What’s the worst that could happen to a traveller? Very worst, losing their passport, I’d say.
Second worst: losing their wallet. Which is exactly how I started my trip.
I had just got through customs at Suvarnabhumi Airport (dead quick, and without any questions for my French-passport holder self) when I looked into my bag to get my wallet… and came back empty handed. Knowing that I’d used it at Doha airport during my connection, I supposed it would be either in the plane or back in the airport.
It wasn’t on the plane.
Which meant it was in Doha – a roughly seven-hour flight from my location.
I breathed deep, somehow managed to not break into tears, and proceeded not to panic. What I’d lost with my wallet was three of my bank cards, including the credit card I’d planned to rely on almost exclusively (more on my banking strategy in a later article), along with half of my Thai Bhats and some of my US dollars. I also lost my British learner’s driver license, but that one would’ve expired by the time I come back, and a couple student cards I was hoping to use for discounts.
What I did not lose, however, was the second half of my Thai Bhats and my fourth debit card. And boy am I glad I decided to completely over prep and bring four cards.
I’ve been using that one to get cash out (in large amounts, as Thai ATMs charge a 200BHT fee per withdrawal from a foreign bank, on top of my bank’s 1.45%) until I figure out a way to get things sorted out.
What to do when you lose your wallet abroad
Check. If you have any idea where you lost it, check if it’s been found. I contacted Hamad Airport in Doha, who said they had a matching item. They set it on to Bangkok airport where I was able to go and pick it up*. I wish I’d done this first, as it would’ve saved me the nightmare that goes with…
Cancel your cards. Being in Thailand, and originally unsure where and where my wallet had taken off, I decided to play it safe and immediately cancelled two of my lost cards (the third being a cash card that had no money loaded on and wasn’t connected to any accounts; basically a worthless piece of plastic). I have a Halifax card which I easily cancelled on my online banking, and an HSBC card that I had to cancel on the phone.
Buy a local SIM card with cheap international minutes or get onto Skype. In the heat of the moment, I called HSBC from my UK phone to cancel my card. I now have a £60 phone bill. This is my blog, so I’m allowed: fuck this shit.
Find a way to get hold of money. Like I said, I luckily had an extra card that I can use to keep going. If that’s not your case, you can use Western Union to get money transferred from home to pretty much anywhere in the world, in cash. Make sure you store that cash safely.
Sort out replacement cards. Here comes the real headache. If you cancel a card in the UK, a replacement card should automatically be ordered and sent to your account address. What you want to do, ideally, is change that address to get the card sent instead to one of the bank’s branches near you. Unfortunately for me, neither HSBC (seriously – should I point out to the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation that China is next door to Thailand) nor Halifax have any in Bangkok, nor were they willing to send the cards to Thailand. Instead, I’m having to rely on the best friend in the world to pick up the cards and courier them to me. I’m not sure how long that will take, so I’ll update this post when my moneys have crossed the world.
Don’t let it get you down. It was a really shit way to begin my trip and I did have a brief second of feeling like this was all the worst. Then I decided to focus on the positive, bought some street food and went to see some temples. And all was well.
Moral of the story, that I cannot stress enough: never store all your money in the one spot. Do not ever, ever do that. If it wasn’t for that bit of common sense, I’d probably still be walking around the airport looking distressed (and starving to death) right now.
* Would you believe it: EVERYTHING was still in there. Even the single-dollar bills. Thank you for your honesty, good people of Qatar. And thank you, thank you, thank you to Qatar Airways for being the heroes of customer service and being really patient when my eyes started leaking.