Yesterday, we arrived in Prague Airport from Amsterdam. Having been in Prague in January, I was sort of familiar with the terminal layout and how to catch the bus into the city. The fare is 32 CZK or about $1.40 USD for the 119 bus that goes to the Metro, from where we could take the subway to Karlovy Namestie, near the Park Inn Prague.
I had 600 CZK in 200 notes in my wallet and about 50 CZK in coins in my pocket. Of three ticket machines at the airport bus stop, two ticket machines only took coins, while a long line of travelers were in front of the credit card ticket machine. The line inside the terminal at Tourist Information was even longer.
I waited in line and watched a couple of airport buses to the city come and go. Once my turn came, I quickly made my ticket purchase selections at the machine. I inserted my credit card and when asked to key in my PIN, my actual thought at the time was the keypad display has no protective shield and its positioning on the machine makes it highly visible to the crowd of onlookers.
Bus tickets in hand, I walked over to Kelley standing nearby with our luggage as the bus we needed arrived. Kelley and I were two of the first people to board the bus with our bags and we moved into a large open space in the middle of the bus with our luggage. About 20 or more other people followed us on the bus, many with huge pieces of luggage. We were getting crowded and bumped.
I thought it odd how so many people were crowding around us when most seats on the bus were still empty. But I see all kinds of odd traveler behavior when I am on my journeys. Access to the ticket stamping machine on the bus was blocked by all the people boarding and shuffling around the bus.
The bus took off and I reached down to feel my front pocket. My wallet was missing. I looked around at the people seated on the bus. No one looked obviously suspect.
The odd thing is there were several people with large pieces of luggage when we boarded, but I did not see much of that luggage still in the large space we were standing. Most people were seated.
Anyway my wallet was definitely gone. Along with my ATM cards, Diners Club card and about $400 in currency.
My passport and iPhone were safe in a zippered pocket in my shorts.
Zipper pockets untrendy?
I went to the Gilroy Outlets shopping mall in California two weeks ago before we came to Europe. I scoured the sports clothing stores like Columbia, North Face and Eddie Bauer for shorts with zippered pockets. There were none to be found. Seems like someone climbing a mountain or kayaking might want to have pockets with zippers. I sure like pockets with zippers on my shorts when traveling.
At Prague Airport I was wearing my favorite pair of North Face shorts with one zippered pocket. Normally I keep my wallet in my zippered pocket, but upon buying the tickets and seeing the airport bus arrive, I placed my wallet in my front left pocket instead of working it into my right pocket with the zipper…and iPhone…and passport.
There was less than 2 minutes between the time I placed my wallet in my left pocket, boarded the bus and went to move my wallet to my right zipper pocket, only to realize my wallet was gone.
I was mad that the night before I was 10 EUR short of cash I needed to buy food at Albert Heijn in Amsterdam. They don’t accept MasterCard or Visa at Albert Heijn.
So, I withdrew 300 EUR from the ATM in Amsterdam. I only spent 10 EUR. The other 290 EUR was supposed to be for three days of drinking, dining and shopping in Slovakia at the end of our 3-week trip.
Prague Police Station
After exiting Prague Metro B Line at Karlovo Namestie, we were walking to the Park Inn Prague and noticed a police station.
The older man working the desk spoke very limited English. He asked us to wait. A few minutes later another younger officer came to interview me. His English was also limited. I explained the situation at Prague Airport. He asked me to list the items in my wallet, my name and address.
Ten minutes later he came back with a report, stamped and signed.
The police report is in Czech.
Park Inn Prague assistance
The receptionists at Park Inn Prague were very helpful. They called the airport to check if my wallet was returned. It had not been returned.
Lost or Stolen?
I was more upset by the thought that I might have dropped my wallet when I was placing it in my pocket. Kelley saw me drop my passport in Amsterdam Airport a few hours earlier as I walked away and she gave me a lecture about travel carelessness.
Actually, I was kind of relieved when I learned from Diners Club that my card had been used for cash advance withdrawals from Prague banks. Say what?
My PIN was used for bank cash withdrawals, confirming my suspicion that the key pad at the bus ticket machine at Prague Airport is quite exposed to onlookers and needs a security shield.
I have seen enough TV shows to know that two people with good cameras or eyesight could have positioned themselves on opposite sides of the keypad to see numbers being punched, while keying the PIN with one hand, even if trying to shield the keypad with my other hand.
Anyway, the thieves managed around $1,500 worth of bank withdrawals before card access was cut off.
What would I do differently?
I am not going to become overly paranoid about pickpockets.
This is the first time I have ever lost my wallet and I never have had anything stolen in all my years and miles of travel. The biggest losses I have previously suffered were a couple of coats and umbrellas left on airplanes and in hotels.
Credit card fraud when traveling is an entirely different issue. I suffer credit card fraud about every 18 months. My credit cards have been hacked several times after making purchases in Europe over the past several years.
I generally have situational awareness when I travel.
One time before, a similar situation happened in Amsterdam on a bus when we were suddenly crowded by a bunch of young guys. I immediately pulled Kelley off the bus while keeping my hand on my wallet.
I plan to seek out some better summer shorts with zippered pockets. It is much harder (I assume) to unzip a front pocket and take a wallet.
Also, I consider this to be a warm weather problem for me. I doubt someone could take my wallet out of my jeans without me feeling it.
What makes this situation less than dire is Kelley is with me and she still has her ATM card.
Still, there are some lessons I have learned and will keep in mind when traveling.
1. Keep backup ATM and/or credit cards and cash in a separate place.
One of the lucky factors in this situation is I had removed several of my ID and bank cards from my wallet and placed them in a separate bag.
Besides the cash, I lost my drivers license, medical card, two debit cards and one credit card. I still have most of my cards since they were in my flight carryon bag.
In hindsight, I should have kept one of my two debit cards separate from my wallet. I only have access to cash advances on a couple of credit cards now. Fortunately, Kelley is here with her debit card and we have Czech cash currency for 10 days in the Czech Republic.
And we divided the money up between us.
While I did not need my drivers license in my wallet, I prefer to keep my California license as ID in my wallet rather than carrying my USA passport around all day.
Losing your passport while traveling outside the USA is a real hassle and involves getting to a USA Embassy for a replacement before you can fly home to the USA.
Losing credit cards is a simple phone call.
2. Keep contact numbers for your credit cards on your phone.
I had my computer at Park Inn Prague, so I was able to look up contact numbers to report my lost cards. I can imagine being in a situation where I would have trouble getting the phone numbers to report stolen/lost credit cards.
3. Get a police report for insurance and credit card fraud protection.
Kelley encountered pickpockets on an escalator at Amsterdam Centraal Station two years ago in a similar situation. We had just arrived on the train with our luggage. Going down the escalator, I reached the bottom and wondered why Kelley was not right behind me. She said a group of young men pushed around her as she was getting on the escalator. Her purse had been pickpocketed of her eyeglasses and wallet. Nothing came out of that incident. Her credit cards were not used.
In my case, Diners Club told me I must submit the police report of the incident since my PIN number was used by the thieves. I explained the situation about the bus stop key pad I had used only a couple minutes before my wallet was stolen.
While I am bummed that this trip has cost me an extra $400, I am not too freaked out. There are many worse things that could happen when traveling.
The other pair of shorts I have been wearing today have pockets so deep that I fumble around trying to pickpocket coins and my phone out with my own hands.
Once I buy a new wallet, I think I will notice any pickpocket making a deep dive on me for valuables in these deep pocket shorts.
As for my other pair of shorts that were too easy for a pickpocket to steal from without me noticing, I think one zippered pocket is not enough to hold my wallet, phone and passport. I no longer consider them my favorite travel shorts.
San Francisco SFO – Copenhagen, Denmark – Stockholm, Sweden – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Prague, Czechia – Bratislava, Slovakia – London, England – San Francisco SFO (22 days-6 flights-20 hotel nights-6 bus trips)
Copenhagen, Denmark: Skt. Petri Copenhagen Choice Hotels Ascend Collection
Amsterdam, Netherlands: Loyalty Traveler Lost and Found in Amsterdam
Amsterdam, Netherlands: Ramada Apollo Amsterdam Centre hotel review
Amsterdam, Netherlands: Amsterdam design for social living
Amsterdam, Netherlands: Amsterdam beer, bud and burger joints
Amsterdam and Prague Hotels: 2 stays earned 1 Free Friday Park Plaza Vondelpark Amsterdam and Park Inn Prague
Prague, Czechia: Pickpocket stole my wallet on Prague Airport Bus
Prague, Czechia: Park Inn Prague hotel review
Prague, Czechia: Best Western Hotel Kinsky Garden Prague truly boutique
Prague, Czechia: Hotel review Clarion Prague City reward stay
Prague, Czechia: Vyšehrad, Prague far from the madding crowd
Pilsen, Czechia: Marriott Courtyard Pilsen CZ category 1 reward stay
Pilsen, Czechia: Pilsen Czechia photoessay
Brno, Czechia: Holiday Inn Brno, CZ PointBreaks stay
Brno, Czechia: Brno by beer
Brno, Czechia: Brno Bones in Europe’s Second Largest Ossuary
Bratislava, Slovakia: Review Radisson Blu Bratislava Slovakia
Bratislava, Slovakia: Walk to Bratislava Castle Slovakia photo essay
Bratislava, Slovakia: Bratislava Slovakia photo essay part 2
Bratislava, Slovakia: Category 1 Park Inn Danube Bratislava Slovakia opens Oct 1, 2017
Bratislava, Slovakia: Trip Report Regiojet Bus Bratislava to Brno Airport
London, UK: Radisson Blu Edwardian Heathrow hotel review
Hotel Loyalty: Loyalty? Yes! Loyal? Not so much for my hotel travel
Hotel Loyalty: My two Club Carlson Free Friday Nights posted today
Airline Loyalty: Aegean Silver elite and 17,000 miles to Star Alliance Gold