When something important goes missing while you’re traveling abroad, you get that sinking feeling. Here’s what happened with Pete’s lost wallet in Paris.
“My wallet is gone.” At first, I didn’t pay much attention. Rummaging through his backpack, zipping and unzipping compartments, Pete’s worry mounted. “Here, let me look,” I demanded, not very nicely if truth be told. I was tired; it had been a long day. I wasn’t ready to deal with a lost wallet in Paris.
Pete and I both misplace things from time to time, and they usually turn up. But this was different. We were on the last leg of a multi-country journey in one day: Spain-France-Belgium. I remembered that at the first of our two train stations in Paris, Gare de Lyon, a friend had recently had her camera lifted while she was struggling with her belongings. We’d taken a cab to Gare du Nord, where our train to Brussels departed. Based upon our movements, a lost wallet in Paris could be virtually anywhere.
With our train departure imminent, we headed for the Information Desk. Neither of us speaks French, and without French SIMs, Google Translate was unavailable. Our desperation mounted as the minutes ticked by. We couldn’t even make ourselves understood. Finally, we were directed to the Lost and Found Office in the station, already closed.
By then, our train was boarding. We had two choices: continue our journey and attempt to locate the lost wallet in Paris by remote means, or stay and try to find it in person. On a Friday night, neither choice appeared to be a good one. We were the last two passengers on the train.
There wasn’t a lot of conversation between Gare du Nord and Lille, where we needed to change trains. Fortunately for our marriage, we both (one of us before the other, not saying who!) go silent when exasperation and worry surface. Even so, we were tense. Every credit and debit card, most of our cash, and Pete’s identification (except for his passport, thank goodness) were in the lost wallet in Paris.
Upon arrival in Brussels, we checked online and determined no unusual activity in any of our accounts. This was a good sign. The last thing we wanted to do was to have to cancel our cards and await replacement overseas. We figured if the wallet had been stolen, there would have been transaction attempts triggering a fraud alert. After all, our own legitimate transactions have triggered fraud alerts, right? No activity was good news.
Pete got to work researching what to do. Initially, there didn’t seem to be a lot of hope: a gentleman on TripAdvisor who had left his camera on a train at Gare de Lyon, another who had left his tablet in a taxi, and a site with a couple of posts about objets trouvés en Paris, here and here.
Protocols are in place for a lost wallet in Paris depending upon where it was lost. Items lost on a train are given to the Lost and Found at the train’s arrival station. Items lost in a cab are to be turned over to the police. Pete immediately emailed the taxi company, the police, and Gare de Lyon.
Replies to the TripAdvisor post suggested that those at the train station lost and found are not very receptive unless you are present in person. This was our experience as they did not respond to either of two emails.
The Paris police responded very quickly with a form email saying we would hear from them within 10 days.
The taxi company responded promptly. They needed information to identify the taxi.
Since we had charged our fare on a Visa card, we had the receipt.
The next day they wrote to say that the taxi driver had the wallet in his glove box. It had been found by the next passenger, and the driver had not yet delivered it to the police.
We quickly made arrangements for Pete to meet the driver in the early afternoon the following day at Gare de Lyon. And they exchanged phone numbers to stay in touch.
When they met up, the driver, Bahaeddene, handed Pete his wallet with all the cards and cash still there. Pete gave him 50€ for his trouble.
Several days after this, we heard from the police and the train station: they didn’t have the wallet.
Lessons learned: don’t carry around all your credit cards in one place (wallet). Had we needed to close and reissue all of our accounts we’d have been out of business for quite some time. Also, if you’re in a cab and there’s a photo ID of your driver displayed, snap a quick pic with your phone. You just never know when heroes like Bahaeddine and his colleague Mouna will get a chance to return your lost wallet in Paris.
We realize not everyone whose wallet goes missing in Paris (or other locations) will be as fortunate as we were. But we hope if something of yours goes missing that our story will be helpful and encouraging. There are good people everywhere.
Additional tips and information:
Links used to get information and email addresses:
Pete’s initial inquiry to the train station was sent in French (thanks to Google Translate) and English:
Note to those who use different SIM cards in different countries: The taxi driver said he called the U.S. number on Pete’s business card and got no answer. Consider putting a current phone number someplace where an honest person would see it.
Tips for Trip Success
Book Your Flight
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Book Your Hotel or Special Accommodation
We are big fans of Booking.com. We like their review system and photos. If we want to see more reviews and additional booking options, we go to TripAdvisor.
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International Travel Safety Don'ts - A Baker's Dozen - Passing Thru
Monday 21st of December 2015
[…] the latest attacks). The French are dishonest, rude and hate Americans. (We suppose that’s how Pete got his lost wallet back with everything in […]
Tuesday 13th of October 2015
We also lost a small shopping bag and police confirmed they found it. Since we live in middle east and only visited Paris as tourist, we are now back to Qatar and don't know how to get our bag collected from lost and found police dept. Can anyone help.
Saturday 4th of July 2015
What a great piece, filled with useful information, much of which never crossed my mind. I'm so glad it had a happy ending! We've found wallets a few times and it's such a great feeling to return it to the rightful owner. I'm always good about separating my money during travel, but the credit cards-I'll be adopting that habit!
Saturday 4th of July 2015
Hi Alison - Yes, we were very relieved. And really, I know in my brain there is no reason to carry more than a couple of cards. So that is a change I will be making after having learned this lesson.
Friday 3rd of July 2015
I'm glad to hear your lost wallet was returned! It's a reminder that most people are good. My experience was not the same :( About five years ago my purse strap was cut off me as I exited the crowded tube in the London underground. The strap was across body, but both my hands were occupied with luggage (lesson 1). I was also carrying both passports, cash, and all but one credit card in the same place! (lesson 2) My replacement passport finally expired so I don't have to look at my frazzled expression on the passport photo as a reminder of that day!
Saturday 4th of July 2015
Hi Shelley - Oh, I'm sorry to hear about your London experience. It's really hard to have enough hands. We're not fans of the Tube for transfers, either. I'm glad you were able to cope, but I'm sure it's not your favorite memory.
Suze The Luxury Columnist
Wednesday 1st of July 2015
It's great that you got the wallet back, and a really good idea that you contacted the taxi company directly. I used to live in Paris and one of my friends got pickpocketed, so I'm glad it didn't happen to you
Thursday 2nd of July 2015
Hi Suze - Yes, a pickpocket was my first thought. Fortunately not!