Money & costs
Thailand is an inexpensive country to visit thanks to advantageous foreign currency exchanges and an affordable standard of living. Those on a budget should be able to get by on about 600B to 700B per day outside Bangkok and the major beach islands. This amount covers basic food, guesthouse accommodation and local transport but excludes all-night beer binges, tours, long-distance transport or vehicle hire. Travellers with more money to spend will find that for around 1500B or more per day life can be quite comfortable.
Bangkok is a good place to splurge on a hotel for recovery from a long flight or to celebrate returning to ‘civilisation’. In the provinces, guesthouses tend to be the best value even for bigger budgets. Market meals are cheaper and tastier than guesthouse fare but you’ll need a little local language and an adventurous stomach.
ATMs are widespread and are the easiest ways to get Thai baht. Have a ready supply of US dollars in cash, if you need to do a border run (crisp new notes are preferred). Credit cards are accepted in big cities and resort hotels but not in family-run guesthouses or restaurants.
Tipping is not generally expected in Thailand. The exception is loose change from a large restaurant bill; if a meal costs 488B and you pay with a 500B note, some Thais will leave the 12B change. It’s not so much a tip as a way of saying ‘I’m not so money grubbing as to grab every last baht’. Apart from this, it is not customary to leave behind the change if it is less than 10B.
At many hotel restaurants or other upmarket eateries, a 10% service charge will be added to your bill. When this is the case, tipping is not expected. Bangkok has adopted some standards of tipping, especially in restaurants frequented by foreigners.
The basic unit of Thai currency is the baht. There are 100 satang in one baht; coins include 25-satang and 50-satang pieces and baht in 1B, 2B, 5B and 10B coins. Older coins have Thai numerals only, while newer coins have Thai and Arabic numerals. The 2B coin was introduced in 2007 and is confusingly similar in size and design to the 1B coin. The two satang coins are typically only issued at supermarkets where prices aren’t rounded up to the nearest baht, which is the convention elsewhere.
Paper currency is issued in the following denominations: 20B (green), 50B (blue), 100B (red), 500B (purple) and 1000B (beige). In the 1990s, the 10B bills were phased out in favour of the 10B coin but occasionally you might encounter a paper survivor.
Banks or the more rare private moneychangers offer the best foreign-exchange rates. When buying baht, US dollars are the most accepted currency, followed by British pounds and Euros. Most banks charge a commission and duty for each travellers cheque cashed.
Current exchange rates are printed in the Bangkok Post and the Nation every day, or you can walk into any Thai bank and ask to see a daily rate sheet.