While motorbiking to a local 7-11 here in Chiang Mai, Thailand recently I figured I’d write this post.
Because I made that trip solely to break a 1000 Baht bank note. Because since Kelli and I pay 70 Baht – for 2 folks – for our lunch daily, they ain’t dealing in 1000 Baht denominations regularly.
Little tricks of da trade like these help you avoid headaches and delays. Even in a face saving culture like here, if you paid with 1000 Baht in a tiny, local Thai veggie restaurant, every day, you may test the shop owner’s karma.
Follow these tips to handle your finances in Thailand.
1: Notify Banks Before Travelling
Before you travel anywhere, place a travel flag on your debit and credit cards.
Even if your card possesses chip technology call your bank to check if you need to place a travel flag on your card or not. Some banks waive the flag with the new chip cards; others still require a flag.
Thailand is far from a red flag nation – not widespread chicanery here, versus some other countries with bad reputations in all things hacking and scamming – but it makes sense to flag your card, to avoid any usage problems in the Land of Smiles.
2: Use a VPN on Financially Sensitive Sites
Even though we established that Thailand ain’t a red flag country you are best off using a VPN to log into your banking sites or Paypal, or any other financially sensitive sites. Just to ensure your account won’t be flagged, leading to log in difficulties aka, your account being locked.
It’s also smart to use a VPN if you need to access a financially sensitive site via a public WiFi connection, as doing so scrambles your site information to confound would be hackers.
VPNs simply allow you to use an American or Western IP address while cruising the web. If my bank sees I’m logging in from San Francisco or NYC no red flag arises. If logging in from Chiang Mai, Thailand, suspicions may arise.
3: Break 1000 Baht Notes at 7-11
Although 1000 Baht is not some otherworldly amount you may have a tough time breaking that sucker in many spots like small local restaurants or when buying inexpensive goods. Many Thai shop owners and customers deal in 5, 10 or 20 Baht denominations. 1000 Baht is a bit out of the range and even if they can break it – as we have experienced – said shop owners need to visit a local shop neighbor for 5 or 10 minutes to find ample change.
Save yourself time. As soon as you get your 1, 2 or 3 1000 Baht bills from the ATM head directly to 1 of the 450 million 7-11’s present in Thailand. Trust me; unless you are vacationing in a remote outpost, you will find a 7-11. Or, you will find a small Tesco Lotus store or similar convenience store where they do a high volume of sales and can break your 1000 Baht bills.
This leaves you with small change for all those small ticket purchases at stores where stuff goes for 5, 10, 20 or 30 Baht.
4: Be Aware of the 220 Baht ATM Fee for Farang Banks
As of this writing, 220 Baht = $6.35 USD. Not a staggering amount of money. But a healthy chunk of change for an ATM fee if your debit card bank resides in a country outside of Thailand. Which is the case for most tourists.
Many expats simply open a Thai bank account to have a local walk in bank and to avoid these fees. Short and long term travelers would be wise to take out $50 to $100 per transaction to minimize the number of times you pay the 220 B, fee.
This $6.35 is a jump from the $5 USD fee from 2014, when we were last in Thailand.
Note; the cost of living in Thailand is low. Especially here in Chiang Mai. Paying over 6 clams for each visit to the ATM ain’t no thing when you drop $1 USD for a healthy, generous lunch at a Thai Buddhist vegetarian restaurant, as Kelli and I do 6 days weekly.
5: Shop Around for Fixed Prices (if You Detest Haggling)
Kelli and I despise haggling for prices. We respect local culture. We also respect the efficient system of established markets, aka, fixed pricing.
To us, haggling with shop owners feels like a trip to a dentist who uses a crowbar for extractions.
More than ever these days I see fixed prices in markets for all types of goods. At least in more heavily traveled cities. Shop around. If haggling feels as comfortable to you as wearing underwear lined with fire ants, walk around for a bit before shopping. You will likely discover a fixed price stall or shop.
What Thailand money tips do you have to share?
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