Money belts are an almost ubiquitous piece of travel equipment, but should you wear a money belt on your gap year? I can’t stand them, never wear one and think they do very little to decrease the risk of becoming a victim or losing your important documents. Here’s why.
I really don’t understand the appeal of these little pouches. Okay, that’s not entirely true, I can understand from a logical perspective why travellers would want to keep their money and documents safe, but what I don’t get is their almost universal acceptance, as if they are some quintessential travellers safety blanket. Even trusted names in the travel world swear by them!
But they are all wrong.
The travel pouch is so universally widespread now that they have lost their basic function, don’t help reduce your risk levels and add nothing to the travel experience.
The huge and unavoidable problem with these ridiculous canvas bum bags is that they are supposed to be hidden, they are supposed to be secret, they are supposed to hide all your money and important documents away in a place that no thief would even think to look!
Except from the little problem of the fact that thieves know all about them and they do look.
These things are so widespread now that every thief, pickpocket or mugger worth their salt knows that every tourist (and believe me they will have marked you out as a rich tourist) will probably have one of these and after emptying your pockets will definitely go looking for it, knowing that is where the jackpot is likely to be.
Not to mention the fact that fumbling around with one of these things if you ever need to get anything out of them is cumbersome and not exactly subtle and will absolutely mark you out as a tourist. This is anathema to one of the most basic pieces of travel safety advice of blending in.
So that kind of defeats the whole point.
And that just leaves you wandering around the tropics with a stinking, sweat soaked canvas bag rubbing against your skin and underpants. Not exactly the most comfortable of things.
Supporters of these uncomfortable extra pockets often come to the defence of their beloved sweaty travel safes with the declaration of the infamous neck pouch, the ones that can be hidden under your shirt instead of your waistline. Right, let’s just forget about the fact that you are handing a potential assailant a weapon with which to strangle you with. C’mon people!
Now to be fair, the principle of the money belt is absolutely sound. Hide your most valuable documents and assets on your person whilst you are travelling, no one can argue with that and as a principle I absolutely agree with it, but there are much better ways to do this than using one of these things now.
First of all it is never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket. Have a whole ton of secret stashes around your person and even in your daypac to spread out your money and important documents. That way if the worst does happen, you at least have a good chance of not losing everything.
There are a ton of clothes that have small secret pouches now that do the exact same job as these money belts but have the advantage of being much more subtle and spread out. Shirts have secret inner pockets with hidden zips that are perfect for passports, guys have secret pockets hidden inside boxer shorts that can fit a small amount of folded up cash in and ladies have specially made bras with the same function (although many padded bras with the padding removed does the same trick). These are secret pockets incorporated into clothes that you would naturally be wearing anyway and much less noticeable by any potential mugger, pickpocket or thief. There is also the exception to the rule on money belts, the Wanderwave, a belt that is designed for women to attach to their bra and fit around the ribs, not an obvious place such as your neck or waist that all muggers will look for.
In all my years of travel I have never worn one of these security belts and I never will. The only advantage I can see to them is to wear one with a few old cards and small bills in to act as a decoy, but that really isn’t necessary and to be honest the comfort factor outweighs any benefit.
So if you are planning your gap year at the moment and are thinking about travel safety and security (which is always a good thing to do and completely commendable) then I wouldn’t be looking at a travel money belt to provide it.
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