Pickpockets call the back pocket, the ‘sucker pocket’ because it’s simply the easiest to snatch from. Inside breast pockets of your jacket are good places to stash small flat items, but you have to keep the jacket zipped firmly closed at all times for that to work really well.
It’s for these reasons that money belts were designed, but the name ‘money belt’ is actually a little misleading for some travelers because a money belt is really intended to secure what you don’t want stolen and not what you’re going to use that day.
Don’t toss your wallet yet!
Essentially, a money belt is NOT intended for carrying the stuff you need for daily transactions. You don’t want to be pulling out and re-hiding your money belt often because that draws attention to it, which kinda defeats the purpose.
What you’re using on a day-to-day basis:
- The cash you’ll need for the day
- Your identification (driver’s license and not your passport, preferably)
- One credit card IF you’ll be using it during the day
You’ll carry these outside your money belt. It’s best to keep this stuff shoved deep into the front pocket of your pants as this is the lowest profile way to carry money.
If you really need to access what’s in the money belt, go to a place where you can do that unobtrusively – like a restroom.
What goes in your money belt
As we’ve mentioned before, when you venture out of your lodgings for the day, take only the cash and one credit card that you’ll need for the day – this will limit your losses if you are robbed and still allow you to continue to enjoy your trip.
These items are what you should pack into your money belt each day:
- Emergency cash (this is the stuff you’ll need if your wallet is stolen)
- One credit card (if you’re not using it often)
- Credit card numbers – use our system for securing those
- Copy of your passport pages if you’re not carrying them digitally on your phone
- Ditto your travel insurance info – unless you’re carrying that digitally on your phone
- Any visas
- Your room key
- Emergency contact list (in case you’re in an accident and can’t speak for yourself)
- Vital information like a list of allergies, doctor’s name, etc.
This leaves items like your sunglasses, jewelry, mobile devices and cameras exposed to some degree so it’s important to watch those items as well.
Types of money belts
Just like every other travel accessory, there are many types of money belts you can purchase or make yourself:
- Waist money belts – these are often considered the most popular. They’re typically about ten inches long and four inches wide with a waist strap. This belt is worn around the waist, typically under your clothing. The primary concern with this type of money belt is that it is comfortable and it fits your waist, otherwise you’ll be tempted to leave it behind.
- Neck or shoulder money belts – these are pouches that hang from a string that goes around your neck or over your shoulder. Again, this belt is typically worn under your clothing. Because the strap can be grabbed, cut, and the pouch pulled away, it’s the least effective of money belts, but it’s still much safer than a wallet or fanny pack. Many women travelers prefer these.
- Leg type money belts – these are pouches that strap around your leg, typically just above the ankle. Obviously, long pants (not shorts) need to be worn over them to hide them. These are said to be worn by travelers in areas where bandits roam because, reportedly, the bandits are likely to tell travelers to drop their pants to reveal their money belts and this circumvents that issue.
- Pocket type money belts – these are about half the size of a waist belt and so may not work for many travelers, but they are still quite popular. These also hang inside your pants from the belt or belt loop, so they’re easy to access, easy to re-hide.
- Actual belt money belts – these are real belts with a secret zippered pocket on the inside. These money belts look and act just like a regular belt.
Some travelers are known to employ more than one money belt with items of varying degrees of importance held deeper under the clothing and against the skin. In both pouches goes some cash in the theory that if one is stolen, you won’t be penniless while you make your way back to your lodgings. Losing some stuff is bad enough, but losing everything could be really bad.
Hints for hiding your money belt
When a money belt is visible – either by jutting out from your body or seen through your clothing, for example – that’s like waving the starting flag to thieves. Try it on before you leave and wear the clothes you’ll be wearing on your trip so that you can see that it fits and it’s not visible.
- If you’re wearing it under your clothes, button the shirt and tuck it into your pants or skirt (i.e., don’t let the shirt hang loose over the money belt – that’s not effectively hiding it).
- If you’re hanging a pocket type money belt inside your pants, wear an actual belt as that will make it harder for thieves.
- If you’re using a neck type money belt, tuck it under one arm so it’s worn across the body and less visible at the neck. Position the pouch where you can best be aware of it throughout the day.
Essentially, you’ll need to play with the clothes you’re wearing, which will vary depending on the climate and circumstances, and work with your money belt.