Travelling in Europe 2021: What to do if your wallet is stolen

November 14, 2021

I hope this helps someone. I travelled to Milan city from Malpensa airport in November and got my wallet stolen. Here's what to do if you find yourself with no cash or credit cards in any big European city due to pickpocket or theft, but have a phone (hopefully with data) and passport. Story below too if you're curious. 

Before anything: buy travel insurance before you go, and take photos of your passport and ID to save a copy on the cloud/email. 

1. Lock all your overseas credit cards or disable the magnetic stripe use; contactless is ok if you did the above, but Milan is still very cash reliant and credit cards need the physical card and PIN. 

2. Report the crime/theft within 24 hours but you DON'T have to do it immediately. Go to somewhere safe and find the right police station to do it. 

3. You can borrow cash from your hotel if they are friendly, but I won't count on it. To get cash, message or call your friends/family back home to send it via Western Union (send them your passport pic) and you can collect it at any WU branch near you - all they need is your passport to verify. There's usually a WU agent nearby or even in the tobacco / small shops in train stations. Note the opening hours. If your phone is stolen, ask the hotel to lend you their PC and you can email your family member and forward them your details. 

4. Report the crime to the Milan police station within 24 hours. You need an official police report to claim for theft with the travel insurance. The polizia di stato I found was open even on a Sunday morning and near the Duomo (next to or at Palazzo Castani). I had difficulty finding the right police station because they have different types of police stations so the best is to ask a policeman/woman on the streets.


Prepare a statement in English and use Google translate to translate to Italian for better comprehension. I filled out my incidence and stated clearly the items lost (important!)

5. File the travel insurance claim after using the report when you get home, there's 14 days to do it. 

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So this was what happened: 

On 6 November 2021, I was coming in from the airport express at the Garibaldi FS metro platform for the M2 line towards Gessete at 5.38pm with my luggage when a group of girls surrounded me as I stepped into a crowded train. In the midst of the chaos, one of them grabbed my luggage handle and kept asking me where is the station. I told her I don't understand, and I can feel her grabbing my luggage handle so I tugged it back. Finally I got off the train instead of staying on and the doors closed and the train left. When I looked down with a sinking feeling, my bag was unzipped and my wallet was gone. Fuck. That was the first thought that came into my mind. Second was, so stupid. I then checked my bag to see if anything else was taken, and luckily my passport was quite deep inside. And I was holding my phone when the incidence happened. 

The group must have collaborated to steal it from me. Granted I was a super easy target but this is the first time I had my wallet stolen (phone in Lima wasn't fun too but at least I had my cash) in a concerted effort and my heart was beating super fast. 

In shock, my next action was to go to the counter staff for help. She wasn't very helpful at all, asking me to go to the police station at the Duomo to make a report - and acknowledged that there's nothing we can do about the wallet and cash. I almost followed her instructions too even though I said I have no cash on me at all. She said I'm fine to travel as long as I'm on the inside of the train. Err but what about going back (I realised the ticket is valid for 90 mins) but yes it was peak hour and my luggage n bag was with me. 

I was also locking all my cc cards from my phone and texting the group chats, but it was 1am SG time. Luckily Rhea and my brother were still awake - they helped me block my dbs debit card with the token at home. My heart was racing - I don't have a single dime on me so how am I going to go around??  

So many thoughts of should have and could have ran through my mind. If I had just diversified my cash. If I had just stayed in the train. If I should have just yelled back. Or have the zip in front. Even having my Netherlands or Singapore sim card taped back on my phone would be something. So many what ifs.  

In the end my brother and Rhea advised for me to go to the hotel instead of the police station because maybe the hotel can give me cash if Rhea transferred in SG. But finally they found a better solution, which was to use Western Union instead. That was such a godsend because it's much more reliable (the hotel staff couldn't even speak English properly). I couldn't find the WU at first but finally realised its underground and got the shopkeeper to help give me 200 euros after failing 3x (my passport name was given wrongly). 

I'm so thankful that was still time to walk to a open Western Union branch nearby from my hotel, so I could buy water and food, instead of going hungry and thirsty. Oh and best of all FWD site was down for scheduled maintenance and hotlines are long closed at 1am in the morning. All that was a perfect storm.  

Anyway, I've learned my lesson! These pickpockets are pro. Here are five things I learned from this ordeal (actually I know it just caught off guard after not travelling for so long!) 

1. Keep your cash, cards and passport close to you, preferably in the inner pockets 

2. Diversify your cash and cards if possible to leave maybe 10 euros in the luggage or inner bag pocket. 

3. Hold your bag in front of you always, hand over the zip. NEVER have an open bag.

4. Keep your sim cards with the phone, not wallet. 

5. Don't bring out your NRIC card or driver's license when you travel. Photocopy your passport and keep a digital copy on the cloud.

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