Changing your money, or withdrawing Thai baht, while holidaying in Phuket is very straightforward. There are plenty of ATMs and exchange bureaux in tourist areas, as well as at the airport, giving you access 24 hours a day. Fees are reasonable, although Thai banks now charge 150 baht per transaction when foreign cards are used in their ATMs.
Phuket Airport is the arrival point for many and you’ll find several currency exchange facilities, as well as several ATM/cashpoint machines, here. At each of the beach resort areas, you’ll also have easy access to drawing out Thai baht – even remotely located hotels offer exchange services, although their rates are often quite poor.
We recommend drawing money from ATMs with a credit, debit or electron card as the best method to get local currency. A two per cent commission is charged, along with a 150 baht (US$5) transaction fee, at the Central Bank exchange rates set that day. Usually up to 20,000 baht can be taken per 24 hours, which is more than enough to last even a big spender for a few days.
Exchange Bureaux that are attached to a proper bank are the next best option (certainly to draw larger amounts), but they charge three per cent commission on international rates, and offer less competitive rates for cash or travellers’ cheques. Almost all currencies are accepted. Private exchange merchants (open after hours at markets) might offer lesser rates.
You can also pay for most things in Phuket by credit card, and certainly in hotels, restaurants, bars and established shops. Be weary of what they’re doing with your card, though, since electronic-banking fraud is prevalent here. They may also insist on passing on the three per cent transaction fee to you, which is illegal. Use cash if you can as Thailand is, by and large, still a cash-based society. This is especially so for street vendors, small-timers and those offering discounts.
Thailand is a safe place and carrying around a wad of cash is perfectly normal, though pickpocketers thrive in tourist areas. Also remember that you should break down those thousand baht notes into something small, since some sellers don’t have change – the ubiquitous 7-Eleven stores are good for this.
Wherever you are on Phuket; Patong, Karon, Kata, or even Phi Phi island, there will always be an ATM nearby.