Ever got robbed of all your belongings while travelling in a sketchy country that your mum warned you over and over about while crying into her morning cereal? Not yet? Well if it's something that you're nervous about, you are not alone. Even when I warn people not to spend money on any old travel pouch, I still see the vast majority of new travellers heading out with one of these in their possession.
After I told him this repeatedly during our prep sessions over Skype, my own brother turned up to our brother-sister vacation this year in India with, you guessed it, a travel pouch. How many times did he use it? Just once and then he realised why big sisters are always right, especially ones who have been travelling for over 12 years.
Keep reading if you would like to know when it's still okay to use a travel pouch, travel wallet, money belt or whatever the kids are calling them these days. I also go into my personal favourites and give you some alternatives to consider below.
What's wrong with a Travel Pouch?
The idea of a travel pouch is a good one. You get to hide all of your most valuable possessions on your person so if the worst happens, you won't be left with nothing. The problem with a traditional travel pouch that you pick up from your friendly neighbourhood travel and adventure store is that they're usually poorly designed.
These are my top five gripes about the traditional travel pouch.
- The thieves who specialise in lightening your load as a rich and burdened traveller already know about them. The awful travel pouches that you wear around your neck? Yeah, I can see that "neutral" coloured string poking out of your collar and so can little Oliver Twist over there.
- Unless you're travelling in the depths of winter, there's no hiding that 4 inches of passport, cash and travel pouch material protruding from your chest and through your t-shirt. Not only is it not discreet but you look like you're wearing some old timey pace maker from the 1700's.
- Some pouches will leave you sweaty in one lovely little patch. If you're an extra sweaty person (like one of my exes) then your sweat patch can be like a giant bullseye on your body showing the thieves where to target.
- Got boobs? Then just no. Imagine where that heavy dangly pouch is supposed to sit on your body. Ugh.
- Need to access money from your secret friend inside of your shirt? Then you can either lift your shirt up (see point 4) or drag your overweighted pal awkwardly through the opening of your shirt revealing your hidden travel pouch for all to see. So very attractive and practical.
When to use your travel pouch?
Some travellers love using their travel pouch all day, e'ry day. Don't be that person. Even if you were travelling in Afghanistan there's no need for that level of neurosis. Also, if you're travelling in Afghanistan you probably have bigger problems to worry about. If you can get by in your own city without clinging to a travel pouch then you should be fine in most cities in the world.
Saying that, there are some specific instances when I DO recommend wearing a travel pouch.
1. Travel days
If you're going from one city to another and travelling on a bus, plane, train or whatever has been invented by the time you read this. I love to have some emergency money and a spare credit card stashed away everywhere, including on my person. If my airline loses my check-in, no biggie. If some one nabs my day pack, it's cool, I have a back up. If I'm in a desperate situation and someone happens to steal everything or maybe I had to jump from a sinking ship, then I'll always have $100 US on me and a spare credit card.
2. Withdrawing a large sum of money
Some parts of the world are still very reliant on cash and you'll be hard pressed to get by without having some money on you. When you sign up for a big tour or need to pay off your accommodation all in one go you'll likely have a wad of cash to deal with. I suggest having some sort of travel pouch/wallet so that you can keep that money on you when you make your way from the ATM and back to your hotel.
3. While sleeping in a dodgy place
This might never apply for some of you lucky folk but I know that sometimes I have slept in a hostel where my instincts were telling me that something wasn't quite right. At these times I like to sleep with my emergency cash and important docs on me. Even if there's a safe or locker available, sometimes you just have to trust your gut and cuddle your passport.
Travel Pouches to Buy
So now you know what not to wear and when you you should consider using a travel pouch, here are some of my favourite options available.
This is a great travel pouch option if you like keeping fit while travelling. Heck, even if you only exercise once a month like me and live in a world of denial about your fitness regime, this little belt is a comfortable alternative to a traditional travel pouch and is what I actually use.
They come in a bunch of different colours and the size is adjustable. You can choose to wear one right underneath your chest (which is what I do on travel days) or on your waist. The pocket stretches as well so it can expand to fit your passport and emergency money and cards or just your hotel key and phone.
This Shacke money and passport wallet leans more towards the traditional travel wallet design but I love the idea of looping it through your belt without all the extra band that you would usually get with a complete travel belt. Basically you loop your belt through it, stick it in between your pants and your undies and you're good to go.
It's one of the few travel belts where you cant tell you're wearing one. It's out of sight and impossible to pick pocket. It also offers three separate compartments for the organisers amongst us and provides RFID protection.
This is one for the ladies out there. A great alternative to the neck pouch options that can store some credit cards and cash. The only downside is you won't be able to fit your passport in here so you'll still need to stash that somewhere you feel comfortable. I usually keep mine in a secret pocket in my day pack if I need to take it with me or leave it in a safe place in my hotel.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.