Getting robbed while abroad is not fun - there’s no other way to put it. But, even in the worst circumstances, there are ways in which you can save your trip from becoming a disaster after the unfortunate incident.
In my years of travel, I’ve had my share of pickpockets and
assaults (both at knifepoint and gunpoint). I’d like to share the things I’ve
learned from those experiences, so you know what to do and what not to do,
during and after getting robbed.
Try to minimize your losses
This one is a prevention tip. Whenever you head out, carry only the cash you will need for the day, the cards you know you’ll use, and a copy of your passport (instead of the real one). Leave all jewelry, passport, extra cash and cards secure in a safety
deposit in your hotel. Should you get robbed or pickpocketed on the street, at least you won’t lose everything.
Don’t argue and don’t fight with your assailant
Your assailant won’t care about a thing you say to them. Their goal is to get the most they can from you, and they will push forward with it. Most of the time they are scared because they know they are on the wrong side, so it’s best if you keep calm
and just hand over whatever you have visible. Scared people tend to be the most impulsive, and it is during those times that the worst outcomes happen.
I learned this the hard way when I was assaulted at knifepoint in
Morocco. I resisted and defended myself, only to give up the fight when I was
hit on the head with the butt of the knife. Luckily I wasn’t stabbed, but it
could have been worse.
Contact the police and make a report about it
If your travel or other insurance covers the loss or damage of property while abroad, a police report of the incident, detailing every item lost, will be essential to make your insurance claim. Additionally, the police report can be useful or required
when soliciting an emergency passport at the Embassy.
At first, it might seem like a waste of time, but trust me, it can be handy, especially when crossing borders or checking in at the airport with your emergency passport. Some immigration agents might question the veracity of the emergency passport, so
having the police report adds weight to it.
Go to the U.S. Embassy (or your respective Embassy)
In cases where you lose or have your passport stolen while traveling abroad, you can go to your respective Embassy or consulate and apply for an emergency passport. U.S. Embassies give priority to people requesting an emergency passport to continue their
trip or to leave the country. Try going to the Embassy right after you’ve finished with the police.
In order to receive a new passport, you will have to fill out a lost passport statement, also known as a DS-64. You can do this online before going to the Embassy by visiting the State Department’s website.
In addition to the DS-64, you will also need the following in order to replace your passport:
- A passport photo (it is recommended that you get this in advance prior to starting the process to replace your passport)
- Identification (such as driver’s license or photocopy of stolen passport)
- Evidence of U.S. citizenship (such as photocopy of your stolen passport)
- Travel itinerary (transportation tickets)
- DS-11 Application for Passport (this can be completed at time of application)
Cancel all your credit and debit cards
If you lost your credit and debit cards, call your bank immediately or access your online banking to cancel or freeze every single card lost. Banks care about your money’s safety, so they'll place the block immediately. Depending on your bank, they might
even send a new card to your destination, which usually takes three to seven days to arrive.
Also, do a detailed check of every transaction in your accounts to make sure there are no unauthorized transactions. These days, most bank account and credit cards have fraud protection, so they would investigate the charges and cancel them if proved
How to get cash when you can’t access your money
Should you get stuck with absolutely no money and no cards when abroad, you could contact family or friends back home to ask for some temporary help. They could lend you some money via Western Union. While there’s a fee to send and receive money, the
transaction is immediate and easily accessible, and there are Western Union locations all over the world.
Your Embassy should be able to provide you information on the most reliable ways to get money for the lowest fees. They should also be able to provide you with information for the closest locations, as well.
Should you not be able to get money in any way, you could head back to the Embassy for help. The Embassy could be open to fly you back home immediately, with the agreement that you will pay for the flight after you’ve settled back home. Know that this
last minute flight could be very expensive, so it would be my last option if it were me.
Don’t be afraid to ask for local help
Believe it or not, the number of people willing to help others greatly exceeds the number of people looking to harm you. Should you be in need, don’t be afraid to ask for some help. While I haven’t been in the situation of asking for help due to
robbery, I once received help from an old lady in Guatemala after I got a knee
injury. She offered to let me stay at her home so her son, who is a doctor,
could check the wound. She also offered to stay there as long as I needed to
Who knows, maybe you could get help from someone who could open the doors to their home for a night or two, or someone willing to offer you some food while you get things in order.
Getting robbed abroad feels awful, but it's not the end of the world, and you won't be left stranded in a foreign country either. As mentioned above, there are ways to solve this, so the best way to deal with the situation is to stay calm, think clearly
of all the options, and pursue with the best one.
Make a claim to your insurance once you’re back home
Depending on your insurance policy, you might be able to claim lost cash (up to a limit), lost goods, and medical expenses, if needed. How to claim, what proof is required, and what is covered
depends greatly on your policy, so before buying it, make sure you read the fine print and all the details to know exactly what’s covered and what is not.
Arch RoamRight travel insurance plans have maximums for stolen items, including a per item maximum and a combined limit maximum for valuables (such as jewelry and electronics):
Limit for Valuables
When traveling, it is essential that you save your receipts in the event you need to make a claim. Arch RoamRight does not require original receipts when you submit claim. Taking pictures of your receipts and storing them in your Arch RoamRight app or
other cloud service can help keep them secure even if your cell phone is stolen.
Arch RoamRight policies have coverage exclusions when it comes to stolen items. These exclusions are common across the travel insurance industry, and include items such as:*
- Automobiles and automobile equipment, boats or other vehicles or conveyances, motorcycles, trailers, motors, or aircrafts
- Bicycles, except when checked as baggage with a common carrier
- Eyeglasses, sunglasses, contact lenses, artificial teeth, dentures, dental bridges, retainers, or other orthodontic devices or hearing aids
- Artificial limbs or other prosthetic devices
*This is not meant as an exhaustive list. For a full list of exclusions, please read the policy prior to purchase.