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How to Deal With Travel Theft

Judi poses at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Keeping your cool in an uncomfortable situation.

We’ve all heard disaster stories about a friend-of-a-friend that got their wallet or their passport stolen while travelling. Even after hearing more than my fair share, I continued to write these stories off as just that—stories. Not something to worry about because that type of disaster would never happen to me, of all people. However, I wasn’t the impenetrable fortress I thought I was. One day, I found myself halfway through a tour of the Angkor Temples without my Angkor pass, student travel visa and wallet with one day to go before I was booked to fly out of town.

I didn’t even see the swipe coming. A friend and I were entering our fourth Angkor Temple complex of the day, high off the excitement of seeing the iconic temples and laughing at the temple guard who looked at my friend skeptically, claiming the photo on the pass she needed to present to get into the temple complex was “same-same but different” (a famous phrase in Southeast Asia) then her because she had taken her glasses off. After clearing up the confusion, I fumbled to quickly produce my own pass before bolting off for the temple. It wasn’t until we reached our next destination I realized my pass—along with the rest of my wallet, including my cash and student travel visa (which I needed to leave the country), were gone.

While dealing with theft is never fun, I discovered a few key steps to make recovering your lost documents and keeping a level head as smooth as possible:

1. Contact local authorities ASAP. Reporting a lost item or document often needs to be done within 24 hours of the incident, don’t wait around hoping it will turn up.

2. Find out the requirements for replacing lost documents. Some documents may require you to present an original police report in order to obtain a replacement, make sure you know what you need to do so you don’t miss out on something vital.

3. Don’t give up hope. Not all theft stories have a bad ending and while the chance of recovery isn’t incredibly likely, it’s still a possibility.

4. Keep calm and remember where you are. Communication can be difficult across language barriers, but it becomes even more so when you’re flustered. If language is really an issue, it would be worth your while to hire a translator as every detail can be important and you don’t want them getting lost in translation

All of these tips are reactive measures, but taking precautionary preventative measures can save you even more stress. Remember to keep copies of all of your important documents in a secure location. Only carry as much cash on your person as you’re going to need during each outing and keep it in a secure location like a money belt. If you’re leaving any valuables in a hotel or hostel, ask about locker storage options.

Travelling is supposed to be a fun experience and a couple quick steps can ensure that it stays that way.

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Judi Zienchuk

Judi Zienchuk has studied her way across Southeast Asia and boarded down volcanoes in Central America. When she's not gallivanting the globe, you can find her on a bike or consuming large amounts of caffeine. Check out her blog, Travvel Sized.

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