Following the incident I had on a recent trip, I have been asked to write a blog about the event as it may help others in the future.
I was in Chile with my wife and we were on the penultimate day of a trip. During the two week trip, we found Chile to be very hospitable and friendly with no sign of crime or problems though we are usually wary of the surroundings. On this day we were to fly back to the capital in order to catch our flight home the next day.
We had a hire car and after a 100 kilometre trip from the town we were staying, we thought it best to stop at a supermarket to buy presents for home.
The supermarket was no different to ones in the UK. It was 11 am and there were people wandering in and out with shopping so we had no reason to think there could be an issue. We parked in the shade and went inside. Importantly all bags had been placed in the boot area of the vehicle and we felt the windows were sufficiently darkened that the bags were not easily visible. We entered the shop for 15 minutes or so and when we exited the supermarket, found the back passenger door window smashed and our two daysacks were taken.
Importantly I had made two mistakes; one being both passports had been left in one of the bags and the other was the memory card containing the photographs was still inside the camera. After two weeks, I suppose I was more complacent but this was the first time anything like this had happened. I rang the emergency travel insurance helpline and the British Embassy Consular on what to do next and was told that I would have to go to a police station but that it was important we still caught our flights the same day back to the capital.
I was at the police station for approximately 90 minutes completing a form whilst my wife waited in the car due to the broken window. In very limited English, the policeman was helpful in completing the report but then advised I would have to go to the International Police Station in the town to get more documents. Knowing our flight was fast approaching the British Embassy Consular advised it was important for us to get the flight and that there was an office of the other police department in Santiago so we could go there.
The hire vehicle was dropped off in a hurry and we presented our driving licences which luckily were accepted as identification for the flight. Very early the next morning, I was on the phone with the Airline explained the situation and asked them to hold our return booking as we would not be able to make the return flights due to the lack of passports. I felt this was very important to do and at that time the Airline told me to ring back once we have this documents.
I have never been to a British Embassy before and it certainly wasn’t what I expected. We were security scanned upon arrival and were not allowed our mobile phones with us in the consular area which caused me some frustration as all the information was on there. I was placed in a room with a computer and telephone in order to complete the Government emergency passport application form and I had to complete it in conjunction with getting the Airline to confirming the new flights. Being a large Airline, they have many call centres and this proved very difficult especially as I was being kept on hold for long periods of time. This was a Friday and I knew the British Embassy closed at 1 pm, and wouldn’t open again until the following Tuesday, so I had to work fast which did not help matters.
Eventually, the Airline offered me an alternative flight (at a very high price) 36 hours later which we had to take as time was running out and the Consular did manage to complete my emergency passport in time. This was a one trip document in order for me to get out of Chile and back into the UK. Interestingly my wife who is not a British National had a far easier time in obtaining a document and we had both documents before the end of that day.
We had one spare day in the capital and I kept in contact with the Travel Insurance Assistance team about the extra accommodation. They advised keeping all receipts to submit upon my return. I recall going through Passport security at the airport was stressful as we were not sure if the officer had seen documentation like this before but they were stamped and upon arrival to London, the person at the border control saw the document and was helpful though I was not able to keep it.
With regards to the claim, travel insurers first assistance was very helpful and have even assisted some queries on what is deemed “reasonable costs”. The personal property stolen has been dealt with very quickly by insurers which I am grateful for and we have discussed reasonable costs and if food is covered. Insurers have realised they may not have been 100% clear on where the cover extends or is limited to but have been excellent throughout. Going forward insurers have decided that food is not deemed a reasonable additional cost and so anyone in the same situation should get clarification with insurers as to what is and is not covered.
This is a lesson learnt and I would say to anyone to keep their passports with them at all times knowing now the stress of getting an emergency document following a situation similar to ours.
If you have any questions about this I am more than happy to chat about it and offer any advice.