12 Tips for Safely Carrying Money in Europe

Posted by Fodor's Community Members on September 30, 2009 at 1:12:59 PM EDT | Post a Comment

If you lose your credit card, cash, or passport on your trip to Europe, you're not without options—but it goes without saying that your trip will go much smoother if you can hang onto these trip essentials.

Travelers in our forums recently shared their tips for keeping money and other necessities safe while traveling abroad. For example, some minimize pickpocketing risk by investing in an inconspicuous day pack, or splitting cash and credit cards with a travel partner.

Below are some other useful strategies. Does one in particular work for you? Add your own method in the comments section below.

From the Forums: "Suggestions for how to most safely carry money in Europe?"

Tip #1: Don't carry your wallet in your back pocket

"Resistant at first to the idea of keeping his wallet in his front pocket, my husband is now sold on the idea after several instances where he detected his back pocket being checked out by a stray hand, (we were in crowded areas)." -- brioche

Tip #2: Divide and conquer

"I put my 1-2 day's need of cash in my wallet. If there's extra cash I have, I split it up into various inside zippered pockets within my bag. CC and ATM cards go inside other pockets in my bag." -- yk

Tip #3: Do not treat a money belt like a wallet

"A money belt is not a substitute for a handbag or wallet. It is essentially a 'body safe'. You do not access it during the day or in public. It is for the surplus cash, back up ATM and/or credit card, passport. Not for your walking around money -- use a handbag/wallet just like you would at home." -- janisj

Tip #4: Or ditch that money belt all together

"A million years ago when I started traveling I used a money belt all the time, and carried a nifty backpack or daypack that just screamed 'tourist.' Now, I carry a regular purse that is big enough to hold a pocket umbrella, map, camera and whatever guidebook I am carrying that day, but doesn't advertise 'strange person in a strange land.' I finally realized that I live in a major metropolitan city that is a huge tourist area, so if the way I'm dressing at home isn't attracting pickpockets, I should try to replicate that when visiting another tourist area." -- tejana

Tip #5: Get crafty with your clothes

"I usually travel in the fall and have my black microfiber raincoat. I made a pocket with a zipper and sewed it to the inside of the raincoat so I can carry something in there. I use a money belt but only keep out cash for the day. If I keep out any large amount, I separate it and carry it in different places on my body. With using ATMs it isn't like when we would carry large sums of money from home." -- bratsandbeer

Tip #6: Don't make a scene rifling through your money

"The best way to carry money is QUIETLY, wherever you are...Distractions are just as likely to make you leave something behind, or carelessly turn your back...There's no need to fear pickpockets once you're aware that they will work tourist areas. Carry as little with you as you can, so it can be as close to you as possible." -- tomassocroccante

Tip #7: Organize your cash ahead of time, Monopoly-style

"The one thing I do when I get bank notes, I fold them in half so I can easily see the denominations and put the same denominations together. That way I don't have to flash a wad of cash about looking for the correct Euros, etc. I reach into my purse and pull out the correct note to pay for my purchase. No one can see exactly how much money I have - they may think I only have 10 Euro on me." -- adrienne

Tip #8: Choose a familiar tote

"I find that if I try carrying something different from what I'm used to doing, it becomes a distraction in itself. With a familiar bag, I instinctively know it's on my shoulder, under my arm, and I'm more likely to carry it with confidence and awareness.Trying something new on a trip when you're surrounded by new things to figure out and absorb, makes me less comfortable and I'm more likely to be unwittingly careless." -- cw

Tip #9: Pay attention to your surroundings at all times

"As I just came back from London and was robbed on the underground, I say be careful of very packed places. I made the mistake of getting some pounds out of an ATM near the underground and was followed. As there was 4 of us, I was feeling very secure...until we got to the hotel and discovered my wallet was missing." -- tenmom

Tip #10: Shop around for pocket-filled travel clothes

"Check out www.tilley.com for great travel clothing. 'Pity the poor pickpockets' used to be their motto." -- bigtyke

Tip #11: Don't assume your bag is safe under a table

"When in Prague we witnessed a stolen purse incident where the victim had just put her bag on the ground beside the table in an outdoor restaurant. If you must put your bag down keep it in your lap or put a chair leg through the straps if placing the bag on the ground. It would be a pain to have a bag stolen even if there was little money in it." -- mimipam

Tip #12: Send yourself an email with your essential info

"I took the advice of scanning everything (CC numbers, account numbers, cell numbers, PP, etc) and emailing it to myself and friends in the USA. I had a back up account all set - yes, I had the foresight to open a travel account and used it in addition to my regular account - it was suited to travel." -- JayMazz

Photo credit: ©Istockphoto/alija

Posted in Travel Tips Tagged: Community

Member Comments (15)  Post a Comment

  • jamie1111 on Oct 2, 12 at 08:00 PM

    I keep my money in my wrist wallet under my sleeve, you would have to take my arm if you want my money:-) I have several colors because I use them all the time www.givenbrand.com/arm-pockets.html

  • rgwood on Nov 11, 09 at 12:43 PM

    The method that I always used for my day's money was to attach a couple of comfortable elastic straps to a small two-pocket (one for paper, one for coin) zippered pouch and slide it onto my wrist. This usually remained hidden under my coat or shirt sleeve (I always travel during cooler weather seasons) and was an instantly available cash solution. Money surplus and credit card was always hidden away (bra or money belt) and never accessed during the day. The little pouch is never accessible enough to thieves, and is incredibly convenient -- especially for subway tickets that can sometimes fall out of or get lost in pockets.

  • Gordon_R on Oct 28, 09 at 08:26 AM

    The implicit assumption that travelling in Europe is somehow more risky than in the US is baffling to most of us here in Europe. I would feel much more exposed to the risk of crime walking around a US city than a European one. By all means take sensibe precautions but spare us the ridiculous ideas about Europe being a risky place to visit.

  • slangevar on Oct 19, 09 at 03:55 PM

    I realized the same thing tejana did after seeing someone post on a forum that they should use a moneybelt when visiting MY neighborhood. Obviously I wear a purse without any fear around my home, so I do the same abroad.

    The difference is, I follow a few rules:
    -I never take the purse off while I'm out, except at coat checks (removing money & camera) and restaurants, where I wrap the strap around my ankle. It might seem like a hassle, but I actually do the same thing at home. Also, beware of putting your purse under your seat or in the seat next to you at a movie theatre. A friend of mine had her purse stolen that way.

    -I carry a Lesportsac purse that's covered in (some might say) bright, childish illustrations. I have a theory that thieves are less likely to steal a really bright, noticeable, girly purse than they are a darker bag that can be easily concealed under an arm.

    -I wear the purse diagonally across my chest with the zipper in front. I usually rest my arm on the zipper part, as well. This might seem excessive, but it's something I've been doing for years so it's habit now.

    -I carry my husband's wallet and the hotel keys while we're out. It's safer than pockets and he sure doesn't mind the lighter weight.

    -The exception is when he carries a light backpack. We made sure to buy one with an interior zippered pocket where he could keep his wallet and camera. Then we make sure extra jackets are kept near the zippered opening. If someone tried to stick their hand in, they'd get a fist full of layers.

    -We actually do wear moneybelts in some places, but only to hold cash and credit cards we're not planning on using that day. In the fall, you don't notice the bulk under clothes (and it keeps you warm!).

    Except for the moneybelts, all of these are things we do unconsciously in our own (big city) neighborhood.

  • dedlaw on Oct 7, 09 at 04:05 PM

    I find many of these ideas baffling. I am a tourist when I'm in Europe, so looking like a tourist is not a great concern (yes, I still try to dress nicely and pay attention to city vs. country, etc., but I don't care if I look at a map on a city street -- I do it near home, too). I believe thieves will target anyone who seems primed for the taking.
    I sometimes use a money belt, but agree it should not be accessed in public -- it defeats the purpose.
    I have a wallet which has a nylon strap attached to it. That strap has a loop, and my belt goes through the loop, then the wallet drops comfortably into my front pocket. A bit dorky? Perhaps, but very secure.
    And, I use a credit card most often -- and in my observation, that's what the locals do, too.

  • Indyainfo on Oct 7, 09 at 04:45 AM

    I carry a large tote bag for hauling stuff that I may need during the day with absolutely no money in the tote bag then I carried a larger bag for guide books, cosmetics, journal, etcetera.It's all about safety, much as you would do at home.

  • Jem28 on Oct 3, 09 at 10:56 AM

    Tips #4,6,9 and saacnmama and Mango7 key in on the basics: if your dress says resident and you walk confidently and purposefully, and are constantly aware of your surroundings you shouldn't have any problems. I've been asked in halting French and German by obvious Americans for directions. Who were astonished I was also 'just a tourist'. My three additional tips:
    1. Spend your plane time becoming completely familiar w/the streets where you will be walking. Know generally where your sites are relative to each other. NEVER open a map on the street corner. Jot down the streets if you have to, then only plot out your route in a bathroom. Or a cafe.
    2. We never use c cards, just get money from ATMs as needed - just like the locals.
    3. I feel more secure alone or only w/my son than w/several others - only YOU are responsible for your personal space & several people are actually a prefered target since each individual has some of their attention interacting w/their friends.

  • Mango7 on Oct 2, 09 at 07:39 PM

    It helps to look Alpha. I make sure my muscular development is not hidden by clothes. When you looked jacked the snatchers surely keep their distance.

  • Kitty_Parigi on Oct 1, 09 at 10:44 PM

    I concur with a many posters here. We don't bother with money belts, etc. But I do leave my wallet at home and carry a familiar tote. I just throw the essential cards into a zippered side pocket. We don't dress like obvious tourists (no backpacks, white athletic shoes, sweats, shorts, etc.) and no one has ever bothered us in almost 20 years of European travel. I am accustomed to guarding my handbag after many years in NYC so I don't leave it on chair backs or under tables.

  • novacruise on Oct 1, 09 at 05:14 PM

    Some other ideas are: 1)zippered pockets such as are found on various cargo pants; and 2) using a very small and thin plastic sheet wallet and enclosing it in 2 rubber bands. The rubber bands cause friction when pulled against your pocket and make it harder for a pickpocket to extract the wallet.

  • JanDelaware on Oct 1, 09 at 01:34 PM

    A fanny back bobbling on your waist screams "TOURIST" so I would never use one. Money belts create bulk under your clothes, and they're not very accessible, so that doesn't work for me either. On a recent trip to South Africa, I carried a small, thin leather purse with a long strap that I could wear diagonally across my body. It's about 5 x 7" and it has lots of slots and zippers inside for organizing valuables and even holds my digital camera. Then I carried a larger bag for guide books, cosmetics, journal, etcetera. This was a great way to travel--and the small bag was light enough to keep on my lap at restaurants.

  • sandals on Oct 1, 09 at 11:29 AM

    My travel life has been simplified since I gave up carrying anything important in anything that could be "ripped off". ( No purse, no shoulder straps, no passport case, no money belt. Only the most womanly of solutions, I'm sorry the men can't use this method. It's called a bra. I put a slim money clip on paper currency and a credit card and place it IN MY BRA. It is amazing that no one gives a second glance as I slip my hand into my shirt and produce money. No one cares, and I am free of worry.
    When traveling, it's good to dress modestly, and in layers, so therefore, a little bulge or wrinkle doesn't bother. Ladies, it's good to keep your valuables right under your nose!!!

  • mrsgilly on Oct 1, 09 at 11:11 AM

    Every October when we are in Europe, we have a money belt securely under our clothes and underwear. My husband and I carry duplicate ATM cards in each money belt plus divide the cash up with each other before putting it in the money belt. When we go out in the morning, we take a little cash out and stash it in a zippered pocket inside our coat. We both don't bring wallets or purses. Instead I carry a large tote bag for hauling stuff that I may need during the day with absolutely no money in the tote bag. Making it all simple is always the best way. Plus try not to look like a tourist; backpacks, bermuda shorts, jewelry, expensive clothes especially in Eastern EU countries are out. I find in France that they dress better then the tourists. Just try to blend in and have a good time. Be cautious but not paranoid.

  • belwebonly on Oct 1, 09 at 10:09 AM

    Amen. "saacnmama" has it all together

  • saacnmama on Oct 1, 09 at 08:49 AM

    I'm not so sure email is the safest place to keep that info--better to look into 'cloud computing' with online secure storage.
    I really don't see how any of this is specific to Europe, or any other destination. It's all about safety, much as you would do at home.

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