Speaking Of Recent Travel Blunders, I Had A Doozy This Month
Benjy recently wrote about one of his recent travel blunders, which you can read about here. I had to chuckle, because at least his had several workable solutions. I recently made a big mistake, and mine didn’t really have any good solutions.
The morning I left Uzbekistan for Tajikistan, I had to be up super early for a 6:30am flight. Be at the airport 2 hours in advance, 30 minutes to the airport…so I was up at 3:30am. Needless to say, I was tired and not fully alert.
Knowing how much a taxi cost, I knew I didn’t have enough cash to pay the fare. I told the driver to pull over at an ATM, I got cash, and we were off to the airport.
I checked in, zoned out half-asleep in the boarding area, and then I was off to Tajikistan.
When I arrived in Tajikistan and cleared customs at the airport, I went to the ATM to get cash for taxis and food during my time there. It was only then I realized I didn’t have my ATM card. In my tired, early morning rush, I’d taken the cash & receipt but walked away with my card still in the ATM. Now, I was in a different country.
Solutions? Yeah, Not Really
Luckily, I carry some emergency US Dollars hidden in my backpack whenever I travel. I exchanged $50 to get me by for a few days while I figured out a solution.
From my hotel room, I called my bank (USAA) and told them what happened. I needed the card canceled and a replacement sent to me in Tajikistan ASAP. The agent said “sure!” and started entering the address of my hotel.
Then, we ran into a problem. Tajikistan has a prohibition on sending credit cards into the country. There’s also no FedEx, no UPS, and no DHL service. USAA basically couldn’t send me the card where I was.
I could make it through the 3 days I planned in Dushanbe, Tajikistan with exchanging money, but I needed a place to receive my ATM card. Having limited emergency cash and being in a largely “cash only” location wasn’t a good combination.
I checked FlightConnections.com to see where I could go on a direct flight. Comparing this against customs restrictions, I had a few problems:
- Direct flights to Istanbul exist, but language about whether debit/credit cards are permitted in shipments was confusing. It might or might not get rejected.
- I couldn’t take the direct flights to Kazakhstan or Turkmenistan, due to current border restrictions.
- If I totally overhauled my trip, I could go to Dubai, which was not at all in my plans.
- Similarly, I could go to a few cities in Russia, which wasn’t part of my plan but could be feasible for mailing purposes.
Choosing The Least Awful Solution
I wound up going to Dubai. When considering possibilities, I felt that getting my card in Dubai seemed most reliable on the “will it actually get to me?” scale. Additionally, I found a cheap fare with flydubai, since points options for a short-notice booking didn’t turn up anything useful.
I called USAA again, gave them the address for a Hyatt Place location in Dubai, and made up my mind to just accept my decision, not dwelling on it.
USAA told me that their timeline for international FedEx shipments with replacement ATM cards is 4-5 business days. It was Wednesday, meaning the card would likely depart on Thursday, and the weekend would extend that timeline.
Even though this was the king of my recent travel blunders, it had a silver lining. Maybe more than one. I messaged a friend who lives in Dubai and mentioned that I’d be in town for a few days—however long it took for my ATM card to show up. He mentioned that 2 of our mutual friends would also be in Dubai at the same time, so we could all hang out.
As soon as I booked my flydubai ticket, they emailed me a free 1-day pass to Expo 2020. I went to that with my friends, and it was super interesting.
Additionally, my ATM card actually showed up on Sunday—much earlier than my hopes for a Tuesday arrival. I spent 3 nights at a Category 1 Hyatt property (only 5,000 points per night) and then took a bus to Abu Dhabi for a flight to resume my travel plans. I spent a night at the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi using the $200 hotels credit from my Platinum card.
Out of my recent travel blunders, I can’t think of any stupider than this. I walked away from an ATM with my card inside. Blame it on the morning rush to the airport, the lack of sleep, or just not paying enough attention. Given that I have accounts at several banks, I should probably start carrying 2 ATM cards. That could avoid some of the hoops I had to jump through.
I lost 4 days essentially, plus $200 cash on a ticket I hadn’t planned to buy. On the flip side, I enjoyed a few days with friends. The situation could’ve been much worse, obviously. And now you can all laugh at my stupidity to make yourselves feel better!