Do I Really Need to Travel With a Money Belt?

To some money belts are peace of mind, but to others they are a totally unnecessary annoyance. I wore the classic Eagle Creek Security Belt on my first backpacking trip through Europe and man did I grow to hate that thing. Sure it was great to have all my valuables hidden from sight, but oh how I couldn’t stand the stench of it at the end of the day. It smelled just like my arm did after a month in a cast and no amount of sink cleaning could get it smelling fresh again.

For those unfamiliar with the joys of money belts, they are slim pouches worn around your waist just large enough to accommodate your passport, credit cards, Eurorail pass, and other valuable documents. The belt wraps around your waist and typically fastens in the back so the pouch is accessible from the front. The belt is nicely concealed under your top unless you’re wearing a belly shirt or uber tight tank.

Pros of Using a Money Belt When Traveling

  1. Secure – It’s nice to have your valuables close to you body where you can feel them. It would be near impossible, unless you were passed out in a snow bank, for someone to rob you without you knowing.
  2. Hidden From Sight – Your valuable documents, cash, and credit cards are completely hidden from sight.
  3. Distribute the Wealth – When traveling, it is a pretty good idea to distribute your cash, credit cards, and copies of your passport in different locations so in case one of your stash spots gets stolen you don’t lose everything. The money belt is just one more place to stow your goods.

Cons of Using a Money Belt When Traveling

  1. Look Like a Tourist – You pretty much look like a tool when you have to pull up your shirt and dig in your belly to pay the street vendor for your pomme frites.
  2. Incompatible With Certain Outfits – Dresses, tight tanks, and halter tops don’t really work with a money belt.
  3. Sweaty, Sweat, Sweatness – They can be pretty uncomfortable especially in sticky hot climates, plus they can make your cash and papers soggy as heck too.
  4. Not so Secret – Sure it would be pretty difficult for someone to steal that money belt off you, but it can still happen. Many backpackers stash all their valuables in the belt thinking they’re totally invincible with their cleverly concealed belt. Thing is they’re not so secret and thieves know you’re carrying them.




Money Belt Alternatives

Personally I like to be comfortable and I think there are just as effective ways to protect your belongings.

  1. Travel With Confidence – I am convinced you can get away with carrying a purse if you act like a local. If you try to blend in, which means no maps, cameras, or fanny packs, and try hard not to look like a tourist you should pretty well be left alone.
  2. Be Aware of Your Surroundings – When I travel, I often store my important documents in a small purse like the REI Travel Day Bag, which I keep in front of me at all times (overhead, around one shoulder and tucked under the opposite arm). I keep aware of my surroundings and aware of my purse at all times and I’ve never had the slightest of problems.
  3. Clothing with Discrete Pockets – Plenty of clothing companies make items with hidden internal pockets. Stash your cash in a zippered front shirt pocket and your credit card in an internal vest pocket and I doubt you will have any trouble. Scottevest makes travel clothing with more pockets than you can count. The only way a thief could rob you of all your belongings is to take your pants and the shirt off your back.

How about you? Money belt yay or nay?

[Photo courtesy of Richard Faulder]

Leave a Reply

9 thoughts on “Do I Really Need to Travel With a Money Belt?

  • J

    I prefer to stash my valuables along my legs. Being a female, that means I cannot wear the spandex-tight pants that are popular/flattering, but this is a concession I am willing to make.

    I typically use a gigantic badge holder that I picked up at a conference a while ago and put my passport in that. I then wear the neck strap around my waist and toss the pouch down the leg of a pair of slacks or let down the outside of my leg as I wear a skirt.

    I carry my travel money (a reloadable debit card) in my purse.

    Last trip I took I constantly consulted a map, but it was on my MP3 player.

  • Allen

    I recently got back from a 6 month adventure in south east Asia. At first I tried using the neck wallet. I can’t tell enough how much I hated it. Yes there is the smell, but trying to get something out of it makes you stand out even worse. It made it look like I had tons of cash to hide. It didn’t help me blend in at all. This last a week before I threw it out.

    I started keeping reasonable amounts of cash plus my debit card in my front pocket. You’re right, act like a local, be confident when you walk around, And watch your surroundings.

    I say no to money belts.

  • Bethany

    I really don’t think so. What I have done in the past is actually sew interior pockets into my pants. No annoying strap and you can get anything safer. Of course it looks like you’re reaching into your snatch region to get some $$ out but if you kind of wander into a corner it’s ok. I really only use it for extra money or my passport so I don’t have to worry. You never have to worry on a bus or train if you fall asleep because no one can get it without you knowing about it!

  • Milt

    I’ve seen alot of travellers wearing these travel belts on the outside which totally defeats the point of them. And also wearing them on the inside but keeping all your cash in there and stooping down to go through it to just pay for some noodles. The whole point of using these or any other travel cash stash is to have a hidden big stash but also have some small money in your pocket to use.

    I say yes to money belts, but use them right.

  • travelerkate

    I have gotten to travel a good amount, and never have I ever worn one. Even while living in Florence and taking the trains everywhere, often alone, pickpockets were never a problem because I used a lot of common sense (and perhaps luck). Ladies- wear a purse with a zipper, and for Gods sakes, keep it zipped. Gents- I have no idea what you do, but if you feel someone groping you assume its a thief. Acting like a local is absolutely crucial, I think. Safe travels!

  • Chris (Amateur Traveler)

    Put me down the the pro camp although I use a neck pouch instead of a money belt. Any time I am some place that is prone to pickpockets. I don’t were one in the U.S. where you are more likely to be mugged.

  • Connie

    I have never, personally, used a money belt in all my travels to over 35 countries, even when I was traveling on my own. I just think it’s impractical and uncomfortable. The point is to be discreet and secure, but if you need to lift up your shirt or go to the toilet to reach for your money when you go out shopping, it gets annoying. Fast.

    Money belts aren’t necessary. Just exercise caution and be smart. Guys, put your money in your front pockets where it’s harder to get to. Ladies, always zip up your purse and when walking through crowded areas, hold it so that your arm keeps it close to your body.

  • Ivy

    I used it for travel and it worked like a charm. I kept my big stash in the money belt and and few loose bucks in my pockets.