Will I Get More For My Holiday Money in Thailand


Will I get more for my holiday money in Thailand is a question I’m occasionally asked and a visit to my local post office here in the UK sparked an idea for this post. Whilst I was queueing to pay a bill I noticed a hand written sign on the cashier’s window advertising Croatia’s currency (Kuna) at a special exchange rate for those about to holiday there. The Kuna rate offered went straight over my head but when my turn came to be served I asked what figure the post office had for Thailand’s currency, the Thai baht.

After a short period of fumbles, mumbles and taps on a computer keyboard the post office cashier informed me that £500 would get me a rate of 42.30 baht to the pound. I’d already checked Thailand’s own pound to baht exchange rate earlier that morning and knew it was a clear six baht higher at 48.30. I’d expected the post office rate to be considerably lower but a six baht drop worked out to a whopping 12.42% difference in exchange rates between the UK and Thailand and I knew all UK high street banks would offer a similar exchange rate to the post office one.

My visit to the post office was one week ago and this morning (Sunday) the general pound to baht exchange rate offered in Thailand was the same as it had been one week earlier at 48.30.

With the help of Moneysupermarket.com I checked out four travel money providers to see what exchange rate they would offer to convert £500 to Thai baht in the form of cash, and I also went online to see what rate one of the UK’s major banks (Halifax Bank) would offer too.

Here’s my findings.

UK Pound to Thai Baht Exchange Rates for £500

  • Post Office   45.63 baht
  • Sainsbury’s Travel Money   45.24
  • Halifax Travel   44.99
  • My Travel Cash   44.14
  • Fairfx   44.05

Despite the general rate in Thailand remaining stable from one week ago at 48.30 the UK Post Office had increased their exchange rate from a previous 42.30 to 45.63 and offered the best rate out of the five travel money providers I checked. However their improved offer was still 5.53% lower than that available at Thailand’s banks and Bureau De Change. In simple terms, cashing £500 in Thailand converts to 24,150 baht whereas you’d walk away from a UK post office with 22,815 baht stuffed inside your pockets. That’s a difference of 1,335 baht and in Thailand that can buy you many things. The Fairfx rate of 44.05 equates to a short change of 2,125 baht.

UK tourists spend on average just over 3,000 baht a day on holiday in Thailand and a 20 day stay in the Kingdom would amount to a lot of cash being stashed in your travel bag, which in my opinion is foolhardy. Many UK tourists take cash to Thailand and I think that decision whether it’s in the form of British sterling or even worse, Thai baht, is a risk not worth taking. Travellers cheques redeem an exchange rate marginally better than cash and offer the security that if they are lost or stolen they will be replaced usually within 24 hours. Losing cash gives you a bigger headache.

Travellers Cheques or Cash

The first thing to do when ordering travellers cheques is to request them in your own currency and not Thai baht. The latter will see your hard earned cash converted at those poor exchange rates listed above and that’s what you want to avoid.

The UK’s major banks levy a fee of around 1-1.5% on sterling travellers cheques and so £1,500 of cheques priced at the lower levy will incur a fee of £15. Another thing to remember is to order your holiday money in the highest denomination cheques suitable to you because each cheque you cash in Thailand will incur a charge of 33 baht.

A user friendly breakdown of £1,500 of cheques could be made up of 13 x £100 cheques and 4 x £50. Cashing all 17 cheques during the course of your holiday in Thailand will bring about total charges of 561 baht leaving you with 71,889 baht for an outlay of £1,515. Those figures are based on today’s exchange rate of 48.30 Thai baht to one British pound.

Travellers Cheques fetch a slightly better exchange rate in Thailand than cash does but whilst cheques incur small charges cash doesn’t. What you must remember is that torn or damaged banknotes are very unlikely to be accepted.

Using a slightly lower exchange rate of 48.15 Thai baht to one UK pound, converting £1,515 of sterling banknotes in Thailand will give you 72,947 baht of spending prowess in the Land of Smiles. That’s 1,058 more Thai baht than travellers cheques will provide which is some compensation for the worry of whether your stash of cash will be lost or stolen during your stay.

The UK Post Office cash rate of 45.63 converts to 69,129 for £1,515 which weighs in 3,818 baht below UK sterling banknotes and has a 2,760 baht shortfall on travellers cheques.

My personal choice for holiday money in Thailand based on £1,500 is to take the full amount in travellers cheques with a UK bank ATM card and credit card for any emergency costs. I also take £100 in UK sterling part of which can be cashed on the last day in preference to using a high denomination travellers cheque.

I have omitted ATM cards from my holiday money options due to the wide variance of exchange rates and fees each UK bank charges. Most Thailand banks charge 150 baht for each ATM withdrawal no matter how small or large the amount.

I’d be interested to know if other major banking countries are similar to the UK and have low exchange rates when converting their national currency into Thai baht.

Footnote
When placing an online order with the UK Post Office for £1,500 of Thai currency the exchange rate remained at 45.63 baht to one UK pound.
UK Sterling banknote image is believed to be in the public domain.
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© 2011, Martyn. All rights reserved.

13 thoughts on “Will I Get More For My Holiday Money in Thailand

  1. Martyn, American rates are very similar and I always purchased travelers cheques as well…aside from getting the best rate you also have insurance that if they get lost, stolen or damaged they will be replaced within 24 hours.

    I constantly see people on forums advising people from America or Great Britain to bring cash which is a huge mistake as far as I’m concerned.

  2. Talen that’s a great thumbs up to my post from an experienced (previously) traveller like yourself. Travellers cheques aren’t as popular as they used to be but I think that’s because the big banks are promoting other products which give them a less transparent percentage cut. ATM cards are a good example of that, they might not rake in as much as TC’s but they persuade a lot of people from taking cash abroad.

  3. The best rate you will get for your home currency is at a bank within Thailand. I don’t think it is wise to ever trade in your cash before leaving home, because your own country will give you an extremely low exchange rate. Wiring money probably offers the best exchange, assuming you wire it in your home currency. That may not be possible for people who are just traveling to Thailand and not actually living there. When converting US dollars, $100 and $50 offer the best exchange rate which is maybe one baht off the current rate, smaller denominations of bills offer progressively lower exchange rates.

    When it comes to how much money that you are going to spend on your Thailand holiday, that rate can be extremely variable and is not easy to predict. It all depends on what you want to see and do, and on the level of accommodations that you expect. It would be easy to spend as low as $1,000 per week all the way up to $5,000+, depending on where I choose to spend my holiday. Living here I probably spend about $150 per week, but I don’t do much.

  4. Lawrence your living expenses of $150 a week and your low end holiday expenses of $1000 a week have a huge gap between them. Those figures really do show that knowing the lie of the land can save you a lot of money. Holidays are always much more expensive but that huge gulf in expenses must be partly down to good local knowledge.

  5. I don’t use traveler’s cheques because they can be a pain sometimes. On a recent trip a friend had a devil of a time getting hers cashed. The bank advised going a different route.

    On holiday I generally take cash + credit cards. Recently I’ve started taking two thirds in cash, with the intention of charging the rest. That way, I have a chance of staying under budget.

    I know this might sound weird but other denominations (even of my home country) feel like play money (funny money) and if I have it in hand, I might spend it without serious thought. So keeping a third back is a trick I’ve come up with.

  6. Catherine I’ve never found traveller’s cheques to be a pain in the butt. I find the pain comes if you have to cash them in Thai banks and not at the outside exchanges. Thai banks are painfully slow at the best of times.

    I’ve always had the problem of Thai baht appearing to be funny money to me and have wasted lots of it due to that.

  7. Martyn, from what we’ve experienced, exchanging Aussie $$$ here is the way to go. Exchanging or depositing it straight into our Thai bank accounts. I know it’s a bit risky to carry cash, however, we off load it as quickly as possible. A friend left for the UK the other day and made sure he bought pounds here, better price he said…so I guess it works both ways. On holidays, it’s not so bad, because we’re working and have a more generous budget. So, absorbing AU$50 in ATM/currency conversion fees etc. isn’t too painful.

  8. Snap offloading your money quickly into a Thai bank account is a sensible thing to do as it eliminates the worry of losing all your cash. There seems to be very little difference in exchange rates between cash and TC’s so your route is a pretty good one.

    Converting baht to UK pounds in Thailand is the way to go. Here in the UK the banks would rob you blind.

  9. Thanks for that Deano. I’d heard the rumours of a Thai bank that does not charge to extract money from foreign banks. I have a Thai account but I’m also equipted with other plastic (dangerous, I know).

  10. Deano thanks for the tip and Catherine (see comment below) has already latched on to it. Your comment proves the worth of reading peoples submissions to posts because sometimes there’s very useful information added by readers.

  11. I live in the US, but I never carry traveler’s checks when I travel abroad. I don’t see the point in it, when credit and debit cards are generally accepted and easy to carry. When I need local currency, i usually get “cash back” on a retail purchase using a card.
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