Going to Asia for the first time can be exciting. However, it also requires some major planning as that part of the world differs in many ways from the Western hemisphere. Money and banking is no exception. Throughout Bangkok and the main provincial towns banking facilities and exchange services are plentiful, usually well-run, an easy to access. In the major centers, tellers speak some English. Exchange booths are usually located in the central parts of towns, and mobile exchange units are stationed near larger tourist attractions. ATMs also can be found in all major cities. Smaller towns are less likely to give exchange facilities, but most have banks or ATMs. Rural villages, unless they are tourist destinations, probably will not have banking or currency exchange services. So it is even more crucial to find the ideal bank account back at home before you go backpacking Thailand in more remote areas.
1. Currency in Thailand
The currency in Thailand is BAHT and the banknotes come in the following denominations: 20 baht, 50 baht, 100 baht, 500 baht, 1000 baht. However, changing large denomination notes in rural areas may prove difficult.
2. Banks and banking hours in Thailand
The three main banks are Bangkok Bank, the Kasikorn Bank, and the Siam Commercial Bank. The Bank of Ayudhya and Bankthai also have brunches throughout the country. Foreign-owned banks offering full banking services include the Bank of America, Calyon Bank, Hongkong and Shanghai Bank (HSBC) and Standard Chartered Bank. If you would like to get involved with any of those foreign banks, you can compare current accounts easily on their websites.
Banking hours are generally 8:30am-3:30pm, Monday to Friday. Some banks have branches in department stores which are open from 10am-8pm. Exchange booths are open daily, until late. Major banks can arrange international money transfers as well.
3. ATM services
Most ATMs provide instructions in both Thai and English. Any ATM displaying the VISA or MasterCard sign will accept those cards and dispense cash in baht using PIN. There are surcharges for such transactions. If you are planning an extended stay in Thailand, it might be worth opening and account in Thai bank. This allows access to all ATMs, free of exchange rates or charges.
4. Travelers’ checks
Travelers’ checks are the safest method of carrying money. Banks, main hotels, and most exchange booths cash them, with banks providing the lowest surcharge. Banks charge a fee per check cashed, so using large denomination checks works out cheapest.