When the Worst Happens – What to Do If You Lose Everything

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Picture the scene: You’re riding in the back of a Tuk-Tuk taxicab through the streets of Cambodia, chatting to the friendly taxi driver with broken English.

You’re on your way back to the hostel after a nice day of sightseeing when you feel the urge for a light refreshment. You ask the taxi driver to pull over at the upcoming 7/11 store (yes, they have those in Cambodia), where you hop out to grab yourself a soda.

You pay for the drink with the spare change in your pocket, leaving your bag in the Tuk-Tuk.

Less than a minute later you’re back outside, but the taxi is gone – nowhere to be seen – along with all of your belongings.

Lost passportYour mind races to remember what was in your bag… Your wallet, your passport, your credit cards. They’re all gone. You’ve lost everything.

This is a true story of someone I met whilst traveling through Cambodia.

Thankfully, the odds are that this (or something similar) won’t happen to you, but just in case it does, it’s best to know how to act in these situations.

The following tips will help you to recover from this seemingly desperate situation with relative ease:

Take a Deep Breath

First things first, take a deep breath and try to calm down. Panicking won’t help to resolve the situations. Don’t blame yourself for losing your things – it could happen to even the most experienced of travelers.

Take a minute to assess the situation and set out an action plan in your head. How much money do you have on you? Can you get back to where you’re staying?

Enlist Help

In times such as these, it is good to ask for help from those around you (especially if you’re traveling solo).

You may be far away from your hostel/hotel, so you may need money (for a taxi/bus) to get you back there.

Even if you’re in a country where English isn’t the first language, it’s likely that you’ll run into some other English-speaking travelers or an English speaking shopkeeper/hostel owner who can help you.

File a Police Report

Once you’ve got your bearings, the first thing to do is to file a police report. This might seem like a pointless exercise (as it’s unlikely they’ll be able to find and return your items), but in order for you to make a claim on your travel insurance you have to have filed a police report.

If you’re in a non English speaking country you’ll probably need to get an English speaking local to help you with this, as they’ll be able to explain your situation to the police in their local tongue (either over the phone or in person at the police station).

Cancel your Debit/Credit Cards

Make sure to cancel any debit or credit cards you may have lost as soon as possible. Some banks allow you to do this online, but if not you’ll need to call one of the ‘global assistance centers’:

  • Visa: 410/581-9994
  • MasterCard: 636/722-7111
  • American Express: 623/492-8427

Although it’s possible to have a new card sent to your home within a few working days, if you’re half way around the world this isn’t much use to you.

If you have no other cards, no traveler’s checks and no travel buddy to lend you money, you may need to ask someone at home to send you money via Western Union. This is a fairly easy process, and allows you to pick up money from one of the thousands of Western Union branches worldwide (providing you have photo ID proving your identity).

Get a New Passport

If you’re lost your passport, your first priority should be replacing it (especially if you have no other ID on you). Without your passport you’ll have a difficult time leaving the country or checking into new hostels.

To get a replacement passport, you’ll need to go to your nearest embassy (you can find the location of embassies by looking online) or consulate.

A new passport will probably cost you around $140, and should arrive within a few days. If you’re in dire need of a passport and you manage to argue your case for this, there’s a chance it may arrive faster.

If you don’t have the required $140 on your persons, the embassy will allow you to contact someone at home who can wire the money straight to the embassy for you.

Remember that no matter how bad the situation might seem, you’re never more than a few steps away from remedying it. Be prepared to be patient, however, as some matters take time to resolve. Just think about what a great story all of your misfortunes will make when you return home.


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