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Why I Don’t Wear A Money Belt (and neither should you)


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!



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About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

22 comments… add one
  • Gemstone Aug 3, 2018 Link

    Reading this article makes me think you’ve encountered people who wear money belts incorrectly. If someone is digging through them like a fanny pack they probably misunderstood the purpose. It’s like a safety deposit box for the big stuff that stays under your clothes (completely under the shirt never to be seen or touched, not tucked in at the waistline) so you don’t lose anything while abroad. Keep the wallet for your day’s cash, insurance cards & credit cards, keep the rest of your travel money and travel documents in the belt, best of both worlds!

    Happy Travels!

  • David Webb Sep 13, 2017 Link

    It’s amazing how angry people get at this suggestion. In my experience, anger like this comes when something hits a little too close to home.

    Also, what’s wrong with you, Joe? Who raised you to talk to people like that?


  • joe Sep 13, 2017 Link

    you are a complete idiot. You ACTUALLY think that wearing a money belt is racist while visiting abroad??!!
    Holy batfuck-idiot, batman!!
    It’s called being prudent, you DUNCE!!

  • David Webb May 8, 2017 Link

    You people can keep coming here to insult me and keep on looking stupid with your dumbass, pointless, useless money belts. No skin off my back.

  • Stephen Apr 29, 2017 Link

    This was a stupid article. You can wear a money belt to keep most of your money and valuables in, while still keeping some cash in your pocket. Its common sense not to keep it all together. It’s not racist. Thieves are everywhere, it’s just much easier to know what to look out for in your own country than somewhere new. Plus, having everything stolen in a foreign country is much more of a hassle than when you are at home.

  • Jamal Bin Basketball Feb 13, 2017 Link


    lol. fucking liberals these days

  • Jane Feb 7, 2017 Link

    I don’t think these are the best reasons. I always carry a money belt and find it very convenient.
    1. A money belt has your passport, plane ticket, insurance and money, but it’s not a purse. Every morning one must separate the amount of money you’d be using that day so as to not use your money belt in public. It’s not a purse, you’re not supposed to use it as such since that defeats the purpose of having one. It’s a hiding spot.
    2. In my home country I don’t carry such important documents. I have been robbed plenty times here in Spain, however I don’t carry my passport, plane ticket, insurance or large quantities of money on me, which is what I’m hiding in my money belt when abroad.
    3. I don’t carry all of my money inside my money belt either. Two or three places is best.

  • David Jan 10, 2017 Link

    When I go to Seattle, I blend right in like a local so I do not need a money belt. When I go overseas, there might as well be wearing a huge neon sign flashing tourist. They do notice that I am dressed different, talk different, different skin color, etc, etc, etc. Further more, there is more poverty in many of these places and so more crime exists. Not a race thing, just a human thing. People do what is needed to survive.

  • David Webb Sep 20, 2016 Link

    Laws vary around the world, you’re not always required to have a passport on you. If you are, or if it makes sense, I carry it. I don’t require a money belt to do so. Also, why would you ever need to have 3 grand on you? Anywhere? At any time? My points are that money belts are pointless, ineffective and they perpetuate mistrust while travelling.

  • Roast Sep 20, 2016 Link

    This article is absurd. Your 1st point is moot because money belts are not wallet replacements – they are personal safes. You are supposed to keep your day to day cash and cards in a normal wallet in your pocket and leave the belt untouched under your clothing. Anything less is irresponsible. You split your valuable documents in 4 different spots, so are you saying you walk around without a passport, when by law you must carry it with you?

    Finally there is nothing ‘racist’ about wanted to protect a very large amount of cash you are carrying while traveling in a place where pickpockets can’t be found. Do you regularly keep over 3 grand on you while walking in your hometown? Do you not feel the slightest bit ill at ease until you deliver your cash to your bank or your destination?

  • Mark Jun 21, 2016 Link

    Go walking around in Manilla after dark. It’s not racist to say that there is a somewhat better chance that you’ll be robbed there than you would be in Seattle. A money belt and a used wallet with not too much money and a few old cards might help you walk away with a great story and most of your valuables. I always get the gut feeling that trying to hide anything in your room is a roll of the dice.

  • David Webb May 13, 2016 Link

    Often North Americans are groomed from a very young age to fear foreign countries… sorry, non-white foreign countries (media, TV, etc) . I highly doubt any Vancouverite would wear a money belt while visiting Seattle, Chicago or New York. Put the same person in Bejing, Bangkok or Istanbul, and suddenly getting robbed seems “likely” and a money belt is the norm. If you, and the other similar commenters below, think that’s not steeped in bigotry at a very deep and almost subconscious level, you’re being naive.

  • Martin kolar May 7, 2016 Link

    While you do make some valid points I believe that your 3rd point on racism is a tad ignorant. When travelling, typically we are carrying alot more money and valuables on our person in a given day in Canada (toronto here). I dont want to get started on the chaos that may ensue if I were to lose my passport…It’s natural to want to keep those valuables safe and secure..and frankly when wearing a money belt i have total reassurance that my passport wont be stolen..When you say that it looks ridiculous when digging into your moneybelt I have never come accross that situation myself. I always have my passport number memorized and enough cash in my wallet for the day.

  • H M Apr 28, 2016 Link

    Points 1 and 2 are great, but point 3 is anecdotal nonsense

    Your car was broken into, your home was burglarized, and your bike-seat was stolen in Canada because you *live* there. Those things are much likelier to happen where you spend most of your time, as opposed to a place you visit for a week

    It’s wise to research a place before you travel there. Some places are more dangerous than others. Money belts seem like a naive solution, but there’s nothing racist about recognizing that some places are more dangerous than Vancouver

  • Dan Dec 16, 2015 Link

    Totally agree with you dude. Money belts make you look paranoid; then you look ridiculous digging under your shirt; to buy a taco. Money should be in a wallet ; in your pocket. Put it in your front pocket; if your worried. You’re going to feel someone; feeling around your Johnson. Lol!

  • Michael Sep 9, 2015 Link

    Reasonable points, but there’s no reason that carrying a money belt means it has to be used for all carrying of money and valuables or that every transaction requires digging into lower layers of clothing. And sure, using a money belt can sometimes be ill-motivated by unfair distrust of entire peoples, but a traveler far away from home, maybe in a place where language is a barrier, maybe in a place that actually has a deserved reputation for risk, has very good reason for hiding some helpful items under a layer of clothing.

  • Annelies Hamerlinck Apr 19, 2015 Link

    I loved this post! I never thought so deep about money belts. I totally agree with you. They can be very impractical and everyone knows you keep all your money in there. It’s a great tip to keep your passport and valuables in different places such as your wallet and secret hidden spots in your clothing and luggage.

  • Mauricio Mar 30, 2015 Link

    David webb is the name of Jason Bourne, right? Ok, it’s a good reason to use the money belt, instead a cargo shorts, but i understand your point: Brazil is not a safe place and even for us, the locals, but if you don’t walk alone, at night in a suspicious place, surely you will not be in more risks than in any other place.

  • Barry Jan 25, 2015 Link

    Hi I will be honest I had never given the money belt idea to much attention and had never used one as I do as you do and only try to keep on me what I am going to spend on any given day plus a bit extra for any unforeseen emergency. For me your last comment is the best bit of advice use your common sense when travelling. This will nearly always make your travel a please t experience and a lot less stressful.

    Great advice Barry

  • winny Jan 21, 2015 Link

    nice idea you have here David. i totally agree that monet belt sound ridicolous

  • Alison Jan 20, 2015 Link

    I could not agree more! True travelling should be about getting into the place, being absorbed by it – not creating a layer between yourself and the vibrant culture you’re supposed to be exploring with a tell-tale Hawaiian shirt, camera strap, and fanny-pack money belt. It screams “tourist.” Or worse, “victim.” (Or in my eyes, “rookie.”)
    My current wallet is a tatty piece of leather. It was my mom’s when she traveled Europe at 20, and it still sports her home Toronto address. I took it backpacking at 20 and added my Alberta home address. Long live the sentimental, out with the tacky tourist traps!

  • Gemma Jan 19, 2015 Link

    You took the words right out of my mouth! I absolutely hate money belts and the whole idea of them. They’re so impractical and as you said, a bit offensive really.

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