Lost in Amsterdam, unLucky stolen wallet too

Hello from Dublin, Ireland. Yesterday, we left the 75 degree weather of sunny central coast California on a KLM flight out of San Francisco for the sunny winter climate of Amsterdam.

Kelley and I know Amsterdam almost as well as San Francisco. Despite nine years since our last visit to Amsterdam, everything seemed so familiar. We walked through Schiphol Airport, made our way through passport control, purchased our train tickets and hopped on the train to Amsterdam Centraal.

At the Amsterdam Centraal train station we made our way to the luggage lockers, stored our luggage, and set out for a day trip sightseeing around Amsterdam before flying out to Dublin, Ireland for the night. The most noticeable change for us since our last time in Amsterdam was the discontinuation of strippenkaart time-stamp tickets for the city trams.

Lost in Amsterdam, unLucky stolen wallet too

Our asses were sore from 10.5 hours in the back of the plane on an A330-200 economy class seat from SFO to AMS. We decided to walk across town to the Leideseplein and Vondelpark in an effort to revive our sore muscles with exercise. We had been out of the train station for about 20 minutes when Kelley went to change her sunglasses to her regular glasses to find the small purse around her neck unzipped. Her prescription eye glasses and wallet were gone. Kelley’s field of vision is a blur without her eyeglasses.

Westerkirk on Prinsengracht

I have packed a pair of spare prescription glasses ever since going to the Radisson Hotels America conference in Chicago in 2012 without reading glasses. I can get by with a pair of $10 Costco eyeglasses when necessary. Kelley can barely see without her eyeglasses.

If this was our first trip to Amsterdam or Europe, we might totally have freaked out and swear to never leave American soil again. But this is not our first trip. For several years we lived in Amsterdam four to six weeks a year. We never had a problem with theft here before. For that matter, we have never had anything stolen in more than 25 years during our travels. We have lost some items over the years, mostly leaving coats or umbrellas on airplanes, but this is the first time we have lost something to theft since the 1980s.

Amsterdam Centraal

What happened?

Amsterdam Centraal train station was packed on a Sunday morning at 11am when we arrived with hundreds of people coming to Amsterdam on the Schiphol train. We were walking body to body in the thick crowd as we fed into the line on the train platform for the escalator down into the station. Kelley was directly behind me at the top of the escalator. At the bottom of the escalator I waited for Kelley as several people passed by me. I asked her how she ended up so far behind me with several people between her and me? She commented how a group of guys cut in front of her on the escalator and forced her back in line away from me.

Those might have been the moves that cost her wallet and glasses. We are savvy travelers and when we are in transit, typically each person is responsible for their own stuff. Kelley was mad at herself for not having her small purse under her overcoat, rather than on the outside of her overcoat.

Kelley did well not to freak out in the middle of Amsterdam. This is not the way any traveler wants to start the first day of a vacation.

After a police report and a couple of international collect phone calls, the damage was mitigated with a couple of closed credit card accounts and no fraudulent transactions on her credit cards. Fortunately, while she lost her California drivers license in her wallet, her U.S. passport was not taken from her purse. That would have truly been a headache as we were only transiting through Amsterdam for the day before flying on to our flight destination of Dublin, Ireland. At least we know where the U.S. Embassy is located in Amsterdam, if it had been necessary. We went there a decade ago one time to add extra pages to Kelley’s previous U.S. passport. I wonder if they are closed for President’s Day? Not that it matters since she still has her passport.

We are flying back to Amsterdam for the week. Our crazy itinerary is flying SFO-AMS-DUB-AMS-DUB-AMS-SFO on tickets purchased in early January for KLM SFO-Dublin round trip at $449 and Dublin-Amsterdam on Aer Lingus for $125 round trip. The combined cost for two tickets was about $300 less per person than flying directly to Amsterdam round trip.

Our plan was to spend the week in Amsterdam museums and re-educate ourselves on Rembrandt and Van Gogh, while I also check out several of the new hotels in town since our last visit like Hyatt Andaz, Waldorf Astoria and DoubleTree and W Amsterdam. The problem for Kelley now is her very poor eyesight means she is going to have a blurred visual image and memory of Amsterdam.

I’ll have to take lots of good photos so she can see what we saw at some later date with more visual clarity.

Can anyone recommend a good optometrist in Amsterdam?


About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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  1. As an American who has lived in Amsterdam for close to two years; I still believe these occurrences are rare. Most of the (petty) theft these days are mobile devices. But, with that being said the train from Centraal is the weakest link. Believe it, or not, I believe that the train is not the best way to get into the city for a day excursion. Check your bags at the lockers at Schiphol (or luggage storage room) and take the very calm #197 bus (approximately €5) to Museumplein or Leidseplein. It’s a lot less hectic than the train and train station (Centraal), IMO. And, the added benefit is that you are in the “heart” of many of the favourite tourist destinations (Vondel, museums, etc.). It’s also easy to take the #197 back to the airport. FWIW, it’s an express bus with very limited stops and takes about 25 minutes +/-. Good luck on your trip; and very sorry for your bad experience.

  2. Hi Ric, sorry to hear about this. Whilst a lot of the ‘new glasses in one hour’ shops have closed due to heavy overheads (ie the cost of an in-store lab) you might be able to track one down with the help of a good concierge.

    A similar thing happened to me in Miami 25 years ago. Whether or not she normally wears contact lenses, there are types which you can wear day and night for a week. If you find an optician who has them in, it may do the job until she gets home even if she does not normally wear them. That is what I ended up doing in Miami – and I had to find an optician to take them out for me when I got home!

  3. @baccarat_guy – thanks for the bus #197 tip. I never tried leaving luggage at the airport before and then I saw the Schiphol lockers last night before our flight to Dublin.

    @Raffles – Hyatt Andaz recommended going to one of the express glasses shops too. We will give that a try.

  4. There are a lot of lockers at Schiphol, which are super convenient. If my memory serves me you have lockers in the Schengen, non-Schengen and arrivals area. I also believe there is a luggage check room, that can also be used. The one time we used it (transiting AMS 7+ years ago); turned out to be super convenient.

    It’s funny, everyone always assumes that the train is the best way into Amsterdam. This is true if you were staying at a hotel near Centraal (like the DoubleTree); but if you need to get to Centraal and then take a tram/bus it’s often easier to just take the #197 bus from Schiphol. While I would never say the train is “unsafe,” there is just so much more hustle and bustle on both the trains to Centraal and in the station. This can be a bit much for folks after a long red-eye from the States. I know many that have accidentally left luggage on the train to Centraal; since they were so tired. While the bus isn’t perfect, I find it to be a much more relaxed trip into the city.

  5. Hello,

    Whenever I need a doctor in a foreign city, I ask the concierge at my hotel.

    Possibly you could email the concierge at your AMS hotel while you are traveling to get a recommendation for when you return to AMS. Or, get a recommendation for a general physician, who can then refer you to a good optometrist.

  6. same thing happened to my husband in Copenhagen train station escalator. People passed by him. We had just arrived & we’re very tired, he had forgot,to move his wallet from his back pocket as he carries in the US. Someone did it for him I guess. Fortunately he had only $2 and a credit card we cancelled easily.

    The surprising thing is, upon not finding any money the wallet was thrown in a nearby trash bin and recovered, complete but the $2. It was mailed back to us in the US and arrived shortly after we arrived home.

    It was a sad experience but a good lesson. We are super diligent after that experience.

  7. When I travel with only carry-ons, I would leave my luggage at the airport lounge before heading out for my day trip. Some lounges have lockers, but it might be wise to bring bike lock.

  8. Sorry to hear of the theft. I had my passport stolen from my hotel last summer in The Hague. You have to get replacement at the consulate in A-dam (despite the embassy being in The Hague). The consulate takes all US and Dutch holidays off. Once started, took 24 hours to get new passport (2 visits). Most difficult part is getting an acceptable passport photo.

  9. One of your credit cards may have a ‘concierge’ service for you to use to find the optometrist. If they are new glasses, she may be covered by the credit card(that she bought them with)’s lost/stolen coverage. They’ll probably want a copy of the police report.

    You may also be able to get the prescription from her doctor in the U.S. to have made there.

    Good luck!

  10. When I was in Amsterdam last month, I was pleasantly surprised that I could purchase contacts without a prescription from the drug store.

  11. I’m sorry to read about Kelly’s theft. Even though it happens to experienced travelers like Kelly (and me and Lucky’s mom) it’s a huge drag.
    So you’re in Dublin? Or going to Dublin? I’m remiss in not thanking you for your posts on Dublin. On your suggestion I also did some of those walks – Bray to Greystones, then another day a 15 mile walk that included Dalkey and a walk by Mr “I Do Good For the World But Make Sure The World Knows About It” house. A nice surprise was finding myself in the same pub where Michelle O ate with Mr. “”.

  12. @Acker – We flew to Amsterdam, spent the day and then flew to Dublin for the night and back to Amsterdam the next day for the week. We will fly back to Dublin for the night before flying home to California via Amsterdam again with no stopover.

    Basically it was much cheaper to buy a KLM/Aer Lingus ticket to Dublin ($450) and a second Aer Lingus ticket from Dublin to Amsterdam ($125). We bought two tickets for $575 compared to about $875 to fly directly SFO to Amsterdam.

    I have lucked out with several days of sunny weather in Amsterdam similar to the good weather I had walking Bray to Greystones trail in Ireland back in early December.

    We did not let the theft get us down. Kelley is managing the week with her sunglasses.

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