MONEY IN THAILAND

Money in Thailand

Thailand is known around the globe for it’s warm weather, delicious food and welcoming people, and as such vast numbers of holiday makers and ex-pats flock there every year. Thailand uses the Baht, which is accepted everywhere, so before you go you must consider how and where you are going to exchange your money, or you could fall foul to fees, charges or poor exchange rates.

There are many options for travellers looking to get their hands on some Thai Baht, and many exchanges around the world will have some in stock due to Thailand’s popularity amongst travellers, so let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each.

Exchanging Before You Go

No matter where you’re coming from, this has got to be the worst option available. The rates on Thai Baht are typically terrible on the other side of the world, and a quick check on some money exchanges show that a large European travel agent seems to offer rates at almost 15% below the actual exchange rate. That means you lose €300 when you change €2000, which is a huge rip-off and should be avoided. If you bring any Thai Baht back with you, you’ll get stung a second time too!

Using Thai ATMs

Thailand has many large banks, and ATMs can be found almost everywhere, even more so in tourist destinations. And when using a foreign card, you will generally get a good exchange rate too, just make sure that you inform your bank of the dates that you will be in Thailand so that they don’t block your card.

Using ATMs in Thailand can be a very easy and convenient way to get your holiday money, you can draw it out as and when you need it. However, the big downfall with this method is the fees, all Thai banks now charge a 220 Baht foreign card fee per withdrawal, plus your bank almost certainly will charge a fee, plus a foreign currency charge, all in all costing you around €20 per withdrawal. Considering most banks have a maximum withdrawal of 20,000 Baht, if you always withdraw the maximum amount it means the fees amount to around 4%, much better than changing before you go.

You will also have the added benefit of not having a huge wad of cash to worry about, and not have to be concerned about getting counterfeit currency. Therefore this is generally a very good option, as long as you don’t lose your card!

Changing When You Get There

This is undoubtedly the smartest method of exchanging your holiday money. In Bangkok, there are money changing booths literally everywhere, and most bank branches will have a little exchange booth outside too. For Dollars, Pounds or Euros, the rates are very good indeed, usually within 1-2% of the actual rate, and the rates are higher for larger notes than smaller ones.

When changing at one of the major banks, you don’t have to worry about being short-changed or given fake bills, so this method will give you the maximum spending money for your trip. There are some unofficial money changers in Bangkok, but I would avoid these if you are not very familiar with Thai currency, as the tiny improvement in the rate will not be worth the risk.

Withdrawing currency in your home country and bringing it with you is the option which gives you the most value, but you have to consider that you will be carrying a large amount of cash with you. Thailand is a very safe country but crime still happens, especially in places popular with tourists. However, almost all hotels in Thailand have safes where you can store your money if you are concerned about it.

One final point to note – notes that are torn, defaced in any way, or excessively creased will be rejected, so make sure you check them thoroughly before you depart. Oh, and they will want to see your passport when exchanging too, so don’t leave it at the hotel!

Traveller’s Cheques

Although a safer option than travelling with cash, in Thailand you may find that using traveller’s cheques is more hassle than it’s worth. Most banks will only accept American Express cheques, and even then there will be fees and charges to change them. And bear in mind that unlike some other destinations, in Thailand you cannot actually pay directly with traveller’s cheques, so every time you want to change some, you will have to look for a bank that offers the service, not ideal when you’re trying to relax.

Conclusion

The worst place to get your Baht would be in a European airport – London Heathrow offers truly shocking rates on Thai Baht which are akin to daylight robbery. Thailand has a large and developed banking industry with ATMs and banks being plentiful. As such, the best option would be to take some of your home country’s currency with you (as much as you feel comfortable carrying), change it when you arrive in Thailand, and bring your ATM card(s) for back-up. Be sure to bring large notes that are crisp and clean, and let your bank know you will be going to Thailand, and you won’t have any issues.

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