The orange backpack is gone. And not just the backpack. At the end of an amazing two-month trip in Guatemala, Belize and Mexico, we were robbed at our hotel. While we were sleeping at night, someone entered our hotel room and took everything. Pretty much everything was gone. As these kinds of terrible events can happen anyone and also to process it a bit, we tell you about this horrible travel experience.
Tip: our robbery was at the hotel Ojo de Tigre in Tulum. Later we heard that more robberies happened. Another traveller told us that the hotel even recently changed names because of this. So we definitely recommend you to book another hotel when visiting Tulum.
“Do you have my phone?”
That was Sebastian’s question when he woke up and looked at his bedside table. I replied that I only had mine on my bedside table to charge. But when I looked at that table, my phone was not there. Sebastiaan saw that the iPad was no longer on the charger next to him as well. It only took us a few seconds to get out of bed.
Wallet? Gone. Right next to it was a watch. Gone. Orange backpack? The mascot of our travel blog was gone as well. Including our reflex camera with all travel photos, an e-reader and other small but important things. And our passports, I realized all of the sudden. The orange backpack had a small, almost secret compartment the size of exactly our passports. Our passports were gone as well.
We got dressed at lightning speed and ran down to the reception. Exactly at that time, the gate at the front of the hotel was unlocked and the manager entered. In panic and in poor Spanish, I cried that everything was gone. He called the police and the three of us immediately searched the streets around the hotel. There was no more cash in the wallet, because we had just finished it as we were leaving Mexico the next day. Maybe the thief had thrown it away right away? And removed the camera and e-reader from the striking orange backpack and discarded it too? But we didn’t find anything back.
Police, embassy and banks
That was the order in which we started arranging all necessary things. The hotel manager called the police several times, but they did not show up until hours later. In the meantime we were on his computer and we contacted the Dutch embassy in Mexico. We informed my mother in the Netherlands and told her which banks had to be called to block debit and credit cards. When traveling, we often take different types of credit and debit cards with us to ensure that we always have a card that is accepted.
Did you know for example that Central America mainly accepts Visa and Mastercard? The normal maestro debit card we use all over Europe, can usually only be used at ATMs but not at stores, restaurants or hotels. And our American Express got accepted as often as it was not. For that reason we had both a Visa and American Express credit card with us in addition to the debit bank card for our joint account. Also, we had hidden two extra bank cards in our backpacks for emergencies like this.
The Dutch embassy in Mexico turned out to be a great help. Within an hour we were called and the embassy started working on getting us replacement travel papers. They gave us practical information and we were assured of all necessary help. Less than 24 hours later we already had an appointment at the German consulate in Cancun – the Dutch consul had not yet returned from holiday – for emergency travel documents. As those documents aren’t accepted as valid travel documents in the United States, we could no longer use our flight tickets back home with a transfer in the US. We had to book a new, direct flight to Amsterdam to get home.
Lessons learned and tips after a robbery
We are now back home in the Netherlands for one day and it is three days after the robbery. We don’t yet have any new debit cards, driver’s licenses or passports, nor any payment from our travel insurance policies. But we can already share some of our lessons learned and tips after our experience in Mexico.
- You can’t really prevent a robbery in a hotel room. The room door was locked. There wasn’t a safe for valuables, so we cannot blame ourselves for not using it even though you probably won’t do that in the night anyway. We had actually done nothing wrong. We just had bad luck.
- Call in the police immediately and file a police report. A copy of this police form is necessary for replacement travel documents and for your travel insurance.
- Block your stolen credit and debit cards immediately. We asked my mother to do this for us and to call all banks.
- Inform your embassy immediately about the theft of your passport, so your passport is reported missing and you can arrange new travel documents. For safety, we have also reported our passport as missing online via the municipality where we are registered.
- We usually safe the contact details of the embassy before our trip, but our phones were now stolen too. For fellow Dutchies: on this Dutch site you can find all contact information for Dutch embassies.
- Send the embassy all the necessary information for requesting emergency documents. We found out online that Dutch embassy in Mexico needed by e-mail: 1. copy of passports, 2. telephone number where we could be reached, 3. flight data as proof that we needed the emergency documents urgently, 4. our current location.
- Also make sure to give your flight information directly to the embassy. Our return flight from Mexico had a transfer via the United States and the US doesn’t accept temporary emergency papers as travel documents. So we had to book a new direct flight home, the embassy informed us right away.
- Inform your travel insurance policy about the robbery in Mexico as quickly as possible.
- Can you delete your phone remotely? Do this immediately to prevent important information from falling into the wrong hands. We were able to do this with my telephone, but for Sebastiaan’s we actually needed the telephone itself. Of course first tried to locate our phones and iPad by using ‘track your phone‘, but without any result.
- Change your passwords. Although we had already deleted my phone, we changed all passwords as quickly and as much as possible, including from our social media. Did you know that you can log in to some websites and log out specific devices? For example, I could log out my phone and iPad remotely for my gmail account.
- This robbery was very stressful and affects us a lot. Such an event has quite an impact. Dutch readers can get help from Slachtofferhulp at this website.
What you can do to limit the damage of such a robbery:
- Back up your travel photos regularly. Unfortunately, the wifi in Mexico wasn’t always good enough to back up all the photos. So we lost many of our travel photos. We use Google Photos as a backup. If you put your photos on your phone, you can set that folder to automatically backup as soon as you are connected to WiFi.
- Make sure you always have travel insurance with coverage for your travel destination. We have additional travel insurance via our American Express credit card, because we always book our flights via this credit card. So it is also practical to have a credit card with travel insurance. Here we wrote in an extensive blog why we think credit cards are indispensable when traveling (and how Dutchies can easily get one for free).
- Make sure you always have an extra bank card and copy of a passport somewhere, preferably not with your valuables. We both had an extra bank card in unusual places in our backpacks, but also copies of our passport and passport photos. Those copies and passport photos turned out to be essential to get new emergency documents.
To be continued ..
We have now completed almost all things we could deal with for now. All new debit cards, credit cards and public transport cards have been requested, we were able to collect a new SIM card at the store and we are back online with borrowed old phones. Wednesday evening we have an appointment with the municipality for new driving licenses and passports. We now have to wait for our new American Express card, with which we want to make our new purchases so they are insured via American Express.
We have informed our travel insurance policies about the robbery, but have not yet heard what information we need to provide to file our claim. Sebastiaan has insurance with Interpolis, I with SNS and because of our booking via American Express we also have travel insurance there. In a later blog we will extensively compare these three Dutch insurance policies on their service, assistance and benefits, including tips for all formalities.
Tip: also interested in such a handy American Express credit card? If you’re a Dutch reader and you order one via our friends link, your card is free for the first year (and only thereafter € 16.50 per month) and you get up to 20,000 points for free flights!
Do you want to help us?
This robbery was a terrible end of our trip. In one second our holiday vibe was gone and we were in control mode. We are still not completely out of that mode and the stress is still in our bodies. The first days in Mexico I was crying a lot and I felt very unsafe. I was very scared when people came close or even touched me, like a woman on the bus in Cancun telling me this was our bus stop. It will take some time before that fear and our anger and stress are completely gone.
Wde also don’t know yet what the financial damage is. That of course depends entirely on our travel insurances at Interpolis and SNS and via American Express. As I already wrote: we will certainly write an extensive comparison blog on that!
But do you want to help us out financially, without it costing you anything? Then make your bookings and online purchases through our links below, so we get a referral bonus at no extra cost to you!