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Bustling cities, electric nightlife and stunning scenery…all on a budget. It’s not hard to see why Thailand has become such a popular destination for backpackers, holidaymakers and those who want to see their money stretch a bit further. But even at such affordable prices, picking the right travel money options before you land is crucial. Whilst Thailand is increasingly accepting major brands such as MasterCard and Visa in many middle to upper market shops, restaurants and hotels, cash is still key and is likely to dominate your spending. Find out the cheapest way to use your money and make withdrawals below.
You won’t have to worry about withdrawal fees if you opt for a digital banking app such as Revolut or Starling. These work in much the same way as conventional bank accounts do, coming with a debit card authorised by Visa or Mastercard which can be “topped up” from your mobile phone, but the key advantage is that they don’t charge withdrawal of transaction fees.
The official currency of Thailand is the Baht. The currency is available in both coins and notes and comes in the following denominations – Coins of 1, 2, 5 and 10 Baht and notes of 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 baht. There are currently two legally accepted editions of bank notes in Thailand, both with an image of the King on the back. Make sure you treat your money with care as bad treatment could be seen as disrespect to the King. See the different bank note denominations below to familiarise yourself with the currency, save confusion when spending and ensure you’re not being overcharged.
On a budget? Food, drink, accommodation and tourist activities all come at a fraction of the price to those found in the UK making Thailand a popular destination for those who want to see the money stretch a bit further.
Those on a tight budget can easily live on less than £20’s a day and still enjoy amazing food, comfortable accommodation and the chance to spend extra cash on activities. A middle-budget of around £40-£60 a day will afford you good quality restaurant meals and accommodation, the chance to enjoy a range or tourist attractions and to hire taxis.
|Hostel dorm room|
£2-£10 per night
|3 star hotel|
£15-£35 per night
|5 star hotel|
£100+ per night
|Cheap street meal (Pad Thai)|
50p-£1 per person
|Average restaurant meal|
£2-£4 per person
|Western style steak meal|
£15+ per person
|Shopping at Chatuchak market|
|Bangkok food tour|
£20 per person
|Private Thai cooking lesson|
£50+ per person
*Prices are approximate and are subject to change.
When traveling to Thailand it’s always best to have a few ways to access your cash. Visa and MasterCard branded travel cards, debit cards and credit cards are becoming increasingly accepted for over the counter purchases in middle to high end hotels, shops and restaurants but carrying cash is always recommended as this will make up the majority of your spending. ATM’s are readily available throughout Thailand’s larger cities and towns but when traveling to more remote locations it’s always best to bring enough cash to cover your stay.
Digital banking apps work in much the same way as conventional bank accounts do, coming with a debit card authorised by Visa or Mastercard which can be “topped up” from your mobile phone, but the key advantage is that they don’t charge withdrawal of transaction fees.
|Travel money option||Pros||Considerations|
|Debit cards for travel|
|Prepaid travel money cards|
|Credit cards for travel|
This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.
Cash is vital in Thailand. You’ll be using it for the majority of your transactions. As usual, avoid exchanging cash at airports and hotels as these usually offer bad rates. Baht notes are significantly more fragile and susceptible to tearing than British bank notes. Make sure yours are not damaged as some shop/restaurant owners won’t accept them and can be seen as disrespectful to the king.
First things first – always notify your home bank before you head to Thailand to stop your card being blocked by anti-fraud software. When using your card always choose to be charged in Thai Baht to save yourself money. Why? Because the Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) which allows you to see the cost of the transaction in your home currency leaves you exposed to foreign banks poor exchange rates and additional hidden fees.
Most debit cards will charge a currency conversion fee of around 2-3% fee when you make a purchase or withdraw cash, but it may be worth checking with your bank to double check if this is the case. Both debit and credit cards can now be used in many mid to high-end hotels, shops and restaurants in big cities but credit cards should not be used to withdraw cash due to interest rates and cash advance charges. Instead use a debit card or prepaid travel card. Visa, Master Card, JBC and American Express
Travel cards offer a safer way to withdraw cash and can be useful at helping with budgeting as you can only spend whats on the card. Using travel cards also means you can pre-load your exchange rate beforehand, offering you the chance to do so at times when rates are looking more promising rather than relying on live exchange rates which could be unfavourable at the time. Not all cards charge for for currency conversion, but these will certainly charge you at ATM’s.
However, using a prepaid travel card is typically more expensive than using the cards you already have in your wallet. They often carry hidden fees such as inactivity costs , reload fees and issue fees. Not all travel cards support Thai Baht – for those that don’t you’ll pay a currency conversion fee when you withdraw cash or purchase a good or service. For help deciding on which travel card to go for, check out our comparison.
Traveller’s cheques provide important security advantages over other forms of travel money. Each cheque has a unique serial number and can only be cashed with photo identification. However, using travellers cheques can be expensive with institutions charging a commission of around 150THB to cash cheques. Because of this it’s usually best to get checks in relatively large denominations to minimise fees. Alternatively, you’re often better off using a debit card or travel card which lets you make cheap or free ATM withdrawals.
Its always best to check with your individual bank to check their withdrawal fees and to see if they have any arrangements with Thai Banks which will offer more favourable charges. In most cases its likely you’ll be charged by both your bank and the ATM to withdraw money with the ATM alone likely to add on a fee of around £2-4. ATMs are available in any of Thailands cities and an increasing number of smaller towns.
Mastercard and Visa cards can be used to make cash withdrawals from the majority of ATMs in Thailand. The maximum withdrawal limit varies depending on the machine. Machines from banks with a presence in Britain such as HSBC have a higher daily withdrawal limit compared to ATMs from Thai banks.
While the value of the Baht has been increasing as the country develops and tourism expands, the country still remains a budget destination for British travellers.
|Year||Average annual exchange British Pound (GBP) to Thai Baht (THB)|
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