Thailand is a country where cash is still king. Recent years have seen a skyrocketing adoption of QR payments, but this is likely not an option for foreigners. When you’re looking for a car rental at Don Muang Airport, you’ll also see foreign exchange booths to convert your euros, pounds, and dollars to Thai baht. Don’t change more than $100 at the airport, though, as the exchange rates are not the best.
Is It Wise to Bring a Lot of Cash?
Travelling with large amounts of cash is always going to be a risk. Thailand has very low levels of petty theft and pickpocketing, however, so carrying cash is typically quite safe–just keep an eye on your belongings on crowded trains or at major tourist sites.
Arriving with $500 to $1,000 in cash will easily cover your expenses for a week or more. You’ll find that most foreign currencies go far in Thailand. It typically isn’t necessary to carry more than $100 when going out.
Currency exchange services are available in popular tourist areas, and Google Maps is an excellent resource for reviews to help identify respected businesses. The Xe currency conversion app is also an excellent option for travellers. It keeps up with the live exchange rates, and can be used as a calculator to help you understand costs in your home currency. Once you’ve depleted the cash you brought, it is time to visit an ATM.
ATMs and Foreign Bank Cards
Using ATMs in Thailand is likely the same as in your home country, with two notable exceptions.
Large Service Charge
Most Thai bank ATMs will charge a fee of around $6 to $10 per transaction with a foreign card. You’ll generally want to withdraw as much as you need to avoid being charged multiple times withdrawing small amounts.
You can also go to a bank branch with your passport and card. Ask the teller for a cash advance against your debit bank card. While not all branches will oblige, many will. This will save quite a bit on ATM fees, but it does take extra time waiting in line.
ATM Currency Conversion Options
Using a foreign card at a Thai ATM gives you a currency conversion option. After choosing the withdrawal amount, the ATM will ask if you’d like to convert the baht amount and charge your card in your home currency, or skip the conversion and charge your home bank in baht.
You want to skip the conversion in almost all cases because the exchange rate offered is generally much worse than your home bank will offer you. Opt for charges in baht for better exchange rates.
Understanding Thai Currency
While exchange rates vary daily, you’ll generally find the following approximate exchange rates:
1£ = 43 Thai baht
1$ = 33 Thai baht
1€ = 36 Thai baht
The Thai currency comes in the following denominations:
Bills: twenty baht (green), fifty baht (blue), one hundred baht (red), 500 baht (purple), and 1,000 baht (beige)
Coins: one baht, two baht, five baht, and ten baht
In low light, it’s easy to confuse twenty and fifty-baht notes. The same is true of one hundred and 1,000-baht notes. Always double-check your numbers before paying your cab fare, and be sure to avoid travelling in a cab at rush hour, as traffic in Bangkok can be very heavy.
Breaking 1,000-baht notes can be a challenge, but most convenience stores will happily make change for even a tiny purchase. Buy a bottle of water with a 1,000-baht bill, and you’ll have money for your night market adventure.
Credit Cards in Thailand
Only large corporations will accept credit card payments. Shopping malls, chain restaurants, and hotels will take cards, but most other businesses don’t. It doesn’t hurt to ask a place if they accept cards, but it is better to have cash, just in case.
Visa and Mastercard are the most commonly accepted cards, and many places have a 300 baht minimum for credit card charges.
Thailand is a magical place worth seeing. Decide how much money you need for your adventure, make one stop at an ATM, and you’ll be ready to explore The Land of Smiles in your convenient rental car from Drive Car Rental!