5 Common Travel Emergencies

Travel emergencies are over

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Everyone hopes that travel emergencies don’t pop up unexpectedly while abroad, but stressful scenarios do affect some unfortunate travelers. A single incident such as a lost passport or stolen phone doesn’t have to ruin your entire trip.

With a little preparation in advance, a timely response can salvage the remainder of your time abroad. Learn how to prepare for these five common travel emergencies and how to respond if one of them lands in your lap.

  • What to do if your phone is stolen abroad
  • How to handle a compromised credit card
  • What to do if an ATM keeps your card
  • Dealing with a lost or stolen passport
  • Preparing for dangerous weather that is approaching

Also know how to handle these five common threats to your health while traveling!

01 of 05

What to Do About a Stolen Phone or Laptop

Phone stolen while traveling
Johan Larsson

How to Prepare for It

  1. Record model and serial numbers on the devices and keep them in a safe place. Write down the IMEI number of your mobile phone. Take a few photos of the devices and upload them somewhere accessible.
  2. Purchase travel insurance that covers electronic devices. Check policies carefully; some have exemptions for mobile phones because they are stolen so frequently. Carry international contact numbers for your travel insurance among your travel documents.
  3. Make sure that all devices are password protected or can be wiped from remote so that material theft doesn’t turn into identity theft later.

What to Do

  1. If the device was stolen, get a police report immediately. Getting a police report isn’t straightforward in some countries, and some corrupt officers may want to charge you, but you don’t have a chance for reimbursement without one.
  2. Decide if it is worth paying the deductible on your travel insurance policy to possibly replace the device. Contact your travel insurance immediately to start a claim. The process may take a while; some policies have cut-off deadlines for making a claim after an incident.
  3. Keep an eye on personal accounts that were associated with the phone or laptop. Protectively log yourself out of any persistent connections. Change the passwords on your email and social media accounts.
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02 of 05

Dealing With a Lost or Compromised Credit Card Abroad

Lost wallet while traveling
Seb Oliver/Getty Images

How to Prepare for It

Make photocopies (front and back) or record information about any credit cards that you’ll be carrying on your trip. Leave the information with someone trustworthy at home. Have contact numbers (international numbers -- making toll-free calls may not be an option while traveling) with you in your travel documents that you bring along.

One of the most common mistakes that travelers make is not notifying their banks that they will be traveling abroad. Let them know before you go or your cards may be deactivated for suspected fraud!

What to Do

  1. The first thing to do after a credit card is stolen is to minimize damage -- contact the bank immediately and have the card deactivated, if it isn’t already. Let them know the date of the last legitimate purchase you made.
  2. Check for new charges on your account for a few days. Don’t check your account on public Wi-Fi or in internet cafes!
  3. A new card will most likely have to be sent out to your billing address at home. You could have someone trustworthy retrieve the card and read the information to you over the phone -- don’t send credit card information over email!
  4. Record the new card information in a hidden place, maybe even scrambling some of the numbers in a way that only you understand. When booking flights with the new card information, ensure that the airline doesn’t want to see the actual credit card at the time of check in; policies vary.
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03 of 05

What to Do if an ATM Captures Your Card

ATMs in Thailand
Dennis Wong / Creative Commons

How to Prepare for It

Ideally, you should try to use ATMs that are inside banks or attached to bank offices. These are less likely to have rogue card readers installed, and the organization may be able to retrieve and hold your captured card for you.

What to Do

Write the number and address of the ATM, then find a bank office that corresponds with the branch; bring your passport. Explain to them what happened -- some may be able to retrieve your card when scheduled maintenance is performed on the machine. Others maintain strict policies that all captured cards are to be destroyed, even if you can prove that it’s yours!

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04 of 05

How to Handle a Lost or Stolen Passport

Passport and travel documents
Tetra Images / Getty Images

How to Prepare for It

A photocopy of your passport should be among your travel documents brought on each trip. Having a photocopy of your old passport and a copy of your birth certificate will greatly speed getting a replacement while traveling.

What to Do

  1. If your passport was clearly stolen, you need to get a police report; the consular staff will ask for it. They do advise that you shouldn’t spend too much energy on obtaining a police report if it will further disrupt travel plans (e.g., cause you to miss a bus to the nearest city with an embassy).
  2. Contact the nearest embassy and let them know what happened. See this list of U.S. embassies in Asia.
  3. Your old passport needs to be disabled immediately. If the nearest embassy is closed, Americans can call the U.S. Department of State (1-877-487-2778) to report a lost passport or complete the lost-passport form online.
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05 of 05

Preparing for Typhoons and Tropical Storms While Traveling

Typhoon near Japan
Handout / Getty Images

How to Prepare for It

  1. Know if you’re traveling during the regular typhoon season or not, and have an idea of how to get out of an area overland in the event that serious weather is approaching.
  2. U.S. citizens can register trips with the Department of State's STEP program so that the government knows who may need evacuation after a natural disaster.

What to Do

  1. Move away from coastal areas, even if doing so means canceling reservations or forfeiting payments already made.
  2. Stock up on drinking water.
  3. Charge devices then leave them unplugged to avoid damage from bad power.
  4. Let loved ones know that communication may be down for a while after the storm.
  • Follow these step-by-step instructions for what to do before, during, and after a big weather event in Asia.
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