The Pain in Spain (travel-related)

Last Wednesday morning, I left for an 18-day trip to Spain, a trip that I’d been planning for over a year. Or at least those were my plans.

After a series of delays, I finally arrived at the Madrid airport at noon on Thursday. I went through customs and to the baggage pick-up area. My luggage was not there, and I was told that they’d be forwarded to my hotel. Fine. I went to an ATM, withdrew a few hundred Euros, put them in my wallet, and proceeded to the Metro station, to get to my hotel. As I went to deposit money into the ticket machine, I realized that my wallet was missing.

I filed a report with the airport police. Beyond that, they were no help whatsoever. I explained to them that I had no money other than some small U.S. pocket change, and no way to get money. I asked them what other people do in this situation, and they just didn’t respond. I tried to borrow a couple Euros so I could get to my hotel, but no deal.

I knew that if I could make it to the hotel, I could get on the phone and get my trip back on track, but there was no way to get to the hotel. I also knew that once I was reunited with my luggage, I’d at least have the “emergency” money I always stash away in each bag. But there was no way to get to the hotel. I even entertained thoughts of panhandling or hitchhiking, but was very reluctant to do this in a foreign city.

I kept checking about my luggage, and was now told that it wouldn’t get to Madrid till the next day, or later (I actually didn’t get it until Saturday).

So I couldn’t think of any other option, other than simply going back home. It felt like my vacation was already ruined, and I should just cut my losses and head home. I had the electronic ticket for my return flights on me, so all I had to do was to exchange it for an earlier flight.

To make a very long story very short, I finally was able to get on a flight the next day, after spending 19 hours in the Madrid airport, and it took me 2.5 days to get home.

So. Here I am back home, dealing with all the missing wallet-stuff, canceling all my reservations and train tickets, and still determined that I will go back to Spain (for a shorter, simpler trip) when all of this is behind me.

So now I’m wondering, to those of you who are more seasoned travelers: What to people do when they’re stranded in a foreign country, with no resources whatsoever? Did I have any other options, other than returning home, or eking out a new life for myself in Spain?

I’m so sorry, panache45. That really sucks.

My impression is that if you go to the consulate of your country, they can issue you a temporary passport to replace the one you lost, plus they might be able to make an emergency loan, or at least help you connect with your peeps back home.

Other than that, I’m not sure. Beg? Walk?

I feel terrible for you.

Having found myself walletless in Scotland once (I was with friends, thank goodness), I would have had a spare credit card packed in my luggage. I also would have avoided checking my luggage if I could. With a single credit card, I can survive for months. I also bank at Citibank for a reason - worldwide branches.

Could you have camped out at the luggage counter for couple days until your bag showed up? Could you have walked to your hotel, even if it took you a day? Desperate times call for desperate measures.

With no luggage, couldn’t you have walked? Unless your hotel was in an entirely different city than the airport was linked to, I doubt it would have been more then 2-3 hours walk. Certainly it beats blowing a few hundred dollars on a flight to and back from nowhere.

That’s a shame, I hope you decide to go back soon.

Hindsight is 20/20 and all that, but here are the options I would have considered, in order I would try:

  1. Snuck on the metro or bus.

  2. Looked for some friendly Americans in the airport and tried to borrow a few Euros after convincing them I wasn’t a scamster. At the very least, I would have asked someone if I could share a cab into the city center. I probably would have looked for a younger (30ish) male traveling alone on business, who probably isn’t paying for his own cab anyway and might enjoy someone to shoot the bull with after a Trans-Atlantic flight alone. I once loaned 40 bucks to a couple Americans in Cambodia who hadn’t realized they needed greenbacks to pay the entry tax. Not a big deal, I got paid back and a big thank you that wasn’t even necessary.

  3. Waited for my bag at the airport

  4. Called my credit card company and asked them to send replacement card post haste to the Madrid airport. Where in the airport, I’d have to think about; this option is the weakest at this point.

  5. Walked into town, after carefully studying some maps at the airport shop to determine if this solution was viable.

Sorry to hear about that panache45. Real bummer. Another couple of ideas; borrow someones phone and send a text to a friend, and get them to ring the Info desk, where you’re waiting. Maybe get online some how, perhaps through the Info people again. A thread to the SDMB may of brought relief :slight_smile:

With all my travels, I’ve not been in your situation [touch wood] yet [/tw]. When I’m travelling on my own, my wallet has only a few days cash and a card in it. A money belt has more cash, a card, and a copy of my passport. My bag has a copy of the passport too, but no money/cards. Once I meet up with my friends, my belt usually gets left at their house, until I travel again. The belt gets damp, so waterproof the copies (and traveller cheques :smack: ).

Wow, what an awful way to start (and end) a vacation! I feel for you.

I’m another person that usually keeps money and credit cards in a couple of different places on my person when I’m traveling. I keep I little bit of cash in my purse plus the credit card I most frequently use, then I have a stash of cash in an inner coat pocket. I also have a little pouch that I clip to the inside of my pants that fits my extra credit cards and some more cash.

If, by some chance, I found myself in the same situation as you, with absolutely no funds, I think the first thing I’d do is to try to beg some. You can ride the metro for just a euro or two, so I might try to get to the hotel and then try to get online. From there I’d figure out how to contact the credit card company and see if they could get some funds to me, or contact a friend that could do the same. There are lots of nice people in this world, I’d think you could find one or two to help you out with a couple euro in the Madrid airport.