Is it “risky” to carry about serious money in cash? Not if you do it right.
First of all, when staying in hotels you may make use of the safety deposit box during the night. If no safety deposit box is available in the hotel, you may keep cash in your room with you at night, putting a wedge under the door to prevent night prowlers from entering. A makeshift wedge may be produced by slightly mangling. Simply travel with a plastic wedge, available in most hardware stores. In addition, put a couple of small coins on top of the door handle and place a glass or a plate underneath. This will wake you up if anyone ‘forgets to knock.
Second, even if you carry cash on your person at all times, most pickpockets and muggers do not frisk their victims. You may carry several thousand dollars, Swiss francs or pounds sterling quite unobtrusively in a Velcro-fastened pouch around your ankle, thigh or in a money belt around your waist. Some currency has metal strips embedded and these can set off airport security alarms. If you are frisked after walking through a metal detector, security personnel may oblige you to show the contents of the pouches around your ankles or shins. You never know who may be watching.
In theory metal strips may show up but in practice there is so much other metal around in and on the human body, detectors are not really a concern. More worrying is the work of the US government agency which produces paper money and is researching a tag agent added to the printing ink. This sneaky development could lead to chemical “sniffing” to detect the tag agent and ignore other false factors.
A new style of underwear with money pouches has been dubbed “Kangaroos”. These patented briefs by Portuguese inventor and underwear-designer Carlos Vieira have a pouch in front for storing money, credit cards and other valuables. They are somewhat hard to find but easy to have made yourself.
Other ways to thwart pickpockets and muggers: keep your bankroll in your toiletries. A Californian company makes a line of more than 150 camouflage safes. These are cans and bottles that look like deodorants. But in reality, they are fake. The bottoms screw open to reveal hollow insides, perfect for storing money, jewellery and other important items. Designs include fake hairspray, fake soft drinks, fake jars of peanut butter, etc. Don’t use them for smuggling as customs officers recognize them at a glance.
For keeping a few thousand dollars in your garage or in the boot of your car, there is even a fake tire inflater. The camouflage “safes” are between US $15 and $25 in most large department stores. Thieves in the USA are slowly catching on to them. But in the rest of the world, they are mainly unknown. The Corner Spy Shop, 56A Queensway (corner of Inverness Place), London W2 3RY, UK has a small selection at £25 sterling per container. They also sell UV-ink, voice changers and other fun stuff, but at heavily inflated prices. Mail order buyers look to the US for better selection and more realistic pricetags.
The other thing you have to watch out for is currency controls. Some countries, such as Switzerland and the UK, have no currency import or export controls whatsoever for residents and nonresidents alike. Other countries have strict controls for residents but not for non¬residents – with the possible, added twist that non-residents may be obliged to declare the import of cash exceeding a certain amount in order to be allowed to re-export it on departure. Due to international concern about terrorists it is a lot easier to fall foul of these regulations when travelling by air, where you stand a high chance of getting frisked or even strip-searched (Pakistan is notorious for harassing departing travellers, residents and non-residents alike, to ensure that money, gold or diamonds are not smuggled out).
Even if there are no controls or regulations regarding the importing or exporting of cash in the country you are visiting, you will be sure to raise some eyebrows if the authorities discover a million dollars in cash in your carry-on luggage or in a suitcase in the trunk of your car. Warning: Many airports now require departing passengers to show that portable computers, cameras or hi-fis in carry-on luggage work – the legacy of the Lockerbie bombing. Do not rip out the intestines of your computer and replace them with cash if you travel by air! At best, it may lead to nosey questions and waste of time – at worst, it may lead to you being detained until you can produce documentation that you came by the cash in a legal manner and are not
a professional money launderer. Also remember that big stacks of money in a suitcase do show up on the sensitive X-ray machines now in use.