What to do if you get robbed abroad
Sarah Ricketts is in her fourth year studying History and Political Science at the University of Birmingham, and spent her third year abroad studying at the National University of Singapore. During a trip with her family to Malacca in Malaysia, she was robbed. Here's what happened, and her advice if it happens to you...
I got robbed.
Now I’ve got your attention let me talk about something completely different… Just kidding. This isn’t link-bait. I got robbed. I’m going to tell you how, what I should have done differently and what to do if you get robbed abroad.
I’m lucky enough to have parents who love travelling, so when I got offered a place to study in Singapore for a year they were quick to plan a holiday to Malaysia for my Christmas break. The plan was to meet in Singapore before heading to Malacca, Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia. When the time came we met at my university, enjoyed a nice dinner and had an early night before our 8am train to Malacca. When we arrived I was pretty excited; Malacca is steeped in history, dating back to a Muslim Sultanate before it was captured by the Portuguese in 1511 and its food markets are legendary.
We spent the first day wandering around, visiting a museum and watching the market sellers begin to set up. We decide to go back to the hotel to freshen up (as the weather in Malaysia is unforgiving) before venturing out for food. Our hotel (Majestic Malacca) was beautiful, but just on the outskirts of the main tourist hub. As we were getting to the hotel we crossed over to get to the side of the street it was on, we came to the entrance I felt a sudden pull on my shoulder bag, I hung on, hit the tarmac and was dragged along for a few seconds before letting go. I lost my camera, my phone and my mum’s favourite scarf, along with large chunks of my elbow and knee.
Robberies happen, you can’t always stop them. But I had made two big mistakes that made me more vulnerable. I had a shoulder bag instead of a backpack. This allowed somebody to drive up on a motorbike and pull it off me relatively easily; I haven’t (yet) heard of anyone having a backpack pulled off them by motorbike.
This motorbike trick is a well known issue that happens universally to tourists.
The other mistake I made was not changing the side my shoulder bag was on when I crossed the road. If you do like taking a shoulder bag abroad make sure whatever side of the road you are walking on have your bag on the inside, away from any traffic (i.e. between you and the buildings).
Another mistake I made, which was personally more upsetting, was not backing up my camera pictures from my previous holiday. They were only on the memory card that was still in my camera - I lost four weeks’ worth of pictures, including pictures with old friends I hadn’t seen in years. Always remember to take spare memory cards and change them over regularly! This helps ensure that if anything happens to your camera you will still have some photos.
I was lucky that I was with my parents, because this meant I wasn’t carrying my purse on me. When possible carry only the essentials - enough money for the day (possibly some spare cash hidden somewhere like your shoe) and a bankcard if you feel it’s necessary. If you can, keep your passport under lock and key at your accommodation! Losing your passport is going to cost you more than you expect and can also be a big issue for the rest of your holiday. However some countries do require you to carry it on you so be sure to check the local laws beforehand.
What do you do if it happens?
I got some plasters from the hotel and then called a taxi to take me straight to the police station. By filing a police report I knew I could then claim (some) costs back from my insurance company. My insurance had a clause that meant I could only claim a small amount back from items like mobile phones – be sure to check these clauses before purchasing insurance! (Check out my article on finding the right insurance).
As I hadn’t lost my passport, bankcards etc. there wasn’t much else I could do. If you lose your bankcards make sure you cancel them straight away! It’s useful to have your card number recorded somewhere to make this easier. As for your passport, report it immediately. Again, its useful to have a copy of your passport stored away somewhere in your hotel. You can also go and speak to your local British embassy if you need any support! A list of the embassies can be found here.
Finally, remember to enjoy the rest of your holiday! You deserve it.