Currency conversion UK or Thailand
July 28, 2009 2:40 PM   Subscribe

Is it better to convert my money here in England or out there in Thailand?

Very simple question really but I'm not sure whether it would be best to change my hard-earned money here in England or over there in Thailand. I know not to convert money at the airport as they use higher exchange rates to make their money but any advice/tips I can be given would be smashing!
posted by SRMorris to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
I'm not sure it would be a very good idea to carry a huge amount of cash through Thai customs.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:55 PM on July 28, 2009

I don't change money before travelling any more. Hit the ATM when you need cash, take out a few days worth at a time. You get a great rate and you don't have to worry about hiding loads of cash somewhere.
posted by IanMorr at 2:57 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Seconding the ATM strategy - but be sure to tell your bank you're going, and have them make a note in your account. Go into a branch, and call the free number for customer service. And bring a back up card juuuuuust in case.

It's nice to have, perhaps, £50 on you in baht already for taxis, snacks, or something you might have to get right away, like some sort of medicine in a pharmacy if you find yourself feeling ill on your flight.
posted by mdonley at 3:05 PM on July 28, 2009

You pretty much always get screwed changing any currency in your home country.

If you do hit the ATM, take out enough to offset the $5(?) international withdrawal fee. Otherwise, there's only a nominal difference between exchanging cash or traveller's cheques in Thailand. There's no need to shop around either as rates are fairly uniform at any bank. You can change money almost anywhere - and remember larger denomination bills get a better rate.
posted by gman at 3:05 PM on July 28, 2009

You'll definitely get better exchange rates in Thailand. The exchange windows at the airports are run by banks, and the rates are "same as in town."

I'd take a few travelers' cheques or large notes so I could exchange one on arrival for immediate access to cash.

I'm with those who suggest doing most of the exchange via ATM withdrawals.
posted by jaruwaan at 3:45 PM on July 28, 2009

Here's what I would do:

1) have some changed in the UK (so you don't have to worry about taxi money when you're jet lagged).

2) I'd also bring some to get changed in Thailand. With the 150bt "foreign ATM surcharge" that many Thai banks started in April 2009, it may make sense for you to get some converted rather than paying the fee at the ATM every time.

The rates aren't the same as the airport as in town. Example: USD to THB = 32.70Bt at the airport, 33.70Bt in town. Same day, same bank.

If you're really chasing the best rate, I think SuperRich has the best rates. Their main office is on a street next to the Big C across from the Central World mall. Enter Lat/longitude (13.747472296216458, 100.5412745475769) in google maps.

Bringing the cash assumes you'll have an in room safe to protect it. Spare credit card and spare ATM card should go in there too.

3) Use an ATM for some. I believe HSBC doesn't charge the Thai ATM surcharge (double check if you take cash out-- it'll require you to confirm it) but all the major Thai banks (Bangkok Bank, Siam Commercial Bank, etc) do. I would always take out the maximum amount just to offset the surcharge.

Also, be careful of foreign exchange fees on your bank's end. I believe it's possible to get double-dinged by both your bank and the ATM bank if you're not careful.

Be careful around ATMs, both for pickpockets and "vigilant" cops. Some cops like to be stringent with their enforcement of minor infractions around ATMs. Oddly, you can always pay the fines for those infractions right there.

4) Get a credit card that doesn't charge a foreign exchange fee. My Capital One credit card current doesn't. Many do.

Hope you have a great trip.
posted by sharkfu at 4:32 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

The ATM strategy is generally the right one, I've found -- and I used it successfully in Thailand in 2006, among many other places. However, you do run a risk that an ATM machine in a foreign country may retain your card during an attempted withdrawal and then fail, for one reason or another, to give it back to you. (Even if the machine works flawlessly, some are designed in such a way as to allow you if distracted to walk away with your money and leave the card behind).

As a result, I would say the ideal strategy might be a second ATM card (if you happen to have a second bank account) or else a contingency plan where a relative or friend could wire you money if needed.
posted by dgrobinson at 7:11 PM on July 28, 2009 has a great article on all the ways to get cheaper travel money before you leave the UK
posted by almostwitty at 2:39 AM on July 29, 2009

You don't need to worry about changing money before you go. There are plenty of ATMs at Suvarnabhumi airport.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:16 AM on July 29, 2009

I was just got back from Thailand. I'd recomend not changing any money before you get there. The exchange rates I saw in airports outside of Thailand were much worse than the exchange rates in Suvarnabhumi airport. But even better is to get money from ATMs there, though preferably in largish amounts so the approx. $5 per withdrawal fee doesn't hurt too much.

The best solution though might be to get a Schwab high yield investor checking account, which refunds any atm fee (even foreign ones) and doesn't charge any fees of its own. It also has no minimum balance and no monthly fees. I like it so much better than my old Bank of America account. For that account BoA charged me $5 for each international withdrawal on top of whatever the foreign ATM charged me.
posted by vegetableagony at 4:06 PM on August 20, 2009

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