Europe for dummies- Purse situation

Hello! I'm leaving for Europe in a week for the first time! Itinerary is Munich to Venice to Croatia to Prague to Munich. We will mostly be traveling by train and a little by ferry and car. Question is- do I really need a money belt? I either have a light trench coat with tons of inside hidden pockets or I also have a lightweight crossbody messenger bag. I will be wearing a backpack instead of carrying luggage. I plan to carry my passport, a credit card and a debit card and some cash. Do I really need a moneybelt? How much cash should I carry at one time? Thank you for any tips!

Posted by Anna
Seattle, WA, United States
681 posts

While I bought a money belt for my last trip, I never actually used it. I tried it out at home, but I found it uncomfortable and the bulge it creates, however slight, was unsightly. I do, however, get use out of it - holding my keys and ID when I go for a run outside :) I did have a PacSafe messenger bag, but it was as good as any other purse I've ever had, so I don't know that there is a need to get a special bag. I left my passport/paperwork locked up in my room and carried some cash/credit cards securely in my bag. I think sometimes the security hype gets a little overblown. Of course, petty robberies happen, but there is no need to go crazy with security measures. As long as you have your wits about you, you will most likely be fine - just like all the residents of the city you're visiting.

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

Others will differ but I've never carried one and don't own one. Don't carry much cash either - just take it from ATMs as I go. Having said that, you should be vigilant with your stuff to lower any risks.

Posted by Julie
Denver, CO, United States
13 posts

Thanks Agnes! Please tell me what type of bag/purse/wallet you carry around all day

Posted by Laura B
San Francisco
129 posts

Julie, my reason for a money belt is that I lose things -- last trip managed to leave behind a sweater (bus station) and a windbreaker (wrapped around my waist on a warm evening and it just fell off.) Easy to put a coat or a bag down and forget it -- but I never have lost my money belt attached to my body.

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

Julie, I don't have a special bag or wallet for travel (except luggage of course). Otherwise, I carry what I would carry in the states (either a regular purse when I'm out and about, and/or leather backpack). I'd have copies of my passport as well as phone numbers in case I need to call the cc company. If I was on a train, I would make sure to have all the important stuff right by me in the seat, not in a backpack I would set down someplace.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
643 posts

In my opinion you do need a money belt. In Denver you should easily be able to find one at REI or any other travel outfitters. It might or might not go around your waist. In fact, I'm thinking of getting a different one than the waist one I have now just to try it. I would no more travel without one for deep storage of the very important items you list, than I would ride in a car without a seat belt. Whatever you do, you must be vigilant about your stuff as already stated. I worked with someone who took annual musical tours to Europe and had for years. She was always with a group and never wore a money belt or carried any kind of a purse except her normal one. She wasn't naive enough to hang her purse over the back of her chair, but one night at dinner in Prague, she put it at her feet under the table. The food was good and the company convivial. When she got ready to pay, her purse was gone. Who got it, when and how they got it remains a mystery. In it she had her passport, meds, credit cards and all the things you might expect to carry in your purse, or crossbody messenger bag. That was bad enough, but she also had her room key, identified with the hotel room, in there. The thieves had time to go to her room. They cleaned it out of everything they could carry that was of interest to them. Others may pooh-pooh this, but you would also do well to secure the zippers on your backpack with zip ties or split key rings. I haven't been to Croatia or Prague, but I have seen the urchins work the train stations in Munich, where you might not expect them.

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1376 posts

My wife doesn't use a money belt. She carries her money, sometimes quite a lot, in an opera wallet inside her cross body purse.

Posted by Kira
Seattle, WA, USA
954 posts

Monte - I'm with your wife. That is exactly what I do, and I have never forgotten the purse, mislaid the purse, had the purse stolen, or otherwise been pickpocketed. One thing that strikes me from reading a LOT of these threads over the last few years is that it seems that some people are just good at paying attention to their personal belongings, and some aren't. No judgement - just an observation. My very best friend in the whole word loses things CONSTANTLY. I would not just advise her to wear a money belt in Europe, I wouldn't let her out of the hotel room without one! She tends to get distracted by her surroundings, as well, and gets caught up in the moment in a way that causes her to lose track of things like red lights and oncoming trains. As for me, I have never forgotten an item, left a camera behind, etc., and I habitually walk (ex-New Yorker) with my hand vigilantly on my cross-body bag - which, for the record, has a zipped interior pocket (where my opera wallet lives), an outer zipper that closes the main body of the bag, and an outer flap with a magnetic closure that folds down on the outside. I'm also pretty much always paying attention to my peripheral vision, so it's tough to sneak up on me. Just very different personality types! So Julie, my advice for you is - go with what works for you! If you think you might get swept up in the moment, or the view, or the excitement, and put your purse down and leave it (if there is even a MINOR chance that that might happen) then you should probably wear a money belt, as deeply uncool and sort of paranoid as that might MAKE YOU FEEL. (It won't make you BE either of those things... but some folks might FEEL that way the first time they try a money belt.) After all, better safe than sorry!

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4859 posts

I use a purse I carry crossbody. It has zippers and a flap that goes over the zippers and clips closed. It never leaves my body while I am about and about. Never. It's too easy to get distracted and accidentally leave it behind or not notice someone taking it. I also have a neck style money belt. Of course it's worn under your clothes. I shorten the strap and wear it over one shoulder and it hangs just below my armpit. It can't be detected under my top and I don't even notice it's there. I keep things in it I won't need during the day, such as my passport, extra credit/debit cards and extra cash. If I had to I could access it in a bathroom. As someone who had my wallet stolen out of my purse in Paris when I was not as vigilant as I should have been, I now err on the side of caution.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9085 posts

If the weather is cool enough for you to comfortably wear your trench coat, the internal pockets work just as well as a moneybelt. Particularly if you can button or zipper them shut. Actually, in my opinion, internal coat pockets work better than moneybelts during the colder months, because you can access your valuables much more inconspicuously.

Posted by Julie
Denver, CO, United States
13 posts

Great tips! Thanks all! At this point I believe I will get a small zipper lock for the back pack, carry a tiny cross body purse if I'm not using the cross body day bag- this tiny purse will never leave my body. On cooler days I'll use the trench with hidden pockets. This travelers Helpline has really helped a novice like me.

Posted by Mme Eli
XXX
1170 posts

I use a PacSafe cross body purse just because I've had it since 2008 and it works for me. Has gotten wet (my contents were dry), soiled (easy to clean), and I like having the extra lock on the outside so I don't worry when in crowded areas. Takes me a little bit of fiddling to open, so I figure it would be even harder for a would-be pick pocket.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4859 posts

Will you ever take the trench coat off? Will you take it into a bathroom with you? Beware of using your trench coat for things you can't replace unless it's never coming off your body.

Posted by Laurie Beth
Was MN, now TX
638 posts

I know that a money belt can be bulky &/or uncomfortable sometimes, but it gives me peace of mind. I carry a lightweight crossbody purse, too, but nothing is in there that could ruin my trip if I lost it. I have found putting the money belt in the small of my back or on my side is more comfortable for me than wearing it in the front.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2600 posts

More than 30 trips to Europe and I would not use a moneybelt and neither do any of my travel partners. I always use a cross body small purse (Maruca or Baggalini) and that is what I do at home as well and it never comes off my body while I am out. In it is money, passport, credit cards. If I have a daypack I will have my camera, water bottle, etc. in there, but the rest of important stuff stays in purse, as well as my phone. It is nothing different from what I do everyday, so it is comfortable to me. If I am on a crowded train, etc. my hand holds the purse close to my body. If it is winter travel and I am in a really crowded area purse can go under your coat.

Posted by lisa
akron, ohio
98 posts

Stupid question - what on earth is an "opera purse"? I have never heard of this and when I Googled it I got links to Oprah and purse problems!

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2600 posts

Also known as opera bag... just a fancy little evening purse (like what you would carry to the opera)

Posted by Paula
Arlington, TX, USA
278 posts

I carry a small cross body bag which fits into the top layer of my carry on bag..one less item to take care of. I have not traveled with a money belt in the past but plan to use one on my trip to Buenos
Aires later this month.

Posted by Richard
Los Angeles
631 posts

So you are stressed out about a money belt and getting things stolen and you haven't even left the country yet. That stress level will only increase when you are traveling and if you don't believe me look at how many women have posted to this thread that they NEVER take their cross body purse off while they are traveling. To be so worried that you need to waste money on a Pacsafe or keep your purse against your body and never remove it doesn't sound like a relaxing vacation to me. The whole point of a money belt OR just a shoulder pouch worn under your shirt is so you can relax and not worry about easily replaced items in your purse getting stolen. My wife ended up letting me wear the money belt and she didn't even carry a purse and reported that she never felt so relaxed in her life. So no, you don't have to have a money belt and you can stick your stuff in your coat or purse but I guarantee you will be constantly worried about your valuables. I am already stressed about just finding my way around that I don't need to add to it worrying about my valuables.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4752 posts

I always wear my messenger bag, cross body, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and it feels funny not to wear it. There is no stress, I don't worry about anything, and having it on my lap is also not a stressy or annoying thing. I wear it in America the same way, when I visit my family.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
468 posts

Weighing in from the deeply uncool and slightly paranoid side of the fence, I travel with a money belt. I have never lost my purse and last had something stolen out of it in about 1980. I now live in a small town where I can run in to the Post Office and have a chat with the Postmaster while leaving my purse on the front seat of my unlocked car. I am a pretty controlling personality and I like to do anything I can to manage my personal situation when I travel. A big city is out of my daily comfort zone and I find I worry less about my basic ID/credit/debit/money stash if they are tucked in the money belt. I dont find it uncomfortable to wear at all. My travel purse is a LeSportsac Everyday bag. I have my day money and one credit card in the small zipped interior pocket of one of the zipped sides. I walk with my hand over the zippers and I keep it on my lap in restaurants. This works for me when I travel and allows me to enjoy my surroundings. Whatever you decide will work for you, I hope you will enjoy your trip!

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4859 posts

Well George, that's so nice of you to carry everything for your wife so she doesn't have to worry about anything. I guess his point to us little ladies is we should only travel with a man. Come on! Some women travel by themselves, or with other women, or whatever! Frankly when I travel with my husband I do let keep my passport, etc. in his money belt. I still carry a crossbody purse and never take it off. Why? Because I want to be sure no one takes it and I also want to be sure that I don't accidentally leave it behind if I get distracted. It can happen to anyone. Women tend to carry more in their purses than a man carries around, and women's clothes don't generally have the amount of useable pockets that men's clothing does. It's really no big deal to keep the purse on all day.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7819 posts

I carry a messenger style bag, worn cross body. It is lightweight but strong nylon material, has a wide strap, it has a zip top but is covered by a full flap that clicks shut( seem to be a few of us that use bags like this) and I LOVE it . Its a Derek Alexander and cost me about 40 bucks,, been using it for 10 years at least, ,but did buy a second ( identical one ) about 5 years ago since I wanted a fresh one.. lol I use and wear it like that at home too. I can't imagine being a woman who needs or lets their hubby carry everything, thats kind of useless if you ever plan on not being right beside hubby.. what if you want to take off for an hour or so on your own.. or just travel solo,, I could never be that dependent on someone ..Even when I was sent to spend my first summer alone with my french relatives , at age 13, I was given my passport to carry in my own purse and told by my parent to "not lose it" ,, and never have. A moneybelt is not a bad idea, I wear them in transit sometimes,, but I love carrying and using my purse every day,, it would stress me out not having it with me.

Posted by Liz
Malaga, Malaga, Spain
410 posts

I have never worn a money belt and cannot imagine ever doing so. I live in Europe and travel a lot both in and out of Europe. I take normal precautions all the time and additional ones in very busy and/or known problem areas - e.g some metros, some heavily touristed areas in cities, Las Ramblas in Barcelona. My handbag always has a zip and I ensure the zip is closed and facing ahead, not back. I don´t carry a lot of cash with me, just use ATMs. But do whatever you feel comfortable with. As you can see, most favour the money belt option.

Posted by Julie
Denver, CO, United States
13 posts

Looks like we will just purchase one money belt to keep credit cards in and passports while we are on the trains. We are mostly staying in B&B's so probably won't need credit cards and passports every day. Thanks! My reason for bringing my boyfriend is in fact so he can carry everything. HA HA! Poor thing

Posted by Michael
Griffith, IN, USA
440 posts

I had special boxer shorts make with pockets and zippers. Really does the Trick.

Posted by Julie
Denver, CO, United States
13 posts

Michael- Are you serious? That's awesome! I'll suggest that to my Boyfriend. Thanks everyone! I'm not paranoid, just looking for ideas as I've never really traveled anywhere internationally

Posted by Michael
Griffith, IN, USA
440 posts

I brought 3 oversized nylon box shorts and make a pocket on the bottom of both of the leg's using a very light weight zipper. One pocket is the size of a passport and the other One and a half times bigger than a credit card. I use the metal card holder. Since the legs are longer in the bigger sized boxer I don't even know I have it on. I then carry money for the day no worries. We travel alot and I am a person who does forget. By the way it works very well in the summer. Not wrapped around your waist.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7949 posts

Michael, old buddy, you've got way too much time on your hands if you're making your own drawers. (YouTube video coming soon of Mike hunkered down in the basement madly pedaling a foot-rocker Singer by candlelight while rats hand out zippers. Soundtrack is Gershwin's 'I've Got Plenty of Nothing' sung by Oscar the Grouch. Additional illumination is provided by a flickering black and white television (antanna stuck out the window and concealed by bushes, with a power cord run from the neighbor's back porch) running a continuous loop of Doomesday Preppers.)

Posted by Richard
Los Angeles
631 posts

I mentioned that my wife wanted me to carry everything and left her purse in the hotel to make a point about comfort level and having less to worry about while out sight seeing. She is very independent and can take care of herself. I especially like how one poster says in the same post how women don't need a man, as if I was insulting women, and then basically agreed by saying she has her husband carry everything? Julie, Look at the responses and you will see a trend. People who live in Europe or have traveled extensively don't see a need for a money belt and why should they. I don't wear a money belt at home but then again I don't spend all day at tourist sites where pick pockets tend to go and if I were to lose my valuables it is not going to completely disrupt my vacation. Going to Europe is a big deal to me and I want to be able to relax as much as possible and not have to be constantly vigilant protecting my valuables. A money belt lets me walk through crowded areas or ride public transportation without having to clutch my messenger bag while using my peripheral vision to see who is near me.

Posted by Michael
Griffith, IN, USA
440 posts

Ed I cannot stand a money belt and I use to carry alot of cash. Don't know why I did I just did. A guy thing I think. When I carry cash I put it on a money clip and wrap it with a rubber band. Your right I got way to much time.

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

I then carry money for the day no worries. @Michael - how do you take it out? by dropping your drawers? what if you have too many coins?...what a visual... There's way too much paranoia about carrying money. It really isn't rocket science requiring a whole new set of contraptions. Simple vigilance will do. Would you carry a money belt or fanny pack in NYC?

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4752 posts

I do not ever clutch my messenger bag, nor use my peripheral vision to scout out possible pick-pockets. Seriously! I don't worry about my bag at all. I am about the most laid back person you can imagine. You should see me boldly pull my i-phone out on the street too, or let people lift my bag onto a train with out a speck of fear. Public transportation is all I use, no car. I usually use a neck wallet when traveling by plane, but that is it. I don't want to wear it all the time. It is more to keep stuff handy, than anything else, so I don't have to go search for it. For those who like money belts, do please wear them, but respect the opinions of those of us who don't. Guess what I have in my bag? A wallet, tissues, a hair tie, mints, some kind of book to read on the trains, or waiting in line, sometimes an umbrella, and my i-phone.

Posted by Michael
Griffith, IN, USA
440 posts

Agnes: I have money in my pockets. I only drop drawers in the evening.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4859 posts

The OP asked about what SHE can do to keep her valuables secure. She didn't ask if she should let anyone else carry her things for her. I explained what I do when traveling alone.

Posted by Richard
Los Angeles
631 posts

Jo and Andrea, Why are you responding directly to my post like I signaled you out when my reply was about things Kira said? Everything isn't always about you, except this post of course. And my name isn't George. Julie, Do your boyfriend (and yourself) a favor and go take about half the stuff you plan on packing and leave it home. If your bag is hard to zip you have already over packed. If you need more clothes (which you will find that you don't) they have stores where you are going and it gives you a reason to go shopping. And have a great relaxing trip.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Cross-body is the way to go. My husband carries the leather messenger bag I got him years ago almost everywhere. He loves having a place to put his wallet, spare change, magazine, sunglass case, water bottle, etc. I love not being one of those wives who is schlepping stuff for her husband. I use a cross body messenger bag while traveling myself, if we're out and about for the day, and a nicer looking purse, either "normal" or cross body for something like nice dinner + drinks in the evening. If I use the "normal" purse in an area where pick pocketing and thefts are common, I just carry it close to me with my elbow over the purse. I make sure and pay extra attention to my surroundings, and if sitting at a table outside I put it on the floor between my feet. It's not that much effort for me to be aware of it, or to carry something cross-body. it's actually much more comfortable than a regular shoulder purse because the weight is distributed more evenly and you don't have to adjust it or keep it from slipping off your shoulder.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3296 posts

Julie, As you can see, this question always seem to bring out passionate responses defending positions. You'll never get a definitive answer. That said, here's what I do. I travel solo, so I'm on my own and am my own back up. Like many women here, I use a cross body purse a lot of times. I use one here in NYC where I walk to work every day, and yes, I've had my pocket picked her in NYC (and in Chicago many years ago as well!) So, I do also have a money belt. I've used it to include my passport and back up credit card. I put the cash and the cards I'll used for the day in the purse. And, yes, you have to hold on to that purse. It's the same here. I sit down on the bus, its stay in my lap. If I go to a restaurant, it's either on my lap or the straps are wrapped around my feet and it's leaning against my ankles. One of my work colleagues had her bag stolen at Hale and Hearty. It took her at least a week to get re-situtated and she lives in NY and PA. So, this isn't just a Europe thing. It's a pain in the rear to have to deal with this. Why would you want to from Europe and waste vacation time on it? :( Pam

Posted by Carol
Atlanta, GA, USA
679 posts

I was with a group where the chaperone lost or had stolen a wallet (from a cross body messenger bag). It took up basically one day to deal with the police reports, call credit card companies etc,.... A day here in Atlanta is one thing, a day in Europe costs to much to waste that way. I use a money belt.

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

I think Carol's reply gets to the heart of the matter. You may not need the money belt 99 times out of 100, but losing your money and/or passport can waste so much precious time.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

If proper attention is paid to a cross body bag, though, it's pretty much impossible to have it stolen from. When I first started traveling extensively in Europe, I bought into the RS mindset and bought a moneybelt. It was a nightmare. It was hot, uncomfortable under my clothes - and noticeable as well (and I don't wear tight fitting clothes). If people are super paranoid and/or forgetful a moneybelt may be the way to go - the annoyance and discomfort of it may end up being worth the peace of mind. I just don't believe it's the ONLY way to go. My own messenger bag - from a great German company called Tausche - is sealed with a wide velcro strip that is very strong and very loud. It would be impossible for someone to get into my bag without me knowing, for that reason. It's also lightweight, comfortable, fashionable (it has zippered covers that can be exchanged, which I love). The only way my bag is at risk is if I foolishly hang it on the back of a chair, or I'm straight-up mugged, in which case a money belt is unlikely to help me either (thieves are aware that moneybelts exist). Muggings in Europe are rare and if someone is threatening me physically I'm OK with losing whatever I have on me in exchange for my safety. I'm not saying people shouldn't use moneybelts - if it gives you peace of mind, by all means, use one! I am annoyed by the dogma that one is a foolish traveler if you DON'T use a moneybelt when there are alternatives that are nearly as safe. But I'm one of those crazy kids who leaves my passport in a hotel safe - or sometimes not even in a safe!! - when traveling, because I understand that my passport is not an item that anyone cares about stealing.

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

I agree that there is no one "right" way to do things. I use a crossbody bag all the time, and so my biggest concern would be leaving it somewhere after an evening's tipple.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7819 posts

Christina,, wearing a comfortable cross body style bag there is not chance of leaving in anywhere, as one never removes it.. in fact the number one thing women should AVOID doing, sober or not, is to remove their bag and place it on floor or looped on back or arm of chair.. that is just a plain old NO .. My messenger bag has an adustable length strap that allows me to sit with it still on fairly comfortably. When one has travelled solo they realize there is no back up.( no hubby, boyfriend or friend with their money or credit cards for you to fall back on
) . you learn pretty quick to be your own back up.

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

I always remove my bag when I sit to eat, Pat. I have to because my (very slight) shoulders ache if I don't give them some time off. I realize that is not ideal but it's what works for me.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9085 posts

But should I wear shorts? James, this perhaps isn't exactly what you were looking for, but close enough.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
704 posts

lol Tom...love that! My 2 cents (oops, nickel...we don't do pennies anymore in Canada)...I've never tried a money belt, they just seem uncomfortable to me, we use a crossbody bag (PacSafe...so the bulk of the money/cc/passports are, I hope, safely ensconced behind zippers and Velcro). I know some people think PacSafe are overkill, but I actually like the layout of the bag regardless. First trip I used one of those Buxton organizer cross body. But now, I mostly have my camera slung cross body, so hubby gets to carry the messenger bag :)

Posted by Diane
Westford, MA, USA
233 posts

I wear a Baggallini bag across the body front, along with a money waist belt. Day needs go in bag: Average 50 euros day,(1) CC for unexpected large purchases, transit pass/tickets, museum pass/tickets, kleenex, bandana, mints, fold-up travel brush/mirror combo, day medications, eye glasses, small camera, I-phone, water bottle, copy of passport, Business card of where I'm staying, facial sunscreen, transit map, guide map or guide pages of my day, anti-bacterial wipes. (19 items) Money belt:(I wear it in the front with the strap cut short) Passport, Debit Card, 2nd Credit Card, Remaining local currency, Emergency contact, Rail Pass if have one. For Airports and when I will have to show my Passport, I now always have with me and use a Neck Money Belt. Then at the WC I put my Passport into my waist money belt and put the neck belt into my Baggallini. Thankfully, I am unscathed from negative experiences but have been a member of group settings/tours and on public transportation where others have been less fortunate. When I have my jacket on I do use the interior pockets for the camera or the phone or the glasses while actively sightseeing. (I'm near sighted. I can not see clearly enough to keep them on all the time to get the most out of my day and keep my eyes rested). Best advice is what works best for you and makes you comfortable and safe. It took me 7 years to find this works for me. It requires extra effort but I never leave valuables behind or have had any thing
stolen. I'm always retooling this travel issue. Any day I can carry less in my Baggallini I do. Happy Travels!