This story begins in a magical city filled with drinkable water from street fountains. It begins in the eternal city of Rome.
A long time ago (June 2015), I took a solo tour around some parts of Europe. For my journey, I brought with me a single debit card for all my transactions and up until I was to leave Florence, it worked fine.
After a relaxing two-night stay in a nice boutique hotel, I got set to head to my next destination. I packed up my stuff and went on to check out.
And then it all went south…
When the host ran my card the first time and told me it was declined, I just assumed it had something to do with the network. I had used the card the night before when I went out to get dinner.
‘Can you please run it again?’ I say confidently, chatting away on my phone. He did, again and again, and got the same message.
Okay, so the hotel had network issues, not a problem. I’ll just head down to the ATM around the corner and get some cash, I think, although I am starting to panic a little. I had booked my train to Rome in advance and was to get on it within the next thirty minutes but the time was passing by quickly.
I get to the ATM and try to make a withdrawal. The machine rumbles with that sound it makes when it’s about to dispense and I exhale in relief. But alas! Rather than money, I am greeted with a message saying my card has been blocked for international transactions.
I run back to the hotel and ask to use their phone to call my bank since I have no sim card. In the meantime, I am bombarding my bank’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for a solution (which turned out to be fruitless by the way). The line just wouldn’t connect.
Rescued at last… or so I thought…
Eventually, the receptionist tells me I can go after placing a charge on my card. With only 15 minutes left to departure time, I rush out of the hotel lobby. The receptionist tells me the distance from the hotel to the train station is a 15 minutes casual walk but I completely rule out the option of walking because of my big problem with directions. I have to take the bus!
The bus fare was a mere €1.20 but I didn’t have €1.20. PS: I have been cursed by the chocolate god, so I spent all my coins getting chocolate from the vending machine close to the hotel 🙁
I don’t know what I was thinking but I walk into a stall where the tickets are being sold and try to explain to the shop owner that I needed a free bus ticket.
(Corporate begging tip #1: Be confident in your approach!)
To my dismay, he didn’t speak any English and my Italian, to say the least, is very shattered! Luckily, a hotel guest walked into the shop and I narrate my ordeal to her as well. She is kind enough to buy me a ticket. Bless her. I then hurry to the nearest station to catch a bus.
Have you ever heard the saying that Italians are never in a hurry? Well, I experienced this first-hand. My bus arrived at the station with five minutes to spare but for some reason, the driver just wouldn’t open the door. Honestly, I was so puzzled! Anyway, thanks to a delay in its arrival, I am able to catch the train. Whew!
Solo Travel Horror Stories: A corporate beggar in Rome
I finally arrive in Rome and my hostel is about an hour’s walk away according to Google maps. I have no money to buy a bus or train ticket but I try to stay calm.
Okay, Amarachi, you love walking remember? You walk from Victoria Island to Lekki Phase 1. You walk to Ikoyi. You’re a walker! What is an hour’s walk to you? Nothing! Absolutely… Oh Lord, what am I going to do?
I start to wander around the station, looking for an ATM, hoping that by some stroke of luck, my card will work. I walk in and out of the station several times after failing to get money from any of the ATMs I found.
By now, I am thinking that I might even get arrested once security cameras pick up a strange person walking in and out of the train station.
At least if you get picked up, they might help with your ticket after the questioning is over.
(Corporate begging tip #2: Think positive!)
As I continue to ponder on my plight, an old woman walks up to me. She jiggles her cup full of coins and asks me for money. If she only knew that at the moment, I was worse off.
Anyway, some tourists walk over to the ticket machine and attempt to buy their day passes. I approach one of them and explain my plight to him. In my mind, I think of all those office beggars in Lagos.
You know, the ones that come up to you, all dressed up, to tell you that they came for an interview on the Island and have no transport money back? That was me now. 🙁
Oh well, they got me a ticket and the rest is history. I found my way to my hostel and was allowed to check in and pay once I sorted out issues with my card.
All is well that ends well.