Friday, 8 April 2016

What to do when you lose your money in a foreign country???

Funny thing is that a holiday requires a lot of work....especially if you plan to go abroad. Getting a visa means arranging for salary slips, bank statements, letter of employment, medical insurance, filling forms, multiple visits to visa offices, arranging for bookings, flights, Forex and many such small but necessary things. By the time you leave for the "holiday" you are tired of it all. But then the thought of exciting locales, exotic food keeps you going. 

Now imagine....all this excitement gets wipes off in one moment.....you get robbed or you lose your money. What will you do? Well the best advice is to have a back up. We all have heard our parents tell us, "don't keep all your money in one place, don't count it in public, be mindful of your bags" and if it was possible they would even suggest we chain ourselves to them. But bad luck doesn't differentiate between the cautious and the careless. Most careful ones can also end up losing money. In a situation like this i have a few words of advice since I went through it myself. 

- your priority should be to cancel your cards first. Internet banking comes handy here and one click of mouse can block your card.
- call a friend in India to block your cards in case you cant, simultaneously send an email to the customer care regarding the same. 
- In case you have lost all your money don't worry. There are ways to get money. The best and fastest is Western Union, in case you have a friend living outside India. Western Union doesn't allow money to be sent outside India so you will need someone in another country. It take a steep commission but then when you lose all your money its a matter of life and death. 
- http://www.westernunionnearme.com/ is a good way of searching for the closest western union agent. The money gets transferred in a matter of minutes. Just make sure you take your passport to pick up the money. 
- One good way of avoiding loss of money even if you get robbed is to reduce the amount of cash you carry and instead get a travel card which you can choose according to how much you want to take and the unspent will be reverted back to your account. Ask your bank about it. It also save you from fluctuating currency rates and commissions on transactions that your regular card is subject too. 
- Many times if you make a cash withdrawal in Latin American countries or Caribbean countries, your bank might block your debit card calling it a suspicious activity. It might be a god idea to keep your bank informed if you are taking trips to these countries so that they know it is you who is making those withdrawals and you don't get stuck with a useless piece of plastic. 
- In case you lose your passport then the only option is to head to the closest police station. They will file a complaint and help you get connected with your embassy. Remember, in a foreign country your embassy is there to help you.
- a few things that you could do to avoid getting stuck in a jam in case you lose money is to pay for the hotel room in advance, book your tickets to museums and other places online beforehand and save yourself the waiting time at ticket windows and also the risk of having to skip the trip coz of lack of money. 

Lastly, if you do lose money...do no feel too bad and let it spoil your holiday. At the end of the day its just money...there are worse things that can happen on a holiday and consider yourself lucky that they didn't. 
Enjoy the rest of it!!!!

Thursday, 7 April 2016

When your holiday nightmare comes true!!!



What is your biggest holiday nightmare???? losing your passport?? Getting left behind by Eurorail SRK-Kajol style??? Getting robbed?? Bomb scare??? Being pulled aside for questioning??? Or all of it rolled into one big Mega-Nightmare!!!! Well, my biggest one is losing my passport. Thankfully that nightmare didn't come true, but i got robbed and the later got pulled aside for questioning while my passport was taken away from me for and hour in a communist country. Yep......this also is pretty scary.

So my story begins in Istanbul, Turkey in a plane to Barcelona, Spain. Suddenly there were whispers of "bomb....bomb" to be heard. The man sitting in the row in front of me was being questioned by the airline staff. Apparently some woman had complained about him. I couldn't make out what were they saying to him but the conversation concluded with the man being hauled off the plane with bag and baggage. after a few minutes all passengers were informed that they have to identify their baggage and a bomb squad got on to the plane with some sort of a chemical analyser. They ran a paper strip on the seats and put it inside the machine which I assumed was an analyser. After we all identified our bags and the checks were complete the plane had permission to leave. The man never came back and we were delayed by 2 hours.

All was forgotten as soon as I landed in Barcelona. I was in love with the city. I spent days exploring the stony nooks of old Barcelona and spent the nights downing wine and Tapas with Barcelonians. But soon that honeymoon came to an end too. On the day before my last I got robbed in one of the busiest markets of Barcelona. I don't know who did it and when. All I know is the bag, which i held real close to me was opened and my wallet was stolen with a small fortune inside it along with all my cards and IDs. Luckily my passport survived the nimble fingers of the thief. I didn't have much time to mourn the loss of my handsome Burberry wallet and the small fortune. I had to think of more mundane things life money for food and travel. Then began the process of arranging money to be wired to me. I will write another post for people who are interested to know how to survive after being robbed in a foreign land.

I thought the worst was over. Its just going to be smooth sailing from now. But then I reached Havana, Cuba for the second leg of my holiday. Lo and Behold!!! this was the cherry on top. I got pulled out by the immigration officer and a security officer spent 1 hour questioning me in broken English and Spanish while my passport was taken away from me. Now what made this worse was that I was carrying only 100 euros on me and my friend who had entered two hours before I had, had been questioned too. She had sent me a message saying not to be very forthcoming with the information about my line of work, which is a TV Journalist. I managed to convince them that I worked as a TV host on a Health Show and was carrying 500 euros on me though I had to tell them I had no credit cards. All this while my heart was pounding. I was in a communist country....alone....with no phone network and they had taken away my only identification.....my passport.

Anyhow this also came to pass. I entered Havana and enjoyed it immensely. I spent 10 days travelling all over Cuba and came back to the airport burnt crisp. And then the unthinkable happened!!!! I was stopped again at the immigration. This time they took away my passport for an hour but no questions were asked. After a while I was not the only Indian waiting for their passport to be returned. I was joined by three other Indian men and they confirmed that it happened with them while entering too. Conclusion: they stop all Indians, despite a valid visa.

So the holiday ended on a bitter note but despite all the trials and tribulations of the holiday.......it was one of the most exciting and adventurous holidays I have taken. And yes....I did sneak in some Cuban cigars....or wait.....they are not illegal in India!!!! Adios!!!!