You might have gathered from these posts that I’ve been bitten by the Honduras bug and I’m finishing up some coverage that I didn’t get around to after my trip last summer. Onto an uplifting post regarding travel theft!

It was bound to happen sometime. When you strap your important possessions onto your body and fling them out into the world by traveling with them, you are in a way at the mercy of the universe to let those possessions eventually come back home with you.

And usually they do. But sometimes, you let your guard down. Sometimes, you are with some of your best friends from home, and the world seems ridiculously warm and wonderful. Sometimes, you assume your boyfriend is watching your bag which isn’t really fair considering you didn’t in any way ask him to. Sometimes, you have had too much to drink. Sometimes, your purse gets stolen right off your seat.


the night in question

I’ve been very lucky. Up until this incident I had traveled with expensive cameras, a flashy smart phone, a wallet full of plastic, and occasionally a computer without so much as a hiccup.  The thief didn’t get away with much, save for a one of my favorite travel bags, some sunscreen and lipgloss, about $15USD, the sole existing key to our guesthouse room, and a bit of my dignity.

I remember the greatest emotion I felt at the time was relief, relief that it was my purse and not one of the three girls’ with me, as they were carrying cameras, wallets, and passports. But later that relief morphed into embarrassment as I realized I had no one to blame but myself. (Well, I guess the thief can have a bit of the blame as well.)

I had been warned by a group of travelers in La Ceiba that their purses had been stolen in Utila while they were out dancing. I had been told by my guesthouse owner about silly travelers who left things unattended and were relieved of them. I had reached double digit foreign passport stamps, studied abroad in Central America at 16 and gone to South East Asia by myself at 19. I considered myself a fairly savvy traveler. And this was a crushing blow to the ego.

I have felt my travel paranoia increase over the years as my valuables get more, um, valuable and I lose some of my naivette about the world. While I yearn for the carefree days where I barely locked my bungalow (just kidding Mom!) I can’t imagine not being able to record my travels and find employment through my cameras and computer. I now travel with a Pacsafe and a Kensington laptop lock and insure all my electronics on my parent’s homeowners insurance. However, there is simply no substitute for remaining aware of your surroundings, keeping your possessions in sight when you’re out and about, and heeding the advice and warnings of your fellow travelers.

Have you ever been robbed when traveling? What steps do you take to protect yourself and your stuff? (Seriously, I want your advice!)

  • I had been traveling for years and the same thing happened to me. I left my camera on a table and turned my back to it while I was playing pool in a bar in South Africa. Of course it was gone in less than a minute. 🙁

    • Alex
      August 8 2011

      No! Not the camera. That would be my saddest loss!

  • Audrey
    August 7 2011

    I’ve never had anything valuable stolen (thank God)! But I did get my jacket stolen. I went out to a bar in Brazil one night, and my sister and I set our jackets down before heading to the dance floor…we never saw those again.

    • Alex
      August 11 2011

      Ugh. I had a jacket stolen/maybedrunkenlyforgotten at a club in NYC once and believe me, I suffered for it when I walked home in mid February in a tank top. Worst. Night. Ever.

  • Dad
    August 8 2011

    A well written account of growing pains and maturity. Love Dad

    • Alex
      August 8 2011

      Sigh, its not like my parents did not warn me! 😉

  • Mark
    August 8 2011

    Technically it was a larcency since it wasn’t taken from your person. Just sayin

    • Alex
      August 10 2011

      It’s always good to have a lawyer in the family. But does that technicality apply in Honduras? 😉

  • Kris Koeller
    August 11 2011

    That really sucks. Definitely takes the wind out of your sails. Its hard to relax and enjoy yourself after something like that. Glad it wasn’t too bad of setback.

    • Alex
      August 12 2011

      That is the worst part, the loss of “innocence” and the ensuing stress that comes with it.

  • Emma
    January 2 2012

    I too would consider myself a pretty savvy traveler, unfortunately I let my guard down one morning before I went out tubing in Guatemala, Lanquin to be exact. I threw my belongings into a locker and snapped my lock on. I returned to find all my valuables in tact (cards, camera, ipod, smartphone etc) however I had been relieved of all USD – the only untraceable thing I possessed, coincidentally. Such a bizarre robbery. All shapes and sizes!

    • Alex
      January 2 2012

      Hi Emma! It sounds like you didn’t let your guard down…. something super bizarre just happened to you! Did they cut the lock? Maybe if you’re doing lots of aquatic activities its time to invest in a submersible dry bag so you can carry your stuff with you. Of course, then you run the risk of it floating away…. maybe it’s just time for travel insurance 🙂

  • Ian [EagerExistence]
    February 5 2012

    Consider yourself lucky. I had a lot more stolen in Florence, including my passport. Sometimes we do let our guard down, just for an instant, and that’s all they need.

    • Alex
      February 7 2012

      You are so right. Like I said, I was actually grateful it was me and not one of the girls I was with, all of whom were carrying their passports. I always keep mine locked up in the hotel room in my Pacsafe. I figure I’m less likely to have that broken into than I am to be purse-snatched!

  • Chet
    February 9 2012

    I lost an entire backpack filled with Nikon SLR, MacBook Air, Blackberry, extra credit card, all chargers, car keys sunglasses, spare reading glasses and pride. This happened while checking in to a hotel in Amsterdam. In the hotel lobby!! They had the entire event on surveillance video. Guy in a hoodie walks in bends down and grabs the pack and walks out the door. While my back was turned. It took seconds. No excuses. Ya gotta watch your stuff all the time!!!

    Good news, my homeowner’s paid for replacement. No reimbursement for the pride part.

    • Alex
      February 9 2012

      Wow, what a bold thief! I think If I were to lose all that at once, especially my computer, I might have to curl up in a ball and cry for a few days! Thank God for the homeowner’s insurance though. I have all my stuff insured on my parent’s policy as well. Much, much better alternative to the crappy travel insurance policies out there.

  • Kaitie
    April 3 2013

    I was pickpocketed on a Metro in Paris. Like you, I was relieved because they grabbed my camera (luckily just an inexpensive point and shoot that I replaced), instead of the iPhone and wallet filled with money and cards. I will admit that I cried my eyes out, mainly because when the little (couldn’t have been more than 13) girl pushed me down, I even said, “Awe, maybe she was about to miss her stop.” When I realized what happened, I was so embarrassed since I’d been warned!

    • Alex
      April 4 2013

      I know exactly how you feel. I was just scammed in a taxi in the Philippines (post to come!) and what made me most angry when I thought about it later was I TIPPED THE GUY! Argh. It’s not fun to be taken for a fool.

  • Lucia
    June 20 2014

    I once left my bag in a hammam in Morocco…why I had even brought it to a public bath still baffles me. We managed to get it back because the women who worked there literally fought with a million people and found out who had taken it, but I still feel so stupid! Happens to every traveler!

    • Alex
      June 23 2014

      Ha, at least you got a great story out of it! All is well that ends well 🙂

  • Rhiannon
    February 10 2015

    I had my wallet and camera stolen in Bariloche, Argentina last year after some people broke into our rental car while my friend and I were hiking. It really sucked to lose some cash and my debit card but thankfully they left my passport (!) which I know would’ve been so much worse to lose. From now on I’m either going to lock up my valuables at the hotel or never ever let them out of my sight so I guess it was good to learn that lesson and become wiser from it to help in my future travels. 🙂

    • Alex
      February 11 2015

      Ugh, I never know what to do. I hate carrying expensive stuff on me, I hate to leave it behind. Never sure what the right move is! Sorry you had that experience but glad you found a sunny outlook!

  • Jessica
    April 30 2015

    I had a very unfortunate flip flop theft in Cameroon. My friends and I woke up after a night’s camping, and all of our shoes had been stolen from outside our tents. I suppose considering we left our truck completely unlocked with all of our valuables inside, we were pretty lucky. But good flip flops are a dime a dozen in Africa so I was pretty heartbroken and barefooted for a few days. In my experience, the less travelled a country the less of a target you seem to be for theft.

    • Alex
      May 1 2015

      I am pretty picky about flip flops so I feel your pain at losing a beloved pair. I’m still mourning the loss of a few of my favorites!

  • Sandy
    April 26 2017

    Oh Honduras I haven’t been there in years. My mom’s side of the family is from there. Years ago when I was a teen my cousins, siblings and I were staying with my grandmother for a couple of months. My siblings and I were sleeping upstairs while my cousins were situated downstairs. Well my grandmother leaves the door unlocked and open during the day and she gets up early so one morning before we were awake (don’t know where abuela was) a lady walked into the house into the room my cousins were sleeping and stole a watch, brand new shoes and cash and just walked out.

    Another time my family and I were in Florida. Someone broke into the trunk of the car while we were shopping in the mall and stole my dad and my backpacks. Mine had my passport. I was about to start school in a few days so I didn’t need it right away to get back home but boy was it a pain to replace my passport and visas.

    Thieves are everywhere.

    • Alex
      April 28 2017

      Indeed they are 🙂 And would you believe that even after all these years of traveling, this is my ONLY robbery story! And it was a fairly minor one. I could myself lucky! (And I’m knocking on wood.)

  • Gary
    April 3 2019

    I heard a story in Ghambia about some bird watching tourists who’d just flown in with about 31/2 grands worth of camera kit.The next day it had been stolen from their room.Lesson,travel with the most inexpensive kit you can get away with.(There’s a difference between inexpensive & cheap !)

    • Alex
      April 9 2019

      Ah, what a shame. I always hate to hear of travelers separated from their cameras!

Leave a Comment