What is a Money Belt and Should You Travel With One?

Stash Your Cash in a Money Belt: What Every Traveler Needs to Know

Money belt with cash and passport
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One of my most frequently asked questions has to do with keeping your money safe on the road, and specifically: should you buy a money belt for your trip? You either love them or you hate them, but there's no denying they're one of the best ways to keep your cash stashed when you're on the move. 

Read on to find out more about whether money belts are right for you.

What is a Money Belt?

Hiding travel money in money belts brings you peace of mind.

You can buy regular belts that are really money belts or cloth money pouches, also called money belts, that are worn under your clothes. Use money belts to keep your passport and document copies on your body, too. Although thieves know all about these things, it's extremely unlikely that they're going to try to undress you to get at your stashed cash if you've got it zipped into a physical belt.

All "regular" money belts have in common a hidden compartment within the belt. Turn the belt inside out and open a zippered compartment, stash your cash, zip up, thread the belt through your loops and stroll the streets in safety.

What Do Money Belts Look Like?

Regular money belts look just like normal belts and come in a few styles - dressy, casual, leather, canvas... Along the inside of the belt, there'll be a small slit where you can fold up money and place it inside. Nobody would think to ever look there!

Money belts are definitely the best option for keeping your money safe, as they're discreet and comfortable. If you normally wear belts at home, even better! You won't have to change your normal clothing style.

If you're looking to get your hands on one, here's one by EagleCreek.

What About Money Pouches?

Money pouches are usually dubbed money belts.

They're a pouch that you secure around your waist or neck and you can't see them if you're wearing baggy clothes. If you're small, you'll likely struggle to find a comfortable fit -- the pouch has to be quite large to fit your passport and money, so will often feel annoying against your crotch. 

Once again, check out EagleCreek's selection of money pouches if you want to learn more.

And What About Pickpocket-Proof Clothing? 

Within the last few years, pickpocket-proof clothing has emerged on the market, offering a discreet way to keep your money safe while you're on the move. 

Honestly, I've tried a few different items from different companies and I've yet to find anything that fits well and doesn't have a big, obvious, and uncomfortable pocket. 

If you'd like to try out some pickpocket-proof clothing, I'd recommend trying Clever Travel Companion first. I wasn't a fan, but they're still the best option I've come across. 

My Verdict

I often say that one of the best ways to stay safe when you're traveling is to behave exactly how you would at home. That means wearing jeans and a t-shirt instead of travel-specific clothing, not carrying a guidebook around with you, and doing your best to look confident, even when lost.

If you don't look like the locals, this will at least give the impression that you know what you're doing and know how the city works. 

Money belts? They shatter the illusion that you're not a tourist. As soon as you start rummaging around in one it shows that you're not confident and you're not from around there. Not to mention the fact that it looks like you're rummaging around in your underwear every time you want to pay for something. Oh, and also? They're actually really uncomfortable to wear under your clothes. 

South America is one of the least safe places for tourists to visit and the amount of friends who haven't been robbed while traveling the continent are definitely in the minority. Those that have been held up on the street? The first thing the attacker did was lift up their shirt and search for a money belt.

You'd likely be okay with a belt rather than a pouch, but know that the attackers are well-aware that such things exist. 

So, what should you do instead? I keep the majority of my cash stowed away in a secret pocket in my backpack and rarely head out to explore with more than $100 in cash (unless i know that I'll need more than that). If I were to travel in Latin America and was feeling nervous about being robbed, I'd keep my money in my shoe and have a decoy wallet in my pocket with a couple of dollars and a cancelled credit card. 

 

Edited by Lauren Juliff.