by Mike S.
Just bring big bills of your own currency and exchange them at a bank’s exchange station when you arrive in Thailand. The airports always give the worst exchange rates and fees, and ATM cards get hit with 3 per cent fees in addition to charges from both banks. Big bills are changed at banks in Thailand at excellent rates, and you can’t walk far without seeing an exchange center. Small bills actually get exchanged at a lower rate in many shops, so big bills are the way to go, possibly with an ATM card just as a backup. If you have baht leftover when you leave, first congratulations are in order, and second you can just exchange it on your way out, or better yet in your bank once you get home. You can also use credit cards in many places in Thailand, but you should be on guard as sneaky transaction fees are often added to bills without notice.
As a side note, the dollar and the euro are soft against the baht compared to where things were many years ago, with something like a 40 per cent drop. Some people predict that the Baht will get even stronger due to that massive debt that many European nations and the United States currently has. The prediction is that near-bankrupt countries will have to print money to pay debts, which will inflate their currencies in the process, especially against Asian currencies since China is actually the one owed trillions of dollars. Nobody is smart enough to really know will happen, but I am very comfortable with the notion that if there is massive inflation in the West, Asia will have its own problems to deal with since so many of their businesses are geared towards outsourcing to Western companies. Basically we’re all tied to the hip at this point. The bottom line is that Thailand will always be a cheap place to visit and live in by comparison with our home countries, at least for our lifetimes.
Transportation in Thailand
It’s very cheap to get around Thailand unless you’re getting hit with the “tourist price”. Tuk Tuks and motorbike taxis are very cheap but you need to agree on a price before you hop on or else you’ll get nailed. Don’t even say, “How much?” Tell them how much you’re willing to pay and normally they’ll say ok. Motor bikes are dangerous when you’re driving one, but if you tell a motorbike taxi driver, “Slow” or “ChaCha”, then you’ll be ok since the drivers have a lot of experience. Baht buses are available in many places and usually provide the cheapest and easies transportation you can find. Regular taxi cars are the most expensive way to get around, but even they’re not half as expensive as in any city you’re likely from. Government buses are extremely cheap, but have a reputation for being relatively slow because of frequent stops and low top speeds. Luxury vans that shuttle a small group around are fast and cheap and usually nice inside, but the drivers often push limits in terms of speed and safety, so it’s not a recommended option for someone who might be scared. I was on a luxury van to Koh Chang sitting next to a Russian couple, once. The man was a brick house and was five times as strong as me, but after an hour I could tell he was scared and I asked him if he was ok. He said, “Please make him stop!” The luxury van shuttles are certainly not for everyone. You might be tempted to rent a motorbike, but it’s not recommended unless you have experience driving a motorized scooter or motorcycle. Even if you are experienced, driving in Thailand is an adjustment and figuring it out is the last thing you need to be worried about when you are on vacation. Motorbike accidents are frequent and are likely warned about in Thailand on your Embassy’s website.
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Hope that helps!