The currency of Thailand is the baht, denoted by the symbol "฿" (ISO code: THB), written in Thai as บาท or บ. Wikivoyage uses "baht" in its articles. It is divided into 100 satang (สตางค์). There are six coins and six notes:
The most useful bills tend to be 20s and 100s, as many small shops and stalls don't carry much change. Taxi drivers also like to pull the "no change" trick; if caught, hop into the nearest convenience store and make a small purchase. Beware of 1,000 baht notes, as counterfeits are not uncommon: feel the embossing, look for the watermark and tilt to see colour-changing ink to make sure the note is real.
They are everywhere, and international withdrawals are not a problem, besides the fee. When using a debit card, an ATM will typically provide a much better exchange rate than a money exchange counter, and this is especially the case if you have a card that does not charge a transaction fee for overseas withdrawals (becoming common in countries such as Australia). ATMs are available at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport (BKK) after collecting your bag and clearing customs, and while it is advisable to arrive with a small amount of baht if possible, you may obtain cash from an ATM after landing as well. There's a 200 baht surcharge for using foreign cards at most ATMs, you'll be notified about this fee in any ATM which charges it, so you always have an option to cancel.Citibank now also charge that amount to foreign cards but they are only located in Bangkok. Their advantage is to allow you to withdraw 30,000 baht, when others limit the transaction to 20,000 baht. AEON ATM which used to apply no fee now charge only 150 baht. Yellow Ayudhya (Krungsri) ATMs should be avoided; not only they charge 220 baht surcharge, but the exchange rate is horrible if you choose to be invoiced in US dollars or euros instead of baht.
Very remote areas (including smaller islands) do not have banks or ATMs, so cash or US dollars are essential.
If you wish to avoid high ATM fees by bringing in funds as cash, bring US dollars, they can often be exchanged at competitive rates. Btw. buying US dollars in India is likely to be a good choice if you come from there.
One notable money exchanger is SuperRich, with branches in Bangkok at Silom, Ratchadamri, Khao San Road, and Chatuchak. No fees are charged and the exchange rate is typically better than at ATMs (even before you consider ATM and your local bank fees), with a very small buy/sell spread. But there are also other competitive money exchangers around, just compare.
For a comparison of all the bank's exchange rate check out DaytoDayData or http://www.xe.com. To identify a good money exchanger, take the difference between the sell and buy rate, divide it by two and then again divide it buy the sell rate, e.g. 42-38/2/42 ~ 5%. This is the percentage of fee you basically pay for the exchange. It can be as low as 1% and thus better than using the ATM, depending on the conditions of your home bank.
Many hotels and guesthouses will change money for guests, but hefty commissions and poor rates may apply. US dollars in small bills (US$1, 5, and 20) are invaluable for onward travel to neighbouring countries other than Malaysia, but are only useful in Thailand for exceptional purchases (e.g., paying visa fees for Cambodia).
Cards are widely accepted in the tourist industry such as in restaurants, shopping malls and shops catering to tourists. Fraud is regrettably common though, so use them sparingly and tell your bank in advance, so your card doesn't get locked down because you are using it. Some businesses add a surcharge (usually 2-3%) if you're paying by credit card; in this case, it can turn out cheaper to pay them in cash.
Foreign visitors (with a few exceptions) have the benefit to receive a 7% VAT refund on luxury goods purchased from shops that participate in the 'VAT Refund for Tourists' scheme. When you see a 'VAT Refund for Tourists' sign, you can receive a 7% refund of the VAT levied on goods at the shop. However, certain conditions apply, and you won't be able to claim your refund until you depart Thailand from an international airport.
The goods must be purchased from participating shops that display a "VAT Refund For Tourists" sign. You may not claim VAT refund for services or goods that you use or "consume" while in Thailand; such as hotel or restaurant expenses. On any one day, the goods purchased from any one individual participating shop must be at least 2,000 baht including VAT. When you purchase the goods, ask the sales assistant to complete a VAT refund form, known as the P.P.10, and attach the original tax/sales invoices to that form. Each P.P.10 must show a value of 2,000 baht or more. You will need to show your passport to the sales assistant when you purchase the goods, to allow her to fill in the above mentioned form. When you exit the country, the goods must be inspected prior to check in and your completed P.P. 10's stamped. Since you must give away the original receipts it is a good idea to take photos or make copies in case you need to prove the value of your purchases to customs officers when going home.
Tipping is not common in Thailand and the Thais themselves don't do it. Thais do round up (or down) the taxi fare to get it to an amount that is easier to pay for (such as from 59 or 61 to 60 baht). Sometimes they also leave the change in restaurants, but even this is a rare occurrence.
You don't have to feel odd if you don't tip at all, as that's what the locals do, but the presence of many foreign visitors have changed some expectations. Tipping is now common in many high-end hotels and tourist restaurants. Don't go overboard when tipping — never give more than 50 baht. In some tourist places, especially along Khao San Road, there are even restaurants hinting for a tip. This is not common (and even rude) in Thai culture, so you can easily ignore it.
Do not tip when a customer service charge is applied, as this is supposed to be the tip, applied only in luxury restaurants and hotels.
Thailand is not as cheap as it used to be, with Bangkok being named the second most expensive city in SE Asia behind Singapore. However, budget travellers who are careful with what they spend will still find that 1,000 baht will get a backpacker a dorm bed or cheap room, three square meals a day and leave enough for transport, sightseeing, and even partying. Doubling that budget will let you stay in decent hotels, and if you're willing to fork out 5,000 baht per day or more you can live like a king. Bangkok requires a more generous budget than upcountry destinations, but also offers by far the most competitive prices for shoppers who shop around. The most popular tourism islands such as Phuket and Ko Samui tend to have higher prices in general. It is common for tourists to be charged several times the actual price in tourist areas of other places as well. If you want to have an idea what the real Thai prices are, consider visiting malls like Big C, Tesco, or Carrefour where locals and expats routinely shop. Those are available in major cities (in Bangkok, there are dozens of them) and on larger islands such as Phuket or Ko Samui. Tax hikes have made alcohol clearly more expensive than in some neighbouring countries.
Thailand is a shopper's paradise and many visitors to Bangkok in particular end up spending much of their time in the countless markets and malls. Particularly good buys are clothing, both cheap locally produced street wear and fancy Thai silk, and all sorts of handicrafts. Electronics and computer gear are also widely available, but prices are slightly higher than in Singapore, Hong Kong, Philippines, and Kuala Lumpur. A good strategy for shopping, is to first go around doing window shopping for a couple of days, don't commit yourself to purchase anything untill you have seen enough to be able to make sensible judgements. The last thing you want is to impulsively buy something today and two days later see the same or similar item selling at a much reduced price elsewhere. Most shopping centers in Bangkok have sales often, but even better is to go a bit out the big city into a place like Future Park for example. At the Mo Chit minibus rank next to the public park ask for "Future Park" minibus. Go early, the trip costs 35Baht, takes about half an hour and you get a chance to mix with the real Thais going about their daily lives. Once at Future Park shopping complex, its vast multilevel shopping areas go on and on (opens at 10:00, closes at 21:00) and it caters for everyone and everything, cheap and upmarket, from motor vehicles and home appliances, to clothing and furniture, Thai therapy and restaurants. You can spend the day hunting for special deals and shopping with many sales on offer with prices catering for local customers, department stores like Robinson are extensive and a bargain hunters paradise. If you get hungry or thirsty, there's plenty of varied restaurants on offer and also a large supermarket within, with a help yourself fresh salads and other foods bar selling food by weight. The main Zpell entrance facing the elevated freeway is by the minibus rank and once inside there's an information island desk with English speaking staff at hand, while you can always download a translator app to help you just in case. On returning to central Bangkok, go back to the main minibus rank and ask for the "Mo Chit" vehicle, alternatively, return by taxi cab to central Bangkok (100-120 baht), the better option, if you find yourself carrying lots of shopping.
A Thai speciality is the night markets found in almost every town, the largest and best-known of which are in Bangkok and the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai. Here a variety of vendors from designers to handicraft sellers have stalls selling goods which cannot normally be found in malls and day markets. Most night markets also have large open air food courts attached.
You can also find marvellously tacky modern clothing accessories. Witness pink sandals with clear plastic platform heels filled with fake flowers. Night markets along the main roads and Bangkok's Mahboonkrong (MBK) Mall, near the Siam Skytrain stop, are particularly good sources. Not to be left out is what is often touted as the world's biggest weekend bazaar - The Chatuchak Weekend Market or known to locals simply as "JJ" Market. Chatuchak sells a myriad of products ranging from clothes to antiques, covers over 35 acres (1.1 km²) and is growing by the day!
Haggling is the norm and often market and road-side vendors will try to charge you as much as they think you can afford to pay. It's not uncommon to buy something, walk outside, and find somebody who bought the same item for half or one third what you paid (or even less). Try to figure out the item's rough value first. Adjacent stalls, government-run fixed price shops and even hotel gift shops are a good starting point. You'll find that prices drop drastically when the seller realizes you have some idea of what it costs.