This is a guest post by Harinie Sekaran, a good friend who emerged a true warrior when things went south.
Five years of world travelling and more than ten countries later, it is a bit ironic that what finally inspired me to write a travel blog is getting robbed in Italy. Read on to know more on “The Big Fat Italian Robbery”.
For those of you out there that do not know me, I am a 30-year-old globe-trotter, fortunate enough to have a husband who also enjoys travelling. Because our best times have always been when we were out and about (blame the wanderlust that just won’t be!), we decided to celebrate my big Three O last year in Italy. A road trip that started in Milan and ended in the Amalfi coast. Oh, and did I mention our anniversary falls around the same time too, and what could be more romantic than a little cliff-side town in southern Italy? 😛 Little did I know!
Getting down to the nitty-gritty, we were robbed in Pisa about 9 days into our 21-day trip. We had parked our car in a public parking lot during the day. This place had a tourist information centre and a McDonald’s, and we were gone for only about 3 hours. When we got back, our car was broken into and all our suitcases and backpacks in the boot were GONE!! Did we think it could be done in broad daylight in a public place? No, not at all! Not once did I think is it was safe to travel to Italy, before I made the travel plan.
These are the ten biggest lessons we learnt from being robbed.
- Until it happens to you, you never believe it can happen to you. Trust me, I have heard multiple stories of people being robbed, and always thought they must have been careless in some way. The reality is it can happen to anyone in the most unexpected way, and any serious traveller has faced this at least once in their travels. So, perhaps, one could consider it a souvenir? 🙂 So, from me to you, yes, it can happen to you despite maximum attention from you.
- If you are travelling with a partner, do not blame them. Do not blame yourself. Work with them to resolve the situation. You might have heard that hindsight is 20-20. This is very true. It is easy to say later that you saw some unsavoury characters strolling by, you never wanted to do this or that, but all of this is only hindsight. Let it be. And work through the situation.
- The first thing you need to decide is – are you going to continue your tour? This depends – if you have had your belongings stolen like us, it is relatively easy, logistically, to keep going. If it is your documents and your card on the other hand, it is a bit harder. Your plans for at least 2-3 days will take a hit while you report this, request replacements etc. Overall though, I would definitely say keep going. It will cost you more to re-schedule your travel, plus you will not even be taking the memories back. Believe me, you will look back on this and laugh, or be proud of yourself or both.
- Now for some logistics – Once you discover the robbery, immediately report the matter to the police. If your car has been broken into, you still need the police report to get the replacement car, so, go to the nearest tourist information centre to find out where the police station is, drive/take a bus to the police station and report the crime.
- If you think some fancy police work is going to magically return your stuff to you, sadly you’re mistaken. We reported the issue on a Friday afternoon in Pisa. The police station looked like an apartment where we had to ring a doorbell to get in. A very nice police officer basically said in his accent – Eeth appens een Indhia andh Italie (it happens in India and Italy). And that was that. They are not really going to seriously look into it because they have a hundred such crimes every day. Because it was the weekend, they only started looking on Monday, and by then, I am sure most of our stuff would have been in the Chinese black market waiting to be sold in India. The police do not aim to catch the thieves; they aim to find whatever they can of your belongings. They will drive around/look around, but it is most likely you will not retrieve your stuff.
- I have heard of money alone being stolen and passports being thrown away because no one can use your passport. I have had fellow travellers say the police have returned their passports to them, which they found discarded in back alleys. Can happen if you’re lucky, but I wouldn’t count on it if I were you. Clearly, your luck was running low, or you wouldn’t have been robbed in the first place 🙂
- Once you have reported the matter, get a copy of the report and produce this at your car rental company. If you have full car insurance (which we always get, and it has served us well) the rental company will replace your car for you at no additional cost. You can be on your merry way, minus several kilograms of baggage. Congratulations, traveling light is the ‘in-thing’. Continue to keep your report copy – you will need it to claim theft insurance.
Alternately, if your passports and money have been stolen/ pick pocketed, after your official police complaint, call your country’s embassy and request a replacement passport. They are quite good with providing advice/guidance. Thankfully, we didn’t have to do this. As for the money, ideally you should have it scattered in multiple places and in a given day, you shouldn’t be carrying more than you need for the day, so you should be alright. If your international travel card has been stolen, then you need to report this to your bank, and they will issue a replacement within two working days.
- This brings us to the next issue; Insure, Insure, and one more time, Insure. Insure your travel, insure your car, and read all the fine print before you choose your plan. We largely purchased travel insurance as a visa necessity and paid the price. Don’t make the same mistake.When you purchase travel insurance, purchase one from a company that provides end to end theft coverage. Ours mentioned theft, but the fine print was that theft from the airline or from the hotel was covered, not during transit. As far as insurance for travellers is concerned, we’ve realized now that World Nomads offers the best insurance in terms of features and pricing. Do check them out. So, lesson learnt: Read the fineprint my friends. It is more than just a formality.
- Resuming the story, after your reporting, there really is nothing more you can do. Breathe, go back to your hotel, and sleep the night off. Or if, like me, your 30th birthday is two days away, make desperate bargains with GOD, coconuts and other offerings thrown into the deal.The next morning, find the closest department store, and use your emergency funds (we carry about 300 euros) to purchase essentials. We went to an outlet mall and purchased three sets of undergarments, three sets of jeans/pants and five tee-shirts each, plus a bag to put this stuff in and we were good to go. For budget travellers in Europe, Alcott, NY and GAP came to our rescue in the form of 5 euro tees and 10 euro jeans. They still work as well, one year later.
- Talk to your friends and family- the people that are your support system can pull you out of the worst situations. That is what happened with us. We spoke to my friends, my husband’s friends, our mutual friends, even our auditor wasn’t spared. Between all of them, they managed to prop up our flailing spirits.Lastly, the hardest part. Try not to think about it and go about your trip. This is easier said than done, but I am truly glad we didn’t fly back to India. It showed me I was made of tougher stuff, and showed us what was really important in life to be happy and content. I had my husband with me during my anniversary, what could be more important? The rest of it is just background noise.
The pictures you see are all the ones taken in Montepulciano, Rome & Amalfi, after the robbery. They just might tell the story of how we got over it and still managed to have a good time.
DON’T FORGET: Purchase the right travel insurance to protect your trip! (You never know what could happen, especially these days! Better to be safe than sorry!)