Thailand Money Guide

Thailand Boats and IslandsThailand is one of the most popular international holiday destinations for Australians. In 2017, nearly 600,000 Australians packed their bags and flocked to this tropical paradise.

You can choose to relax in a five star resort overlooking the beautiful waters of Phuket or snorkel around Phi Phi Island with tropical fish and coral. Head to Bangkok for the glitz of a megacity, and enjoy unforgettable shopping and cheap eats. Get off the beaten track in the mountains of Doi Ang Khang, in Northern Thailand, which is almost 2,000 metres above sea level or explore the ancient ruins of Sukhothai or Ayutthaya. Thailand is one of South East Asia’s most exciting and eclectic travel destinations.

This article is a comprehensive guide to Thailand money. Get an overview of Thailand’s currency and find out how to get the best bang for your buck with your holiday money. Learn how to avoid the massive international ATM fees at Thailand’s banks and find out why cash is king when you travel one of South East Asia’s favourite countries.

1. Currency basics
2. Pay by cash
3. Pay by credit card
4. Exchange money at Thai ATM
5. Exchange money at airport
6. Travellers cheques
7. Travel money cards
8. Exchange at money booths
9. Exchange cash at your hotel
10. Buy in Australia from exchange booth

1. Currency Basics:

Currency: Thai Baht (THB)
The official currency of Thailand is the Baht which comprises 100 satangs. As Thai Baht to Australian dollar exchange rates are influenced by what’s happening with the US dollar, the value has fluctuated during recent years. Historically, $1AUD buys 22-26THB, with a high of 33THB when Australia’s dollar was on parity with the USD.

Notes:

  • 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 THB.

Coins:

  • 1, 2, 5 and 10 Baht.
  • 25 and 50 satang.

How much Thai Baht do I need to bring to Thailand:
Although Thailand is a cheaper country to travel around than Australia, the amount you spend will depend on your budget and the style of travel that suits you. Go backpacking, stay in hostels and eat street food and your travel budget may be $30-$50 per day. Stay in a five star hotel, with Western style banquets, cocktails and private tours, and your budget will be upwards of $300+ per day.

The cheapest major cities in Thailand are Chaing Mai or Chaing Rai. Get off the beaten track in rural Thailand, and your costs will be significantly less than the big cities.

No matter where you stay – Bangkok, Phuket or the spectacular mountains of Northern Thailand – you can find budget options for food, accommodation and things to do. Shop around, get off the tourist track and you’ll get a great deal.

Thailand Travel Daily Costs

Infographic of Thailand's Prices including budget, mid range and high end.

2. Pay by cash:

Thailand is a safe tourist destination, and petty theft is uncommon. Pickpocketing and bag snatching is uncommon, but it is wise to be vigilant when you are travelling in crowded tourist destinations, nightlife areas or buses and trains. Our top tips for currency has helpful advice for keeping your cash safe when travelling abroad.

What should pay for with cash?

Many parts of Thailand are cash based – and cash is king. Whether you are exploring the rural areas of Northern Thailand, island hopping or heading to Kanchanaburi, you’ll need cash for street food, drinks, markets, tuk-tuks, taxis, cheap souvenirs and clothing. Even the food courts, in the upmarket Bangkok shopping malls, will expect local currency. Hotels, finer restaurants and larger stores will take credit cards but many restaurants, street vendors, taxi drivers and bars will expect cash.

What are the benefits of paying by cash?

There are many benefits of paying by cash in Thailand including:

  • Reduce high credit card and ATM fees.
  • It is the easiest to use, and in most cases the cheapest as well.
  • Get cheaper taxis and tuk-tuks, instead of paying set prices.
  • Haggle prices to get a better deal. Pay fair prices but not tourist prices.

Is it OK to haggle in Thailand?

When buying clothing, souvenirs or household items in markets, you can haggle the prices to get a fair price. Remember to smile and be friendly and don’t insult with a price that is significantly low. You may need to get familiar with local prices, so you are not stung by tourist prices, but don’t insult with a lowball offer.

Is tipping required in Thailand?

Tipping is not generally expected in Thailand but it is appreciated. When you are paying a restaurant bill, such as 490THB, it is best to round it up to 500THB and leave the change.

At many expensive eateries and hotel restaurants, a 10% service charge will be added to your bill.

Respect Thai Currency

Every Thailand paper note and coin has a picture of the King or a relative of the Thai Royal Family.

Thailand has strict lèse majesté laws that prohibit any disrespectful behaviour towards the Royal Family – whether written, physical or spoken.

  • Do not step on a coin or note to stop it from rolling away.
  • Do not throw a note or coin to a person, particularly in anger.
  • Do not destroy, tear or write on a note or coin.
  • Do not keep Thai notes in your back pocket as you will sit on the picture of the King.

Thailand Baht Notes in a Pile

3. Pay by credit card:

Credit cards are accepted in most hotels, high-end restaurants and tourist shops, particularly in large cities – but cash is king on the street. Most small retail, market stalls, food outlets and local stores will not accept credit card.

Will I be charged fees for paying by credit card?

When you withdraw cash at a Thailand ATM, you will be charged between 150-200 Baht fee per transaction, depending on the bank you use.

Most banks will charge you fees for currency conversion, in addition to cash advance fees for withdrawals. Many Thai businesses pass the charges that credit card companies levy on them directly on to the customer. This means that you will pay more when using a credit card than you would with cash. When using your card at department stores or expensive chain stores, expect to pay a premium price. Paying by cash will always save you money.

Choose to be charged in local currency

Over the last few years, local ATMs and even companies have started offering to charge you in your credit card’s currency instead of Thai Baht. This gives you an exchange rate that is significantly worse than your credit card company. Avoid this common scam.

Avoid hidden ATM rip offs by choosing local currency instead of your own currency. Ask the person to show you the transaction in your home currency or check the ATM for local currency.

  • When paying by credit card insist that you are billed in Thai Baht.
  • When you are billed in your home currency, you will be stung by hidden surcharge and bad exchange rates. This can add anything up to 5% to the purchase.
  • Remember: If you are charged in your home currency, someone is going to make a profit on the deal.
  • Do not accept DCC if it is offered at an ATM machine. Instead, allow the exchange rate to be set by your Australian bank at international market rates.

Pay major expenses with a credit card online

For major expenses, you can use your credit card to pay online. This includes:

  • Car hire.
  • Day trips.

Some of the best deals and alternatives to hotels are available online only. If you pay for these deals in your home currency by credit card you’ll instantly save on the booking price, and it’ll be less money you have to exchange in Thailand and possibly lose money on. This is not only true for accommodations, but you can book a lot of things online through your smartphone, including taxis, day trips and VIP buses.

Consider booking your airport transfer online with a reputable company as it means that you can shop around for a good deal and it easier to get your luggage back if you forget anything.

Use cash for your day-to-day expenses. Instead of shopping at expensive chain stores and department stores, shop in local markets.

Tip: Don’t forget to let your bank know when you’ll be in Thailand. Unless your bank is aware you’re abroad, they might consider your transactions suspicious and freeze your card for security reasons.
Photo of Thailand Rice Fields

4. Exchange money at Thailand ATMs:

In Thailand, you’ll pay between 150 Baht – 200 Baht (up to $8AUD) to withdraw from an ATM. Thailand has some of the highest fees in Asia.

Cash machines are easy to find in cities and tourist areas, but you will be charged a transaction fee, in addition to a conversion fee. You may also be charged fees by your Australian bank for international transactions. Conversion fees may be hidden in inflated exchange rates (usually in the range of 0.5% to 1% per transaction, depending on your bank).

How to avoid ATM fees in Thailand

To avoid fees, withdraw up to 20,000 Baht in one transaction. Typical maximum ATM withdrawals in Thailand are 20 banknotes. If a machine is not short on 1000 Baht notes, 20,000 Baht is usually the maximum withdrawal. To save money, and avoid these high fees, exchange enough cash to cover your trip before you head to Thailand.

ATM Thai currency scam

Like paying with credit card, when you use your ATM card, always choose to pay by Thai Baht instead of your home currency. Otherwise, you’ll be stung with a bad exchange rate.

When you get presented with this option, take your time and choose well. The ATM will then either charge you in Thai Baht or return the card. If you are charged in Thai Baht, the screen will not show you the exchange rate.

 Where can I find ATM Machines?

ATMs are common in most major cities and towns. You’ll find them at bank branches, on streets, at major stores such as Tesco Lotus. You’ll also find them in major airports.

The following are five of Thailand’s best-known banks. Click on the bank’s name to visit its online ATM locator:

Tip: You might not find ATMs in rural areas and on some of the lesser-known islands. So, if you plan on venturing somewhere off the beaten track, it’s best to exchange Australian to Thai currency before you leave Australia. Take plenty of local currency with you to cover your expenses.

Will my Australian credit or debit card work in Thailand?

Thai ATMs accept MasterCard and Visa (Plus) cards. Check the ATM for logos of the networks that they work with, including Cirrus and Maestro.

Visit these links to find an ATM:

5. Exchange money at the airport:

Travel Money Crown Currency

The rate that you will receive from Thailand airports will be much lower than other exchange booths. If you need to exchange cash, exchange a small amount between $75-$100.

Exchange your Australian dollar to Thai foreign currency before you leave for your holiday. With no fees, commissions and deals for seniors and students, you always get an unbeatable price at Crown Currency.

When bringing foreign currency to exchange at the airport make sure the notes are in good condition, with no tears or writing on them. Poor condition notes are often refused and the booth may require spotless notes.

Tip: Count your money for errors before you walk away from the exchange booth.

Suvarnabhumi Airport

Kasikorn Bank and Siam Commercial Bank operate a virtual duopoly at Suvarnabhumi Airport, The exchange rates at both banks’ outlets all over the airport are significantly lower than bank exchange rates across the rest of the country.

Bangkok Airport

Most airport currency exchange services operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but the booths on the Airport Rail Link (ARL) level follow the hours of the Airport Rail Link: 07:00-23:00.

6. Traveller’s cheques:

Traveller’s cheques are rarely used and you’ll have trouble finding places that can cash them. Foreign exchange booths and banks are sometimes your only option. According to Tripadvisor, only American Express traveller’s cheques are accepted in Thailand.

  • When you exchange traveller’s cheques in Thailand there is at least a 150 Baht fee per cheque (up from the previous 33 Baht).
  • To minimise this high fee it is best to get your cheques in larger denominations.

7. Travel money cards:

Travel money cards work in a similar way to travellers’ cheques, only they’re more versatile and are used just like debit cards. They can be pre-loaded with foreign currency and cancelled if lost. Certain cards including American Express, Travelex and Suncorp cards do not accept Thai Baht. Read our article about travel money cards and find out the hidden fees.

Not all travel cards are created equal. Some will offer you a more favourable exchange rate, while others provide the ‘fodder’ for this billion dollar industry. Even a few cents difference in the exchange rate makes all the difference.

  • Initial load fee
  • AUD/USD exchange rate margin
  • 9 ATM withdrawals (assuming that three withdrawals are made per week)
  • Card termination fee
  • Card purchase fee

To show you how much money you can save by using foreign cash, we got quotes to convert $1000 AUD to USD using a variety of foreign currency providers. Here’s what you get for your money:

You save $300 with the more favourable exchange rate.

How much money can you save?

  • 0.74 USD/AUD – $3700 USD
  • 0.76 USD/AUD – $3800 USD
  • 0.78 USD/AUD – $3900 USD
  • 0.80 USD/AUD – $4000 USD

8. Exchange money booths:

Banks

Bank owned exchange counters are widely available in tourist areas, from airports to night markets. Their exchange rates are in the same region as what most credit card companies will charge you for payments or withdrawals in a foreign currency. Not as good as what a debit card gets you, but at least there are no additional fees. It’s an acceptable option if you only exchange a small amount of money.

9. Exchange cash at your hotel:

Thailand Hotel with view of water and mountains

Most major hotels will offer currency exchange facilities, but beware. The rate that they will offer you is usually poor compared to buying your foreign currency before leaving Australian shores.

10. Exchange money in Australia before your trip:

Exchange your money in Australia before your trip and lock in a terrific deal. Cash is king in Thailand, so take plenty of cash to cover your day-to-day expenses including food, transport, souvenirs and shopping.

The benefits of exchanging foreign currency before your trip:

  • Don’t overspend and create a set budget for your trip.
  • Avoid hefty ATM fees in Thailand.

At Crown Currency, you get great rates with no commissions, fees or hidden surprises. Do you have a stopover in Malaysia or Hong Kong? Travelling to multiple South East Countries? With over 80 currencies in stock, we can help you with the currency you need – no matter where your intrepid travels take you.

Get your quote today and start planning your perfect Thailand getaway.


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