When used correctly a money belt is an excellent tool to protect valuables while travelling. They also offer peace of mind as to the whereabouts of important documents and cash.
This article sets out what everyone who uses a money belt should know. Use a money belt incorrectly and you may pay the price of your errors.
What you may want to store in your money belt
- ID (passport, driver’s license)
- Travel tickets (planes, trains, coaches, tours)
- Some cash (large notes)
- Some debit and credit cards
- Accommodation addresses
- List of important contact numbers
- Room key
- Smartphone (turned off / on airplane mode)
Store documents in a plastic zip bag to prevent moisture absorption, especially in tropical climates
How to wear your money belt
- Always hidden under clothes
- With the pouch positioned either front or back
- Around one shoulder with pouch positioned at chest (under clothes)
How NOT to wear or use your money belt
- Never wear your money belt outside your clothes. This defeats the purpose of the concealed pocket.
- Never access your money belt in public places - always retrieve contents in a private space e.g. a bathroom.
How to use your money belt
Remember Fight Club? Using a money belt is like Fight Club.
“The first rule of Fight Club is - you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is - you DO NOT talk about Fight Club.”
Like Fight Club, you do not talk about your money belt. You don’t let anyone know it exists. You must never let anyone see you access it.
It’s presence must never be known to anyone but you and a trusted travel companion (that’s another member of Fight Club to you).
Before leaving your accommodation each day, do a mirror check to make sure your money belt can’t be seen through your clothing.
You won't want to root in your money belt every time you buy something. If thieves are watching this will tell them where your valuables are kept. Instead, keep the equivalent of one day or a half day’s cash and one bank card (if you intend to use one), in a pocket or day wallet. It is best if this pocket closes with a button, zip, or velcro to deter thieves.
Always keep your wallet in a front pocket, preferably buttoned, velcro’d or zipped, but never in your back pocket. Back pockets are easy pickings for pickpockets.
Why you should use a wallet in addition to a money belt?
Your day’s cash / wallet will act as a decoy if pickpockets target you.
Pickpockets will probably believe your wallet is all of your cash, and if they get off with a few pounds while you have the bulk of your money hidden away, consider it a result.
Holiday is no time to sweat the small stuff.
I was once targeted in Barcelona by a group of pickpockets using “The Ronaldo”, so called because football is used as a distraction. The technique involves the pickpocket approaching the target, asking if they like football, becoming exuberant about the beautiful game (to create a distraction) and sliding a hand into the target’s pocket to retrieve it’s contents. In my pocket were a couple of notes which were frankly insulting, while the good stuff remained tucked away under my clothes in a money belt.
I was sober and was aware of what had gone down, but it wasn’t until years later while watching a documentary on pickpockets that I realised I’d been Ronaldo’d in Barca all those years back.
Why you might want to spread your risk
To spread risk you may want to split your cash and cards into different locations. This reduces the risk of losing it all should the worst happen. And it’s always good to ask yourself, do you really need to carry so much cash on your person at any given time?
Storing everything in your money belt can pose a risk if you are robbed, but at times there may be no where else to store your passport. The most important thing to maintain the security of your money belt is to keep it a secret….just like Fight Club.
When to use your money belt and when not to use it
If you have a secure hotel safe, leave your money belt and important documents stored in it each day, taking the cash and / or card you will use that day in a wallet.
If staying in less secure accommodation like a hostel, keep your money belt with you at all times. Wear it while sleeping and take it to the shower with you.
While showering, pop your money belt into a carrier bag to keep it dry and hang it beside you.
Never let it out of your sight and relax only when it is on you and hidden under your clothes. This may seem painfully extreme but it is far less painful than facing the realisation that you are away from home with no passport, no money, and no bank cards.
Never leave your money belt unattended, especially at a beach. Thieves love beaches. If you don’t have a companion to hold onto it when you go for a swim, don’t swim. Wait until you have access to a safe, store your money belt securely for the day, and swim to your heart’s content.
Creating a personal data system for holiday / travel
Cloud storage like Google Drive and Dropbox protected by a long, strong password stored to memory, or cryptically hinted at in a notebook in way only you understand, can be useful for storing the following:
- Photos / digital scans of your passport, including stamped pages
- Photos / digital scans of driver’s license
- Photos / digital scans of visas
- Photos / digital scans of your bank cards front and back (if this is terrifying, make a note of the phone numbers to contact in case of loss / stolen, for each card)
- A document listing important phone numbers, addresses
- Embassy contact information for each country you will visit
Leave a print copy of all of the above with a close friend / family member back home.
Your experiences, tips and tricks
You now know more than most about how to safely use a money belt.
If you have a tip or personal experience to add, please leave a comment below and share it with others.
We recently launched an in-house designed money belt which is now available for purchase.
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