Currency Exchange, Money Transfer, Thai Bank Accounts
Money Exchange, Foreign Credit Cards, ATMs Money Safety Tips for Pattaya Tourists
Open a Thai Bank Account: Money Transfer, Credit Cards Western Union PayPal in Thailand
Thailand's Currency: The Thai Baht
Thailand's currency is the Thai Baht (THB). With only little fluctuation in foreign exchange rates, the Baht is one of the most stabile currencies in South-East Asia.
One Thai Baht can be subdivided into 100 satangs, with currently only 25 and 50-satang-coins in use. Due to their low value, however, the average tourist will hardly ever get to use satangs.
The most frequently traded coins are 1, 5 and 10-Baht coins. On one side, they display an image of Thailand's king, while the other side typically displays images of various temples. Therefore, in Thailand, it's not "heads or tails" but "king or temple."
Newly-established 2-Baht-coins, easily confused with 1-Baht coins or satangs, are still very rare.
Banknotes available in Thailand are 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000-Baht notes.
They all differ in colour and size but - without exception - display an image of King Bhumibol Adulyadeth (on the front) and his predecessors. Therefore, Thai banknotes should be treated with the natural respect banknotes deserve. Due to the high respect Thai people traditionally pay to members of the royal family, some travel guides will even advise foreigners not to tear banknotes apart or step on them. Your sensibility is taken for granted here ...
Currency Exchange, Automatic Teller Machines, Foreign Credit Cards
Banks in Thailand close rather early, generally at 15.30h - except for branches in shopping malls which may close later. Therefore, most tourists will probably use the service of money exchange booths that stay open till late evening hours.
Probably more than one hundred money exchange booths can be found all over Pattaya, namely in locations with plenty of tourist traffic, e.g. South Pattaya Beach Road or Walking Street.
Aside from a number of private money changers, most currency exchange services are provided by banks, and exchange rates do not vary significantly. Depending on the amount of money you want to exchange, however, it can be useful to compare different exchange rates before changing a larger amount. All "established" Western currencies are accepted, either in cash or as traveller cheques (better exchange rates and security in case of loss).
Do not change your money at hotel receptions; rates offered by hotels are usually well below the average. Do not take a chance either by not changing your foreign currency to Thai Baht and try to pay your bills with US dollars or Euros. Even though some shops and beer bars may accept payments in established foreign currencies, it's not their job (and illegal too) to operate as money changers, so expect rather low exchange rates there. (Unlike the currencies of less-developed neighbouring countries, e.g. Cambodia or Laos, the Thai Baht is well-established and payments are expected to be made in Baht.)
Shopping malls, hotels, upscale restaurants and similar tourist-oriented businesses are likely to accept payments by credit card (all major credit cards accepted).
If you travel with an international credit card, or have a Thai bank account and a Thai debit (ATM) card, you should easily find an ATM (automatic teller machine) anywhere in Pattaya, from which you can withdraw cash instantly. Most ATMs offer easy-to-operate menus both in Thai and (usually) English language. In general, they provide reliable services but may sometimes crash late at night, especially on weekends or during Thai holidays.
Hundreds of ATMs are located outside banks and shopping centres, at most supermarkets or in other tourist-oriented areas. In general, all major credit cards are accepted and should work with most local ATMs. However, always look out for the appropriate logos.
Transaction fees for withdrawing cash with foreign credit cards are 150 Baht per transaction.
If you have a Thai debit card, there's no transaction fee when using ATMs provided by your bank; when withdrawing cash from other banks' ATMs, the service fee is usually 20 Baht.
Money Safety Tips for Pattaya Tourists
For safety reasons it's recommended not to carry large amounts of cash on you, especially when exploring Pattaya's notorious nightlife or strolling along Pattaya Beach in the early morning hours when the dimly-lit promenade turns into an infamous meeting point for transvestites and freelance prostitutes, or similar creatures of the night. Even though in terms of crime, Pattaya - as Thailand in general - is relatively safe in comparison with other exotic tourist destinations, there have been numerous reports of bag snatching, necklace theft, night-time robberies etc. from (unnecessarily) careless travellers.
Do not provoke potential wrongdoers by visibly displaying larger sums of cash in public places, or by wearing eye-catching jewellery and gold necklaces which might draw the attention of potential robbers. Pay the same attention to your wallet, handbag, mobile phone, and other valuable items as you would do when visiting less safe exotic destinations. Pattaya provides a safe environment for tourists; due diligence, however, is recommended!
For maximum security, it's recommended to deposit your money in a safety box at the reception desk of your hotel. Safety boxes are provided by most larger hotels (not guesthouses usually) as well as a few private safety box providers. Many hotels also provide in-room safes where you can deposit your money, jewellery and other valuable items.
Alternatively, you may use traveller cheques (slightly better exchange rates). Due to the relatively high cost of transactions, credit cards might not be the smartest choice, but useful when paying larger amounts.
Another option is to open a ...
Open a Thai Bank Account & Money Transfers to Thailand
Due to generally low interest rates paid out by Thai banks - especially in case of foreign account holders - large-scale investors may be better off with an offshore bank account. For most tourists or expats however, it's obviously the most economic option to open a Thai bank account (savings account) and apply for a Thai debit card, which enables you to withdraw cash from ATMs all over the country, regardless of what banks provide their services.
No transaction fees are charged when using ATMs provided by your own bank; when withdrawing cash from other banks' ATMs, the transaction fee is usually 20 Baht. For Thai debit card holders, electronic money transfers within Thailand are also quick, reliable and convenient; however, such transactions are only possible at ATM machines owned by your partner bank.
It's usually free to open a bank (savings) account in Thailand, with no minimum deposit required. An ATM card costs about 300 Baht.
In order to open a bank account (fixed deposit and foreign currency accounts available, too) you will need your passport and - officially - either a long-term (Non-immigrant) visa, eventually with a valid work permit, or some kind of certificate of residency. An official residency certificate can be obtained from a local immigration office (for Pattaya residents, that's on Jomtien Soi 5).
Although most banks have become stricter over the years, some branches may also accept less official forms of documentation, such as a copy of your condo lease or a letter from your landlord. In some cases, even short-term tourists have managed to open a savings account locally without submitting any form of documentation. A simple smile and polite behaviour can often be helpful in the Land of Smiles and may enormously ease otherwise "complicated" official requirements.
For example, Kasikorn Bank and Bangkok Bank both have a reputation for being rather "tolerant" in terms of which documents you'll have to produce. It's also recommended to try your luck at smaller bank branches - located outside main tourist areas. If they should refuse your application at one bank, just move on to another bank, or try your luck at another branch of the same bank.
(Although in general it's virtually impossible for a foreigner to obtain a Thai credit card, i.e. unless you have a valid Thai work permit and an income deemed high enough, you might be lucky if you manage to open a savings account with Kasikorn Bank, Thailand's fourth-largest bank, and apply for online banking. Upon application you'll receive a code, sent to you by email within usually one working day, that you can use to log into your 'K-Cyber Banking' account on their website. Once logged in, you may apply for a so-called 'K-Web Shopping Card'. This virtual credit card may be conveniently used for online shopping and also to verify a Thai PayPal account.
This is not a physical card you can take to a shop, nor is it actually a "credit card." Although the limit may be up to 100,000 Baht, the amount of your transactions must not exceed your available balance. However, this virtual card - basically just a code - can be used for all online transactions where credit cards are required.)
In addition, a Thai bank account allows you to take maximum advantage of foreign exchange rate fluctuations when you're back in your home country. If you monitor the Thai Baht exchange rates on a regular basis, you could - in case of an extraordinary weakening of the Baht - just transfer money from your home bank account to your Thai savings account and profit from the savings on your next holiday.
On average, a money transfer to a Thai bank account should take between three and five working days.
If you want to transfer a larger sum of money from your home country to your Thai bank account, it's highly recommended to ask your home bank for a document which states that the respective amount has been legally transferred from abroad and was due to foreign exchange rates. Such a document is officially required if you want to take a larger amount of money out of Thailand again or if you wish to purchase a condominium with it. (Of course, this is to prevent money laundering and to ensure that foreign currencies flow into Thailand, but also to stop Farangs working illegally in the country from using an untaxed income from illegal work for purchasing property.)
Note: IBAN codes are not yet provided by Thai banks. For money transfers to Thailand you must therefore indicate the SWIFT code of the respective bank. All details necessary for international bank transactions can be obtained from any branch of your bank.
Other options for money transfer include...
Western Union probably offers the most convenient and fastest method of money transfers from and to Thailand, and allows you to send and receive money worldwide within minutes only. Their services can be extremely helpful if you should unexpectedly run out of cash before your holiday is over, or when(ever) your Thai girlfriend urgently needs money. Funds can be sent online or via a Western Union agent and may be received at one of Pattaya's Western Union service points, where payments will be made cash in Thai Baht.
Western Union agents in Pattaya can be found at various locations such as shopping malls (Big C, Tukcom, Tesco Lotus), banks (Bank Of Ayudhya, Siam City Bank) or post offices. For a full list of Western Union agents in Pattaya, please use the "Find a location" function on their website, click "Chon Buri" in the scroll-down menu and "submit".
Before sending or requesting money you will have to make sure that both the sender and receiver fill in the same contact details (names and addresses) on the sending/receiving forms. A 10-digit transaction code will then be issued, which the sender must pass on to the recipient. To receive cash instantly, all you'll need is your passport, the correct 10-digit transaction code and contact details.
Western Union's great disadvantage is that their service is rather expensive, however. Especially when sending small amounts, they charge a relatively high percentage of the total amount being transferred. There's also a minimum charge per transaction, no matter how low the amount.
www.westernunion.com www.westernunion.co.th (Thai, English, German)
PayPal in Thailand
PayPal is not only the world's most prevalent online payment method for all kinds of e-commerce but enables you to send, require, and receive electronical money transfers to/from anyone with a PayPal account.
Since 2006, it's also possible to send/receive online payments via a Thai-verified PayPal account in Thailand. By adding a Thai credit card to your (Thai) PayPal account, you can easily link your Thai PayPal account to your local bank account. Once your account has been verfified, you can withdraw funds from your PayPal to your bank account.
Thai credit card?? While reportedly it may be possible to hook up certain Thai debit cards (Be1st cards issued by Bangkok Bank) to Thai-registered PayPal accounts in order to verify them, most Thai banks still don't co-operate with PayPal and won't allow you to hook up their debit cards to your PayPal account.
So what to do? Now Kasikorn Bank provides an easy solution for all those who don't qualify for a regular Thai credit card. Their so-called 'K-Web Shopping Card' is a virtual credit card which can be used conveniently not only for online shopping and e-commerce but also, most importantly, to verify a Thai-registered PayPal acount.
When opening a bank account with Kasikorn Bank, you'll need to apply for online banking. Upon application you'll receive a code, sent to you via email within usually one working day, which you can use to log into your 'K-Cyber Banking' account on their website. Once logged in, you can apply for their so-called 'K-Web Shopping Card'. This virtual credit card - basically just a code - can be used to verify a Thai PayPal account.
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