Money Belts and Security
The Camino route is widely regarded as being very safe. However, there are always exceptions and it pays to be well prepared. From secret money belts to safety devices and general tips, these pointers are an essential read to those who want to play it safe!
Its a good idea for any foreign travel to have a money belt. It just takes a brief slip of mind in the wrong place to have your wallet lifted and essential documents stolen! Personally I always use an internal money belt. In my wallet I keep enough money for the entire day, then a single cash card and one form of ID like a driving licence. The rest of my cards, passport and spare cash I leave in my hidden money belt. I’ve been robbed when travelling in the past (not on the Camino) and now always stick with this method. You can also take a photo of your passport on a smartphone if you just need the dates/numbers to fill out bureaucratic documents.
If you need to take a shower you can put your phone into the money belt and bring it with you. If you are sleeping you can put it under your pillow or in a locker if there’s one around. I’ve seen a couple of variations of this type of belt, one that goes around your shoulder and another around your waist. The waist variation is the most practical, and usually costs around $20/£15.
There’s a second form of money belt that is even more discreet. It looks like a standard belt, but has a zip on the inside which is wide enough just to place some folded up notes. Its really not necessary on the Camino de Santiago, since between common sense safety and an internal belt you will have no problems. However, if you’re doing some further travel around Europe it doesn’t hurt to have one. I’ve used one of these in the past, and actually the quality was so good I continued to use it as a normal day-to-day belt for months after travelling! Again, these are priced around $20/£15 on the internet.
There’s a number of other things you can buy to keep your things safe:
- Backpack mesh. Made with very strong material that stops people from accessing your bag. You can tie it against the bed using this device. In 99.9999% of cases you won’t need it, I’ve never seen anyone use it on the Camino and you probably won’t bother to use it after staying in a couple of albergues. There’s also a chance that it actually attacks thieves too, since they get the idea you must have really valuable possessions stashed inside.
- Number lock padlock. A couple of these can be really useful. In my opinion it just dissuades anyone that might want to have a peak through your stuff. For example, I sit down in a small restaurant along the way with my backpack, leaving it down against the table. Then I leave it and go to the bathroom. If there’s a lock on my bag, I just feel a bit more secure knowing that no-one’s looked through my stuff when I get back. If it’s a numeric lock then there’s no need to keep a physical key close.
- Waterproof ziplock pouch. If you have a digital camera, ebook reader or other electronic devices you can put them in a 100% waterproof bag and then bring them to the shower with you.
Tips and Tricks
You can follow these tips for extra security without buying anything:
- Visually mark your bag and walking pole. It’s feasible for someone in a hurry to catch up with their companions on an early morning to just grab your walking stick or even bag on the way out of the albergue. If you mark it obviously, with colours or by stitching tags, then it’s much harder to get mixed up.
- Just bring things you can’t afford to lose. You’ll be walking with thousands of people and not everyone’s perfect, so for a more calm experience just bring things you don’t mind losing. Take an old phone and just carry enough cash for a few days – ATM’s are not hard to find in Spain!
As far as travelling goes, the Camino de Santiago is one of the safest in terms of thefts. If you’ve been on a previous Camino then let us know your experience in this one question poll: