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Drugged, Abducted + Robbed in Russia

Avoiding Travel Scams

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I remember … nothing.

The first moment of consciousness. Early-morning sun in the Siberian countryside. Staggering and falling on a gravel road.

Staggering, stumbling amid a second moment of consciousness: Fuck, where am I? Ahhh shit man. I’VE BEEN ROBBED!

YEAH, yesterday was surreal, and unnerving.

And today, I remain in Irkutsk, analyzing what little I remember.

I recall going to a street kiosk to eat Shishlick (grilled meat on a skewer). There I had a beer while awaiting my meal, intending to return to the hostel for a quiet movie night.

It was around 10pm, still light in Summer. Busy streets. From the table beside me, a group of students, 4 guys and 3 girls talked to me. Then came their offer of vodka shots.

FLASHBACK to trees and fields, walking – stumbling. “Where the f*ck am I ???%!!!”

And, f*ck, how’d my boots get so wet?

How far have I walked?

Am I dreaming?

Scratched hands and bruises from falling, I realize … I have no memory of waking up.

The first recall is staggering somewhere amid the Siberian countryside. Feeling feeble, unable to walk.

Above my eye, it’s a little banged up.

Checking my internal money-belt – yeah, damn, my cash’s gone.

Feeling bombed. Not that hangover joy.

Euphoric – yes, yet a swirling dizziness and a dull headache blankets my head. But no searing pain. No vomit; so I guess I didn’t drink too much.

Was I drugged ???

Travel Scam Drugged Drink Robbery
Don’t Drink in Public – sign (repainted by me) in the streets of Irkutsk, Siberia.

Later, a doctor confirmed this back at the hostel.

He said there’s this drug for lowering blood pressure – when mixed with vodka, that knocks you out within 20 minutes. And it wipes the memory.

I was showing these signs as he checked my pulse, suggesting that I drink a lot of coffee – to get back on the planet.

I stagger, stumble, fall. I try hitching. No one stops. There’s too few cars.

I urge myself: “Keep-going”.

Somehow, I’ve walked in the right direction – towards an asphalt road and then a cottage appears. Over a hill, and into concrete block suburbs of what must be Irkutsk.

“Made it! “Elated, I grin.

I must have looked like a madmen. Zoned-out and lost, like never before in my life.

And I frighten the few people I see. Some shout at me, others hurry away when I ask the way to the city.

I walk on.

At a bus stop, a young guy asks me – “What happened?”

Yes, someone speaks English!

Kindly, he pays 100 rubles ($3) for a taxi to take me to the city center. But when I get to the ATM, for more cash to pay the fare, the driver abandons me.

Having walked around Irkutsk a day earlier, I manage to find my way back to the hostel.

The female manager is horrified by my story.

I then crash out.

Later the hostel owner came, along with a doctor, who said this is the kind of thing police know, and do. That two police cadets had been caught robbing a taxi driver the other day.

I’d had a flashback. Big building with wide corridors and uniforms. But I can’t be sure if this was a dream from when I slept before the doctor checked me over. Was I taken from the streets by cops? Searched in a station and dumped out of town? Only my cash and ATM receipts gone.

Losses of $372 US and $300 in rubles stolen. My most expensive travel loss, ever.

But, nothing else.

No organs extracted. No indications of rape.

No, I was *only* drugged, abducted and robbed.

Luckily, they didn’t find my extra hidden stash – another $600.

Surely, street thieves would’ve taken everything – including passport and credit cards?

Travel Tip: To minimize losses, when I go out drinking my money belt remains in a locked backpack in my locked room. And, I only take $30 for an evening (this buys plenty of alcohol in the Developing World). But last night on a quick errand for food, I lost sight of caution.

And so I “woke up”, stumbling in a frenzy realizing that I’d been drugged and robbed and dumped in the countryside of God-knows-f*ckin’-where!

But the damage could have been worse …


ADVICE ON TRAVEL SCAMS: Avoiding drugged drinks + being robbed while traveling


When drinking with strangers, even the seemingly innocent, always follow your gut instinct. Heed the warning. It’s always right.

I turned against that feeling and my assumption of how they drugged me is this: When I went for a pee, one of the guys came with me as we pissed into the bushes behind the food cart (no toilet available). Then we returned – say about 10 meters away but out of sight – to a new round of vodka lined up and ready to go.

Stupidly, I overrode my intuition at this next crucial moment.

For a split-second, I saw a few tiny bubbles – slight fizz from the bottom of my glass. Yet, dismissed it as nothing and tossed it back. That warning must have been the remnants of a dissolving pill.

Had I been aware of drug drinks scams at the time, there would be no story.

Since this experience (back in 2005), I always finish my drink before I go to the toilet. And also, I never accept an opened bottle or fresh drink without seeing the entire process.

Lastly , A NOT-SO CRAZY IDEA: If you return from the toilet and there’s a fresh drink awaiting you with people insisting to down it and you’re feeling happy, not paranoid – otherwise leave, then, switch your drink with the person next to you. Dismissing your actions with a crazy laugh as you take a large gulp. ]

And remember friends: Watch who you drink with – and have one on me!


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FURTHER READING:

English graduate’s frozen body found after being drugged and robbed in Russia

Global Nomad