This guest review is brought to you by Gray Cargill of SoloFriendly.com
Before my trip to Spain this spring, I made the mistake of reading a lot of traveler’s reports online. Normally, I think of this as “research” not a “mistake”. This was the exception. Everyone was talking about the pickpockets in Spain. Almost everyone had been robbed or knew someone who had been robbed—and they all swore that these were the best pickpockets ever, because nobody ever felt a thing and their money was in the most secure locations (inside zipped pockets, front pocket of tight-fitting jeans, you name it). They made it sound like pickpockets in Spain were magicians. I grew really paranoid.
I decided to check out money belts online. I’ve never used one before, and I was dubious about how well they would work, but it couldn’t hurt to look right? In the process, I ran across a very inexpensive product called The Bra Stash Personal Security Wallet. It’s lightweight and made of silk, with a button enclosure, just large enough for some folded up bills and a couple of credit cards. It’s the kind of thing anyone with some sewing skill could make for themselves, but since I have no sewing skill and it was only around $7, I thought “Why not? I’ll give it a try.”
Before I even left on my trip, I quickly realized two drawbacks of this product: First, the straps were too long. I couldn’t wear it in the suggested way–hooked around each bra strap and dangling down the front of my shirt–because it pretty much reached the waistband of my pants. (This might not be a problem if you’re a double D cup, but alas, I am not.) Second, the wallet shows through any lightweight shirt you wear, which sort of defeats the purpose of keeping your money hidden. My solution was to wrap the straps of the bra stash around one of my bra straps (several times) and tuck the wallet into the side of my bra. I know what you’re thinking: Why use the wallet at all, why not just tuck money into my bra? I wasn’t as concerned about my cash as I was about my bank card and my credit card. Those items just felt more secure in a buttoned-up wallet.
The flaw in my plan materialized the first morning I arrived in Spain.
From what I’d read online, the cab to the hotel from the airport in Madrid should only have cost me around 22 Euros. I put 30 Euros in the front pocket of my pants for easy access, and all the rest in the bra stash. Well, either all reports online were wrong, or my cab driver long hauled me, because according to him, the cost of the ride was 30 Euros. I tried arguing with him, but I didn’t know enough Spanish to do so effectively. I had to hand over all the Euros I had in my pocket (no tip for him). When I went to check into my hotel, my room wasn’t ready, so I had to check my luggage and go grab a bite to eat at the restaurant next door. I expected to pay with my credit card. But no, because the cost of breakfast was just 6 Euros, they didn’t want to process a credit card.
That left me in a bind. I was sitting in the restaurant with my knapsack, which had all my valuables in it — netbook, camera gear, passport. Unlike the ol’ tuck a bill down your bra trick, I couldn’t just reach into my shirt and grab some cash, because it was buttoned up in the wallet, which was tucked under my armpit in my bra and tightly secured to my bra strap. What had I been thinking? I could go to the bathroom to access it, but I couldn’t leave my bag sitting in the restaurant with no one I trusted to watch it, and I felt uncomfortable taking it with me to the bathroom in case they thought I was trying to skip out on the bill. And I didn’t know enough Spanish to explain the situation to the waiter. I sat there cursing myself and the stupid bra stash and wishing I’d just put my cash in a more accessible location. Fortunately, the waiter told me I could charge my meal to my room at the hotel. Whew. Crisis averted.
Between the sweatiness of having this pouch against my skin all day, and the inconvenience of not being able to easily access my cash and cards when I needed them, I just wasn’t a fan of the bra stash. After a couple of days in Spain, I realized I really didn’t need it. My PacSafe bag was very secure, and I only brought what I needed with me during the day anyway, and left the rest in my room safe. So in the long run, would I use the bra stash again? Maybe if I were traveling to a really sketchy city or country, but I’d probably also stash some more cash in various more accessible locations around my person and in my bag, just in case I needed quick access to cash. The bra stash keeps your credit card and cash secure all right—even from you!
Gray Cargill is the publisher of SoloFriendly.com, a blog featuring advice and reviews for solo travelers. Her travel advice has been published in the LA Times and on Frommers.com. You can follow her on Twitter (@SoloFriendly).