What to do if Your Passport, Phone or Credit Card Gets Stolen Abroad
Here’s what I did when that happened to me
They say to travel is to plunge into the unknown and it’s so true! As I mentioned in my last newsletter (sign up here), when traveling, you never know what could happen; better yet, you should expect crazy things to happen.
Things certainly haven’t always gone as planned for me, but I looked at each one as a learning experience.
My Worst Travel Experience
The first time anything went really wrong during one of my trips was one of the worst experiences.
I was traveling Europe and headed to the outskirts of Rome to visit a friend. I took advantage of visiting the city again since it had been many years since I had been there.
Early one morning, my friend dropped me off at the bus stop. I hopped on the bus to take the metro to Rome’s historic centre.
I grabbed some coffee and a pastry at a cozy cafe, then set out to explore. I ran up the Spanish Steps and took in the view from the top. It was still early in the morning so it wasn’t that crowded. I walked around the historic site admiring the ruins of the Roman Forum, then headed to the main street, Via del Corso.
Via del Corso is the “5th Avenue” of Rome. It’s a shopping street about 1.5 km long and it has something for everyone. It connects two of the most famous piazzas, or squares in Rome – Piazza Venezia and Piazza del Popolo. I went into a store and made a purchase. I was carrying a little crossbody pouch that held my phone, credit card and passport. As I was opening it, the strap broke. I pulled the credit card out and paid and put it back in the pouch. I then put my pouch in my backpack and headed out.
5 minutes later, I sat down to retrieve my phone so I could call my friend. I took my backpack off my pack…and saw it was open. Someone had opened my backpack without me feeling it and, you guessed it, stole the pouch that contained my phone, credit card and passport.
What to do if your phone / credit card / passport gets stolen abroad
Don’t panic and take action right away
I flipped out, of course. I frantically walked down the street until I saw a hotel about two blocks away. I went in and gave myself a few minutes to calm down. “Panicking won’t help,” I told myself. The people at the front desk were nice enough to let me use their phone to call my friend who came to meet me at a metro station. I called some family members back home – of course, none of them answered the phone because they didn’t know the phone number on the caller ID.
Cancel the stolen credit card
Contact your credit card company online or via phone ASAP, tell them it’s been stolen and cancel the card.
Report your phone stolen
Contact your provider and tell them to pause the number so that whoever stole it can’t use it to make calls. I also didn’t have the ‘find my phone’ option then – now I make sure I have it before I travel anywhere.
Report your stolen passport to the police
It was a good thing that my friend was able to take me to a police station and explain what happened in Italian! Be specific and double-check – instead of writing that my passport was stolen, they wrote that it was lost which led to more questions at the airport.
Go to your country’s embassy right away
The next day, I headed to the Canadian embassy in Rome and to my surprise, it was closed. I had forgotten that it was Good Friday, which meant that the embassy would be closed until the following Tuesday – they take Easter weekend very seriously there.
Which meant that I would miss my flight back home as I was set to fly back on Saturday.
I was prepared for most things; I had a spare credit card and a backup phone. But I lost my plane ticket because I could not fly back home without a passport.
My friend had to leave the city for a family trip, so I was on my own. I checked into M&J Hostel Rome, and explained what had just happened to me. They made sure I was ok and invited me to join outings that they organized.
What happened at the embassy
Tuesday came and I got up super early so that I could be one of the first ones to arrive at the Canadian Embassy.
“Any emergency cases?” asked the embassy employee as soon as they opened the door. My hand shot up. “Stolen passport,” I said.
As they handed me some forms to fill out, three other people walked in and all of them had come to report stolen passports.
The form included a story section where I had to describe in detail what happened. They also asked for three references whom they could call to verify my identity.
They told me that they would make me a replacement travel document and that it would be ready the next day. However, they needed to put flight information on it. Since I had missed my flight, they made me book a flight right then and there.
The next day, I went to pick my travel document up. I was set to fly the next day.
A few more tips
Still be prepared for anything to happen
When I got to the airport the next day, my flight information had changed. It no longer matched what was written in the travel document, which made the trip through customs really long as they had to call the embassy and verify that I was the same person.
Think positively and relax
This is easier said than done, but as you wait for everything to come together, try to think positively and relax. Panicking and getting angry won’t help. To calm myself, I made friends at the hostel and did some exploring with them. I also booked a day trip to Naples and Pompeii to take advantage of my time in Italy.
One more thing…get travel insurance that’s affordable
My Canadian travel insurance did not cover the delays and was also expensive to extend.
That’s when I learned about SafetyWing – now an affiliate partner. It saved me from paying hundreds of dollars on travel insurance extension. It also gave me piece of mind that I would be covered in case something else happened.
SafetyWing provides health and travel insurance. You can purchase a policy even if your trip has already started. You can pause and resume coverage with flexibility. It covers you in 185 countries and you don’t need to let them know about your itinerary in advance.
Have you ever gotten pickpocketed or robbed abroad? How did you deal? Let me know!