When tourists come to Thailand, one of the things they often worry about is exchanging American dollars, British pounds, Australian dollars, Euros or other foreign currency for Thai baht. Where should they exchange foreign currency, how do they get the best exchange rate, should they exchange cash or should they draw money out of their US bank accounts with an ATM card instead? There are several ways to do this in Thailand, some better than others. Follow the following tips, and you won’t have any problems exchanging money in Thailand – and you’ll probably get better exchange rates too!
Don’t Exchange Money at the Airport in Your Own Country – You will always get a very low rate if you exchange your country’s currency for Thai baht at the airport in your own country. Airports always give lower exchange rates and then, in your own country, fees will be tacked on too. Wait until you get to Thailand, as you can exchange cash, use your ATM or travelers checks at any number of banks at the airport in Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket – no problem.
Don’t Exchange Foreign Currency at a Thai Airport – A lot of tourists come to Thailand and immediately change cash at Bangkok airport. You can do this, but you will get the lowest rate of exchange that you’ll find almost anywhere in Thailand. Avoid the money changers at the airport and pull money through from the US with your credit card instead.
Do Get Money at a Thai Airport with an ATM Card – If you need Thai baht when you get to Thailand, you can withdraw some money using your ATM card from an ATM machine at the airport. When you go outside into the arrivals area, you’ll see a number of banks all with ATM machines. You’ll get the same exchange rate here as you would through any ATM in Thailand, so get some Thai baht directly from your home country bank account with no worries.
Do Get Money on Your Vacation in Thailand with an ATM Card – To get the best exchange rate possible on a holiday to Thailand, it’s best to always pull money through from the US with your ATM card. Many American banks don’t charge fees for pulling money through with an ATM card, and some Thai banks don’t charge either. You’ll also get a higher exchange rate on an ATM card than you will if you exchange cash.
When I travel anywhere, I only take $100 in cash and then pull money through from several ATM cards for the rest of my holiday spending money. Also, if you do happen to lose your wallet or purse, it’s much more difficult for someone to use your ATM cards than it is for them to spend your cash. ATMs are all over Thailand, even in small towns, so you’ll never have a problem not being able to find an ATM machine.
If You Exchange Cash in Thailand, Check Exchange Rates Carefully – Don’t exchange cash at little exchange booths that you’ll see dotted around Bangkok. These are set up only for tourists and the exchange rate is low. Go to a branch of any large bank, Bangkok Bank, Siam Commercial Bank, Kasikorn Bank, and check their exchange rates. It’s best to go to a shopping mall like Siam Paragon in Bangkok, where there are five or six large bank branches and check each exchange rate as some banks will offer slightly higher than others. Then exchange your cash for Thai baht at the bank with the highest exchange rate.
Using Travelers Checks – You can use travelers checks when you’re in Thailand. You can exchange them for Thai baht at banks throughout the country but, most of the time, you’ll just get the same exchange rate you would with cash, which is always lower than the exchange rate you get from using an ATM card. I don’t use travelers checks anymore as you have to pay fees at your bank in the US and then you still get a lower exchange rate in Thailand.
Use Your Credit Card – You can use your credit card to make purchases at almost any shop in Thailand. You will also usually get an exchange rate that’s as high as the one you’d get from using your ATM card. Be warned though, some banks, mine included, charge a 1-2% fee for making purchases overseas, so you can actually waste a lot of money doing it this way. Also, with a credit card, you run the risk of an unscrupulous seller using your credit card information for purchases of their own.
Don’t Exchange Money at Your Hotel – Like anywhere else in the world, exchanging money at your hotel will get you one of the lowest rates in Thailand. Don’t even think about exchanging money at your hotel in Thailand. There are too many other options that will give you much better exchange rates.
Check Exchange Rates Often – Exchange rates fluctuate often. Keep checking the exchange rates for Thailand every day and you’ll likely find some days it’s better to exchange than others. If I’m traveling and I see the exchange rate has gone up, I exchange money that day as, chances are, it will have gone down again a day or two later.
Overall, the best ways to exchange money in Thailand are in this order – ATM machines, Credit Card, Travelers Checks, and Cash. Get money in Thailand by using these exchange methods in this order, cash being left as an absolute last resort, and you’ll have no problems getting spending money for your trip.