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A topic that's been covered ad nauseam but here goes, money belts?

I've read all about the pros and cons but part of me is still thinking it's a little...well, silly. I've traveled all over the US and never had an issue. Is London going to be that much worse than NYC, Vegas or Chicago? I was thinking of getting a smaller wallet that can carry a few items and just keep it in my front pocket.

Would that be enough or is the idea of the money belt really warranted? I know some people who I would completely say, "get one" because of the way they travel. It's not a bad thing, they just travel a little differently than I do.

What's the general consensus? front pocket of pants ok? Personally, I'm more concerned about my phone than my wallet. I figure I'm gonna have that out 90% of the time looking up directions and various items.

Posted by
527 posts

If you've read any or all previous posts on this subject, you will quickly see that there is no general consensus.

Posted by
2525 posts

Do what works for you and report back with happy or sad results. Me? I keep a super thin wallet with just a little local currency and my debit card in a secure chest pocket. I cannot stand wearing a money belt. My "smart"phone is buried deep in my pack unless I am taking photos with it securely in hand.

Posted by
1163 posts

In all of our years of travel abroad, we have only had two attempted pickpocket incidents - one on the crowded tube in London and one at Atocha station in Madrid. The pickpocket attempt on the London tube was thwarted because my husband had his cash in his hidden money "pocket" (more comfortable than a money belt). The Madrid attempt was thwarted because my purse was cross body and locked. You have to decide what you are willing to risk.

Posted by
15 posts

Bruce, that's exactly what I was thinking of doing. It's one of those where I read all kinds of different opinions and whatnot but you always have that nagging feeling that you might be overlooking something. I think "well, this seems logical to me" but it's always nice to get confirmation on it. :)

Posted by
314 posts

It wouldn't matter to me if I was in Rome at the peak of tourist season. A money belt or neck wallet would be prohibitively uncomfortable for me, so I would find alternate ways of keeping my possessions secure. (I tend to visit cities that don't have as much of a problem, and I tend not visit the most trafficked sites anyway.) If you feel that you can keep yourself safe by another method, then do that. Not all cities have problems, and not all locations within those cities have problems. They say that really skilled pickpockets can take anything they want off you--look up videos of the amazing Apollo Robbins for example. Study up on the ways people get taken, and keep your wits about you, and you'll probably be fine. Or not. But if you've planned ahead and distributed your valuables around your person, and have the emergency phone numbers, etc., your losses would hopefully be minimal even if someone does steal from you.

Posted by
2466 posts

We returned from London 2 weeks ago, the RS tour. Our guide warned us about pickpockets on the tube and crowded areas. We had money belts, but most often they stayed locked in the room safe (another controversial practice, although we've never had one violated in decades of travel). I carry a small wallet with a small amount of currency and that is it. If I need a credit or debit card, I use the money belt. I can't stand the thought of having to report a card lost, replacement., etc. But, I have travel pants from Travel Smith and shorts from Royal Robbins that I bought specifically because they have a zippered pocket inside the front pocket. Maybe this is false security as pickpockets are good at what they do. But it's worked for me for years.

Posted by
6841 posts

Just got back two week trip Switzerland France Belgium Spain
I am from Chicago. I only wear the neck pouch akin to money belt when traveling to a destination. Once I got to a destination I made myself comfortable and carried thin wallet with ATM card and credit card and cash in front pockets. When I went to a couple of crowded outdoor music festivals I carried cash front pocket state Identification and credit card. So basically I did what I do at home when out and about.

Posted by
561 posts

My husband is using one of those hidden pockets that has a loop that slips over his belt, and then the "pocket" sits just inside his pants. For small change and/or credit card, he keeps them handy in a zipper pocket on his pants.

Posted by
4368 posts

I've lost count of the number of times I've wandered around London and used the tube and all the time I've had my wallet in my back pocket and my phone in my front. Never have I experienced a theft nor have I witnessed any.

Would you wear a money belt in NYC, Chicago or Las Vegas, all cities which have a higher crime rate than London? If not why would you consider wearing one in London?

Posted by
672 posts

I don't wear a money belt at home because my credit/debit/ID cards are easily replaced here and cash is accessible without them. It would be far more of a problem in another country, especially if I'm moving on every few days. Why take the chance? I wear a money belt every day when I'm traveling and I'm baffled by those who say it's uncomfortable. I don't even notice it. I use the regular old RS one, since I have a lifetime supply of them from our many tours.

My husband has been pick pocketed in Europe several times - zipped back pocket, front pocket with billfold chained to his belt, etc. - in Metro stations and on crowded cars, in train stations, on an escalator, where he was shoved from behind. It's very hard to convince a tall guy who has carried his billfold in his back pocket his entire life that these people are very, very good at what they do.

Posted by
754 posts

Hubby LOVES his belt loop hidden puch......It was awesome for me not to worry about our passports. I had the money we needed that day in a locked compartment in my Pacsafe Purse that I wear cross body with just that little cash, extra batteries for the camera, extra memory card and lipgloss, tissues, glasses and such. We had 4 attempts but they GOT nothing during our 26 days (10 in Paris where the 4 attempts we felt failed)

Posted by
1352 posts

In all our travels in Europe the only places I ever felt using our money belt was a good idea is in Rome and Florence. We saw pickpockets in action in both of these cities. I've been to London 12 times and never felt it was necessary there. I have always felt very safe in London.

Posted by
9799 posts

I have used a hidden pocket style of moneybelt since 1992. I wear it whenever I am out of my home area.
That includes major U.S. cities as well as those outside the U.S.

I also carry a small wallet with some cash, ID, and a credit card in my front pocket.

This way I am always safe.

Posted by
16860 posts

Your small wallet sounds fine for small cash but what about deep storage for your extra cash, extra credit cards, and passport?

Posted by
5975 posts

Its not a substitute for a wallet. the money belt or neck pouch is for deep storage of things that you need to have secure and don't need to take out for ever transaction. You are not supposed to dig in your money belt in your pants for your CC or small cash every time you want to buy something. Think of it as a small portable safe for the things that will be troublesome to replace, Of course you carry some cash (or CC if you must) in a secure accessible pocket for the day's business. All your other important stuff needs more security than your front pocket.

I get that Americans are pretty used to not worrying about pickpockets in the US (unlike armed muggings). But that's because we aren't used to well-trained and organized teams of people working that hard. I live in a major metropolitan area of 2.3 million people with lots of shootings and armed robbery, but recently saw a report of "breaking news" - police warning about a team of kids taking stuff out of purses at a local shopping center. Its rare enough to make the news and people have to be advised to be careful. Look around and see how many people walk around with their wallets and phones in their back pockets, and compare that to people in Europe (just be discrete when looking.)

While you're looking at your phone, would be a good time for a p-pocket to strike.

Posted by
2466 posts

I have to counter what JC has said. Crime is different in Europe. You're unlikely to be robbed at gunpoint or mugged US style but much more likely to be pickpocketed. Pickpockets are less common in the US. So, the fact that you would not use a money belt in a large US city is not a good reason for not using one in Europe. Once again, we were just there and our guide, who lives there, gave us warning about pickpockets. We did not see any as we did in Spain last year.

Posted by
3465 posts

It all comes down to the difficulty in replacing missing items and the difficulty of continuing my trip without them.

Yes, I wear a money belt in Europe as well as other non US places I travel to. It contains my passport and credit/debit cards I am not planning on using right away and any extra cash I may have picked up for later use. It stays on my person at all times (except sleeping). This is because if these items get stolen or lost, it will take time and a lot of effort and days to replace them while I am out of the country. And in Europe, without a Passport my travel options can be severely limited so that I have to get a replacement before moving on.

While traveling the US, I have never used a money belt. If my wallet gets stolen, I can still travel back home (it might be difficult depending on my mode of travel but not impossible) before having to get most of the things in it replaced. And replacing a driver license is a quick stop at the conveniently located office where I live and I have a brand new one within an hour. Credit cards - all I have to do is call the banks and new ones are on the way to my home. Same with the debit card.

Posted by
371 posts

If you are going to have your phone out most of the time in London, be careful when you are coming out of tube stations And anywhere near the street curb....moped-riding phone thieves are on the rise and they will ride up onto the sidewalk ("pavement"):

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jul/22/moped-menace-muggers-vehicle-of-choice-scooters-acid-attacks-phone-robberies

This is one of the reasons why a paper map is invaluable, in addition to your phone. When you're in London, pick up a copy of Benson's mini map if you can… it is super clear and useful. They sell them at the Westminster Abby gift shop for about 2 pounds.

Have a wonderful visit.

Edit: I see Emma's helpful post was added while I was dealing with this tiny iPhone keyboard.

Posted by
3768 posts

My husband was pickpocketed in Bologna about 5 years ago. We weren't in a crowd and didn't realize what happened until she was gone. Since we carry our essentials in money belts, he only lost 10 Euro (we had just finished lunch 30 minutes previously), and we gained a good story.

When we're on vacation, we don't want to think about pickpockets or losing valuable vacation time heading to police stations to report crimes. That's why we wear our money belts. We also wore them during our week in San Francisco this Spring for the same reason.

Posted by
2627 posts

Go ahead and keep your wallet in your front pocket if that fits your travel style.

But there's a reason that Alan from Folsom wrote "We returned from London 2 weeks ago, the RS tour. Our guide warned us about pickpockets on the tube and crowded areas."
Why would the Rick Steves guide warn travelers if there was no possibility the pickpockets could get into your pockets?

The pickpockets are there in London, especially on a crowded tube, and in other places.

On our trip to London last spring, my husband and I had two pickpocketing experiences.

1.--One common pickpocket method is the "stop short", or "stop and bump", with two partners working together. This was used on us. Below is how it works.

One day we had been to the Churchill War Rooms, then Westminster Abbey, then a walk around Westminster area. We were very tired, and entered the Westminster tube station near Parliament and Big Ben. We were going to hop on the Circle Line and head to Tower Hill.

As we entered the tube car, a young lady in front of me stopped very suddenly about one foot inside the door of the tube car. (There was no one in front of her; there was no reason for her to stop there.) Of course, everyone behind her piled up, bumping one another, which was when her partner, a young man, slid his hand inside my purse and took a small amount of money from an inside pocket (which was zipped closed). I turned and looked at him as his hand moved out of my purse. He turned and quickly exited the tube car. The girl who had stopped short in front of me also got off the tube and was joining him on the platform of the station.

Fortunately, all he got was about 5 to 20 pounds cash. My big money and credit cards were all in my money belt.

The small amount of money in my purse side pocket was just for snacks or a donation at a museum.

Posted by
2627 posts

2.--The second incident happened at the Tower of London, in the Jewels exhibit. This is a very dark series of rooms, with spotlights highlighting the crown jewels and other objects in glass cases.

We were standing alone in a room where the most impressive crowns were displayed, a glass case in the middle of the room. All around us was pitch black dark. We were standing up against the case, peering at the crowns, when suddenly there were two small women pressed tightly up against us on the right side. (There were no other people in this large room, so there was no need for them to do this.) They were giggling and we felt tiny hands feeling inside our pockets.
I said "Stop!" in a loud voice and grabbed one of their hands as it was coming out of my pocket. They ran away, giggling.

They got nothing. All our money was in our moneybelts. I did not have a purse that day.

So, the pickpockets know where the tourists are in London and that's where they operate. They are very skilled at what they do. It's how they make a living and pay the rent. It's not a hobby for them.

It is a lot more convenient for us to wear moneybelts with our valuables than to replace everything (all cash, credit cards, passport) if it is all suddenly gone. Sure, you can replace these items, but I prefer not to lose them in the first place if I can help it.

Just be aware of your surroundings and you will be fine.

Have a great trip! London is a wonderful city!

Posted by
1250 posts

Although I don't leave on our tour for a month, I'm going to add my 2 cents: I bought the silk neck wallet to take because I'm only taking leggings so a money belt will be obvious. The neck wallet as-is is uncomfortable and awkward. But with a little tweaking, I've made it very doable. I added Velcro to the unzippered pocket so my extra Euros won't fall out. The plastic adjuster in the strap was downright uncomfortable putting pressure on my neck. So I took whatever that thing is called off and tied a knot low on the strap. I will carry it crossbody inside my shirt on the opposite side of my (outside) Travelon purse. I found a small change purse with a key ring for daily cash and credit card that hooks inside of my lockable purse.

Posted by
5666 posts

I put my money belt on when we leave the house to go to the airport for a foreign trip and have it on whenever I am dressed until we get back home. I have never found it horribly uncomfortable or cumbersome -- it's just what I do. €50 and one credit card in my purse (the cross-body one I wear every day at home), ATM card in my purse if I'm planning to get cash that day, all other cards / cash / passport strapped to my body in my money belt. Because I do this every day on a trip, it's a no-brainer.

Posted by
12339 posts

Hi,

There is the general consensus and there is what best works for you. Choose the method (neck pouch, money belt, hidden pocket) that works the best for you. I don't use a money belt but use the hidden pocket (as I did in London) and the neck pouch provided the weather isn't too warm, if not a broiler. Then I dispense with the neck pouch and use only the hidden pocket. In London the cell phone and the passport stayed in the B&B room. I would use the hidden pocket in NY and Chicago as a matter of course.

Posted by
371 posts

Rebecca I want to thank you for your two detailed posts on how you were pickpocketed in London. Good reminder about what to watch for. I love London and am looking forward to my next trip.

Posted by
12339 posts

@ Rebecca...The four days I spent in London on this past trip, the pickpocket thing did occur to me, esp on very crowded Tube stations and the rides, even the odds I felt were against it relative to Paris where I also was for 4 days. Thanks for the report that the possibility of such an occurrence is real What you described on the Tube car is a bit similar to what happened to me in Vienna last June, that was what suspected whenever I moved from one spot in the subway car so did the girl, then she finally got off before the train left the station.

Posted by
2627 posts

Hi Julie and Fred, glad my posts were helpful. Yes, pickpockets are real in London. It's not a violent crime thank goodness. I think it's helpful to know what some of the routines are that pickpockets use on people. Places that are very crowded are popular with pickpockets---that's known by everyone on this forum. I saw signs in Westminster Abbey saying, "Warning: Pickpockets operating in this area." No surprise, as the huge crowds of tourists come through elbow-to-elbow.

Posted by
12339 posts

@ Rebecca...Re the warnings, it is the same at the famous cathedral in Strasbourg. Signs given in German, French, and English posted inside the cathedral warning against the presence of pickpockets.

Posted by
4528 posts

There are also pickpocketing warnings up in crowded areas in NYC which London resembles in this respect more than say Barcelona.

I do personally buy somewhat into the personal inconvenience argument if it does happen though so ultimately it is down to personal choice.

I too have had an unsavoury experience trying to help someone who was obviously confused and could benefit from it but was very rude in refusing. Don't think everyone that offers to help with unfamiliar ticket machines of whatever is out to steal money or wants a tip. Many (most?/ nearly all?) just want to get their own ticket and is being held up - or wants to help a visitor.

Posted by
495 posts

People are bad at understanding probability. How many headlines do you see along the lines of:

"Eating X DOUBLES your chances of getting Y disease!!"

Am I going to stop eating X? Well it depends, are the chances doubling from 1 in 100 to 1 in 50? Then yes. Are they going from 1 in 10 million to 1 in 5 million? Then I don't care.

Let's take the statement "Pick pocketing is more common in Europe(1)" at face value and assume it is true.

Does mean pick pocketing is common is Europe?

But.. Pascal's Wager and all that. Using a money belt doesn't do any harm as long as you don;t freak out about it.

(1)Ignoring the already mentioned flaw of treating Europe as an amorphous blob.

Posted by
2627 posts

Hello Emma. That is really ridiculous behavior from that woman you tried to help in Trafalgar Square! Screaming and all that! Good heavens! I'm sorry that happened to you. For that family not to realize that a nice person was just trying to help them means, I guess, that they were already on edge. Normal behavior would have been for them to say to you, "Thank you! Didn't realize he'd dropped this." and continue on calmly.

You raise many excellent points. With all due respect to you and your excellent posts, I will just comment on and discuss some of these points.

"Whether you use a moneybelt is a personal choice. No rights or wrongs."
Totally agree.

"Yes crime happens everywhere but it's helpful to realise that its incidence varies greatly, so behaving as you would in "a hot bed of thieves" probably isn't appropriate for 99% of your trip."
Agree here also. There is no need to worry and look over your shoulder constantly. What a miserable trip that would be.

"I know I'm a stuck record but I'll keep saying it, I think this site, and many of the discussions on it, over exaggerates the risk which I am not sure is particularly helpful to nervous or inexperienced travellers."
Very well could be. This is a very good point.

But it would not be helpful to travelers to pretend there are no pickpockets anywhere. No one here advocates going bonkers like the woman Emma encountered in Trafalgar Square. She must have some kind of anxiety problem even when she's at home, surely.

This is not normal behavior for tourists. Just as it is not true to say there are pickpockets around every corner in London (we don't say that here), it is not true to assume every tourist in London has been worked up into being a bundle of nerves by what they have read here on the RS London forum.
I don't know about the other travel forums, because I don't read them. Maybe they are indeed overstating the risks of pickpockets in London and alarming tourists unnecessarily.

"So just because you think you have seen another one of those thieves in action it doesn't mean you have."
I am absolutely certain of the two instances I experienced. The first one, I saw the man's hand coming out of my purse, with cash under his thumb. I doubt seriously he was trying to put money into my purse. (Couldn't grab it quickly enough.)

The second instance, in the Tower of London, I'm pretty sure that when I find a hand in my pocket, and it's not my own hand, I am being pickpocketed.

Posted by
3465 posts

emma,

It is (remotely) possible that the family had encountered a scam of some sort on their travels before the travel card situation that put them on edge. If so, that could explain the reaction of the mother. Or, as you speculate, it could just be the result of reading too much on the internet about all the bad people in Europe who just want to scam you. Either way, I am happy you tried to help.

Posted by
1068 posts

I've been personally involved in 2 pickpocket attempts. One in Mexico where I kind of saw it coming and more or less averted it (the 2 guys brushed into me, pushed me a bit, but I had my money secured and dispersed and my hands stuffed into my pockets covering the little in there.) In Spain, it was "successful" in that the thieves opened every zipper on my backpack but got nothing because I don't keep anything of value there..... my valuables are in a belt loop pocket and distributed in small amounts in various zipped and buttoned pockets. Also, while on a tour, a fellow member was picked on a bus in Budapest. Depends on your comfort. People who say how long they've traveled and that it hasn't happened to them are interesting because I always add the word "yet" to their statement. In the US, especially near home, getting help and replacements for lost ID, phones, cash etc., is a tad inconvenient. Overseas it is more of a pain and not the way I want to spend precious trip time. To each his or her own, there is no "right" way to travel.

Posted by
1217 posts

I use a Tom Bihn Cafe Bag as my travel day bag. Pocketbook has a small ring on it that lets me 'leash' the pocketbook to the bag itself using the TB key strap (yes, I do feel like a big of a chav pulling it out on a strap when I'm buying something at a department store or museum gift shop) DSLR camera that takes up a lot of space in the bag, and possibly one of the spousal unit's camera lenses logically go on top and bury the pocketbook at the bottom of the bag. Natural position for me to wear that bag cross body has it on the border of the front of my right hip and the side of my right hip so I've always got it effectively in front of me. In a crowd, it gets slid more toward the center of my body and an arm goes over the top of it (don't want to be accidentally hitting someone with the bag when I move around now)

I maintain situational awareness and call it good enough at that point in a place like London.

Posted by
9799 posts

I personally think the correct response on this topic is do whatever makes you happy. The only right thing is what is right FOR YOU.

My phone is on a "leash." It is clipped onto my belt loop. And I don't take it out in the middle of the street. If I need to use it, I walk to the side next to a building and face the building. Not hold the phone out where someone could grab it while I was using it.

Posted by
15 posts

wow! Awesome replies here. I really appreciate the time everyone took to go back over a topic that I know comes up all the time. So easy to just post, "read the other posts" but everyone really fleshed this out and gave me a lot to consider. Thanks.

I think for me, a travel wallet kept in my front pocket is gonna be the option I'm gonna go with. I think my phone usage is something I need to be more aware of than my wallet. Walking around with my phone out all the time sounds like a bad idea so I'll need to be aware of that and use it in more of a guarded sense. I probably would anyway but it's something to keep in the back of my mind now.

Posted by
991 posts

It's totally up to you and how much money you're comfortable losing. Remember Rick was pickpocket in Paris this year...??

Posted by
3525 posts

I wore my money belt religiously when I was in the UK last year. I don't know if such a thing existed in the early 1980's when I lived in Germany. I don't remember having my passport with me all the time, but I worked for the US Army, so it would have been easy to replace. I do remember seeing plenty of pickpockets back then, especially near train stations.

The owner of the apartment I rented in Venice this summer told me she always wears a money belt when she travels, including to the UK. She told me she was having a hard time convincing her daughter to do the same. The daughter was more concerned about looking fat than about losing her valuables or Italian passport.

I'm another advocate of money belts and have several of them. My favorite is my newest one which was originally designed for runners. I replaced the lobster clip for keys with a split key ring. Naturally it's incorrectly shown on the outside of the model's clothes. I wore it all the time on my recent trip to Italy.

One of the big advantages for me is that there is no adjustable strap. You buy the right size and step into and out of it. My husband absolutely hates money belts, largely due to the relationship of the strap, pouch part and his gut. I'm going to get him one of these for our next trip.

Sometimes I wonder if the reason people don't like money belts is how they wear them. My husband tends to wear his money belt next to his skin, so it gets very sweaty.

This may be TMI, but here goes. From the skin out I wear: bra, shapewear tank, money belt, control panties, pants or skirt. In case you didn't know, under pants are supposed to be worn over shapewear tanks. The control panties help make any money belt less obvious.

Posted by
12339 posts

@ dizny71...Although I use the "hidden pocket" now, (twenty years ago I used none of this stuff), I still keep my wallet in the front left pocket, which fit snugly in the pants' pocket. But above that I carry several 3x5 note cards held together by a couple of binder clips. If a hand slips into my pocket, ( highly unlikely), then the first thing that hand l encounters is the metal of the binder clips.