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Confused about money belt versus storage in hotel room

I am staying at smaller hotels and Inns (with the exception of my last day in Milan). I think only one of them has in-room safe. I have never used a money belt or an in-room safe nor have I ever locked my luggage and I have traveled to several foreign countries. I always left cash and/or credit cards in places like makeup bags, or, inside books or underwear. Never had anything stolen. Maybe I was just lucky? However, this will be my first time staying in Italy.

Assuming there are not safes in most of my hotels...
Do I need to always wear my actual passport (not a copy) in a money belt? Never leave it in the room?
Do I never leave cash or credit cards in the room? Always bring all my "deep reserves" in the money belt?

If there is a safe...
Do I keep passport, cash and credit cards in safe instead of money belt?

Thank you.

Posted by
4535 posts

Every option comes with a certain amount of risk. Your goal is both to reduce that risk to the minimum and give yourself piece of mind. Both goals can be done any number of ways.

Many people will leave their passports and other cards and extra cash in a hotel safe or locked securely in their luggage. Make sure you bring some form of ID on you though, even if it is a copy. I personally lock my luggage in the room while I'm out. It's not foolproof but I find the greatest risk is from maids leaving doors open while they clean several rooms at once. Someone walking by and sees a bag sitting there, or camera on a desk and in 5-10 seconds they can grab what they see or rifle through your unlocked bag.

A waist tie moneybelt is an effective system for keeping things safe. But it can be uncomfortable for some. There are other systems too, like neck pouches. I use a belt loop wallet and everything goes in there.

You don't say where else you have traveled. Italy does pose a higher risk of pickpockets and general theft than many other western European countries, and it is wise to be cautious. But don't over react to the risk or make yourself paranoid. If you have a system that works for you and makes you comfortable, stick with it.

Posted by
921 posts

If there is no safe in the room, I would definitely take extra cash, credit cards, and passport with me and use my money belt. I carry outside of the money belt the amount of cash I think I will need for the day and a credit or debit card only if I plan to use it. Everything else is in the money belt. I prefer to always have my passport with me in a money belt anyway. It is one of those things that I would rather have and not need than need and not have. If there is a safe I will leave my extra cash and credit or debit cards that I do not plan on using in it.

Posted by
786 posts

I always leave my credit card and some cash in the hotel and I bring my debit card and some cash with me. Even if there is no safe in the hotel, I hide it somewhere. I feel as safe about doing this in Italy as I do in other countries. Now with so many online review sites like Trip Advisor, it would become very apparent if theft was a problem at a hotel. I only stay places that get good reviews and I feel safe with my stuff.

Regarding the passport: Legally, you are supposed to have your passport with you at all times. Some people follow the law. Some people feel you are more likely to get your passport stolen and less likely to get in trouble with law enforcement for not having a passport on you. I am in the second group and I keep a copy of the passport with me.

The topic of theft in Europe has been a hot button in the forums recently. Assuming you have been to other big cities in Europe and traveled on metro/been in crowds/etc, I do not think you need to worry more about theft in Italy. Italy is my most travelled county by far and I have always done a crossbody bag, never a money belt or pouch.

I am sure you will get a lot of opinions. But it sounds like you have established a system with your travels. And in my opinion, you can use the same system in Italy.

Posted by
238 posts

Thank you all for taking the time to read my post and give me some excellent advice. I just remembered that I also have stuffed money down my socks or put a credit card and some money in a ziplock baggie inside my shoe.

Posted by
2081 posts

lisaew,

the way i live is that if you don't want to loose it, don't leave it out in plain sight.

i will leave some change laying around or in ziplocks/envelopes but thats the extent of it. I have left one of my digital pocket cameras out too, but other than the change, nothing else.

i keep my passport with me 24/7 when i can and its on a necklace type pouch.

also, so far I've never used any safe that was in the room. just something i havent done yet.

happy trails.

Posted by
1179 posts

Several electronic hotel safes haven't reprogrammed the default passcode (kind of like leaving the default password on your computer). That means people can break in to your safe. Me? I'd rather carry my passport and cards in my money belt. It is about risk management and risk tolerance. I view the hassle of replacing the passport/cards to be greater than the inconvenience of a money belt.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=954ZIcLM7gE

Posted by
419 posts

As others have noted, this is a matter of personal preference.
I carry my passport with me at all times, just as I have my driver's license with me at all times at home. The same with credit cards and cash.
It has to be obvious that every safe in every hotel has a code , combination, for someone on the staff to open the safe in case you lose or forget the pass. Just one person? Very doubtful.
I would never leave anything in those safes.

Posted by
2788 posts

If you put "Travel with a Money Belt" into the "Search" box at the top of the page and then click on it, it will lead you to an article all about the money belt issues. I have gone to Europe 11 of the past 12 years and leave again for Greece this coming Friday. I have never NOT used a money belt and I have never been pick pocketed. I carry my passport, credit/debit cards, tickets, itinerary, and large amounts of cash in zip lock bags in my neck wallet. I have read on this web site posts from folks who have never worn a money belt and have never lost a thing. I have yet to read about someone using a money belt properly that has lost items out of it. I have, however, read about other folks not using a money belt who have lost items in various ways. I do carry the currency for the days activities in a zipper equipped chest pocket in a shirt I am wearing. Good luck with whichever method you choose.

Posted by
238 posts

Thanks to everyone for the excellent advice! Greatly appreciated!

Posted by
2580 posts

This is one of those classic YMMV situations. Should I tour the city myself or get a guide? Should I take the train or rent a car? Hotel safe or money belt? As noted above, stop and think for a moment. It has to be possible for hotel staff to get into any of their safes at any time, esp. if someone has forgotten the code they punched in. So that means many staff members know the universal entry code. And also as noted, if the safe came with a default code, that would be known as well. So nothing is certain. Assess the risks and do what seems comfortable to you. For myself, I wouldn't want to be walking around without my passport on me. Everything else is replaceable.

Posted by
4470 posts

Lisa,

It's all about the level of risk you want. Personally, I always wear my money belt when I leave the hotel room - passport, credit card, Euros. No worries. The idea of having money in my sock or inside my shoe, walking miles, would be so uncomfortable to me.

I've seen some of your previous postings. Are you going to be able to enjoy your trip??

Posted by
238 posts

I hope I will be able to enjoy my trip but I have never used any security precautions in the past...never locked anything in a hotel safe, never locked a suitcase in my life. I have been to major cities in the USA and Canada many times and never worried about anything, never carried a moneybelt. Occasionally I carried money/credit cards in my shoes in NYC walking through not-so-great parts of the city but that was rare. So...all this security is new to me. Remember...the last time I went to Europe was mid-1990s prior to the Euro, prior to smart phones, almost no one traveled with any electronics, etc. I used to leave purses on restaurant chairs back then to use the restroom...never had any issues. So, my concern is my own self being too innocent/naive so that is why I may come off as a bit paranoid. I am used to being TOTALLY relaxed on a vacation.

Posted by
796 posts

You have been extremely lucky but don't push your luck. It takes only one event to be in the middle of a nightmare if someone steals your money, passport, credit cards, etc in a room with no in-room safe. We always choose large luxury hotels that have in-room safes but in a small hotel or inn, I would ask at the desk if there is a hotel safe to put things in (make sure you have multiple photocopies of each thing and get a signed receipt from management). Keep your cards, cash, and passport with you. I have put these thing in a little cloth bag pinned inside my bra! Italy's large cities (especially around tourist attractions, hotels, and trains/transport sites, restrooms, etc) have problems with pickpockets. Beware of any kind of commotion and know that women, older people, and kids might well be part of pickpocket rings.

Posted by
238 posts

@Terri Lynn...thank you for the advice but how do you access these items in your bra? That is what I am SO CONFUSED about ;-(. People keep saying things about money belts, bra storage, etc. If I want to buy something in a store and it is more money than I have in my "day purse" how do I do this? Do I go to a restroom, pluck the card from my moneybelt, put it into my day purse and hope my day purse does not get lifted or rifled through on way back to store? Then, when I pay with the card from my money belt, how do I put it back there after the transition in the store? That is what I am so confused about as I never worried about any of these things in the past. I just had one purse...one wallet...all cards all cash in there. Never had issues.

Posted by
786 posts

Lisaew- They great thing about this website is that you get a lot of different ideas. And the difficult thing about this website is...that you get a lot of different ideas. With any topic (train travel, moneybelt vs. purse, hotel safes, etc) you are going to get different opinions. People have different techniques that work for them. So pick a strategy for your trip and if you don't like it, try something different the next time. For a lot of your safety questions, Rick addresses these in his books and on the other pages on this website. If you are feeling uncertain, try his techniques since they obviously work well for him.

Posted by
4535 posts

Kristen is right about the different opinions here and that you need to decide what works best for you and what makes you the most comfortable. I for one do not use the "deep storage" only moneybelt. All my valuables are easily accessed by me in a secure wallet attached to my belt. Everyone can see it. Everyone can see what I put in or take out. But I feel perfectly comfortable that no one else can access it without my knowing because it requires several steps to access and there are inner secure pockets. Neck pouches can work the same way for some; just pull it out when you need it and otherwise it's deep down against your belly or under your arm. Secure travel purses work on the same philosophy. But some systems, like waist-tie money belts, can't easily be accessed by you unless you go somewhere private. And there is nothing wrong with people that prefer that style. Just as some people feel better having certain valuables in their hotel safe.

And while we try not to fear-monger here, the risk of pickpockets in many European cities is very real. So do come up with a secure system that works for you. Then travel without worry.

Posted by
238 posts

I was most comfortable with the unfashionable fanny pack (zipper facing my body) the last time I was in Europe located under my shirt/coat. I looked pregnant but I did not care. It was so comfortable. Much better feeling than a cross body purse but now people say one must have a cross body purse so that is what I will use.

Posted by
9716 posts

Lisa, the only must have is what will please you. If a fanny pack is what will make you comfortable and happy, then go for it. If you decide not to go with it to begin with, I would probably stick it in the suitcase. It probably does not weight much in the overall scheme of things, and you may decide you want to get rid of the cross body and go back to the fanny pack.

Posted by
11450 posts

Lisa I have being going to Europe since 1972.. and it has never been safe to leave your purse on the table and go to the washroom.. ever .

I use hotel safes.. always have.

I only carry what I can afford to lose ... so usually less then 100 euros and my DL..

When in transit from one place to another I do put passport and CC in my moneybelt.. but I wouldn't wear it for sightseeing..

Posted by
238 posts

Thanks to all that responded. I greatly appreciate the advice. I may pack the unfashionable fanny pack anyway to wear on my shopping/eating excursions. The way I wear my fanny pack is under my shirt above my belly button so it is not seen but it does make me look pregnant. I do not care if I look pregnant as long as I look neat, clean and respectable. I have lost enough weight that if I do have to lift up my shirt in some store to get out money from the fanny pack that I do not look too bad. Plus I always wear a camisole. I hope I do not offend any pregnant people with this post. The money belt is different as that would go into the pants below belly button. I would only store passport and backup credit card in there for emergencies.

I welcome any thoughts on this plan...is it a good idea?

Posted by
2580 posts

I think you have now officially overworried. Take some breaths, relax, do what seems right to you.

Rinse and repeat.