How to Recover from Getting Robbed While Traveling

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Can insurance help if you get robbed abroad?

For many people, being robbed abroad is one of their worst nightmares. Especially if you’re in (relatively) unfamiliar territory, with no one to have your back. In that case, insurance is what can get you back on your feet.

When the COVID-19 restrictions finally have been eased, you can dip your feet into that sandy beach you’ve been dreaming about. Soaking up the sun in your favorite swimsuit. The last thing you want is to realize that your Mexican pesos have left you as quickly as your clothes.

Some cases of theft are frightening. You may have locked eyes with the robber, had interaction with them or had a weapon pointed at you. After this kind of encounter, take care of yourself. It’s totally normal to experience stress if you have to deal both with the mental aftermath and with the hassle of getting your possessions replaced at the same time.

In some cases, however, there’s doubt as to what happened. With things missing, you might be unsure whether someone took them or whether you’ve just lost them. All the while you keep thinking, how could you be that stupid? Just realize that there’s no point in feeling guilty or being hard on yourself. This is where insurance helps. But first, just get things sorted.

The first things to do if you get robbed in a foreign country

Right after you get robbed, calm down and keep your cool. As difficult as this may sound, there’s a couple of things that you need to take care of right away.

The first thing to do, is blocking your bank accounts. For every credit card and debit card that got stolen, temporarily block the account by using the app or calling the bank or credit card company directly. The sooner you do this, the smaller the amount of money retrieved from your account lands in the hands of that drug cartel.

Don’t forget to have your sim card blocked if your phone got stolen.

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When it comes down to it, your most valuable possession is your passport. Lose it and you’re stuck. Find out if there’s an embassy or consulate of your home country nearby. Contact them to see what they can do for you. Embassies can arrange to have a new passport sent to you by mail or to issue a temporary passport that allows you to travel back to your home country if you wish. Some consulates don’t have these permissions. If you’re in dire need, consider reaching out to embassies of big neighboring countries.

To get help from your insurance company, you need to do three things: inform them of what happened, file a police report and make a claim. For some companies, it’s important to notify them without delay. This is especially true if you’re hurt from an assault or if you’re admitted to a hospital or private clinic, in which case your insurance company can give advice on where to get treated. Depending on the policy, they may pay for treatment straight up. If your things got stolen and that’s all that happened (bad enough as it is!) then some insurance companies are more relaxed and allow you to make a claim even months after the incident. Contact them anyway to check. Next thing is to file a police report and make the claim.

Why you need a police report to make an insurance claim

There are quite some differences in the fine print of insurance companies, but one thing is universal: if you’ve been robbed, you need to prove it with a police report. This means that as soon as you get back to your feet after being robbed, you need to go to the local police station.

Something to consider is the language barrier. In most of Latin America, Spanish is the lingua franca. Big chance the police do not speak English, neither will they issue your report in English. In other places the report will be in French or German. Make sure that you’re able to communicate exactly what happened and which items got stolen. This needs to be in the report. Before you go to the police, wrap your head around what exactly happened. If you find yourself in a small village in China, bring a translator.

Police reports are detailed and thorough. They include a description of what happened, the date and place and often an official stamp. If the report is in another language, your insurance company may require a translation, but you can get this arranged later on, upon making your insurance claim.

How to make an insurance claim after you got robbed

Insurance companies can ask for receipts as proof of the items that you were bringing along at the time you got robbed. If you frequently travel, work or live abroad, it’s best to make a photo of a receipt and store in a separate folder in your cloud anytime you buy an item. Good cloud backup services for this purpose include IDrive and Backblaze.

Often insurance covers the costs incurred by calling your credit card and debit card companies as well. Create a list of the phone calls made, of how long they lasted and which costs were incurred.

Find the online form for making claims at the website of the insurance company and fill it out. You will need to upload the police report. Also, it may be required to upload the receipts of your stolen possessions and your plane ticket to prove that you actually made the trip. Details that you will be asked about, include the exact date and place where it happened, which preventive measures you had taken and whether you made insurance claims before.

Insurance companies will look at the prizes that you indicated in your online form, but what they actually pay is based on the current market value of the items that you had on you. That nice DSLR camera that you purchased ten years ago might be worth only a fifth of its original value today. Generally it will take several weeks before you get paid after making the claim.

Credit card insurance if you get robbed

With credit cards, it is especially important to act fast after being robbed. With some companies, if you call them within two days of being robbed, they limit your ability to withdraw to 50$. The exact policy varies for each company.

Big credit card companies like Visa, Mastercard and American Express all have 24/7 global customer service centers to help you. Rest assured, you won’t be the first to call them that your leisurely stroll in Rio de Janeiro didn’t go as planned. They will know what to do.

Bank account insurance if you get robbed

A particular type of insurance you may not think of, is the insurance provided by your bank. Beyond creating a temporary block for your accounts, there’s more that banks can do for you. Often they will have a hotline you can call 24/7 in case of emergencies. Some banks offer wiring the money on your account to you for pick-up abroad. This service can be a lifesaver, as it allows you to get cash without the use of physical cards. Whether your bank offers this service at all, and if they provide it to all their customers or only to those on a premium, depends on your bank.

A company that is often used to make international money transfers is Western Union. With your permission, your bank can send the money left on your bank account. Depending on the country you’re in, it may take a couple of days for the money to reach the local Western Union office. Once the transfer is complete, you can pick up the money in cash at the local office. Officially, it is required to show your passport upon collecting money, but in case of theft the local employees may be more relaxed about this requirement.

Things that are excluded from insurance

Unfortunately, some items traditionally are excluded from being insured abroad, like cash. Often, there is a maximum amount of baggage that is covered in total, and separate maximum amounts for expensive items. These include jewelry, watches, sunglasses, hearing aids and wheelchairs.

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Sometimes, smartphones are excluded from coverage, other times they are insured up to a certain amount, like 100$, 300$ or 500$, depending on the premium you pay. Laptops, tablets and that amazing DSLR camera and all its accessories often are insured up to a certain maximum amount. If you work aboard or have a photography hobby, keep this in mind when choosing insurance.

If you’re a sports lover, check the coverage for your equipment. Even for regular sports like cycling, surfing and boating there will be maximums. These maximums are relatively low so consider getting an extra premium to get sports equipment coverage.

When working in other countries, it’s particularly seducing to buy items that you wouldn’t find in your home country. After all, if you’re living in that Balinese traditional bungalow for two years, why not get that wooden rocking chair? Unfortunately, insurance companies often set a maximum coverage for items purchased abroad.

How to feel safe again after being robbed

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Right after being robbed, you become more aware of the dangers around you and will feel less safe than you did before. Looking over your shoulder more, putting your hand on your bag, thinking twice about bringing valuable items as you go out. It’s part of it. Luckily this doesn’t last forever, soon things will feel normal again. After all, the point of you being in Thailand is not obsessing about what guns those Thai guerrillas are buying with your stolen money, but about indulging yourself in the beautiful parts of the country.

One thing that may help to ease the pain, is thinking about thieves as human beings. Sometimes thieves are that sweet extended family that needs the money to feed their cousins in the slums. Your money goes way further in the hands of thieves than it would have in your own hands. You might be feeding entire families for months without ever knowing it.

With your newfound awareness, now is a good time to work on preventing being robbed and being prepared if the time does come.

Things to do to make being robbed less of a hassle:

– download the apps for all your credit cards and debit cards on your phone

– put the phone numbers of your bank and credit card company in your phone

– secure your smartphone with a pin or fingerprint

– store photos of the receipts of your travel items in your cloud, like IDrive or Backblaze

– store photos of your credit cards and debit cards in your cloud

– get travel insurance

Some robberies go down in the most boring way imaginable. Somebody runs off with your laptop bag, your handbag gets stolen at a traffic light, you lose your wallet in the streets and someone will pick it up. It always generates some form of stress. If you happen to become part of a story that you can hardly believe yourself, let alone your loved ones when you tell them, it would be an exception. Not everyday people are violently mugged in a hijacked airplane on their 24 hour flight to New Zealand, thus allowing the thieves ample time to completely empty all your accounts. Best thing is not to drive yourself crazy thinking about what might happen, but to be prepared in case it does happen.

Which travel insurance is best (including COVID-19)

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Worried about the coverage that your travel insurance provides? Now is the time to compare policies and choose what best suits your needs. The most important factor in choosing between policies is the amount of time you will spend abroad. Are you the one-week-of-holiday-per-year type of person? Or do you frequently travel for work? Or do you live as a digital nomad and go as you please?

Something else to think about, is what balance you need between coverage of medical needs and coverage of baggage theft. A medical tourist that goes to India to get his teeth fixed needs an entirely different kind of policy than a professional kayaker that brings his own expensive kayaking gear.

Short to mid-term travel insurance for remote workers

If you don’t spend more than 90 days abroad per year, then there are plenty of options. A good choice is of the premium plans that Allianz offers. How many travel days are covered depends on your insurance plan. Allianz doesn’t offer the cheapest travel insurance, neither the most expensive, but their coverage is very decent. Baggage theft or loss is covered for 1000$ or more, depending on your nationality. Also included is coverage for emergency medical treatment, including if you fall ill with COVID-19. There are many other benefits. Be aware though that with Allianz the pandemic is not eligible as a reason to cancel your trip, it is considered a known pre-existing condition. Also, their coverage traditionally doesn’t include countries for which negative travel advice has been given by the government.

If you’re abroad for more than 90 days per year, but less than 180 days, then AIG Travel Guard Insurance is worth considering. This American insurance company offers comprehensive insurance with a high price tag. Depending on which plan you choose, baggage is covered from 750$ to 2500$. Also, emergency medical treatment is covered. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, their insurance packages are extra appealing because they offer cancellation for any reason as an additional upgrade.

The best long-term travel insurance for digital nomads

If you’re abroad most or all year, then your options for travel insurance are more limited. A relatively cheap and flexible option is SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance. It covers travel up to 365 days per year. Their focus is emergency medical coverage, including COVID-19. Trip cancellation is not included. Another downside is that they don’t cover baggage theft or loss, except lost checked luggage. However, the price tag of SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance is very appealing. If you don’t bring expensive things or want to keep your insurance costs down, this is a viable option.

In case you’re abroad for most or all year, and you want both medical and baggage covered, then World Nomads is the way to go. Initially, 180 days or 365 days of travel are covered, depending on nationality, but you can extend your coverage indefinitely. The costs of World Nomads’ plans are considerably higher than those of SafetyWing because they offer more comprehensive coverage. World Nomads offers two plans, the Standard Plan and the Explorer Plan.

The Explorer Plan is only slightly more expensive but offers a lot more. Baggage is covered up to 1000$ in the Standard Plan and 3000$ in the Explorer Plan. Emergency medical treatment is covered and even many adventure sports are included. A downside of World Nomads is that they expressively exclude coverage for travel to countries that are subject to a COVID-19 travel ban. Also, they don’t offer cancellation for any reason (only for things like serious illness and death).

Prioritize your needs when picking a travel insurance

All in all, there are several things that you need to think about when choosing travel insurance. If you know how many days you spend abroad in a year, it’s easier to choose a plan. Decide how important coverage for baggage theft or loss is to you. Also, make an estimation of the total current market value of your possessions. Medical treatment is often included for emergencies in travel insurance plans, but if you desire more comprehensive non-emergency coverage abroad, take a look at the premiums for international health insurance, such as SafetyWing’s Remote Health.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, another thing to consider is cancellation. Some insurance companies offer cancellation for any reason, but often at high extra costs. Cancellation is more important for a frequent flyer than for a backpacker that explores South America by bus or a digital nomad that explores every corner of Canada. Choosing travel insurance is about deciding what you want to protect the most and at what cost.

Have a look at our article covering various other policies if you’re looking for more information on insurance for remote workers.

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