Money belts — those silly canvas fanny packs travel shops push on gap-year tourists — are a terrible idea. Here’s why:
In This Travel Gear Article You Will Discover:
- The Futility of the Money Belt
- Why Wearing One is Culturally Insensitive
- A Better Option
It was one of the luckiest travel experiences of my life. I was surfing (poorly) at Kuta Beach, in Bali. We’d taken a bus from our hotel, and I’d packed a day’s worth of cash plus my ATM card and a credit card.
I thought I was being clever — I rolled my stash in a Ziploc bag and sealed it tightly in the Velcro pocket on my board shorts.
I know what you’re thinking. Well, hindsight is 20/20.
After a big wipeout, I crawled onto the beach and decided it was Beer O’clock. I reached for my stash. It was gone. I don’t know what I feared more, being stuck penniless some 30 km from our hotel, or explaining this situation to my girlfriend (now wife, so it worked out).
Desperate, I looked up and down the beach. And, to my utter amazement, there it was, about 20 metres away. My Ziploc bag had actually washed up on shore after the crash with all its contents dry and safe.
Lesson: don’t surf with cash. More importantly: find a better spot to stash your credit card than a Ziploc bag. So I devised a more effective system. But I still won’t wear a money belt. And neither should you. Here is why:
1. Obvious, Much?
The whole idea of the traveller’s money belt is to conceal and protect your valuables. Tucked within the waistband of your cargo shorts, I guess it works OK — but the moment you need access to this stash, you’re left fumbling with a giant wad of money, credit cards and your passport, fishing it out from your underwear and attracting nothing but attention. (Look up to see the merchant roll his eyes.) Or, worse yet, I’ve seen plenty of tourists proudly brandish their fanny packs (“bum bags,” to you Brits) on the outside of their apparel — as if to say, “Hello world! Here is my money!”
2. All In, All The Time
Money belts encourage the user to keep every bit of cash, plastic and passport in one place at one time. This is a terrible idea. One moment of carelessness and it’s all gone. When I travel, I play a game of odds. I split my cash between my wallet and my super-secret on-luggage hiding spot (no, I’m not telling you — find your own!). On my person, I carry the day’s cash, my ATM card and a credit card — I also hide another credit card in a different stash. My passport? Somewhere else entirely. Now, I’d have to lose four items to be stranded. That’s never happened.
3. Kinda Racist
Yeah, I said it. Wearing a money belt is a little racist. I’m willing to bet you don’t wear one at home, where you feel safe. But abroad, everyone you meet is a thief, right? And everyone is out to rob you, right? Well, I’ve never been robbed while travelling. At home, in Canada, however, I’ve had my car broken into (several times), my home burglarized and my bike-seat stolen. Wearing a money belt while abroad is a proclamation of your low world-opinion — a clear statement that you’re suspicious of everybody, and everybody is suspect. That’s, at best, insensitive. At worst, it’s steeped in bigotry. And it’s definitely incorrect. Let’s travel with optimism. You’ll be amazed by the kindness of strangers and the effectiveness of a button-down pocket.
The best advice? Just use common sense. And forget those horrid, lame, useless money belts. Long live the wallet!
So, I know you’re wondering… What do I use then?