When it comes to finding the best place to change money into Thai Baht, there are a few factors to take into consideration. As a general rule, the option that will get you the best rate will be waiting until you arrive in Thailand and then changing cash at an exchange booth. But the place that gives the best rate might not always be the most convenient to visit, so you have to weigh up whether the cost saving is worth it.
Whenever changing cash in Thailand, carry your passport with you. Although some smaller outlets may not always ask for it, banks and money exchangers are supposed to take a photocopy of passports (for foreigners) or ID cards (for Thai nationals).
Before you go
Changing money into Thai Baht in the UK or Ireland will be bad value compared to the higher exchange rate you would get if you waited until you arrived in Thailand to change your cash. Despite that, there are advantages to having cash in your pocket when you first arrive. If you’re only changing up enough for the taxi fare from the airport to your hotel, something to eat and a few other sundries, then paying the higher exchange rate in your home country isn’t necessarily a bad approach. Then once you’re settled and refreshed after your arrival in Thailand, you can then start looking for banks or money exchangers.
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport
On arrival at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport there are cash machines and exchange booths airside and again once you clear arrivals. The exchange booths are convenient, but the rate is normally lower than you will get at other locations in Bangkok. If you are taking the airport rail link into town, there are exchange booths on the basement level of the airport which offer a slightly better rate compared to the arrivals areas.
Money exchange counters
In addition to the main Thai banks, there are a number of authorised money exchange businesses in Thailand. One of the companies which consistently receives positive feedback from expats and frequent visitors to Thailand is SuperRich. They have exchange counters at a number of locations around Bangkok including shopping centres and Skytrain stations.
In Chiang Mai, the SuperRich money exchange opposite the UN Irish Pub and on Loi Kroh Road usually offer better exchange rates for cash compared to banks. And near the Iron Bridge and Night Bazaar area, SK Exchange also offers competitive rates. Elsewhere in Thailand, check the rate on offer at banks first and then look for other authorised money exchange offices (e.g. TT Currency Exchange in Pattaya).
Banks and cash machines (ATMs)
Cash points are known in Thailand as ATMs (automated telling machines). When you use a bank card from your home country, the ATM will add a fee which is usually 220 Baht, but can be as high as 250 Baht at some locations. This is a separate fee to any that your own bank may charge for using your card abroad.
You will find ATMs at locations around Thailand including many of the smaller islands which previously didn’t have them. When you place your card in the machine you have an option for instructions in English. For added security, some travellers say they prefer to only use their card at a cash point located at a bank instead of, for example, an ATM outside 7-Eleven.
Avoid dynamic currency conversion
If you want to save money, avoid dynamic currency conversion. This is offered at many ATMs in Thailand and by some retailers and hotels. If you are given the option to pay in your home currency, ignore it and instead select Thai Baht (THB). Although it might seem more convenient because you can see what you are paying in your home currency (e.g. pounds or euro) it will almost always be at a rate that is far worse than the standard conversion rate.
Make sure your notes are in reasonable condition with no rips or pen marks on them. Most banks and exchanges will not accept notes if they notice even the smallest piece of writing on them.
Previously a popular way to save money on exchange rates, travellers’ cheques have fallen out of favour. Although you can still sometimes get good rates of exchange, this is offset by the higher fees which banks now charge to process them (in excess of 150 Baht) and the reluctance for banks and money changers to process them.
Getting cash from your debit card
In theory, you can walk into a bank branch and ask for a cash advance or withdrawal on your debit card. In reality, most banks in Thailand will simply ask you to use the ATM. But if you walk into a bank when they are not busy and find a staff member happy to help, you may be lucky. You’ll save the ATM fee, but will still need to check the fees your home bank charges. But don’t try this with a credit card because you’ll be hit with a variety of fees which makes it an expensive option.
Thai currency displays the image of the Thai king and should be treated respectfully. If you drop money, don’t step on a coin or note to stop it from rolling or blowing away and don’t throw money at somebody in anger. To do either would be deemed to be insulting and could land you in trouble.
The advice in this article is aimed at tourists trying to find the best places to change money in Thailand. If you’re looking to stay long term or work in Thailand, opening a Thai bank account and using online money transfers will usually be more cost effective.
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