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Are money belts over rated?

Really??? I can see wearing a money belt in Rome or in a large city with many tourists, but are RS tours so unsafe that you must carry your passport on your body? Interested in your experiences...

Posted by
2162 posts

When a simple act can avoid an enormous amount of hassle if something bad happened, I tend to do the simple act. I wear a neck pouch. I carry my passport with me. It's no bother at all and I like to have it with me.

Posted by
1851 posts

No, the tours are not unsafe. However, you are not with the tour group 100% of the time and may feel more comfortable having your passport or your money in an inaccessible place when out and about on your own. It is a matter of what you are comfortable with. We generally leave our passports in our room in the safe (if provided) or buried somewhere in our luggage. Personally in 25 years of travel my husband and I have only had two attempted pickpocket incidents and those were thwarted by taking appropriate precautions i.e. money belts, etc. It is always good to be aware of your surroundings but being human you cannot always be vigilant. Sometimes you can get distracted and that's when you can become a target.

Posted by
8995 posts

It is always good to be aware of your surroundings but being human you
cannot always be vigilant. Sometimes you can get distracted and that's
when you can become a target.

Amen!
Also don't loose sight of the other function of money belts: they also prevent you from simply losing and misplacing important items. Either way the consequences are the same, you'll have to waste two days of your vacation replacing your passport/cards/cash.

Posted by
6950 posts

If money belts are over rated, fat billfolds in back pockets are endangered species.
You don't want to travel anywhere in Rome and other major cities with anything sticking out. If you've got to put credit cards and currency in money belts, so be it. Be aware they're just after your cash.
What gets me is that the police see pickpockets all day long and they know what they're up to. It's like they're accepted members of society over there.

Posted by
21846 posts

Why would they be over rated? They serve a function. Some believe it is a very important function. Others not so much. Over the years on this site to the best of my memory there has been on one report of money lost from a money belt. But lots of reports of money, passports, c cards, etc., disappearing from front pockets back pockets, bags, etc., And even one report of a money taken from a bra. We even wear a money belt when we visit our sons in Manhattan and Chicago. We have spent nearly a year traveling in Europe over the past 20+ years and never had a problem. We would not travel without a money belt.

Posted by
5 posts

I always use the money belt when I travel in Europe. I feel very comfortable using it instead of a wallet. I put my cash and credit and debit cards, plus my driver's license, in it. We leave our passports in the hotel. Everything else from my wallet stays home.

Posted by
2050 posts

Like everyone who has posted to this, I also use my money belt. Like Valerie said, why not just do the "simple thing" if it can avoid a huge hassle later. I never even know it's there. But, all this said, it comes down to a personal choice for you.

Posted by
1179 posts

Yes, Really! The "unsafe" part really isn't the issue.

It's all about risk management. There's actually a science behind it. Here's more info. There are two inputs into risk. One is probability, which you mentioned. What's the chance that this thing or that thing can happen? The other is consequence. How bad is it if this thing happens? These two values are assessed together to get a risk. If the risk is high enough, you have to mitigate (lessen) the risk. You take actions to reduce either probability or consequence.

So lets look at the money belt problem. It isn't a money belt problem as much as a theft problem. The probability is low, except in major tourist areas in major cities. Then the probability is medium. Not a big deal. But the consequence? That's the issue! The consequences of theft are having to replace your passport, bank cards, etc. in a country where you may not know the language. There will be delays in the replacement, a huge hassle, and most likely you'll miss several hours or days of your trip replacing your lost items. So the risk is actually a medium to high risk because of the consequences of the theft, not the probability.

The money belt is actually is a mitigation method. It reduces the probability of theft by hiding your valuables. You could use other methods, but the money belt is fairly easy and unobtrusive. You could also reduce the consequences by having the phone numbers for your bank, having a spare set of bank cards from a separate bank, having an online record of your passport, having a 2nd passport photo.

I personally feel that a money belt is cheap insurance so I don't lose precious days of my vacation.

You can use risk assessment for other parts of travel too. What if I miss my plane? What if I need X item in my luggage, etc.

Posted by
961 posts

Moneybelt = Peace of mind. Not having to worry about pickpockets and a ruined vacation is good enough reason for me. I used a neck wallet to fly with but found it bothered me to use on a daily basis so I switched to my RS moneybelt worn in the small of my back. Hubby used the hidden pocket the whole time. They are going back with us on our next trip.

Posted by
1781 posts

Yes, really. I wear it in the back and after a while you forget you're wearing it. Not worth the trouble to replace my passport, credit cards, etc. If you don't mind giving up a couple of days of your precious vacation time, don't wear one. I was "almost" pickpocketed on the Eiffel Tower a few years ago. If I didn't have on a money belt, I'm absolutely sure the crooks would have had my stuff.

Posted by
941 posts

I used a money belt for several years but about 3 years ago started using pants & shorts by Clothing Arts which are pick-pocket proof, this is all I wear when traveling. The pants are made from a nylon material that looks and feels like cotton and that drys quickly after washing in a hotel sink. I agree with the Risk vs Consequences statement in the above reply, you need to use something to ensure that your trip is protected.

Posted by
873 posts

I think you will find that a large faction of those who follow the teachings of St. Rick are proponents of money belts :)

I personally find them uncomfortable and don't see much added benefit to justify wearing one. These days, there isn't much need to carry large sums of cash, and my travel documents stay plenty safe in an inside pocket of my bag or back in the hotel/rental apartment. I can call my credit card companies and have backup cards in the event a card is compromised or stolen, and travel insurance to cover any other material losses. Aside from that, I just behave, dress, and go about life as I would here in Seattle (but with less work and more walking/eating/drinking/seeing!).

Posted by
11435 posts

I use the Hidden Pocket type of moneybelt so I hardly know it's there.

I first started using them in 1991 and now it's a part of my packing list for any trip outside my home area. Even if traveling to another place in the U.S., I take my moneybelt. It takes no time to take it as it is attached to my belt. I put my pants on the the moneybelt comes along for the ride.

I like the risk principle Cindy H. outlined above. I use a neck pouch. I don't like it. But, I still wear it because I don't want to deal with theft or being in another country without a passport. Eagle Creek has a nice leg pouch. I would get it except for the fact that I wear Capri pants and longer "hiking" type shorts that would leave the pouch exposed. Do what is comfortable for you.

Posted by
489 posts

Great responses and insight...
yes having your passport stolen would be awful, but get this ... while living in Seoul someone broke into our home and stole checks and cash, but left passports alone. On any trip now Credit cards and cash... my habit is to spread it out, reduce loss... I simply hate the idea of a money belt (even though I did use one on a trip... I have an autographed RS money belt from the late 80's)

I have never been to Rome or much of Italy and have not a real interest... If there was a country in Europe to be robbed it would be that country. That being said, one would think that Asia would be more of a target... HA! We've had some real interesting situations in Asia... I can not speak about the carelessness of what we got away with... Europe scares me not!

Posted by
2788 posts

I have gone to Europe for 14 of the last 15 years and have always worn a money belt (now a neck wallet) which contains my passport, credit/debit cards, and important papers. I have never heard of anyone being pickpocked when wearing a money belt correctly. I have however heard of numerous folks being pickpocked when not wearing a money belt including one member of our RS tour in June. Such a minor issue for such safety.

Posted by
6782 posts

Everybody has their own acceptable level of risk. If you want the lowest possible risk, I can't think of a safer place to keep your valuables conveniently than in a properly worn money belt. If you're comfortable with more risk, thats your call.

Posted by
1058 posts

Why don't carry a wallet in your back pocket without anything in it and see how long it takes before someone takes it That way you will know from your own experience whether putting your valuables in a money belt is worth it or not. I suspect you will be glad you wore a money belt. Let us know the outcome. If you tell us the number of days you will be gone and where you will be each day, we could start a pool and see who can pick the day your wallet shows up missing. That might be fun.

Posted by
489 posts

yosemite1.... you make me laugh. do you have so little faith? I have been pick pocketed by my stupidity with an open bag on a crowded bus in Seoul. I had nothing of importance in my wallet, a bit of money that is all. Like I said you can put your vast fortune in a money belt and tie it around your middle to feel uncomfortable but safe... then do that! I spread the wealth around and not at all worried that my passport will be stolen. To each his own. And after traveling 30 yrs in many countries (other than Italy) I know how to maintain safety and security. I'm not saying something couldn't happen, but it could happen right here when I visit Chicago.

What I was really wanting to hear is how many folks have had their passports stolen....

Posted by
6011 posts

Cindy expressed the point I usually make very well, that the consequences far outweigh the inconvenience. I however, wandering around for an afternoon do not use my neck pouch, but usually only have a bit of cash and a credit card on me, with back ups in another place.

As fo your passport, I admit that in the past, while in a town or city, I left my passport in a safe place in the hotel room, but given increased security, possible checkpoints, or in the event of an incident, I carry it with me nearly always. Unfortunately, having to be able to prove who you are is becoming more and more common. How you carry your passport though is up to you.

Posted by
184 posts

I wore a money belt for the first 2 days of my first European trip, and never again since then. I found it to be uncomfortable and figured that I could be just as safe with my documents by following the same common sense precautions I use here at home. I have never had an issue with anything being stolen and I have traveled to a number of large European cities. I don't usually carry my passport with me on a daily basis while I'm in Europe so that's not a concern. (The only time I made it a point to have my passport with me everyday is when I was in China, and that was because of the visa requirement.) I'm a big fan of Rick and his travel tips, but the money belt is one I am just not on board with. To each his own though, it is obvious from the other responses here that there are a number of people who gain a lot of peace of mind from using their money belt.

Posted by
1179 posts

Different money belts fit differently on different bodies. I have a bad disk in my neck, so the thought of a neck pouch drives me crazy. I also hate the leg pouches as I find them uncomfortable and binding. The waist pouches are OK. The hidden pocket fits my body best. My point? You can't judge the comfort of all money belts by only trying on one size and style. One important thing to consider: the cost of implementing a money belt security solution is fairly low. It's easy to incorporate. So why not?

I'd also like to point out a logical fallacy I'm seeing.

"I've never had a problem" - this logic is that it can't happen because it hasn't happened so far. By the same logic you can't get into a car accident because it hasn't happened so far and "I'm a safe driver". Problem is, other drivers aren't safe and you might be lucky. Or not. A probability doesn't change because you participate in an activity across time.

Posted by
12972 posts

I don't use a money belt, a nuisance, but use the hidden pocket and/or the neck pouch. The wallet I carry in my front pocket not vertically but horizontally so the length of the wallet barely fits the width of the front pant's pocket. It's snug. Then I put four or five 3x5 cards on top of the wallet horizontally clipped together by two/three binder clips. If the pickpocket's hand slips into my pocket, thinking that the wallet can be easily slipped out, the first thing that hand will run into is metal, not cloth. That 'll certainly catch attention. You can't pull the wallet out without pulling out first the 3x5 cards with the 2 binder clips on them...another layer of defense.

Posted by
11613 posts

I had a passport stolen, it was replaced at the US Consulate in an hour (and $136, which was waived when I applied for a new passport, you would be issued a one-year passport at a consulate or embassy).

Posted by
12040 posts

My only objection to the "You-must-wear-a-money-belt" mantra.... it confuses the means with the goal. The goal, of course, is security of vital possessions. However, a money belt does not represent the only means to the end. Although probably not an option for people taking a summer RS tour of Italy, during the cooler months, a sealable internal coat pocket does the job just as well.

Situational awareness really is important as well.

Posted by
2927 posts

I don't think they are necessary for those of us who are used to being connected to our purses all day. I do use one all the time when traveling solo as it is one more means of dividing up my goods and yet knowing where everything is. I don't use a belt or a neck much though, I use a leg wallet with boot cut jeans. I usually use it when I am changing locations. I forget I even have this type on. However, I hear that on an RS tour I must wear it all the time...which I think might make sense for a lot of people as they change locations regularly. If one is a person who leaves their purse in their shopping cart and walks down the aisle or puts their bag on the floor in a restaurant, then one definitely needs a money belt. Any woman used to living in a city, might not need one or want one.

Posted by
367 posts

I have been on 8 RS tours and have pretty much stopped using the money belt on the last three on a daily basis. On my last three trips, I used it when going to the first location, then left it in my hotel room after that. I carry a small purse, that is just big enough for what I need on a daily basis. I lock the rest in my suitcase in the hotel.

For me this is because money belts are very uncomfortable. I tried a neck pouch and got a uniboob it was very obvious and not a particularly good look :-)!! I have also worn the traditional ones and worn it in the back. The sweating it caused was very uncomfortable.

However, I was pick pocketed on my very first RS tour and I was wearing a money belt so the pickpocket did not get much. I guess the bottom line is what ever works best for you is what you should use. I also photocopy all my documents, credit cards etc. and email them to myself so that I have access to them if something happens

Posted by
21293 posts

I've been through the stolen or lost credit card business twice when I was away from home. My card issuer said to allow about 10 days for a replacement card to arrive in Europe. If you're moving rapidly with a bunch of 1- and 2-night stops (not I) or reserving hotels as you go (as I do), there's no guarantee the replacement card will find you. Just one more element to factor into the risk equation.

I do always travel with a second card, of course, but it's frustrating not to have your favorite mileage card when you're running up so many charges.

I use a money belt when I'm changing hotels; otherwise, the excess valuables are locked in my suitcase. Day-to-day, I've started distributing things I might need (like my ATM card and an extra 50 euros or so) in different pockets inside my cross-body bag. I wouldn't consider that an effective technique in places where purse-snatching (as opposed to pickpocketing) is a frequent method of theft. The guide books used to warn about motorized purse-snatchers specifically in Naples, but I don't know that they are still at work.

Posted by
379 posts

I personally find them uncomfortable and don't see much added benefit to justify wearing one. These days, there isn't much need to carry large sums of cash, and my travel documents stay plenty safe in an inside pocket of my bag or back in the hotel/rental apartment.

I totally agree. And fishing it out to make payments is an embarrassment I can do without. If there are things I cannot afford to lose, I don't carry them with me. I keep the cash I need for a day, a debit card and a credit card in a hidden zippered front pocket of my normal looking pants. Yes, they do make them. No, they are not cargo convertibles.

Posted by
13674 posts

However, a money belt does not represent the only means to the end.

My sentiments exactly. We bought them for our first trip, tried them on at home and never touched them again. We simply found them too bulky and uncomfortable, and neither of us want to go running for a bathroom just to get at our cards/cash/passports if we need to.

But that doesn't mean there aren't other perfectly good methods of keeping valuables out of someone else's hands. Neck wallets, belts wallets, clothing with built in safety pockets, pacsafe and Travelon bags (we have one) or other methods work too. It's a matter of taking SOME kind of precaution and that precaution working for you. Heck, half the time I just throw some petty cash in a pocket and a card/additional cash in a tiny cloth bag pinned to the underside of my waistband. It's invisible and easy for me to get to but no one else.

We used to leave our passports in the hotel safe while sightseeing but security being what it is these days, we'll probably carry them most of the time (in the pacsafe bag.)

Posted by
11435 posts

One of the problems with this thread is the term "money belt." I think many here picture the type St. Rick uses that goes around your waist.

However, the neck wallet, hidden pocket (that attaches to your belt), leg wallet and even the actual belt that has compartments for cash, are all types of money belts.

It has been pointed out in this thread, it is not for every transaction. It is Fort Knox. Your daily banking should be easily accessible either in your pocket (front) or bag.

And carrying all your valuables in your bag also means they can be stolen. Even Pacsafe bags are vulnerable to purse/bag snatchings.

I have a question for those who don't use money belts but keep their valuables in their hotel rooms. What do you do on your travel days when you go from one hotel to another? Don't you have to carry your valuables with you at some point?

Chances are you won't be a victim of a crime. But I look at the inconvenience factor above all. How much of an inconvenience would it be to lose your money, credit cards, debit cards, passport, etc. (Personally, losing my phone would be the biggest hassle.) While in some areas it may only take an hour or two to get a new passport, in others it can take over a day.

To those "it has never happened to me in all my trips" folks....you may want to change that to "it has never happened to me so far." It's like Viagra. You may have had no need for it in the past but someday.......you might.

I use the Hidden Pocket type of money belt. I also have a way of connecting my daily wallet to my belt to make it more difficult for a pickpocket. (I also had a way to do this with my cellphone when I carried it in my pocket. )

This past spring I tried using a Scottevest instead of carrying a bag. The jacket was fine. But too many pockets. I forget where I put things and, in some cases, how to access some of the pockets.

The final word is simple. If you feel using any type of money belt is overkill and you prefer another method, then do so. It's your trip, your money, your passport, and your credit cards. Not ours.

Posted by
2329 posts

I travel solo, and as Valerie says upthread, if a simple act can save you from inumerable hassles, why not do it? I use a belt-loop pouch that fits along the side of my hip--extra credit card, debit card, passport and extra cash go in that. In my messenger bag I have a slim Coach wristlet that fastens to the bottom of my bag--it's not coming out without my knowledge. My time on vacation is precious and dealing with the drama of replacing cards or passport just isn't worth taking chances.

Posted by
597 posts

Frank brings up the interesting point as to where one should keep one's Viagra. In the room, or in the money belt "just in case"?

Posted by
16883 posts

If a bag gets snatched, it doesn't matter which item inside was the thief's actual target (passport vs. cash, etc.) it only matters that it's all gone. Having worked with rail pass customers for many years (rail passes are like cash and not replaceable), I know that those reported lost were never in a money belt, usually in a bag (and there was that one reported to have blown out of the pocket of a travel journal and into the Seine).

Posted by
351 posts

You can put me in the money belt fan club, I guess.

I don't wear one because I am "frightened" of something. I wear one because I have a tendency to misplace things, and I am fairly certain that if I carry my passport, extra credit card and extra cash in a bag or wallet I'm going to lose track of that bag or wallet, or something will fall out of my pocket. I lost my wristlet at Costco recently. I carried the wristlet because I had more stuff I needed to carry than would fit in my pockets and I don't usually carry a purse. The wristlet felt like something I wouldn't lose track of because it's semi-attached to me. And yet I did. I have a long and storied history of setting my purse down and walking away from it. So far I've been lucky and have remembered in time to go back and get it, or a kind soul has turned it in untouched. It's me I'm trying to protect against, not thieves.

I don't want the hassle of trying to replace something. I know from experience that replacing a passport is pretty straightfoward if you're in a city with an embassy, but I really don't want to spend a half day or whole day doing that. Plus Murphy's Law dictates that I won't realize my passport is missing until it's time to check in for a flight.

All that said, I find money belts to not be a huge hassle because:
1) I use it properly. Once it's on I don't access it again for routine tasks.
2) I don't wear it everyday. Primarily I wear it while we are in transit from one hotel to another. If there is a border crossing in the trip my passport will be accessible and not in the money belt.
3) I don't bother with it if the place we are staying feels relatively secure to me and the locale doesn't require me to carry it. E.g. I feel that staying in a place like the Paddington Hilton carries the same level of risk I'd encounter at home and I leave my "valuables" in the room when we are out sightseeing.

Tom & Frank II's point about a money "belt" not the being only means to reach your goal of not losing your passport is a good one. Use whatever method/device that you feel comfortable with. Up to and including not bothering with any precautions.

Posted by
11450 posts

Under rated for some amd over rated to others .

I only use mine in transit.

Posted by
12972 posts

On the credit cards and no money belt: No way are "they" going to get all the credit/debit cards, assuming three cards is the total number you bring, unless you put them all in one place, I don't, they're dispersed. I certainly don't use the hotel safe.

Posted by
489 posts

Well, I guess this topic has some on both sides of the fence. I think I'll use one for this trip. Actually, I would like my husband to use one because he tends to put everything in that wallet and in his pocket.
I might add one other concern for having your passport with you at all times... If you are injured and taken to hospital, they will need to see your passport immediately. Another, if the very unlikely case you are unfortunate to be in the wrong place and some form of incident happens (recent events on trains, cities and airports) you may only be able to get out of there with yourself. It could be hours/days without seeing your other bags.

Curious on this safety issue: People have said they lock their suitcase while in hotel, others have said they don't use the hotel safe at all. I think I need to start another thread....

Posted by
11435 posts

Emergency Medical Information

A point was brought up about carrying emergency information with you. I carry a card with me every time I leave my house. It is behind my driver's license. It gives information about me, my health and who to contact. No need to have the authorities use my D/L or passport to figure out this information.

The card is free. You fill out a form and then print it.

Emergency Medical Identification

Posted by
4590 posts

Is car insurance over-rated? A money belt is just insurance that you can have your essentials - money and passport, to be able to enjoy your trip.

Posted by
929 posts

I'm with Pat. I only use my money belt on transit days and use other risk mitigation activities when out and about during stay-put days. These include a cross-body, zipped purse that never comes off my body; wallet attached to an anchor point inside my purse; leaving the spare debit and credit card in my room; and attaching my phone/camera to an anchor point in a separate compartment in my purse as well. (Beeline Cases.) That was more to prevent dropping it as it was my camera and constantly in and out of my purse. But it might have reduced the odds of having it snatched.

I am happy with my risk mitigation plan; your mileage may vary. However, my primary credit card was hacked, not physically stolen, during use very early in this summer's trip, and the card company would only send the replacement to my home address, not to me on an eight-week trip. So much for the carefully selected no-foreign-transaction-fee card. Glad I had the backup card, but annoyed about the extra fee.

P.S. Based on the dates of the fraudulent charges, it was clear that the card hacking happened in my first week away from home, in New Haven or New York, not in Italy. The same happened to me earlier this year in Toronto. So, based purely on this unscientific sample, maybe we should assume that Italy is safer than North America!

P.P.S. I also have two passports, Canadian and U.S. I always carry one and leave one in the room, so I know I'll be able to get home and straighten things out later. Not an option for everyone, I know, just another piece in my risk mitigation plan (and yes, I'm a project manager, so I always think about risk mitigation, not risk elimination.)

Posted by
62 posts

What an interesting thread - I thought I'd add my $.02. I've travelled all over Europe, never with a money belt. We took our first RS tour last summer and got 4 money belts that are still in their plastic wrapping (hope that's not sacreligous to say on this forum!!). I agree with all of the posters who talk about risk management and doing what makes you feel most comfortable. I am used to carrying a purse, so the "Pacsafe" purse (that's the brand I have although I'm sure other brands work well) works great for me. I can carry my wallet, phone, camera, and even tablet in it, wear it cross-body, and make sure is zipped and the zipper locked and I feel good to go. Since it's basically just a purse, it's easy to access when I need something. I've even gotten into the habit of checking the zipper each time I go off and on public transportation abroad, and keep my hand over the locked zipper when I'm in a crowded place, like the metro. My two daughters (17 and 20) also have them for travel, and while we might look a little like triplets (or a mother duck and her ducklings!) walking down the streets of Paris or Rome together, they serve us well. I could see where that might not be a good fit if you're not used to carrying a purse/bag all of the time, but it works for us.

Posted by
119 posts

I found a new way to wear a money belt. I used it on our recent July trip. I mentioned before on this forum that I have a
neck pouch (money belt) of which I shortened the cord and looped through itself over the center of my bra where it is narrow.
Then it hangs down and tucks inside my pants over to the side a bit. I can lift my shirt to pull it out if I need to access it which is rare.
I just forget it all day but know it's there. I keep my passport in it because I can't imagine the time wasted and the hassle of getting it replaced overseas. I also keep credit cards, ATM cards and list of hotel addresses in it. A little pocket cash is in my pants pocket--an amount that I can afford to lose but easily accessible for daily use.

Posted by
3551 posts

My neckpouch is great, and i do not travel without it.
I know someone who would not use a neck pouch or money belt in Rome.
Sure enough a pickpocket was successful.

Posted by
11450 posts

Tggreen, if you are injured in europe you need not worry about having your passport with you, its not the States where they ask you for your insurance while your re bleeding!

Posted by
79 posts

Just got back from a RS tour, we did a combo of things to deal with this issue. My husband wore a money belt or Clothing Art pants, his Rick Steves money belt did become uncliped at one point while he was wearing it in Paris. While on tour he had to take it off while going through security at two museums, he does have a knee replacement which set the alarms off for extra pat downs. I wore a money belt for 2 days and could not stand the extra band around my waist. Luckily I brought with me a Hobo Traveler Zipper Secret Pocket from Amazon and switched to wearing that instead. If you check it out on Amazon I modified the size of the pocket to fit my body. I pinned it to my waist band and always wore it on travel days and when we were in Rome.. If there was a safe I left my passport in the safe but carried my passport I D card with me for identification in a security purse.

Posted by
379 posts

The vast majority of the posters are from North America, with only a couple from UK.

Sorry I'm in the opposing camp. I think they are pretty uneccessary overkill ...

and

Prior to visiting this RS website it had never occurred to me that tourists would use money belts in Europe, or at least not in tourist Europe. Wearing a money belt still seems a peculiar thing to do.

Do the European travelers feel the same in general? How do they carry their items?

Should the North Americans be more cautious than the Europeans because they are more likely to be pick pocketed?

Posted by
28098 posts

European travelers?

Remember way up thread the discussion about probability and potential for loss?

Locals or even European tourists have much less to lose. An ID card is only the size of a credit card, many don't carry much cash, not far from home, and in many cases no flights to consider.

Personally I wear a money belt with couple of credit cards we bring on holiday, driving license, and passport. Not heavy, not bulky, and gives free scope for observing close up - nothing much to lose. My travel wallet has one card in it and a few local (Euro or CHF) cash notes.

A friend of mine was pickpocketed in Barcelona last weekend. She lost about €25. She just got on with her day.

Posted by
518 posts

I'm with the "insurance" camp. I know some people find a money belt SO uncomfortable and inconvenient that it is not worth the expense. However, that's not to say that they don't find other means to insure themselves, for example, opting instead for neck wallets, etc.

And on the topic of insurance, you have to also consider what your investment is and what you stand to lose. Even if I've never had a loss or fire at my house in 30 years I would STILL buy homeowners insurance because I can't afford the hundreds of thousands of dollars to rebuild it. The cost of the insurance is insignificant compared to the cost to replace. If your vacation time and expense of your trip isn't such a large investment for you even if you were to lose it all (i.e., stolen passport & money, emergency medical treatment, etc.), then maybe taking all these extra steps (i.e., money belt, travel insurance, etc.) is simply not worth it to you. So in the end, it's all about your level of risk tolerance and how much you value what you stand to lose.

Posted by
2526 posts

So, we sent a man to the moon. Next up, a comfortable money belt.

Posted by
12972 posts

Admittedly in my youth in the 1970s and 1980s I wore the wallet in the rear left pocket, even though I had been told on my first trip in 1971 (as a tell tale sign) that one way to spot out Americans was that they carried the wallet in the rear pocket. True, I still did it since carrying it in the front pocket was a uncomfortable, basically. No money belt either for various reasons. It wasn't until the end of the 1990s when a friend said in response to my anti-money belts comments told me , obviously I had never been in a third world country. He had, several ones. I was convinced. With the first trip in the 21st century in 2001 I used using the hidden pocket, changed to carrying wallet in the front, the binder clips on the 3x5 cards I started on this trip. I use it as another piece of defense since times have most obviously changed since the 1970s and '80s in traveling.

Posted by
650 posts

I recently returned from Barcelona and my hotel was on La Rambla which had thousands of people walking at all hours. I carried a messenger bag with my wallet, phone and camera in a zipped inside compartment. I had no fear of opening it in public to pay for a purchase even in the Boqueria market which was jammed all the time. I never carried my passport with me. What for? I left that and other money in the hotel safe. Why does this forum suggest that you will not be safe in Europe and prescribe carrying a money belt and passport everywhere you go? Do all European residents walk around carrying there valuables in a money belt? I would be curious to hear.

Posted by
8995 posts

Why does this forum suggest that you will not be safe in Europe and
prescribe carrying a money belt and passport everywhere you go? Do all
European residents walk around carrying there valuables in a money
belt? I would be curious to hear.

It's perfectly reasonable to use a hotel room safe, but not all hotels have them. In that case I use a money belt. When most people use the term "money belt", the are talking about some sort of deep storage/Fort Knox style system of keeping cash/cards/passport away from bad guys and the safes fall into that category.
In addition:
-Tourists are targeted more than locals. They are carrying more cash, cards, and toys and are less likely to testify in court if the bad guy is caught.
-Getting robbed/accidentally losing critical items is more of a hassle to replace if it occurs 5000+ miles away from your hometown.
-Vacation time is precious. If spending $10 bucks on a money belt type device or using the hotel room safe eliminates the need to potentially waste two days of ones vacation, it's a no brainier in my book.

Posted by
1581 posts

A pickpocket got me in Rome ( what a nightmare ) and my stepdaughter in Paris. The Paris crooks were stopped by a nice Parisian man! Was I paranoid about being pickpocketed? No! I was a travel virgin back in the 80s. This year in Paris I was approached by a young man wanting to know if I spoke English ( I was expecting a woman). He had his clipboard in hand. I learned about this type of operation and others by reading many travel boards. I was prepared and not distracted so his buddies could not get my valuables. Signs in subway stations, museums, bus and tram stops alert users of pickpockets so yes, beware of pickpockets while traveling in many parts of Europe.

My guess is that they leave locals alone (tourists are easy to spot), as they have a never ending gazillion number of tourists with lots of money and goodies to grab. And if you have never been a victim of this type of crime, consider yourself lucky as many do suffer the consequences of being the subject of a pickpocket!

No need to panic though, as there are many things one can do to keep money and valuables safe. I have my way of keeping my valuables safe and this thread is full of good advice, but don't think for a minute that you can ALWAYS be aware of your situation. That is impossible!

Posted by
79 posts

Just got back from a RS tour, we did a combo of things to deal with this issue. My husband wore a money belt or Clothing Art pants, his Rick Steves money belt did become uncliped at one point while he was wearing it in Paris. While on tour he had to take it off while going through security at two museums, he does have a knee replacement which set the alarms off for extra pat downs. I wore a money belt for 2 days and could not stand the extra band around my waist. Luckily I brought with me a Hobo Traveler Zipper Secret Pocket from Amazon and switched to wearing that instead. If you check it out on Amazon I modified the size of the pocket to fit my body. I pinned it to my waist band and always wore it on travel days and when we were in Rome.. If there was a safe I left my passport in the safe but carried my passport I D card with me for identification in a security purse.

Posted by
1179 posts

@emma - I'm surprised you are saying that this is an"echo chamber" of people's opinions.
Risk Analysis is a science used by many many industries. It takes away opinions and assesses risk based on facts.
Now you could argue that a certain probability or consequence is someone's opinion. If that is true, feel free to correct the incorrect assumptions in these areas.

I think it's fair to say that travelers have significantly less situational awareness of surroundings than locals. They are less likely to detect when something is "off". I think it is fair to say that it is harder for travelers to replace lost stuff than locals.

If you see a logical fallacy please point it out.

Now I admit that there are a lot of opinions on how to mitigate the risk of theft during travel.

By the way, if you were to visit New York or San Francisco I would tell you to wear a money belt. Because you are a traveler and not a local.

Posted by
12972 posts

"...be curious to hear." If one were a pickpocket pro, which would you target for the easy pickings? Tourists or locals? If it's tourists, then the ones that stand out, easy to spot out, are Americans and Asians, both of whom I have witnessed on trains and at train stations are pretty clueless in traveling.

Posted by
650 posts

Emma is a European citizen. I think she expressed herself quite clearly and doesn't need to be attacked for giving a truthful opinion (of which I asked for). The truth is probably that many that visit this forum are in a different age bracket and worry too much because of what they read. I am from New York State and have been to NYC many times. I have never carried any protective measure to keep my wallet and money safe. You hear about one person who was robbed and now you fear you will be the next. Social media creates fears. Stop worrying and enjoy the vacation.

Posted by
1179 posts

@Keith - Quantitative analysis is preferred. Qualitative Risk analysis is most certainly allowed. The standard qualitative parameters are as follows:

Probabilities

  • Low - Extremely Improbable
  • Medium Low - Extremely Remote
  • Medium - Remote
  • Medium High - Reasonably probable
  • High - Frequent

Consequences

  • Low – Negligible – Almost no effect
  • Medium Low – Marginal – Small cost or schedule impact
  • Medium – Moderate – moderate cost or schedule impacts. Noticeable impact
  • Medium High – Critical – Major cost, schedule, increases.
  • High – Catastrophic - Loss of life, permanent injury, failure

Probability: I assigned a "medium" category to theft on travel because it has a remote probability of occurring.
Consequence: I assigned a Medium to medium high on the consequences based on having a moderate to major cost/schedule impact. These are:

  • cost of replacing passport - $110 currently.
  • time spent replacing passport. this is 1-2 days of a "standard" 14 day trip. 15% of the trip time. (Note: I am using the standard US 2 week vacation. Europeans have a comparably generous vacation allowance so their vacation impacts would be different). You may or may not be in a city with a US consulate. My assessment assumes you are NOT.
  • time to travel to consulate or alternative representative
  • Passports are only issued during normal business hours. That excludes weekends and holidays. Worst case scenario you are robbed at 6pm on a Friday before a Monday holiday. That means You have to wait until 9 am Tuesday before you can schedule a replacement. That's a 3-1/2 day wait!
  • time to catch up if with a tour group
  • if the passport loss is within 1-2 days of flying back, you will not be able to fly on your original flight. There is a potential for additional change fees on airline tickets - up to $300 per person plus cost increase from last minute airline ticket purchase.

Most of this is based on worst case scenarios. You can't control when/how the theft will occur so must assume worst case.

The risk matrix, under these assessments, says "mitigate".

Then comes assessment on implementing the mitigation method. There are four categories:

  • Cheap and easy - Do it!
  • Cheap and hard - maybe
  • Expensive and easy - maybe
  • Expensive and hard - Only for catastrophic scenarios.

A money belt (pocket, etc.) falls under the cheap and easy solution. Do it!

If you feel my assessment is incorrect I'd love to hear it.

Posted by
8995 posts

The truth is probably that many that visit this forum are in a
different age bracket and worry too much because of what they read.

Go back and read the replies. Many have relayed first hand experiences with pickpockets and scammers, not basing things on "urban legends". Don't blame the messengers.

But let's assume for a second that Europe is a crime-free paradise with no social ills: Why does it bother some that another purchases a $10 money belt or uses the hotel room safe???? It has no impact on your vacation. Getting pick pocketed isn't some akin to being struck by lightning.

Posted by
8995 posts

I would be the last person to say Europe doesn't give a problem with
crime, it's just not the low level street crime that is obsessively
discussed on this site.

Then why is it that at so many awesome tourist sites, retail stores, restaurants. places of worship and public transit systems throughout western Europe there signs and announcements to "beware of pickpockets", and "watch your belongings"??? The local didn't go through the expense and hassle of doing that for nuthing.

Posted by
12972 posts

Using that format above and especially based on my experience and observations in Germany over 45 years, I would say "Low to Medium Low" to having your passport and other vitals (wallet, credit/debit cards etc) picked/lifted, if you know what you are doing. That's in Germany. The key factor is knowing what you are doing. If you are or appear to be clueless, feel lost, engrossed in something else, not alert, confused, look or are disoriented, then the probability increases or being a likely target. Then, where your location is another factor...possibly . When I am walking through the crowds at the Marienplatz and that whole area in Munich, am I going to be concerned of being a pickpocket victim...no! Or, walking up crowded Kaiserstrasse from Frankfurt Hbf to reach the Zentrum....no. Or, at the Hamburg Hbf.....no. Unless you don't know you are doing, Being on the Charles Bridge in Prague amidst the crowds is another story, likewise on the Paris Metro or in front of Notre Dame. Yes, it can happen but what are the odds in a crime of opportunity?

Posted by
12972 posts

Chances are that while out and about in a city, no one is going to ask you for the passport unless you happen to check in to a hotel or hostel. They will then ask you for the passport if you are totally new customer. This always happens to me if I'm unknown to the establishment. The Pensionen and hotels in Germany, Austria I go now I'm a repeat customer, they don't ask to see it, only that you provide the Passport number.

In the days of yesteryear, ie, on those trips when I did not use a money belt) there was always one place you had better have that passport ready to present when you were in a city, ie not transiting. That place was the bank where you went to cash a travelers check, where presentation of the passport was mandatory, other wise no cash.

Posted by
3241 posts

Emma that's great! I can picture it now-"Can I have a selfie with you so I can have a photo of a Barcelona pickpocket to add to my collection? Of course this might make you easy pickins for their associates!

Posted by
11435 posts

Let's sum it up......there are those here who wouldn't think of leaving home without one and there are others who believe they are an anathema to their very being.

So to answer your question "are money belts over rated" the answer is simple--it depends on who you ask.

By the way, that's the same answer to questions about shorts, rolling bags and itineraries.

Posted by
650 posts

Shorts and and t-shirts and Nike's were on everyone in Barcelona 2 weeks ago. Wear whatever you want. No one cares.

Posted by
89 posts

This thread is a few weeks old but I feel like I should chime in, as a person who lives in the shadow of the great pickpocket capital of the world: New York City.

This is the critical difference between me carrying a money belt in NYC (I don't) and me carrying one in Europe (I usually do).

If I lose my ID/valuables in NYC it is a cinch to make a phone call, in my native language, to a friend, family member or local government to come give me a hand. I can likely identify my location, know phone numbers by heart and can communicate quickly and efficiently.

If I lose my ID/valuables in a place where I do not speak the language and won't necessarily know what street I am on, who to find a local police station or even the local customs, I am well and truly screwed.

I am not a nervous traveler. I do not worry about going to foreign places. I speak one language very well, a second moderately well and read two other languages somewhat well. I prepare myself a few months ahead of time learning a few key phrases and emergency signals/signs. I don't panic and keep on doing it year after year. I understand there are risks to travel, just like there are risks to driving my car on the Long Island Expressway. If my money belt is comfortable (it is), why not lower my risk?

PS - I've had the same money belt since 1996 and it has served me well.

Posted by
408 posts

That was an interesting read. When this post was first started I was on a RS tour. During that tour my husband wore the money belt. Passports stayed in the hotel safe with most of our valuables. This was especially true in Paris and in Rome. In Paris one of our tour members was not wearing a money belt. She had a small purse that she kept close to her body zipped shut. She was pick pocketed.
It can happen to anyone even on a RS tour. In the money belt we kept two credit cards and some cash. Not all our cash just enough for the day.

I also kept some cash believe it or not in my RS Books. I figured a pick pocket would never steal those. If he did I was only out a little bit. It works for us but each your own. I had a pretty nice camera with me too so I would be very careful watching it on public transportation and made sure I was never near an exit etc. just like I would do at home.

Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
11613 posts

Cindy H's time estimates are way off, impacting her results.

First, pickpocket incidents are low everywhere; more incidents occur where there are more people (both victims and perps), skewing the impression of how dangerous a place is for carrying your valuables.

Time: it takes less than a day to get a passport replaced (mine took an hour).

If the consulate has a staffed gate, just say "passport emergency" (may not work late at night). I was escorted through the consulate after hours, an agent was found, my passport was issued at 7pm.

By the way, it took two hours to cancel credit cards and have them Fedexed to my next stop; Amex wired $500 in emergency cash which I picked up at a local bank the next morning.

Posted by
11435 posts

So, once again we come to the same conclusion:

Those who like to use moneybelts think they are not overrated.

Those that hate using moneybelts think they are overrated.

And why would anyone think because they are on an RS tour that they are insulated from theft? You go to the same places as non-RS tour people. Do pickpockets really think: "Oh, that person is on an RS tour. They are excluded from my list of targets. Keep on travelin."

Now, if we can just figure out a way for a guy, who doesn't want to carry a bag, can carry a cellphone and protect it from being stolen. After all, a thief with his hand in my pocket isn't going to say I don't want the phone, only his wallet.

Posted by
208 posts

Frank - regarding phones... I'm going to have to help my husband out with that one, too.

What I do whenever we travel, is attach a wrist strap to our phones. We use them as cameras, too, and we also cruise, so I'm always afraid of dropping them overboard during sunset shots, selfies, etc. I have a very slim, rubbery-silicone-y case on my iphone.. very low profile, and it just pops over the edges of the phone. That's on, full-time. During travel, I attach a small camera wrist strap (from my old Canon digital elph) by feeding the very thin loop around the pieces of case where the holes are to allow for the speaker and the charging connection. I just leave the small strap on for the whole trip. I love the security of putting the strap on my wrist while doing anything... it helps safeguard against dropping it in any situation. It's not totally secure, as it COULD pull the case right off the phone, too, but it's pretty darned good.

My husband usually carries his phone in a holster on his waist band. I might be able to somehow tether the strap to a belt loop, in such a way as he can readily access it. Or, in his pocket. This will be a work in progress!

Vivian

Posted by
2353 posts

DH had a money belt our first trip - wore it the first couple days - it went into the suitcase never to be worn again. I carry a purse - we walk around like we at home. We pay attention to our surroundings. Have thwarted 3 pick pocket attempts - all in the same trip. DH carries less than € 20 in his pocket and no wallet.

Posted by
518 posts

What I do whenever we travel, is attach a wrist strap to our phones. We use them as cameras, too, and we also cruise, so I'm always afraid of dropping them overboard during sunset shots, selfies, etc.

I've been doing this ever since I switched to using iPhones, which has been about four years now. Even here at home I keep the strap on. With a strap on it, there really is no way for someone to "snatch and run." I mean, they could try, and you might get yanked in the arm (depending on your size vs. the size of the perp), but there really isn't much of a way for the phone to leave your body/hand with that strap around your wrist. Further to this (and this applies at home as well as abroad), when you need to check something on your phone, don't just pull it out as you're walking and continue to walk and use it...look for a safe spot to stand, outside of foot traffic, perhaps in an alcove, next to a mail box, lamp post, etc., so that you're not in people's walking path (in other words, "pull over") before you use it.

As for where on your body to put the phone when you're not actively using it (for men), that continues to be an evolving work for me, but things I've tried with success include, inside zip pocket of a jacket, zip pockets (or zip + flap) pockets of certain pants.... in other words, any kind of pocket that closes securely.

Posted by
11435 posts

What I did on my last trip was find a soft case for my phone that had a small cloth ring on it. I then attached a loop through my belt and put the clip end into the phone case ring. Now, to take my phone, the thief would have to break the ring.

Unfortunately, the cloth ring tore.

My new case, for my new phone, has both a belt clip and stitched on belt loops. I'm thing of attaching the loop I put through my belt to one of the loops of my phone case--either direct or adding a carabiner. This way, it is attached to my belt and would be harder for a thief to just take it.

I also have these and think I may try them as well:

Tyny Tools Bungee

There are also rings that attach to the back of phones:

Cellphone Rings

Posted by
12972 posts

I don't carry any sort of bag, day bag, shoulder bag, messenger bag, etc and don't want to either. But I have to carry the cell phone since the family insists on that when I travel solo. My cell phone goes into the pant's front right pocket.

Posted by
208 posts

Frank - re: tiny bungees
They look a bit awkward and still too bulky for my liking. I'd be inclined to make some type of bungee-like tether myself, from elastic cording. You can buy that sort of cord in fabric shops that sell sewing notions. Usually it's sold by the meter (or yard/foot). Think of the type of elasticized cord you would find as a draw"string" in the hem or waist of a jacket...

One day, I'm going to design an ingenious solution! LOL.

Viv

Posted by
400 posts

I'm finding shirts with zippered chest pockets for my iphone. Worked great for my 4s, but are too small for the 6s, so I'm shopping again. Turning out to be a challenge. Anyways, the phone feels secure and has quick access when needed for "that" picture and I figure if the phone gets lifted with it literally under my nose, I deserve it.

Posted by
11435 posts

@vyforke......I'm not a craft kind of person. The only thing I like to make is money....and food.

Posted by
1337 posts

True Story: I dropped my 24 yr old daughter and her friend off at LAX, going to NYC for a few days to see the sights, visit friends. She "checks" to make sure she has her debit card, she opens the outside pocket of her backpack and fishes around till she finds it (apparently it just floats around in there), then she takes the 100.00 cash I gave her and stuffs it into the back of her phone case and clamps it shut as she walks into the airport with it in her hand. I have told her about pick pockets, warned her of keeping her stuff organized...and this is her 3rd trip to NYC ,she always stays with friends in Brooklyn, Queens or Manhattan and has never had a problem, this system works for her and her friend. She also has a largish cross body Marc Jacobs purse that she apparently throws everything into also. I tried to just look away as I dropped her off so as not to have a complete anxiety attack as her and her friend walked off muttering "were is our airline" (We dropped them off at their terminal), they will figure it out!