How to Find Yourself Penniless in Peru

So what happens when you go to a cash machine at the bus terminal in Arica (your last stop in Chile) before boarding your bus to Tacna, Peru, take your money but leave your bank card behind, but don’t realise until you arrive in Peru?

I’ll tell you what happens.

First of all, you laugh. The situation is so ridiculous that it seems that the only thing to do is laugh. Laugh and frantically search to the depths of every single bag you have with you.

Then you pay £5 for 40MB of mobile data so you can Google the Barclays Lost & Stolen helpline, which you will now save to your phonebook for future reference.

Phone number obtained, so of course you then call said helpline and speak to a nice Indian man called Apu (I’m not making that up) who spends a good few minutes not finding you on the system because he misheard T as D (because Dhatcher is a name). Apu has a nice chat with you, asks if you’re on holiday and on hearing that you’re travelling ‘around the world’ so to speak, advises you to take care of yourself and be more careful with your bank cards in the future, Miss Thatcher. Thanks, Apu.

Card safely cancelled and will be winging its way to your home address in 2-3 working days. Your home address… which is almost 10,000km across the world.

No problem there, though, because you realise that the new girlfriend of your ex-boyfriend who you’ve been sporadically travelling with for the past few weeks, despite your better judgement, is flying out to Peru this Saturday to meet him. Great, she can bring the card. You can just get your stepdad to drop the card to ex-boyfriend’s house when it arrives for his sister to pass on to girlfriend. Brilliant idea.


a. you would rather spend the next six months begging for spare change in your underwear than have to rely on her for that big of a favour


b. your ex-boyfriend would rather she (and his mother) not get involved, it ‘wouldn’t be appropriate’ and besides, why can’t you just pay £60 to have it Fedex’ed out to you?!


He does eventually, albeit begrudgingly, offer to have a friend pick up the card from my parents’ address because it would be easier. But of course by then you’ve gone into complete “Independent Woman don’t-need-no-man” mode and have sent a message a Whatsapp group of old colleagues asking for advice. An nice little mix of Spanish, French, Dutch/Caribbean and British, all of whom have lived overseas for at least a year – one of them is bound to know what to do, right? Right! Spain to the rescue – Western Union! Of course.

So it’s settled – as soon as ordinary banking hours commence (this all happened on a Sunday) you’ll call up Barclays again to find out your exact balance so you can use Western Union to transfer it all into your other (currently empty) account, of which you do have the bank card. Perfect.

Except you’re in Peru, and apparently you can only receive cash via Western Union in Peru. Do I really want to receive and have to carry around a couple of thousand pounds worth of currency in Peru – or anywhere in South America for that matter? Um, no, not really.

Then you have a brainwave. Paypal! You have a couple hundred safely stowed away in your Paypal account from when you tried to sell your life to fund this adventure. You can empty it into the account you actually do have the card for. That’ll tide you over until your replacement card arrives in UK, when you can ask your stepdad to open it and provide you with the card and/or account details so you can pay all your money into Paypal and withdraw it again into a different account. Just typing that sentence made me exhausted.

Exhausting and long-winded a it may be, problem solved! Or it will be… in 2-3 working days.

Lessons learnt:

  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket (or money all in one account)
  • Don’t use a cash machine while sleepy
  • Don’t prematurely spend all your emergency back up money on sky-diving thinking ‘I won’t need this’, because chances are you will

And of course, the last thing you do is write a Facebook status because you just know how much people will really appreciate your utter stupidity.




  1. 13th June 2016 / 3:52 pm

    Hey, this article made me laugh! Even though its a shit situation, I love how situations like this force you to become more practical and really improve your problem solving. Always feels good when you overcome an impossible situation. I ran out of money and phone battery in New York once, nowhere to stay, and after a few hour, several payphones and scrawling a half remembered phone number on my arm, managed to contact a friend of a friend of a friend and crash at theirs – feels like a real achievement once you’re past the panic! 🙂

    • 14th June 2016 / 2:36 am

      Absolutely! It was one of those situations that made me think if I had Twitter I’d definitely tweet my thought process. Instead my poor stepdad was on the receiving end of a gazillion messages, eventually ending with “ignore all that, I’ve got Paypal”. Although your situation seems slightly more terrifying than mine, I reckon both would definitely be deserving of Gold Stars in Problem Solving class. 😉

  2. 13th June 2016 / 5:41 pm

    In Finnish apu means help so help named man working in helpline. 😀 That really made my day! I hope you get your money and have safe travels from now on 🙂

    • 14th June 2016 / 2:32 am

      That’s so funny about his name – I wonder if he knows haha! Thank you 🙂

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