Ask Kate: What Do I Do If My Stuff Is Stolen?

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What to do if your stuff is stolen while traveling

Getting things stolen sucks.  But if you’re a traveler, it will most likely happen to you at some point or another.  Here’s what to do if it happens to you.

Hi Kate, I just wanted to send you a quick note while I am in London, although the weather is wonderful I have not been having such a great time.

For starters I have come down with a cold, but the thing that I am writing about is my cell phone was stolen! Right from under my nose (not even 2 inches from my right hand). I was sitting having dinner and someone came by with magazines, covered my iPhone and grabbed it. Before I could gather my belongings, he was out the door and gone.

I have gone to the police station and reported it as well will be going to the Apple stores to report it tomorrow, changed all my passwords etc, and contacted home to let them know, but I was wondering as one of your ask Kate’s if you could write about what to do when you are a victim of theft while traveling.

Whether is is something like your cellphone or even wallet, passport etc. I am not sure if you have written about this, but I think (based on my recent circumstances) it would be almost reassuring for others (any myself) to know that it does happen, regardless how cautious you may be and that it is fixable  and how to fix it and continue to enjoy your trip.

For me the hardest part is still trying to enjoy myself. It was always something I worried about and never thought it would happen to me; I am always very careful, I never thought someone would just grab something and run.

I’m so sorry that this happened to you.  But please know that you’re not alone.  Nearly every serious traveler gets robbed at some point.  I’m no different — I’ve been mugged in Boston, pickpocketed in Buenos Aires, and robbed after my shipwreck in Indonesia.

You did the right things.  For now,

What do you do if you get robbed while traveling:

Step 1: If you’re injured, get help immediately.

Step 2: If your credit cards were stolen, call your credit card companies to cancel them as soon as possible.

Step 3: Go to the police and make a police report.  Even if you think it’s unlikely that the person who robbed you will be caught, a police report is necessary to receive compensation from your travel insurance company.

Step 4: Get in touch with your travel insurance company and talk with them about how to proceed.

Travel insurance is vital, and it’s something that I don’t spend enough time talking about here.  In short, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.

As an American expat who spends part of the time in the US but most of the time abroad, I now use IMG health insurance and Clements property insurance.  IMG the cheapest way for me to get healthcare both in the US and abroad (on the condition that I spend less than six months in the US each year), and because it’s health insurance only, I need to supplement it with property insurance.

However, before I became a full-time expat, I used World Nomads, which covers health, property, and travel plans as long as you’re out of the country or 100 miles from home (read the fine print to find out EXACTLY what they cover).  I recommend them to non-American travelers and Americans who have health insurance covering them in the US.

How to Recover From Robbery

It’s easy to sink into despair when something bad happens to you while traveling.  If you get robbed, here’s what to do:

Determine whether you need what was stolen in order to continue enjoying your trip.  There is no way I could travel anywhere without a camera.  If all of my cameras were stolen (let’s hope that never happens), I would buy one immediately, because that’s how much I value having quality photos from my trip.  I very rarely buy souvenirs because I consider my photos my souvenirs.

But if it were, say, my iPad that was stolen?  I’d wait until I got home to buy a new one, depending on the length of the trip.

The good things about Apple products is that the prices are standard internationally, and you can easily get an iPhone in the UK for the same price at home.  If you’re on a wireless plan that will replace an iPhone at a reduced cost, though, that can be an issue.  If an iPhone is hugely important to you for this trip, I suggest you buy a new iPhone in London at full price and sell it for almost full price when you get home (while replacing it with a prorated iPhone you can buy once you get home).

Once you’ve replaced all that you need to replace, try to pick yourself up.  I’ll give you the same advice I gave the girl whose trip was being ruined by heartbreak: throw yourself into activities and exploring and spending time with new people.  Resist the urge to be alone, and do more than you’d usually do on your own.

In time, you’ll be creating more happy memories in new places with new people — and that should life you out of your funk.

Good luck, and I wish you the best.

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46 thoughts on “Ask Kate: What Do I Do If My Stuff Is Stolen?”

  1. We had all out luggage stolen form our car in Costa Rica. We’d read never to leave anything in the car, and were vigilant for most of the trip. They day before we left, we left our car for about 30 minutes in a public spot in the middle of the day. When we came back, everything was gone. It sucked, but at least it was at the end of the trip. Also had kept our “vault” bag…passports, money, camera lenses, tickets….with us, so all that stuff was fine.

    Also my husband almost had a few hundred dollars lifted from his wallet in Barcelona, but he caught on to what was happening and slapped the girl (on her hands), making her drop our euros. It fell to the ground but she was too shocked to move and we picked it all up.

    A long time ago I got swarmed by a bunch of street urchins in Paris. They didn’t get my camera, but they stole something out of my shopping bag (don’t remember what it was. Just some clothes or something.) Annoying, but no bigs.

    If you travel a lot, all you can do is be aware and accept the fact that these things will happen. Back up your photos, keep copies and scans of your important papers & passports, etc, etc.

  2. I’ve been quite lucky on my travels, the worst thing that has been taken from me was a headband (although it was a really nice headband 😉 ).
    I try to keep everything valuable on my person at all times, and when that isn’t possible I put in a locker using my own lock so I’m still covered by travel insurance if its stolen.

  3. I guess the best advice is to go through all the appropriate steps (police report, replacing what you can, etc.), and then just do whatever you can to move past it and not let it color your entire trip.

    Though, I suppose if you had all your money stolen, that might be tough! Just one more good reason to NEVER carry/keep all your valuables in one place.

  4. It’s pretty disheartening to think that at one point you will be robbed while traveling. But I guess the best thing to do is be prepared – thank you for the tips.

  5. I had about 80 US dollars worth of Malaysian Ringgit stolen from my bag in Thailand. I look at it as an $80 lesson, as I had my (MUCH more expensive) telephoto lens and computer in the same bag. Now I’ll always carry those on my person! Frankly I can’t believe I didn’t from the beginning. After 9 months of nomading, though, knock on wood, I’m doing alright.

  6. This is something I know a bit too much about – 2012 was the year of lost things! I had two cell phones and even my laptop stolen, but am sure to ALWAYS keep the serial number somewhere so that I can report the items and use them for police reports. I live in Spain, and these numbers are essential to be able to even file a report. Even though I haven’t had a single on recovered, knowing I took the write steps to try and get them back had me in piece – and it allowed me to upgrade on all accounts!

  7. I’ve been contemplating getting some travel insurance but am still on the edge. So many little details because the police stations in third world countries aren’t the best. I’ve actually been to the police station in the Dominican Republic and it was 2 weeks before I could even file a report. I’m here for a while now so I wasn’t time sensitive.

  8. The wonderful thing is that everything is replaceable.


    We have always said that people can take everything, and we mean everything – as long as we have our photos. Although inconvenient, you can get everything back: passports are replaceable. iPhones are replaceable. Even cameras are replaceable.

    However, the one thing you can never get back are photos. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS back up your photos online – whether that be in a drop box, iCloud or flikr. You can never do this too soon.

  9. My ex-partner had his bumbag (fannypack…don’t EVEN get me started on why he was wearing one) robbed when we went to Rome. We don’t know how it happened, but just know that his passport, credit cards, cash and keys to the bags were in there. The card companies were the first places we contacted, and then had to file a police report (Italian police…dreadful…) before heading to the embassy for a replacement passport.

    Great advice here, Kate. Theft can happen to even the most cautious of travellers.

  10. Good advice!! This can happen to anyone so it’s best to be prepared. I get robbed on a semi-regular basis where I live in Central America…I just don’t carry much cash on me, never bring my credit cards out unless I have to, and I have a cheapo local phone instead of carrying my iPhone around all the time.

  11. Excellent tips Kate! I haven’t had anything stolen, but I’ve been a part of many attempted robberies. My fingers are crossed that this won’t happen to me, but I’ll keep this post in my bookmarks in case it does.

  12. Wonderful tips Kate!
    I never travel too far from my home, LOL, but surely will keep your advices on my mind.
    Hopefully I can travel far someday. 🙂

  13. I’m so sorry that happened to you! I was mugged on my first night in Colombia so I feel you. My renters insurance covered my lost belongings, which was a lifesaver. Just get a police report! I also always back up my photos and take the memory card out of my camera when I’m done taking pictures. The hardest part is definitely coming to terms with things emotionally, but you’ll get there!

  14. Theft can happen to anyone. Someone on a scooter tried to rip my handback off me in Phnom Penh once. Luckily I held onto it, so he didn’t get it, but if he had he would have got my cell and camera. I would have been gutted. So yes, inusrance is soo important!

  15. Luckily I havent had anything stolen whilst travelling but I remember a guy in my dorm room in Santiago Chile had his camera charger stolen out of the plug socket next to his bed. Admittedly not the most vsluable thing to have stolen but I find it rather strange as I’m sure it would have been of little value to the person who stole it!!

  16. Important topic! Getting things stolen, lost or broken definitely happens while traveling. After having my DSLR camera and best lens stolen in Kenya my advice is to back up your photos each day. Through some miracle my memory card was not in my camera when it was stolen and I did not lose all of my safari photos. Also, more importantly, don’t risk injury or worse to hang on to your things if you’re being robbed. Stuff and cash can always be replaced.

  17. One of my biggest concerns about theft when I’m traveling is my passport getting stolen. I learned from a friend who had this done to her to keep a scanned image of your passport’s identification page, which is the best document to have for getting new I.D. from a consulate. Although, it does mean you have to succeed in keeping your smartphone from being stolen…

  18. I was mugged in Colombia. Thankfully my passport was in the hostel safe, but I lost a lot of other things. It took me a whole day to file a police report as each station sent me on a wild goose chase to find another – it was an interesting way to see Cali! Making a list of everything that was taken immediately after the robbery is a good idea so you can file an insurance claim and make sure they have all the information they need to process it. My insurance company wanted me to post all of the original documentation and receipts, so I asked if they’d wait a few months until I was back in the UK. Then it was just a case of taking a big shopping trip to replace all of the missing items. Travel money cards are also a good idea as thieves are much less likely to be able to withdraw funds if they take one of these than your official bank cards.

  19. I’m lucky enough that I haven’t had anything stolen from me on my travels yet but great advice for when it does happen… I doubt I’ll manage to avoid it all my life!

  20. We have been robbed only once during the past 8 years on the road and that happened in Spain. What we have learned is that reporting to police is pretty much waste of time. The same goes with travel insurances, unless you want to spend a lot of time fighting with them. The easiest way is to forgive, because the guy who took your stuff must have needed it more than you. Happy travels!

    1. Travel insurance is never a waste — just ask Theodora of Her son broke his arm very badly in rural Mongolia and they were able to get flown to Hong Kong.

  21. Thanks for the great tips. We have been lucky enough (any my husband’s paranoia has helped, too) to travel to many places all over the world without falling victim to thieves {knock wood]

  22. I know how it feels to have your things stolen overseas 🙁 That is why it is great if you have a travel insurance because you do not know what kind of mishap might happen to you when you are travelling!

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  24. Hello ! .. Can any body advise me what to do , as I’m currently in Ibiza ( Bora Bora Apartments ) and I returned back to the apartment and I found the door always broken and someone stolen all my stuff and bag .. But thankfully I had my wallet , money & passport with me , and I reported to the reception and the police came and checked the broken door and they told me to go tomorrow in the morning to the nearest police station to report it , so I’m wondering if there is any way to claim for the stolen stuff as I had much valuable stuff in the bag ?

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  26. Hi kate. Almost all my cash has been stolen while travelling in bangkok will i be compensated if i report to the police?will i need to bare much hassle?i am in a serious trouble..

  27. Chargers left in the wall are a real problem in some hostels … one person takes two by accident then it becomes a scramble amongst those left in the room to steal from one another – unfortunately at times like this I have seen selfishness shine through in some really friendly people. Lesson learned: hostels with personal electrical outlets are the gold standard, just charge your phone beside you while you sleep and pack the charger away every morning. A low value item but a massive inconvenience for the traveller with no battery life

  28. Hi Kate,
    My money got stolen today in a tiny village in turkey today, about 2200 liras . I made a police complaint etc. I am a first time solo traveller. I have access to cash to continue with the rest of my trip comfortably, but I feel betrayed and upset. I am a budget traveller and was quite happy about the way I was managing my exprnses up until this happened. I have no travel insurance. Can you please say something to just help me feel better and enjoy the rest if my trip? I would be really grateful.

    1. Sajini, I already emailed you, but I know you can get through this. This doesn’t have to define your trip. Focus on having a good time and enjoying beautiful experiences throughout the country. And PLEASE get insurance next time. This is why you get insurance. You can even get insurance now for the rest of your trip.

  29. Deborah Devincentis

    I was set up and robbed for over a 100,000.00 and asked to pay acertain amount of money to get it all back by someone I new and trusted on Nov 19/15 in the Do in the Dominican Republic.
    After making many waves there over there and living for three weeks in fear of being nurdered because I was making waves the person who set me up returned everything admitting their guilt. It caused me to sell most of my furnishings I had obtained there as I was living there and I still have nightmares over it. At the time I chosr not o press charges because I was just happy to get most of the items back. However, after giving it more thought while visiting my homeland over Christmas & New Years, I think I made a grave mistake. This person needs to pay for their actions. Any advise as to what steps I should take next would be greatly appreciated.

    1. I really wish I could help you, Deborah, but I think a situation like this is beyond my expertise. I’d recommend talking to people who are local to there. You may need to write this off as a loss. I’m so sorry.

  30. We were burgled and not only was a minor amt of cash ($120) stolen, along with clothes, our prescribed class meds were stolen. This is considered grand theft. The police were contacted and they took photos and fingerprints. The staff is small and the break in was obviously an inside job…as the door was in tact but open. Should I get a lawyer and he them gather the evidence and hold the Corp for a civil suit, since this continues to haunt us months later?

    1. I’m so sorry that happened to you. At this point, I think you’re best off writing it off as a loss and moving on with your life. A lawsuit requires a ton of money and energy and it will likely go nowhere.

  31. Thanks for all your advice Kate. I wasn’t even in BCN for an hour before my backpack got lifted. These thieves are amazingly quick. PC, Passport, Ereader, Chargers, €2000, and 2 boxes of Triscuits dammit! All gone in a split second from being overtired and careless for an instant. On my third day of recovery here waiting to head to the Consulate for an emergency passport issue. I’ve finally adjusted myself and gotten out of my self induced funk. I was able to maintain my wallet, CCs, iPhone, entertain the police for 2 hours, and my sense of humor. Cheers, Mark

  32. I’ve seen some traveler being ropped and they have no idea what to do..

    That’s why when you go abroad, it’s so important to know some of their language.. At least an important sentences 😀

  33. We had our holiday money stolen from the H TOP royal beach in Lloret de mar. Sadly we didn’t take travel insurance this time as it was only 4 days. We are certain it was house keeping as it was hidden in an envelope inside a folder in a suitcase covered by clothes, no one else was in the room. We asked staff but they weren’t helpful after requesting that noone was allowed to enter our room they ignored us and let house keeping in again, went to police. It seems this is frequent at this hotel.

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