Samui Wining & Dining
Getting the best out of your money in Thailand.

Getting the best out of your money in Thailand.Many first time travellers to Thailand are under the impression that they are entering a country where even with a little money, they’ll be rich for the duration of their holidays. A wad of back-pocket cash and they’ll still have plenty left over when it’s time to go home. No need to be careful, they think: everything’s going to be cheap.


Such people gulp when their plane circles over the gleaming skyscrapers in Bangkok. There’s sophistication here, they realise; this is not the kind of place where they can spend without thought. But with a bit of foresight, holidaying in Thailand can be a financially stress-free time.


Thankfully, because tourism is such an important part of the nation’s economy, Thailand is an easy country to travel around in. The banks are particularly easy to negotiate, and you’ll always find someone who speaks English there. But how to get the best money deals possible? The basics of financial survival in Thailand are fairly simple. One staple that’s needed is cash and it has to be in Thai baht. The main challenge is the exchange rate, which varies depending on where you change your money. Above all, do not change your money into Thai baht before arriving in the country – unless you want to lose up to 10% for the privilege of doing so. Similarly, when your holiday’s over, exchange your remaining Thai baht back into your home currency before you leave.


If you’re a frequent visitor to Thailand, it’s a great idea to open a Thai bank account, and then transfer money online before your holiday starts. You’ll save quite a bit this way. It also means you won’t be carrying huge amounts of cash around with you.


If you intend to use debit or credit cards then before you leave home, tell your bank that you’re going abroad. If not, then your card may get blocked automatically; the bank will receive notification that someone in Thailand is using the card but they won’t know it’s you.


The majority of travellers withdraw large amounts of money from an ATM, and keep it in the hotel safe. Most ATMS are now charging a fee on top of the fee your own bank will impose, along with a poor exchange rate. Debit cards fare better than credit cards, however. Just be aware that those charges can really mount up if you’re using your card for small withdrawals. Better to take out larger amounts, if you want to keep the transaction charges down. Generally, Thai ATMs never seem to run short of funds, and are very reliable. However,Getting the best out of your money in Thailand. that said, avoid any machines that look run-down and are situated in rundown areas.


The machines are a linguist’s dream and can serve you in a variety of different languages. There will be many buttons to press, and the instructions may be very lengthy, so approach your ATM as calmly as possible and be prepared to take some time. And when you’ve received your money, remember to take your card. Unlike in many other parts of the world, the money comes before the card comes out. Should you lose your card, you will have to go to the bank that services the machine and ask for it back. This is very time-consuming and they may not return the card in any case.


Credit cards are popular in towns and cities in Thailand, but some places will charge an extra 3% to process them, or have a minimum spending limit. If you decide to pay with a card, make sure you watch where it goes when you are paying. That means never letting anyone go to a back room with it, or letting them give it to someone else. Should you lose your card, you should have details to hand and report it as soon as you possibly can.


Traveller’s cheques used to be very popular, but fees to cash them have also gone up. If you lose them, they may also take a long time to replace and you may have to provide a lot of supplementary details, such as personal references, as well as a police report.


Bank-owned exchange counters are available everywhere that’s frequented by tourists. They are a good standby if you have to exchange cash. Bring your passport. They aren’t as good as debit cards though.


If you’re looking for a bank in the evening or on a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday, then head for Big C supermarket on the ring-road in Chaweng where you’ll find a Siam Commercial Bank on the upper floor. Alternatively go to Central Festival, also in Chaweng,Getting the best out of your money in Thailand. where you’ll find an even wider range of banks, again on the upper floor.


Meanwhile, privately-owned exchange counters tend to offer better deals. In recent years, more and more have sprung up and offer a competitive service. Check out the rates, first though.


If for any reason you need someone to send you money, then start by looking at websites like Moneytis that lets you compare the cheapest and fastest money transfer options. Sometimes cheaper options may take longer but the rates are worth checking out. Many people use TransferWise.


Western Union is also a trustworthy way to send money, which arrives on the same day. But you have to make sure that all the details are correct: the exact names of both parties, for example, and exact spellings.


Thailand doesn’t have too much of a problem with theft, but always be on the look-out. Don’t sling your bag in the motorbike basket, ready to be plucked out. Pay attention as you would anywhere for bag-snatching and pick-pockets. Always check your change and get receipts. Rather than carry your cash with you, use the hotel safe – but make sure it’s a reliable one. If you’re travelling on public transport of any kind, then keep your valuables – especially cash – right next to you and never anywhere else, even if it looks safe.


Most travellers, with a bit of foresight and caution, don’t end up overspending in Thailand. There are ways to save, though, and it literally pays to know them. Beyond that, and simply keeping your valuables and cash safe, it’s a question of shopping around for the best prices, deals and searching out the best value for money.


Dimitri Waring


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