday and I’ve had those really fortunate occasions where luck has definitely been on my side, so in a swings and roundabouts type of situation it was probably my turn for a bit of bad luck, and that bad luck was letting myself get fleeced of my wallet, cards and train tickets on a train from France to Italy.
The good thing was that I was on my was to Italy to see friends, who had a telephone, and the internet so I could try and sort out things…. They also had wine, and were AMAZING. If I was staying in a hotel or hostel I might have lost the plot.
So learning point 2: Be thankful for good friends!
The cash in my wallet got stolen, but I had a small amount in my pocket, literally 16 Euros.
Learning point 3: Carry more cash in your pocket, or bra, or shoe.
I had to change trains in Italy but that train ticket was in my wallet. It was only luck that I had bought a coffee and put the change in my pocket that I had some cash on me. In future I’ll carry some ‘emergency’ cash on my actual person
Normally I would not have all my cards in one place but as I was going to another country I had them all on me… and they all got taken. I wasn’t so bothered about that as I imagined I’d just phone the credit card and travel card companies and they bank and they’d sort it out…. Rookie mistake!
I called the emergency Credit Card number and they stopped my card immediately, which is great. But then they said they had to talk to the bank before they could issue a new card and the bank wasn’t open. They wanted an address to send the new card to, but couldn’t tell me when it would arrive, which posed a problem as I was travelling and I needed to know what day it would arrive to know what address to tell them. They ended up saying, tell us the address you’re at now and we’ll change it after talking to the bank. Next thing I know I get a text message saying they’re delivering my new card in 3 days to Italy…. When I’ll be in Spain.
Learning Point 3: Find out what happens when cards get stolen before you choose that card/leave the country.
My Airline travel money card was worse. They said they could organise a replacement card in 14-21 days. I said that wasn’t good enough and most people didn’t have holidays that long, and they said the emergency time for a faster delivery was 7 to 14 days. I also said that wasn’t good enough. They did also said they could arrange cash from Western Union, which meant I wouldn’t be without money, but given I’d just had the cash in my wallet stolen, organising replacement cash as the sole option for 14-21 days didn’t really seem like the best idea to me.
Learning Point 4: Find out how long it will take for replacement cards to arrive and the procedure for getting them before you choose that card.
One of the notable things with both card companies was that I wasn’t talking to people in the country where I got the card. I was talking to overseas call centre workers who consistently told me they ‘understood’ my problem, which they clearly didn’t. They would not deviate one second from the pre scripted lines they were allowed to say, and when you presented a problem that wasn’t one of their listed options, they could not respond. It was only once I got in touch with someone at my bank in Australia and explained the same situation to them that common sense kicked in and further action was taken.
Learning Point 5: Do whatever you can to speak to someone at your bank or card company in your own country, and not in an offshore call centre… even if that means staying up until 2am so you can call your bank during Australian business hours.
The only other problem I had was my driver’s licence. I was hiring a card in Ireland and needed it. Organising a new one wasn’t hard at all. I could do that online and they’d send it to my Australian address. Normally I have my mail held when I travel but this time I had fortunately had it re-directed it to my cousin’s house. So it arrived at her place and she couried it me. I can’t imagine what kind of trouble would have occurred if I had my mail held at the post office, but I assume my month long road trip would not have happened.
Learning Point 6: Consider re-directing mail instead of having it held when you’re away.
Getting robbed at the beginning of my holiday was not fun, but I do feel like I’m a bit more knowledgeable now. I also have a loose plan in my head for a hard to pick pocket handbag. I should get on to that.