When travelling overseas, there’s almost nothing worse than getting mugged and experiencing the depth of that sinking feeling. Sometimes it can happen so quickly that you don’t even notice. That was the experience I had on a busy London street one dark evening.
I had crouched down, up against a building, to search for something in my crazily over-packed bag. I took the precaution of facing away from the people wandering up and down the footpath, but it was to no avail.
Someone made a loud noise behind me, off to my right, and in a startle, I turned to see what it was. When I turned back, my purse was gone. I had put it on the ground next to my bag and I guess when I turned to the right, a thief sidled up to my left and pinched it. He or she was probably working in a team with the person who created the noisy diversion.
I didn’t see it coming and, extraordinarily, my three travelling companions standing nearby also saw nothing. That’s how swift and crafty muggers can be.
Luckily, I was not carrying too much money and I was able to quickly report my credit card missing. But the inconvenience of having to replace all ID and other items I was carrying in my purse was huge.
I didn’t report it to the police, but according to the Government smartraveller.gov.au website, that is the first thing I should have done.
The site also advises travellers who have been robbed to tell their travel insurance company next. The insurer will expect you to have a copy of the police report, so make sure you obtain one.
If your credit cards have been stolen, contact your financial institution as soon as you can so they can de-activate them, preventing the thief from using them.
If it is your passport that has been nicked, you must report it online. To do this you will have to go through a number of steps to verify your identity, including providing your passport number, so make sure you have that written somewhere else.
If it is during business hours, you then need to find the Australian embassy, consular office or high commission in the city you are visiting and drop in to obtain a replacement. Here is a list of Australian consular offices around the world.
In extenuating circumstances, the offices may be able to lend you money if all yours is stolen and you desperately need some. However, they will first insist that you borrow money from family or friends before you can convince them to give you a loan.
If you are lucky enough to receive a loan, when you return to Australia your passport will likely be held and not returned until you have paid back what you owe.
In a worst-case scenario, for instance, where you may be stranded far from help, you can phone the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas.
Have you ever been robbed overseas? If so, what did you do, and was your experience of international police stations satisfactory?