Travel with a Money Belt: Your Portable Safe

Placing Passport in Moneybelt
To thwart pickpockets, stash your valuables in your money belt, then tuck it inside your clothes. (photo: Dominic Bonuccelli)
By Rick Steves

More secure than a travel wallet, money belts are your key to peace of mind. I never travel without one. A money belt is a small, zippered fabric pouch that fastens around the waist under your pants or skirt. You wear it completely hidden from sight, tucked in like a shirttail — over your undies and shirt, under your pants. Most people wear the pouch over their stomach, but if you find it more comfortable, slide it around to the small of your back. (And some people prefer to use a neck pouch instead, worn like a necklace but under their shirt.) Each traveler should carry his or her own credit and debit cards and a stash of emergency cash in their own money belt.

With a money belt, all your essential documents are on you as securely and thoughtlessly as your underwear. Have you ever thought about that? Every morning you put on your underpants. You don't even think about them all day long. And every night, when you undress, sure enough, there they are, exactly where you put them. When I travel, my valuables are just as securely out of sight and out of mind, around my waist in a money belt. It's luxurious peace of mind. I'm uncomfortable only when I'm not wearing it.

Those who travel with nothing worth stealing except for what's in their money belt are virtually invulnerable. But money belts don't work if they're anywhere but under your clothes. I once met an American woman whose purse was stolen, and in her purse was her money belt (that juicy little anecdote was featured in every street-thief newsletter). If you pull out your money belt to retrieve something, always remember to tuck it back in. And don't use a fanny pack as a money belt — thieves assume this is where you keep your goodies.

Never leave a money belt "hidden" on the beach while you swim (ideally, leave it locked up in your room). In hostels or on overnight trains, wear your money belt when you sleep. You can shower with it (hang it — maybe in a plastic bag — from the nozzle or curtain rod). Keep your money-belt contents dry and sweat-free by slipping them into a plastic sheath or baggie before zipping them into the belt.

You don't need to get at your money belt for every euro. Your money belt is your deep storage — for select deposits and withdrawals. For convenience, carry a day's spending money in your pocket (a button-down flap or Velcro strip sewn into your front or back pocket slows down fast fingers). Make sure it's an amount you're prepared to lose. Lately, I haven't even carried a wallet. A few bills in my shirt pocket — no keys, no wallet — I'm on vacation!