travel advice & savings

Staying Safe

Personal Safety and Security

Until this happened to me I thought the people that never let go of their back pack were paranoid. I’m an experienced traveler, having been to Europe four times now, but this just caught me unaware. I was on a train journey from Bordeax, France through to San Sebastian, Spain, with a change of train at Irun. Although the carriage was not that crowded, I put my backpack in the luggage rack at the rear of the carriage. When I got up at Irun to change trains and go through customs, it was no longer there. I sumise that one or two of the seedy characters that had got off at the previous stop, (less than ten minutes before), had picked it up and taken it. Not much I could do then. I caught the train to San Sebastian with my belly bag, (with wallet and passport still in it), and my daypack, (which had a raincoat, rugby top, food, water and novels in it). It was a Sunday, so most things were closed in San Sebastian. (Most of the closed shops did not open till Tuesday). I needed cash first, so I stuck my visa card in a hole in the wall and tried to get some Spanish pesetas. The transaction was fine until it said to remove the card. My card, several years old and slightly warped from sitting in my wallet, jammed in the machine, so the machine swallowed it. So there I was, In San Sebastian, Spain, on a Sunday, with no backpack, no visa card, no pesetas and no Spanish to communicate with. I did have my emergency money, which was changed at an exorbitant rate by a local souvenir shop, found accommodation for the night and was resigned to a quiet evening. But as luck would have it, (it couldn’t get any worse anyway), I met up with a few guys doing Eurobus that I have met previously in Bordeaux. They sympathized to the extent of each of them buying me a shot of something to forget my worries. I got throughly plastered that night. Next day, one of the crew, who spoke Spanish, helped me get my visa card back. Then I went shopping. The lessons to be learned are:

  1. If you have to put luggage in a luggage rack, (which you probably will), lock it to the rack with a bicycle lock or some thing similar.
  2. Always carry some emergency cash with you. Split it around, so if you lose one item, or get held up or whatever, not everything is lost at once.
  3. Have a spare credit card, even if it is just for emergencies only.
  4. Carry a toothbrush, toothpaste and deodourant in your daypack. (Nothing is more depressing than being without these when in the same clothes for a couple of days).
  5. Never underestimate the sympathy and cameraderie of fellow travellers. There’s a fellowship among us all. Everyone has a bad experience at some time or another. Just got to look at it as “What happens, happens”, and go on from there. In this case, I figured that the only way my trip could go was up, so I carried on regardless.

Special thanks should go to the various people that helped me at the time, (and if you’re reading this you know who you are), being Dave, (Aussie that spoke Spanish), Cameron, Melinda, Gary, Sonny, Michele, Mike, (the Aussies) and Joan, (??, I think that was her name), and John the yanks. There were others as well, I’m sorry, I just can’t remember all the names now. All of you, thanks.

Submitted by Alan from Australia

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