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Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Monday, March 17, 2014

Which Money Belt Is Best for You?

Most pilgrims agree that a money belt is a necessity on the Camino Santiago.
It makes the most sense to use an ATM card 
and withdraw €200-€300 when you find a bank, 
and then spread that cash out over several days. 
Using my budget of €20 per day, 
one withdrawal can last me up to 10 days.

I take out €20 each morning 
and carry it in a change purse
that is easy to access.

The rest travels in a money belt with my passport and credit card.

There are many options for carrying your cash on the Camino.

Here are a few:

Neck pouch.

Review: I do not recommend these at all.
First of all, the strap around your neck is a dead giveaway.
Thieves have been known to grab these and cut them with a blade.
The ones that cannot be cut could strangle you if the thief was on a bike.
I just don't think they're safe at all.

Leg Safe.

Again, I do not recommend these.
I have seen pickpockets on the Metro
drop to their knees and run their hands
up a man's pants, because they know this is a popular option.
It only takes them a second
to grab your leg safe 
and jump off the train!

Waist Belt.

A regular waist-band money belt.
You can find these in all travel stores.
You can also find them in the Rick Steves travel store.
The are a zippered flat pouch that you wear around your waist.
The compartments are large enough for your passport,
and often have separate places for credit cards and cash.
They have a snap buckle that is plastic.

Please note this belt is to be worn UNDER your clothing, 
not over.

Review:  I wore this type of belt for several years. Sometimes it was uncomfortable because it continually rode up unless I tightened it, in which case it felt binding.  My passport and cash often was damp with sweat. But I still recommend this type of belt over a neck-style.

Bra Caddy

Here's another option.
I don't think it would be too comfortable backpacking,
but hey…

Hidden Pocket.

This is one of my favorites. 
It is a pocket, with various compartments. 
It is big enough for your passport, cash, and credit cards.  
It has two loops, one brown and one black, 
so you can wear it over your belt, 
then tuck it into your skirt or pants.  

It's easy to access. 

I like wearing this along with a regular money belt. (see below) 
It comes in different colors.
 I like the tan because it can't be seen under light clothing.

Standard Money Belt

In addition to the money pouch above,
this year I bought a regular money belt.
I bought the one made by 
in a polyester weave.
It is lightweight,
not bulky at all, 
and the zipper is quite long,
so there's space to store several large bills.

The belts can be purchased in leather as well.
I tried this belt one year and discarded it.
It's just not convenient to me.
For a man, it might be a good way to store extra cash,
or for a woman who wears pants with belt loops.
But I didn't care for it.

Splitting Up The Cash

However you decide to carry your cash and cards,
it's probably a good idea to split it up.
Carry some in one belt,
and some in another.

Dummy Wallet

Some people carry a "dummy wallet."
This is a wallet with a credit card or two
that are outdated,
maybe a couple of €20 or €50 bills.
In case of pickpocket or theft,
this wallet can be surrendered easily,
and you're not out your entire bank!

Here is a good blog on what to carry 
in a "sacrificial wallet."

Whichever money belt you decide on,
I suggest you fill it,
and wear it around your hometown for a few days,
so you will know whether or not 
it is going to be comfortable on the Camino.

Never, ever leave your money, credit cards, passport,
or anything you cannot afford to lose
Never leave it with another pilgrim
no matter how friendly they appear.
On my first Camino, I met three young people
whose Camino ended after 3 days.
In Pamplona, they left their bags
with a friendly fellow pilgrim
they had walked with from SJPP.
The "pilgrim" had targeted them
and when she agreed to watch their bags
while they showered,
she robbed them of all cash and credit cards,
and vanished in the Pamplona night.
Sad but true.

When you shower, put your valuables into a 
zip lock bag, or special waterproof bag 

* * *

And remember,
NEVER get into your money belt
in a public place.
Access it in private each morning,
in a bathroom stall if necessary,
taking out your cash for the day.

When you go to the ATM,
go with a friend when possible.
Have them turn facing outwards,
while you get your cash.
And then immediately go somewhere
you can put your cash away
out of the public eye.

Watch out for children who want to "help" you!
Keep your hand over the slot where the money comes out.
See my post on pickpockets here:

At night, don't just leave your money belt and valuables by your bedside.
Be sure they are safe where nobody can pick them up and walk out with them.
I often stealthily tuck mine into the foot box of my sleeping bag.

The fact is, there is very little theft on the Camino.
But it does happen.
Thieves look for an easy target, so...

Don't be paranoid, 
but don't be naive.

And you will have a
 Buen Camino!


  1. There's another option for the neck pouch. I learned this at a travel seminar and have used it ever since....

    Wear it around your waist with the pocket along your leg or thigh. My wallet has 2 zippered pockets. I put my passport and extra cash in the large pocket where it stays all day. I put a credit card, small bills and change in the smaller zippered pocket and leave that outside my waistband (but under my shirt) where I have easy access to it all day. A picture's worth a thousand words:

  2. Hi Gayleen. I can see wearing this around your waist, but I feel you're taking a big old chance wearing it outside your waistband where a pickpocket can easily cut the strap, grab, and go. My pouch is actually this same one, except I cut the neckstrap off and sewed on belt loops. I love it and can't even tell it's there.

  3. Great advice and very timely for us as we will be starting the Camino in 10 days.


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