How to get the best exchange rate.
I was talking to someone the other day about where to exchange money and I realised that I didn’t know which banks or currency exchanges gave the best rates. I knew they differed, but I didn’t know by how much or if there were any that were better than others. Thailand is still largely run on good old, untraceable, cash. There are now debit cards that people use to pay for goods and services and of course credit cards can be used in any large business. But outside shopping malls and resorts, for normal daily life, cash is still king.
So today I found the best place to exchange money on Koh Chang.
With two exceptions these are all licensed money changers. It’s better to go to a legitimate bank or money exchange. You might think you will get a better rate at a tour agents office or in some random shop, but the chances are you won’t. The problem is that for anyone staying further south than Kai Bae beach, there aren’t any official currency exchanges or banks. Just ATMs and unofficial exchanges.
I kept it simple and just asked for the dollar rate assuming I want to exchange a $100 note. ( The bigger the denomination, the better the exchange rate. So the first tip is don’t bring small notes if you want to get the best rates. )
It’s also worth comparing the Koh Chang rates with the rates at a normal bank in Bangkok. This morning the rate was US$1 = 34.77 THB at Bangkok Bank Head Office
And at the best know currency exchange company, Super Rich. This morning the rate was US$1 = 35.05 THB at their offices in Bangkok. They offer pretty much the best rates in Thailand. When I need a lot of cash for a European holiday, I’ll go to their main office in Bangkok, near Centralworld, and exchange Baht for Euros or USD there.
So that’s what we’re aiming for . . .
Top Five Currency Exchanges
The full results
|Handwritten sign, Bangbao||34.00|
|Yellow ‘no name’ office, Lonely Beach||34.60|
|Big Money, Kai Bae||34.84|
|Kasikorn Bank, Kai Bae||34.71|
|Thanachart Bank, Kai Bae||34.82|
|Big Money, Klong Prao||34.80|
|Government Savings bank, Klong Prao||34.86|
|Siam Commercial Bank, Chai Chet||34.85|
|Big Money, Chai Chet||34.95|
|Krung Thai Bank, White Sand beach||34.76|
|Thanachart Bank, White Sand beach||34.82|
|Kasikorn Bank, White Sand beach||34.69|
|Big money, White Sand beach||34.79|
|Bangkok Bank, White Sand beach||34.77|
|Krungsri Ayudya Bank, White Sand beach||34.82|
The winner, by a very clear margin is Big Money in Chai Chet, located outside V-Mart Supermarket at the far northern end of Klong Prao beach.
It was by a big margin too, so I did go back and double check as nowhere else was giving rates that good.
But it was correct. Big Money is located only 30 metres from the third place, Siam Commercial Bank. So, it looks like there’s a bit of a battle going on for your custom. Which is good for the consumer.
There are three that are easy to spot:
- If you’re staying around the northern end of Klong Prao beach, smile. You’re getting the best rates on the island.
- If you’re staying in Kai Bae or White Sands then you should shop around as there is a big difference in rates. Don’t automatically assume the various exchanges are all going to be the same or that the one closest to your hotel will give you the best rate. Walking a few minutes will save you enough to buy a beer.
- And if you’re staying in the south of the island, then it’s best to exchange money before you get to your hotel or take a taxi or scooter to the more developed beaches where you’ll get a much better rate.
Other Options for Exchanging Money
Is buying Thai Baht in advance before you come to Thailand a good idea?
No. You’ll get a rate 10% or more less than the worst rate in Thailand.
See: https://www.travelex.com/rates if you’re tempted to do this for some bizarre reason. ( At the time of writing their rates are US$1 = 30.94 THB )
Should you exchange money at Suvarnabhumi Airport?
No. If you are talking about the currency exchanges in the Baggage Claim and Arrivals area. These give very low rates compared to bank in Bangkok.
However, it is possible to get normal rates at the airport. Here’s how . . .
Once you’re in the Arrivals hall, follow the signs for the Airport rail link and take the elevator down to Level B1 of the terminal. Then walk to the station. There’s an invisible dividing line between airport property and that of the State Railway of Thailand. Once you cross this line you get better rates. Head down the slight slope to the ticket machines for the trains and you’ll see a cluster of currency exchanges, including a Super Rich branch. Check their rates and you’ll see they are way better than those under 100 metres away on airport property. ( I took a couple of photos to show the comparison, see the Suvarnabhumi Airport guide for these. )
Withdrawing Baht through an ATM
It makes life easier if you don’t have to carry a lot of cash and there are ATMs almost everywhere you go in Thailand. You’ll find them dotted around Koh Chang. So you can take cash from these easily. BUT . . . . note that there is a 200 Baht fee per transaction.
This is levied by the Thai bank. It is separate from any fees your own bank might impose. And you may well find that you are limited to 10,000 Baht per transaction – so are effectively paying a minimum of 2% fee for the withdrawal.
The bank that usually has the highest limit per withdrawal is Krungsri Ayudya ( yellow ATMs ) Their limit is 30,000 Baht per withdrawal. If you get a low limit, say 10,000 Baht, then it’s often due to your own bank putting a low limit to prevent fraud. I’ve noticed this happen often with cards from UK banks.
Therefore, don’t take a small amount of cash out unless it is absolutely necessary. You also have to factor in any fees that your bank at home levies. Some cards specifically for overseas travel don’t have any – which is great. Many do though.
As far as the exchange rate used for ATM withdrawals is concerned, this isn’t set by the Thai bank and isn’t set by your bank. It’s set by Visa or Mastercard ( depending on which card you are using to make the withdrawal. ) So you’ll have to check their website for the actual rate you are getting. It may or may not be better than the Thai bank rate.
How about Traveller’s Cheques?
I’ve no idea. It’s not 1997.