This financial travel tip comes to you courtesy of pickpockets, petty thieves, and absent-minded travellers. Cash comes and goes easily on the road, and to preserve it involves stashing and managing it wisely. Here are 16 tips for carrying cash safely and securely while you travel the world.
General Tips for Carrying Cash
For some travellers, the question is not where or how to carry cash, but whether to use cash at all. In most western countries, you can pay for almost everything with debit and credit cards. (See also: How Many Debit/Credit Cards to Carry). However even in these countries, it’s prudent to have cash available for tips, transportation (taxis and buses), and emergency needs (if your cards don’t work).
In many other countries, cash is king. Debit purchases are almost unheard of, and credit card purchases entail extra fees.
In both cases, these tips below will enhance your security and peace of mind.
Create Consistent Habits
Whatever your cash-carrying strategy, be consistent. Everything should have its place when you travel – especially cash; it’s too easy to misplace or lose.
Don’t Flash Cash
Pulling out a wad of cash in a busy marketplace makes you a target. If you’ve got a lot of cash, stash it securely and keep only what’s necessary in your wallet or pocket.
Don’t Access Money Wallets in Public
Displaying a money wallet or undercover pocket tells thieves you’re guarding something valuable. Nip into the bathroom if you need to access a hidden stash.
Keep Small Bills Accessible
In some countries, changing large bills is difficult, especially in local marketplaces (even more so if you’re negotiating a low price). Break large bills where you can easily get change, and keep smaller bills accessible for small expenses.
Don’t Keep Your Wallet too Handy
The easier it is for you to access your wallet, the easier it is for a pickpocket too. Some of the clothing options below have theft-deterring features.
Keeping all your cash in one place is risky. Diversify your cash holdings on your body, in your luggage, and with your travel companions (if applicable). See below for some suggestions.
Where to Stash Cash
In the spirit of diversification, here are some creative places to stash cash. Don’t diversify too much (or you’ll forget where you put it all) – a couple of spots is fine.
It’s hard to steal something you’re standing on! Put it under the insole for extra stealthiness.
Even the most opportunistic of thieves won’t want to sift through your dirty socks in search of money.
Lip Balm Container
I recently read about a traveller who keeps an emergency stash inside an empty lip balm container.
Emergency Luggage Stash
Consider keeping an emergency $20 in your luggage, just in case.
Here are some alternatives to money wallets so you can carry cash and precious items you don’t need immediate access to:
The Stash Belt is a high-quality belt that holds folded cash and even a USB stick for sensitive information like copies of your ID. I had one for a while and loved it.
If you’re particularly concerned about security, create a decoy wallet with fake cards and small cash. Use it in busy markets, and if you’re robbed you won’t lose everything.
Although not specifically cash carrying tips, manage your cash wisely with these bonus tidbits:
Withdraw Small Amounts
Upgrade your bank account so you can withdraw small amounts without paying ATM fees, so you don’t need to worry about carrying big cash. (See also: Using ATMs Abroad – 12 Things You Need to Know)
Spend it All
I enjoy the personal challenge of spending all my local currency before leaving the country. This also saves on currency exchange fees and/or carrying multiple currencies.
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