Travel with a Money Belt: Your Portable Safe

To thwart pickpockets, stash your valuables in your money belt, then tuck it inside your clothes.
By Rick Steves

More secure than a travel wallet, a money belt — a small, zippered fabric pouch on an elastic strap that fastens around your waist — is your key to peace of mind. I never travel without one — it's where I put anything I really, really don't want to lose. Wear it completely hidden from sight, tucked in like a shirttail — over your undies, under your pants or skirt. You can wear the pouch over your stomach for ease of access, but if you find it more comfortable, slide it around to the small of your back.

Some people prefer to use a neck pouch, worn like a necklace but under a shirt, or a hidden pocket, which loops onto your belt, then tucks in behind it. Others use a Lycra runners belt, tucked under their clothes.

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; if that's not an option bring a small waterproof pouch or dry bag so your valuables can swim with you. In hostels or on overnight trains, wear your money belt when you sleep. You can even shower with it in a hostel (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. I don't even carry a wallet. A few bills in my shirt pocket — no keys, no wallet — I'm on vacation!