Traveling causes many occurrences. In my personal experience, most are positive and create memories that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, some experiences are negative and, although we learn from them, living them can be cause of considerable worry and stress.
I want to tell you about one of the most negative experiences, from which I learned to be more careful, plan better and keep in mind security measures that I never thought of before the incident. I also believe this can help other people, to know what to do and, in the best scenario, avoid this from happening altogether.
While visiting another country, my passport was stolen. It happened a few years ago during my first trip to Brazil, although this can happen anywhere. I do not want to scare my readers and make them decide not to consider Brazil in their travels, since it is a wonderful country with many things that are worth it. After that first trip there, I went back many times and no more negative experiences have happened.
I do not wish to focus on the theft itself, since there is not much to tell. It happened in Sao Paulo, four days before my flight back home. At night I went to a bar, it was packed, in a nice neighborhood that was not identified as dangerous. Suddenly I discovered my pants right frontal pocket was empty, where I kept both my telephone and my passport. I did not notice it, so I could not identify the culprit. Luckily, my wallet was in the left pocket. Apart from feeling my trip was ruined, I felt stress and fear of not knowing what to do, since without my passport I could not return to Mexico, my home country.
I love lists, so here are some points on what precautions to have, and what to do in case you find yourself in a similar situation.
1. Have an emergency contact in the country you are visiting.
I have a Brazilian friend that lived in Sao Paulo at that time, and as of this day I am still thankful with her for all the support that she gave me in this situation. Having a local friend is not always possible, since you could be visiting for the first time. You can keep the number of the hotel you are staying in, or your Air B&B contact, a workmate, or any other person that can guide you in case of an emergency and can help if necessary.
2. Take care of your passport or travel document.
I already mentioned this in my tips for international trips. I usually do not keep my passport with me, unless it is necessary and I am moving from one city to the next. I take with me a printed colored copy of my passport, as well as a digital scan of it in my phone. I keep my passport locked in the place I am staying in. A very good option is to purchase an anti-theft bag, one of those that are used below the shirt or pants, so it is never exposed to pickpocketing or theft. I would also keep credit cards and some cash in that bag.
3. Save the embassy data information and research what is required in case you need a passport.
This is also one of my tips for international trips. In my case, my friend knew where the Mexican embassy was and took me there. To enter I had to demonstrate my Mexican nationality, in my wallet I had my national id. I believe there are other ways to probe your nationality in case you have no other document. The people at the embassy where very nice. The explained they could give me an emergency passport (only valid for the days left in my trip). For this I had to present two passport sized photographs, a declaration statement of the theft to local authorities, as well as a digital copy of my Mexican birth certificate, that my mother in Mexico had to scan for me.
This is why in my article of tips for international trips, I recommend having all documents scanned. One important thing to consider is that even when the process is usually fast (one day or less), most embassies only open from Monday to Friday. There are emergency numbers for the embassy, which I also recommend saving in your phone or other place.
4. Report the theft in local authorities and get a theft declaration statement from them.
By advice of my Brazilian friend, I reported the theft with the local authorities. In this kind of crimes, it is very unlikely to find the criminal, nevertheless, this statement document is sometimes necessary to renew other documentation. The emergency passport is only valid for a few days, so you will have to request a regular passport. In Mexico, one of the requirements to renew a passport due to robbery is an official theft declaration statement.
I must add that inside the robbed passport, my tourist visa for the United States was also printed. I had to renew this document again, and since it was due to robbery, one of the documents I had to present was the theft declaration statement from the Brazilian authorities.
5. Do not let emergencies ruin your vision of a country.
The following day of my incident, I refused to go out and keep knowing the city. I was thanks to my friend that I did. She was very ashamed of this happening in her home country, and she kept repeating that I should not let this ruin the whole trip, since I was having a great time so far. I am grateful with her forcing me to keep visiting places. I later learned that there are trips that you will never repeat, and you have to enjoy everything.
Accidents or robberies can happen in any country and, like I said at the beginning of this article, we must not let these case leave us with a negative view of the country. I know of friends that were robbed in countries in Europe or in North America, and still I would not dismiss those places for my future travels.
Unfortunately, there are bad people all around the world. The important thing is to prepare, keep calm, have all precautions in mind and have a support during the situation. I honestly hope you will never have a similar experience, and in case you do, I hope these advices can be helpful to you or any of your friends and family.
Feel free to contact me for questions or additional comments in: firstname.lastname@example.org.