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Continental Drifter

Continental Drifter is the Alan Skyrme Photography blog first established in 2004 under the banner Continental Drift. In it we publish snippets about nutrition, information about fruit and food, articles about travel experiences, travel reviews and other related notes.

Travelling Light! A cautionary tale.


A few months ago I needed to travel to UK and decided that I would arrange this via Lisbon with a side trip to Sicily. This required a bit of planning since I also needed train journeys and a ferry from Penzance to the Isles of Scilly. Yes, Scilly and Sicily in one trip.

The itinerary was thus: (feel free to skip to the end!)

  • flight from Brazil to Lisbon 
  • Hotel in Lisbon
  • Flight from Lisbon to London
  • Train from London to Penzance
  • Hotel in Penzance
  • Ferry from Penzance to Scilly
  • Hotel in Scilly
  • Flight from Scilly to Penzance (I decided that I could not cope with the high seas again)
  • Hotel in Penzance
  • Train from Penzance to London
  • Flight from London to Lisbon
  • Hotel in Lisbon
  • Flight from Lisbon to Bergamo, Italy
  • Hotel in Bergamo
  • Flight from Bergamo to Trapani, Sicily
  • Flight from Trapani to Bergamo
  • Hotel in Bergamo
  • Flight from Bergamo to Lisbon
  • Hotel in Lisbon
  • Flight from Lisbon to Brazil

All of this was pre-booked on the internet.

I arrived at Lisbon airport on the first leg of the journey and stopped for a quick espresso after clearing the automated immigration barrier and before collecting my baggage. Next to the coffee kiosk is a Cambio exchange kiosk with an ATM machine, so I withdrew my wallet to draw some Euros. Horror of horrors I could not find my debit card. My credit card had, after 3 months of discussion with my bank (costing more than £300 in calls) still had not arrived before my trip began. That’s another story. So the only card I had that was still valid was my debit card issued by a different bank. I confirmed that the debit card was sitting in a drawer at home where I had left it!

I had no payment cards and only a limited amount of cash in my wallet! Panic!!

Luckily I had travelled with a few dollars, euros and pounds that, in total, would get me to the Scilly Isles. I changed enough dollars to pay my hotel bill but lost considerable value in the process. The euro cash that I already had was enough for food and taxis.

Flights had been pre-paid, as had the train (though I had yet to work out how to retrieve the tickets from the machine without the card that was used to pre-purchase them!) and as the hotels were reserved via my card there may not have been an issue to authorise the debit.

Lessons learned (as if after my lifetime of travelling had not already taught me this):

  • Travel with a credit card
  • Carry a back up card or make back-up arrangements (e.g. cash transfers)
  • Carry as much cash as is practical
  • Ensure flights are booked and pre-paid
  • Confirm if hotel reservations can be settled without the original booking card
  • Ensure important contact numbers are recorded

The bank call centre was very helpful but nothing could be done without cancelling the debit card which I didn’t want to do. At least I knew it was somewhere safe.

The Railway ticketing attendant was extremely helpful and managed to find a way to release my pre-paid tickets.

I managed to obtain enough cash to cover the remainder of my trip by borrowing from my eldest daughter.

The rest of my trip was pleasant and relaxing – the stress was short-lived!