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Tips For Carrying Money and Documents While Traveling

A guide to security belts and pouches

You might end up carrying a lot of important documents, as well as money. This list gives some hints on how to carry them. Remember to carry these things in two or more locations. Unless everything gets stolen, this way you'll have some extra money and papers that will make it easier to replace what was stolen, not to mention that some extra money can make it possible for you to continue your travels while waiting for new travelers cheques or documents. When making purchases, be modest. Don't flash large amounts of cash. The wallet of a westerner can tempt people in poor countries to commit murder! Please remember this!

What are the various types of devices used by travelers to secure their property?

There are several types of these devices and each one has pros and cons. Remember the main reason for these products is to keep your property from falling victim to the best pickpockets and sneak thieves. The devices are designed to keep your money hidden, and in some cases to help you keep you money if you fall victim to a street robbery.

Travelers who purchase these products fall into one of several categories.

The casual international traveler

This is the person who is traveling for the one to two week trip. They usually travel to major metropolitan international city or a well know tourist location. These travelers tend to stay in hotels and take tours. The majority of the time they are only concerned about security their property from pickpockets that they might come in contact with while shopping or walking down the street. These travelers usually are not out late at night and tend not to go to locations that might be visited by questionable characters.

High school or college student

This is the person who is backpacking his or her way across a country, countries or continent. They tend to be younger, stay out late at night seeing the local nightlife, visiting clubs and bars, and sometimes gets lost thereby ending up walking down the wrong street at night, and possibly coming in contact with questionable charters. Most of the time a backpackers trip will be without incident, but staying in hostels, sleeping while on the road, in train stations and on trains can be risky business. I cannot tell you the amount of students and regular travelers who have gone “in country” who have shared with met their repeated tails of victimolgy of having their money stolen while on the road.

Adventurous type

This is the person who travels to the far corners of the world seeking the true experience of foreign travel. They travel the road less traveled and really get to see what a country is really like. The majority of the time this does not pose a problem. Unfortunately, these travelers end up in third world countries where they watch they are wearing on their wrist could be the equivalent of a local residents yearly earnings. This traveler has a higher chance of coming in contact with bandits or desperate and hungry locals who might take the chance to physically rob (force or fear) you of your property. Here are the majority of devices used by travelers

Neck / Shoulder Security Pouch

These come in two styles, shoulder and neck styles.  Neck pouches seem to get many complaints, but then again I have heard from many travelers who swear by them. This device hangs under your clothes from around your neck or shoulder. It may take a while to whip out when needed, depending on dress. One common thread is that it seems that travelers seem to purchase these items more than others. 

Depending on what you are wearing , the strap that goes around your neck can be seen being worn by some travelers. One of the main complaint I have heard on these pouches is that they are great for men. They are designed to be worn flat against your chest. If you are a large chested woman, this pouch might stand out a little more making it obvious that you are wearing a money pouch around your neck. One of the common solutions to this problem is to wear the pouch around your neck but hung down on your side

Here are some items to consider with a neck/shoulder security pouch:  

  1. It can become pretty uncomfortable to wear when it's hot, and many times it can be obvious you are wearing one depending on the type and color of blouse or shirt you are wearing, again making it very obvious you are a tourist. With women the problem is that these pouches are designed to hang on a flat chest. You can, however, wear them horizontally below your chest area and above your waist. Some travelers have found out that the ink used on airline ticket smears greatly after a couple of months in the pouch. Putting them in a small plastic bag inside the pouch keeps out the moisture.
  2. When considering the purchase of a neck pouch, think about one in a tan or beige color.  A black one can sometimes be easily seen if you are wearing light colored clothing.  Some travelers wear these items on their side, like a holster, slung around one shoulder. This way it's more discrete, no matter how large your chest is if you are a woman.
  3. One major problem is when you go to retrieve an item from the pouch.  If you are wearing it when you go to dinner at a nice restaurant, you will have to excuse yourself to the restroom in order to unbutton your shirt to retrieve your money or credit cards.  This may not be a problem if you are a student and back packing your way across Europe. 
  4. If a thief recognizes the pouch or can see the strap around your neck ( they are not that hard to recognize) the strap can be easily cut from behind by a skilled pickpocket.  A way to help avoid this would be to sew a piece of piano wire into the strap make it more durable in case it was cut from a snatch and run thief.  It might be painful but in general the thief should take off running if he or she did not get it the first time. 
  5. The best type of neck pouch to wear is one that has a wire woven in the rear strap. That way your property can be better protected from snatch and run thieves. To obtain more informaton on this type of security pouch, click here.      

Waist Type

This is one of the most popular. Typically about ten inches long and four inches wide with a strap which goes around your waist. It has a zipper with one or two compartments, weighs about two ounces (57 grams), and costs anywhere form $5 to $20.00.  It can be worn either tightly against the stomach with your shirt or blouse covering it, or dropped loosely into the pants. This is ok, but it is recommended to wear it with your shirt or blouse tucked in. 

Items to consider:

  1. The belt can cause discomfort during a long hot trip.  Generally the complaints I have heard revolved around the belt rubbing / friction against the travelers skin.  generally travelers will adapt to the belt over time, just make sure it is not crammed full of items and can be easily noticed by a thief.
  2. If you wear your shirt un-tucked, it can be very easily for a professional pickpocket to bump into you on a train platform raise your shirt, cut the rear strap and flee with the belt in a matter of seconds. Make this device hard to get to. (see security fanny pack below).
  3. Be careful of skilled pickpockets / snatch and run thieves, who have identified your belt, distract you with other accomplices and cut the strap from the rear.

Hidden Pocket Wallet

About half the size of the waist type. It hangs inside your pants from your belt or belt loop. It is made out of nylon, cotton or leather, has one or two zippered compartments. It is very easy to whip out when needed and does not draw a lot of attention if you have to get to it to pay for a meal. Most of these times are small, just large enough to hold your passport, money, and a very small pack of airline tickets. I would recommend you purchase one of these devices that match the general color of the belt you will be wearing most of the time. If you are wearing white shorts and a white belt, the black belt loop of the money wallet would stand out like a sore thumb. Usually the wallet is available in black or tan. 

Leg Type

This device straps around your calf, just above the ankle. These are used by some travelers in bandit areas (this doesn't apply to 99.99% of us) since it remains hidden if a bandit forces you to drop your pants to display your waist money belt. I have also heard a few stories of travelers who have lost their leg wallet when they were running through the airport to catch a plane. The pouch straps came undone, slipped off the travelers leg and was not discovered until he was on the plane. I have seen three designs of leg pouches. The one I don't like the most is one that is held in place by two Velcro straps. Depending on the manufacture and the quality of the Velcro material, this can easily become loose if you have to run to a train or bus. Another type is one that is a solid piece of elastic material that slips around your foot and is held in place like a sock. I happen to like this one better that the other. Again I have seen several styles out there some just have slits in the sock sleeve where you stuff your money and passport and is held in place by pressure and the tightness of the slits. I would not purchase this type. The one that I recommend in the leg types have actual zippers to secure your possessions. If cost is a factor, you could make your own leg pouch by placing valuables inside an Ace bandage wrapped around your leg.

Item to consider:

I met a traveler a few months ago that told me he had one of these and he was running through the airport to catch  a flight when it came of.  He did not notice it until he was on his flight and it was never seen again.  The type he had was the one with the Velcro straps.   

Belt Type

A real hold-up-your-pants belt with a zippered compartment on the inside. It has about twenty-four inches (60 centimeters) of zippered area, about one inch (2.54 centimeters) wide. It comfortably stores a dozen currency notes. This can be used to provide extra insurance. I have seen three types of material that these belts are made of, cloth fabric, army web type material, and leather. Many of these are made to a universal length and is cut to fit each traveler. Less practical for women. The kind you wear under your clothes is inaccessible if you're wearing a dress.

Security Fanny-Packs

Many travelers use fanny packs, or sometimes called waist packs but unfortunately criminals know that waist packs are “where the money is” and they are not as nearly secure as a money belt. These packs have become very popular over the last few years but the criminals have found them very prosperous too. The packs are great from the travelers point of view. They hold a nice camera, wallet, passport, room key everything in one place. The professional thief like it that way. I have heard many stories of travelers who had these packs while standing on train/subway platforms. The thief has a friend standing on each side of you to block the view of others standing around. You have no idea these people are crooks. They look just like others waiting for the train. the main crook is standing behind you with a small pair of scissors concealed in his hand. When the train arrives and the doors open, everyone is pushing to get inside when the crook behind you cuts the strap of your fanny pak from behind. You are being pushed inside by the other two crooks and never feel it drop into the crooks hands. 

Thanks to an ingenious inventor, a pak was made to avoid this type of fate. The fanny pak has a steel braided cable sewn into the back strap so it cant be cut. The front pouch of the pack can't be easily opened either because it has a special clip that  takes two hand to open. I used this pak in Spain where my wife and I were chosen by three gypsy women who attempted to get their hands in my fanny pack but were not successful.  Imagine me, Mr. Travel Safety, getting targeted by a pickpocket. This just goes to show you it can happen to anyone. For more inforation about security waist packs go to:

Waterproof Fanny Packs

When we go to the beach in a foreign country (or even locally here in the states) have you ever felt uneasy with where to put your wallet, car keys, passport.  You would be amazed with the amount of theft that occur to travelers at beaches and even hotel pools.  Several devices have been made to allow you tow swim with your valuables with waterproof packs.   They cost between from $10 to $30 dollars. 

Inside Sewn Security Pocket

For a few dollars, tailors in any part of the world will sew a small compartment inside your clothing.  Generally the idea is good but if you were to look at the size of the documents you would be carrying, the pouch would have to be awfully large.  In reality, the pouch is great for stashing your money.  Just make sure the compartment is sewn in a location that cannot be easily accessed by a good pickpocket.  To insure this, I recommend that the compartment at least be zippered or buttoned     Some travelers to exotic locations that have had a problems with bandits wear cotton underwear in which they have made makeshift pockets sewn on the outside to store emergency cash.  but then again if you are going to a place like that, I wish you good luck.

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