7 Best Travel Money Tips If You're Heading to Thailand in 2023
From bustling cities, to paradise islands, gorgeous nature and unique cultural experiences - there’s a perfect holiday in Thailand for more or less anyone.
No matter what you plan on doing in Thailand you need our travel money tips. We’ll look at how to get your Thai baht with good exchange rates and no hidden fees, how to keep your travel cash safe, and convenient options to make sure you’ve always got a way to pay no matter what you’re up to.
Tip 1: Take a prepaid travel card
Your number one priority should be having convenient and secure ways to pay for things in baht while you’re in Thailand. Using your bank debit card could mean paying foreign transaction fees - and relying on your credit cards can add in extra costs like cash advance fees when you get cash. As an alternative, you could choose a prepaid travel card which lets you top up in pounds, to spend and withdraw in baht easily and with low overall costs.
Let’s look at Wise and Revolut in more detail.
Wise accounts are opened and managed online or through the Wise app, making them easy to use while you’re away. You can top up in pounds and hold, send, spend and exchange 40+ currencies including THB. There’s a small fee to get your Wise card, but then no ongoing costs, and you can use your card in 150+ countries globally.
There’s no foreign transaction fee to pay, and when you convert currencies in the Wise app, or spend with your Wise card you’ll get the mid-market exchange rate and low fees from 0.43%.
Accounts are free to open, and can be managed with just your phone
Currency conversion uses the mid-market rate, fees can be as low as 0.43%
Order your card for home delivery, and start using your virtual card instantly
Convert in advance or let the card automatically switch to baht when you pay
Get some fee free ATM withdrawals every month
You’ll need to pay a one time fee to get your card in the first place
Some transaction fees apply, including ATM fees once you’ve exhausted your fee free allowance
Revolut has 5 different types of account to suit different customer needs and preferences. You could start off with the Standard plan which has no monthly fee, or upgrade to an account with more features and a monthly charge from 2.99 GBP to 45 GBP.
You can hold and exchange THB alongside 25+ other currencies, and get both a physical and virtual card for easy spending and withdrawals. The features you get with your Revolut account depend on the account type you pick - but all plans have some currency conversion which uses the mid-market rate, and some no-fee ATM withdrawals, too.
Varied account plans that suit different customer needs and spending habits
Hold and exchange 29 currencies including pounds and baht
All accounts have some currency conversion which uses the mid-market exchange rate with no extra fee
Physical and virtual card options available
Higher account tiers have lots of extras and perks including cash back and airport lounge access
Fees apply for some account tiers
Out of hours and fair usage fees may apply depending on how you use your account
No branch network for face to face service
Tip 2: Be careful when exchanging money at the airport
You’ll certainly want some cash in Thailand, for smaller purchases, souvenirs in night markets, tipping and so on. But if you’ve not got baht in your pocket when you get to the airport, don’t panic.
While airport currency exchange is convenient, it can also be a costly mistake. Airport exchange kiosks serve a captive market and have little competition. Generally that means you’re in for a worse exchange rate, and higher overall costs. The price you pay for baht at the airport might not be obvious, but that could just mean that the provider’s fee has been added to the exchange rate used to calculate your currency conversion. Compare the rate you’re offered against the GBP-THB rate you find online, to see this in action.
In some major airports you can order THB in advance for airport collection. This may get a better rate compared to exchanging on the spot - plus you’ll be sure the kiosk has the currency you need in stock when you arrive. However, in many cases, you’ll be better off if you simply wait and make an ATM withdrawal at the airport in Thailand as soon as you land.
Click here to read about the 10 best places to exchange currency in London.
Tip 3: Have different payment methods with you
As we’ve noted, in Thailand it’s pretty common to find you need cash for day to day spending. You’ll be able to use a card in large hotels and restaurants, and in very touristy areas, but there are many situations in which cash is the only option that will be accepted.
To manage your travel money conveniently and safely, having several different methods of payment with you is a smart idea. Depending on your personal preferences you might choose from a combination of:
A small amount of baht in cash
A prepaid travel card
Your bank debit or credit card
Some cash in pounds you can exchange if you need to
If you’re carrying a lot of cash, or cards you don’t immediately need, keep them in your hotel’s safe for security. If you’re mainly planning to use cards for spending and withdrawals, it’s a good idea to have a couple of options on different networks - like one Visa and one Amex - just in case you find the network you prefer isn’t supported.
Tip 4: Pay in local currency when using your card
You might never have heard of dynamic currency conversion (DCC), but there’s a good chance you’ve come across it when you spend or make an ATM withdrawal overseas.
DCC is where you’re asked if you’d prefer to pay in the local currency (THB) or your home currency (GBP). You can run into DCC anywhere in the world - but no matter where you are, the problem you’ll find is that paying in your home currency costs more in the end. That’s because the merchant or ATM converts the bill from THB to GBP instead of your bank or card network. They don’t need to make an effort to keep customers on side - so you’ll usually get a worse exchange rate.
One easy way to avoid DCC is to get a prepaid travel card from Wise. You can add money to your digital Wise account in pounds and either convert to baht at the touch of a button, or just let the card’s autoconvert technology make the conversion for you. That way you’ll always know you’re paying in the local currency, wherever you are.
Tip 5: Beware when making ATM withdrawals
Getting your Thai baht at an ATM once you arrive is convenient and often pretty cheap. However to avoid surprise costs it’s important to check if any extra fees are added by your bank or card issuer when you make an overseas ATM withdrawal. Costs may include a flat fee for using an ATM abroad, a foreign transaction fee - often about 3% - and a cash advance fee if you use a credit card. There’s also DCC - which we covered above - which is well worth avoiding if you want to get a good deal.
Also bear in mind that having a lot of money in cash is a risk, as distracted tourists make easy prey for pickpockets. A good option to manage costs and still get THB in cash conveniently with low fees, is to get a travel card which offers some no-fee ATM withdrawals from a provider like Wise and Revolut. That’s safer than carrying loads of baht when you go - and can cut costs too.
Tip 6: Avoid taking too much cash with you
You’ll need some cash for spending in Thailand unless you’re staying all inclusive and don’t plan on leaving your hotel much. However, there really is no need to have a large amount of cash on you at any one time. It’s a security risk and can mean you spend more time worrying about your wallet than enjoying your break.
Instead, make ATM withdrawals - ideally with a prepaid travel card which has low or no international ATM fees. Use the hotel's safe box for excess cash, cards you won’t use, and valuables when you can. And then get on with relaxing, safe in the knowledge your money is exactly where you left it.
Tip 7: Book luggage when you buy your flight tickets
Different airlines have very different baggage allowance policies - both in terms of weight and size of bags. But one thing that’s true for pretty much all airlines is that you’ll get hit with painfully high excess baggage fees at the airport if you turn up with more than you’re allowed.
If there’s any chance that the hold allowance on your airline’s standard ticket isn't enough, buy some more baggage allowance from the airline, online and in advance, to avoid unpleasant surprises and unnecessary costs.
Best place to get Thai currency from?
The best place to get your baht will depend on your personal preferences - most people choose a combination of a few different options for flexibility and convenience.
From the UK your options will usually be to buy some baht before you travel, carry some pounds with you to convert on arrival, or to use a prepaid, credit or debit card to make an ATM withdrawal on arrival. You’ll also be able to use your card to pay for things once you’re there, wherever cards are accepted.
As well as cash and your bank card, it’s well worth looking into a travel card from a provider such as Wise and Revolut for an easy to use payment method for Thailand which offers convenience, security and flexibility. You can order your card before you leave, add money in pounds and either convert in advance or at the point of payment, to make cash withdrawals and pay for things in Thailand as easily as you would at home.
Other travel money tips when heading to Thailand?
Let’s take a look at a few more sensible steps to take to make sure your holiday in Thailand goes to plan - and stays below your budget.
Get travel insurance
Don’t let the loss of your baggage, theft, or a medical issue ruin your holiday and leave you with a huge bill. Get adequate travel insurance before you go.
Losing your baggage or documents while you’re away would be an inconvenience - but if you’re uninsured and experience medical problems in Thailand you could face far worse consequences. If you need medical care you’ll be expected to prove you have adequate insurance or the full funds to pay for it upfront. Treatment can be delayed if you don’t - which is simply not worth the risk.
Many different travel insurance companies exist, with a broad range of packages including single trip cover and annual cover, at different price points and with different features. Compare a few to select the right one for you.
Agree on a price before a service starts
If you’re planning on taking a tour, getting a massage or jumping in a taxi make sure you know exactly what you’ve agreed to - and the price you’ll pay - before you start.
Thailand has a huge tourist industry and one downside of that is that it does attract some criminals, scammers and fraudsters who prey on visitors. Usually losses are small - but very frustrating. Commonly reported issues include taxis which refuse to switch on the meter and then charge an inflated price, taxis or tuk tuks which offer a tour but take you to a commission paying store instead, or touts who try to persuade you that the museum or temple you were planning to go to is closed, before taking you to a store where they take a cut of anything you buy.
Beware of pickpocketing
When in Thailand exercise the same common sense precautions you would in the UK, to avoid opportunistic thieves and pickpockets.
Some pickpockets work in groups or pairs, aiming to distract a victim before one of the team goes to work stealing your cash or valuables. If someone appears to be trying to keep you occupied or is being overly friendly, be wary.
Thailand has a very varied range of places that tourists from the UK love. From a beach break in Phuket to elephant experiences in Chiang Mai, and the frenzied pace of Bangkok - you’ve got options at every price point. Here are some things to think about.
How much does a trip to Thailand cost from the UK?
Flight prices do vary based on the time of year, the carrier and exactly where you’re heading to. However, the chances are that your flights to Thailand are going to make up a significant slice of your overall budget.
At the time of research (September 2023), for departure in October 2023 you can go from London to Bangkok for around 450 GBP return or to Phuket for just over 500 GBP. However, these cheaper options include one or more stops, and can come with a very long overall journey time. For a more convenient flight you’ll find ticket prices are far higher.
Accommodation costs in Thailand are very varied. The prevalence of hostels in the bigger cities can keep down your costs if you’re on a smaller budget - but if you’re looking for luxury, you’ll find that too.
For the trip we mentioned above (flying in October, booking in September 2023), you could get a cheap hotel option in Bangkok starting from under 20 GBP a night. However, hotels in popular locations will cost much more.
Many other areas of Thailand are similar - as a major feature on the backpacking route around Southeast Asia, finding cheaper hotels and hostels is usually possible, although you might sacrifice on location. Higher end hotels are also plentiful - so you’ve got lots of choices depending on what you’re looking for.
Restaurant prices in Thailand
Thai food is fabulous - and very accessibly priced, too. In Bangkok, you’ll find that the average cost of a 3 course meal for 2 in a mid-range restaurant is under 25 GBP. Of course costs vary based on where you are and what you choose - outside of the capital you’ll find prices are even lower. Chiang Mai, for example, has an average of under 15 GBP for a 3 course meal for 2.
Compare the costs with the specific location in Thailand you’re planning visiting, with Numbeo.com.
FAQ - travel money tips for Thailand
What is the safest way to take money to Thailand?
You’re going to need cash with you when you’re in Thailand. However, carrying too much cash is a security risk and should be avoided. Using a low cost travel card to make ATM withdrawals as and when you need to is a good way to balance safety and convenience when you travel to Thailand.
Should I exchange money before I travel to Thailand?
There’s no need to exchange money before you go to Thailand if you don’t want to. You can make an ATM withdrawal at the airport on arrival - which can be a good deal if you get a travel card from a provider like Wise or Revolut, which can offer good exchange rates and low overall costs.
Is it better to use cash or card in Thailand?
Cash is still very commonly used in Thailand, although cards will be accepted in larger places and where there are a lot of tourists. Generally having one or two cards including a prepaid travel card, and a little cash is a sensible move as you’ll always have a back up if one payment method isn’t possible.