How to survive a lost or stolen purse abroad and no money
Rachael is studying Modern Languages, French and Italian at Cardiff Uni, and spent the first semester of her year abroad studying at the University of Nantes and the second on a work placement in Florence.
>Please enter your pin< reads the cash machine, now for the third time. I think it strange but try again anyway. Third time lucky? I forget the fact that it’s not my usual travel money card. I’d lost that with my purse a few days ago in some American karaoke bar. I enter the final digit and upon doing so come to the horrible realisation that it is in fact my English bank card, my supposed “back up” card. Well, not anymore. In the blink of an eye, the machine swallows up my card, my lifeline gone. And I’m left wondering where on earth I go from here.
It’s every traveller’s worst nightmare; being stuck abroad with pretty much no readily accessible money. It can make a foreign country that once seemed like a magical adventure playground; now suddenly become a place of isolation and fear. As a year abroad student in Italy at the time, it was a classic mishap that I can laugh about now but one that at the time left me feeling very vulnerable and scared.
Losing your wallet is a common issue that unfortunately many travellers face every year. However, it needn’t put a damper on your trip as by knowing what to do in such a scenario and taking extra precautions, it will help to ease that initial blow and make things that little bit easier.
Here are some tips should you lose your wallet abroad and find yourself in a similar cash-strapped situation:
1. First things first
Make sure you go to the police as whether it’s your wallet or passport that has been lost or stolen, you should always report it to your nearest police station.
Also remember to contact your bank if your missing purse or wallet contained a credit, debit card or prepaid travel money card, as you will need to cancel it to avoid fraudulent use. You can then order a new card to be sent for as soon as possible (up to 3 days) to a safe address. Be aware that most card companies will only send to the address on record, usually your home address, where a family member will then have to send it abroad to you. Before you go it’s a good idea to make scans or photocopies of your various credit or debit cards and keep a note of your bank’s specific number for reporting lost or stolen cards.
2. Always have an emergency stash back at your accommodation
It’s at times like these when you wish you’d kept an extra few pounds stored safely at home, as you just never know when you might need it. If you’re travelling regularly from one place to another and absolutely have to take all your money, be sure to keep your money in different areas on your body which aren’t easily accessible, either in a zipped up pocket or in a money belt.
3. Have a contact at home who can send you money to the relevant bank account/card
If your wallet has been lost or stolen and you need a little extra cash to help you out in the meantime, it’s generally pretty straightforward for someone at home to transfer money to your bank account for you then to withdraw. However in my case, if you’ve lost your debit card too, you could always get the money transferred to the account of a trustworthy travel friend. There are other ways to send money too if bank accounts can’t be accessed, like through an international money transfer site such as Azimo or Transferwise which specialise in transfers online with many sending options available.
4. Note down FCO consular office or embassy addresses
In the event that you lose or have your wallet stolen and are left stranded without financial means to return to your home in the foreign country, you will need to contact the local consular or embassy office of the place you are staying. Make sure you have the all contact details of the relevant consular and embassy offices before you jet off.
5. There are worse things you can lose like your passport
According to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in 2014/15 20,663 British passports were reported lost or stolen worldwide. Whilst losing your wallet can be stressful, losing your passport is even more so as firstly it means you can't get home and it can take time to sort, not to mention be very costly. Leave your passport in a safe in your accommodation and take copies out rather than the real thing. If you can’t avoid having your passport, keep it in a safe place on you at all times and be aware of pickpockets.
So, other than “that time I lost my purse abroad and had no money for a week”, I was thankfully able to avoid any other major disasters for the rest of my year spent travelling, all thanks to the fact that I carefully researched each of my destinations before I went. If you’re thinking of going travelling to whatever country it may be, be sure to plan ahead of your trip.
Follow Rachael Harper on Twitter: @rache_harps
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