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money belts?

I am traveling to England and Ireland this July. I haven't traveled abroad in over 20 years. Is it still recommended to wear a money belt? Still ok to give the hotel front desk your passport while out about the town? Please advise. Thank you!

Posted by Ray
Tigard, OR, USA
1068 posts

Good luck getting a clear answer to question #1. Responses will range from "I've traveled to Europe X times per year for X years without a moneybelt and never been robbed" to "I'd never travel anywhere without one." I personally use a travel pocket (same idea as a moneybelt but different implementation) and my reading of the responses on this board (and others) is that most travelers do use a moneybelt or something similar. Question #2 is a bit easier. Most people hand over their passport when checking into a hotel although a few will defer and offer the opinion that a photocopy is adequate. Again, I hand mine over and have not had a problem.

Posted by Chris F
Basel, Switzerland
6551 posts

In the UK there is no legal requirement to carry ID, so you can leave your passport in the hotel.

The same is not true for many other European countries, for example Switzerland and Germany. There it is a legal requirement to carry ID at all times, and for non-EU foreigners the only legal ID is a passport (driving licences are not ID). Many people post on this site that they prefer to leave their passport at the hotel, and have always done so. Just because you have never been stopped and asked for ID does not make it legal, any more than exceeding a speed limit is legal if you have never been caught.

P.S. how many people in the UK go to work every day wearing a money belt? Only tourists wear money belts.

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
15020 posts

Yes and yes. You'll probably be carrying more cash and credit cards than you care to lose and pickpockets work in crowded spots. The hotel front desk probably won't ask for your passport, however, in these countries.

Posted by Frank II
Freedonia
6965 posts

P.S. how many people in the UK go to work every day wearing a money belt? Only tourists wear money belts.

This is true. However, a UK person who gets pickpocketed going to work can easily go get a new driver's license, go to their bank for more cash, get new cards and is probably not carrying a passport.

A tourist however, will have to arrange to have new cards sent to them from their home country, won't have a bank account to get cash, will have to go to the nearest consulate and wait to get a new passport--making sure to bring two photos--and won't be able to drive because they will have to wait until they get home to get a new license.

At home, I don't wear a moneybelt. When I'm traveling, I wear a moneybelt

Posted by Ray
Tigard, OR, USA
1068 posts

Good points Frank. I would add: 1) Tourists are more likely to be targeted than locals, 2) Tourists are likely to be carrying more cash/valuables than locals, 3) Tourists are more likely to be distracted than locals and 4) Foreigners are less likely to fly back to wherever the crime took place to prosecute the perpetrator in the unlikely event the pickpocket is caught.

Posted by geovagriffith
1786 posts

Wearing a money belt is a must in Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Athens and most cities in the Med. Less of a problem in Germany, Scandinavia and British Isles. No matter where you go, your wallet and passport should be in a secure place. Yes, Germany requires ID, and passport may be only legal one, but I lived in Germany for four years and travelled a lot there. Never took my passport unless I crossed a border. I would keep a photocopy of my passport on my presence and passport locked in hotel safe. Money belt should hold backup credit or ATM card and cash, with keeping the amount of cash and one card in your front pocket. Some places are pickpocket heaven: Barcelona; taking the train from CDG airport into Paris; public transport in Paris, Madrid, Rome or Athens.

Posted by emma
London
4014 posts

I'm going to disagree with the point that it isn't much of a problem if a local has their pocket picked or bag stolen..
When I'm on holiday I'm carrying FEWER valuables than I do at home. If I am robbed at home I will lose all my credit and debit cards, not just the couple I take on holiday, my work access passes and ID cards ( a nightmare), my house keys and my driving licence with my home address on it. But I still don't wear a money felt when I'm going about my daily business. Carrying a sensible bag and being aware of my surroundings is enough for most locals.

Obviously I'm not playing down the impact of being robbed on holiday ( I've had it happen to me), it's awful but I think the likelihood is often overstated on this site.

If wearing a moneybelt makes you feel better wear one but there really isn't much of a need. Similarly if leaving your passport with the hotel makes you feel more secure do it but again, there isn't much need. Just remember to take it with you when you leave. Also been there and done that when my friend left her passport at the hotel in Nashville and didn't remember until we had driven 100miles!

Posted by Ray
Tigard, OR, USA
1068 posts

I don't think anyone said it was not a problem for a local, just less of a problem. For me, it would certainly be less of a problem to lose my wallet here than it would be have my passport, money, cell phone and credit cards stolen while on holiday. But never fun in any event. Although I may have read the OP question wrong, they said to give the hotel front desk your passport while out about the town. I took that to mean when they ask for your passport when checking in and you are ready to hit the town. Often the desk is already done with it by the time I drop my bags in the room, but if they aren't I leave it with them while I get in my first round of sights. After I get it back (following check in), it is always with me. Perhaps I read the question incorrectly but that was my take.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
8552 posts

Pick pocketing in Europe isn't something akin to getting struck by lighting. In touristy areas people get robbed everyday. Also don't loose sight of the other function of money belts....they also prevent one from accidentally loosing important items. Regardless the consequences are the same you will have to waste a couple days of your vacation getting passport/credit cars replaced and arrange for replacement cash. If spending $10 on a money belt can be prevent that, it's money well spent.

Posted by Jennifer
Tunbridge Wells
2315 posts

Europeans don't tend to wear money belts.

As a tourist, I always carry far less than I do at home. Just carry the essentials ie a little cash and one credit card. Keep your passport in your room in the UK, as you won't be asked for it.

Cargo pants with large, lower buttoned pockets just above knee height are better than a money belt, which just draws attention to where your valuables are.

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
15020 posts

I can't agree with Jennifer's statement that a money belt is a more noticeable place to carry your money. The point is that it's for back-up supplies that you don't expect to access while out and about. If you keep it hidden under your clothes, it should stay that way. I think pickpockets (especially short ones) can find your wallet just fine in a cargo pocket. I sometimes do carry a bit of money in such a pocket, like when I want to go to dinner without my day bag, but I find it awkward for frequent access.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
28988 posts

jd,

I'd suggest using a Money Belt, for the reasons that Frank II articulated so well. Even if you're not the victim of a pickpocket, items can still be lost or misplaced, which is less likely if they're stored in a Money Belt. Losing something is not much of a problem for locals, as they can easily get replacements. However, if a tourist loses something like a Passport, it's going to cause a major disruption in the holiday (I've seen examples of that).

After you've checked in and the clerk has recorded your Passport details, there's no need to leave your Passport at the front desk. There are two "schools of thought" here on the forum concerning the Passport issue. Some people prefer to leave it in the room, while others prefer to keep it with them at all times (I'm in the latter category).

Posted by emma
London
4014 posts

As we all know, we aren't going to agree on the topic of the pros and cons on money belts!

Part of the problem with them is that so many people don't seem to use them for the purpose they were supposedly designed, deep storage. They are too worried to use a sensible bag and then wander around waving £100s of electronics

Walking around Westminster I often play spot the moneybelt when bored on the way to a meeting. Amazing how many you can see when you look. I regularly see people diving into their's for money etc. On one occasion I saw a guy untuck his shirt and delve for his travel card. It being contactless he could have just rubbed his stomach against the reader on the bus, much easier although he might have got arrested!

Posted by Charlie
Honolulu/Seattle, HI/WA, USA
2606 posts

I read this web site every day and I have read numerous reports of tourists getting pickpocketed in Europe when not using a money belt. I have never read a report of someone getting their money belt pickpocketed if worn and used correctly. You could use the SEARCH function on this web site to get lots of information about money belts. I have gone to Europe for 13 of the last 14 years and going again next month and have always worn a MB since I first heard a talk given by RS who said he always wears a MB. I use to use one around my waist but have changed to one that hangs around my neck for the last few years. I always keep my passport in my MB except when asked for it by a hotel who keep them for a short period of time and them return them to me. As others have posted, a MB is for DEEP STORAGE, not to be accessed regularly or often during the day. I keep my daily spending $ in a zippered chest pocket. When getting $ from an ATM machine, I quickly stash all of it into one of my zippered chest pockets until I am somewhere private where I can safely access my MB. I was last in England 15 years ago and I found things expensive then and I am use to the high cost of living in Hawaii. I expect to find things much more expensive next month. Happy Travels

Posted by yosemite1
Placentia, CA
820 posts

As long as we're on the subject of pickpocketers, I thought I would share a story that was told to me. According to the story, a group pickpocketers will often shout "pickpocketer". All the tourist will immediately reach to where they have their valuables. The pickpocketers will then see where the money is located. They won't strike right away but will follow their intended victim and strike a few blocks away. Moral of the story: if someone shouts pickpocket, don't reach to where you have your money. You are probably being watched.

Posted by Mark
Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
2024 posts

How is a money belt more noticeable? If you wear it as intended, under your clothes and don't dig into it in public, it should be completely unnoticeable. The money belt is NOT where you keep the money you will spend during the day or the one credit card you might use when you are out and about. That goes in your pocket in a wallet like you would do at home. I have seen people wear their money belt like a fanny pack (waist wallet or whatever you call it), constantly digging into it for change to pay for a snack or souvenir. They just don't get it.

And yes, I don't wear a money belt when traveling around the US. Mainly because I don't carry cash with me more than $50 and a couple credit cards. If I do get robbed I can continue to function without my license or other ID until it can get replaced. And it is a lot easier to get my ID replaced when I am near home than when I am in some foreign country when I will need my passport to leave.

To answer the original poster's questions: Yes, it is recommended to wear a money belt anywhere in Europe. I do it because it just makes me feel more secure. No, don't give your passport to the person at the desk unless they request it. I have never been asked for my passport at any hotel I have ever stayed at in Europe over the past 12 years. I doubt most desk clerks would know what to do with a passport for the day unless they have been working in a hotel more than 25 years.

Posted by mpaulyn
Missouri, USA
259 posts

It just depends on where you are traveling. When touring the countryside in England and Ireland, you are going to be fine without a money belt. In the cities you will have to be more careful. I travel into London every year and still take a small cross body purse. I just take the money I need for the day and one credit card. (BTW I always travel with two CC, just in case one does get stolen). Just be careful in crowded places (famous landmarks and walking on busy streets). For a man, a money belt might be a good choice. For a lady, I just position my bag in front of me, place it in my jacket, or hold on to it in crowds.

Posted by emma
London
4014 posts

Yes there are numerous reports of pickpocketing on this site because people understandably tend to post about the bad stuff. There is not much reason for the literally millions of visitors to Europe each year who aren't a victim of crime to post!
There are definitely problems in certain areas but it isn't something to overly worry about where ever you are on the continent.

Mpaulyn's advice above is good. For most of the time in the uk wearing a moneybelt is probably overkill.

Regarding the wearing of moneybelts as a performance art, the wearing of them over clothing is very common as is having half the neck strap hanging out in a perfect position for accidental garotting. Then there are the people that remove them as soon as they sit down and spend ages readjusting them when they get back up again. My personal favorites are the single member of a group that has been designated moneybelt wearer so is carrying everyone's passports around their waist in a rustling lump, usually under a thin tight Tshirt for all to see.

I suppose even the most perfect design can't factor in human silliness.

Posted by glennlorrainer
NSW Australia
675 posts

half the problem with wearing money belts is the SIZE of the passport and trying to hide it given that if you have a thin shirt the money belt is so visible. particularly if you are a 'thin' build and the weather is hot etc.

I find it is much easier to wear a thin singlet that has pockets sewn just under the armpit, so the passport or credit card sits against your ribs.( as your body is sort of flat there anyway) there are no give away straps showing. only problem is no one seems to make a suitable thin singlet that has these features ( that are easy to buy)?
the few that do don't seem to have it quite right IMO. So we made our own. We use thin singlets because if you are in europe in the warmer months it can be hot.

As others have mentioned these are for deep storage.

Posted by Carol
Atlanta, GA, USA
1240 posts

Every hotel I check in asks to see the passport. None of them keep it anymore.

I strongly recommend a money belt especially on your trip from airport to hotel. After that I use the hotel safe. I was on a Youth trip where one chaperone either lost or had taken her wallet on the train from Heathrow. It wound up taking up 1 whole day of her trip and that was without loosing the passport.

Posted by Gerard
Temora, NSW, Australia
283 posts

Having been pickpocketed in London last April, I'm glad I had a money belt.

Posted by geovagriffith
1786 posts

I am amazed that some people don't think pickpocketing is a big problem in Europe. In some places the changes are huge if you don't take precautions. The MRT station at CDG airport in Paris should be considered pickpocket heaven. Same for Las Ramblas in Barcelona. The Paris and Rome Metros are another. Place items in the money belt that you won't need during the day. Go to a toilet stall if you need to retrieve anything in the belt. My money belt may be noticeable, but no matter, I have it right under my shirt and trousers as well as my belt to my trousers. If you are on public transportation try to avoid being close to people. If you are make sure your valuables cannot be snatched. Thieves can unzip or cut into a backpack in a flash.

Posted by emma
London
4014 posts

"I am amazed that some people don't think pickpocketing is a big problem in Europe."
Yes because why would you listen to people who actually live here and might know something about it!?

No one is saying pickpocketing isn't a problem. What we are saying is that the problem, especially that allegedly targeting tourists, is focused in particular localized areas, for example busy areas of Rome, Barcelona, London, Paris etc. The level of the risk is much lower, but not nonexistent, for the vast majority of areas elsewhere. It goes back to the problem of treating "Europe" as a single entity and not acknowledging there is quite a quite a bit of variety in the continent.

A money belt is not the only solution to the problem and when not used properly is a hindrance and could actually increase the risk of being targeted.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
4301 posts

There are many ways of keeping your money, cards and passport safe while out and about. A waist moneybelt is just one option. Many people like them but many people do not like them. And they do nothing to keep safe your daily spending money and credit cards (which need to be accessible). People need relatively easy access to some cash, credit and debit cards and even IDs like drivers license (usually needed to rent an audio guide). The KEY is to have a system that prevents a pickpocket from accessing any of your valuables. It frankly doesn't matter if they know where you keep them if they can't get to them. A properly worn moneybelt under the clothes cannot be accessed because they are tight under the pants, even if a thief knows you have one. Even little fingers can't get in there and unzip and slip things out.

Common and effective systems:
Waist moneybelt (great for deep storage but not for daily access)
Neck pouch or wallet (great for deep storage and daily access)
PacSafe or similar secure travel purse (great for deep storage and daily access but MUST be worn at all times - no hanging on backs of chairs) - note NOT a regular purse
Belt loop wallet (inside pants great for deep storage but not for daily access)
Belt loop wallet (outside pants ok for deep storage and daily access) - note this is what I've used for over 20 years
Secure daybag (ok for deep storage and great for daily access) - note this is not just a regular backpack that can be slit open or easily accessed while distracted, and it must NEVER be set aside - always cross body - some museums may not allow you to carry it inside

Unsecure options:
Any wallet in any pants pocket - they are easy pickens with experienced fingers and a little distraction
Regular purse - easy to access with a little distraction
Wearing a moneybelt above the waist, especially at the small of your back - easy to lift under the shirt and pick with some distraction
A regular backpack or daybag that can be easily unzipped or slit open or gets set down when you are tired of carrying it.

The choice is personal based on what is most comfortable for you and your tolerance for risk.

Posted by Frank II
Freedonia
6965 posts

I have never been asked for my passport at any hotel I have ever stayed at in Europe over the past 12 years.

In the last two weeks, four hotels in three countries. All have asked to see my passport when I checked in.

I use a "hidden pocket" type of moneybelt. But on travel days, where I know I will be asked for my passport, I wear a Tom Bihn Passport Pouch under my shirt. Yes, it shows a little. In it are my passport, and my train ticket or plane boarding pass.

I've also rigged a system where my wallet is connected to my belt. I had a cellphone case rigged the same way but the loop tore. I now have to find a new case so I can do this again.

Posted by Mark
Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
2024 posts

Just reporting my past experiences. I can understand that with the recent events in Europe it may become common again for you to be asked for your passport more often.

Posted by Chris F
Basel, Switzerland
6551 posts

Legally in all Schengen countries they have to ask for your passport details (country and passport number) from every foreign person. Often it is on the form you fill in (name, address, country & passport number, ...). But yes, a lot of times they can't be bothered as the police never check.

Posted by Silas Marner
Westland, MI
206 posts

I found money belts uncomfortable when worn in the front. I also discovered that the passport was actually being bent a little when sitting which we are not supposed to allow. Perhaps this varies by person depending on their weight, height, etc. I think being tall and slender has something to do with the bending. I don't think it helped very much to wear it on the small of my back because the passport was getting some bending from the plane's seat. I've discovered that the neck wallet works much better for me. The new passport will last for 10 years now!

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
9815 posts

Twenty years ago I didn't wear a money belt at all. Now I wear something...neck pouch or hidden pocket. Certain cities are known to be heavy pickpocket places, some of them are listed above. True, I agree Germany and the northern countries are much less likely for that to happen unless you just have a bad luck day. The question is why? I'm much less on guard in German cities than I would be in Paris, especially in the Paris Metro compared to taking the U-Bahn in Frankfurt or Munich, or the S-bahn in Berlin.

True, hotels don't require to turn in your passport every time you go out. They do want to see it at check-in, that applies to every hotel and Pension I've stayed at. In Germany you show the passport as you are filling out the Meldeschein, likewise in France and UK.

In France you do have to turn in to the front desk the room key each time you leave. There was one B&B I stayed in London a few years back where the key had to be turned in when you went out. Other B&Bs in London did not require that.

Posted by Ray
Tigard, OR, USA
1068 posts

I carried my passport with me virtually all of the time I travel. It is in a belt pocket, not a money belt. It has never bent or steamed as far as I can tell. Additionally, it has had no problems being scanned around the world. For me, that is a non-issue. Perhaps, as some have pointed out, that is a question of body type. I am proportional height/weight, although I would not think that was the issue. While, in my experience only, hotels are hit or miss regarding wanting to see your passports in Europe, they have been generally requested in other areas of the world.

Posted by BB
Calgary
249 posts

I find them way too hot and uncomfortable. I wore one on my first day of my first trip overseas and haven't worn one since.

That said, I do wear a neck pouch slung under my shirt under one arm when I'm in transit, but I don't use it day-to-day.

I do have a Pac-Safe cross-body purse that is slashproof, has clips that need to be undone to open it, etc. My husband uses a wallet that clips to his belt loop, and he wears it in his front pocket.

We are both alert in crowded places, especially when it seems someone is trying to cause a distraction.

Posted by Al
West Islip, NY, USA
98 posts

We always use money belts when traveling in Europe. We keep the passports in the hotel safe but carry the passport information with us.