I returned from my Thailand trip last week and I want to share with you something critical about Forex for International Vacation.
We planned to stay in Thailand for 50 days and I needed foreign currency (Thailand Baht) equivalent to 50,000 Indian Rupees.
I was confused whether I should carry cash or rely on plastic money (cards).
My goal was to get best exchange rates and a convenient way of spending money on my international spends.
Thailand businesses prefer cash transactions (pretty much same like India) so I decided to keep 70% cash and 30% money in cards.
The various options for currency conversion were
- Forex Travel Card (offered by banks at little fees)
- Cash Foreign Exchange in India
- Cash Foreign Exchange in Thailand
- Credit Card
- Debit Card
I almost applied for Foreign Travel Card through ICICI bank. The bank representative told me to load currency in the card in advance. I was not certain how much money I will need during my whole travel. There was not any option to reload the Travel Card during my travel.
Here are some interesting points that I found about Travel Cards
- Banks issue foreign travel cards at very low cost (150-500 Rs)
- The card will be loaded with foreign currency at today’s exchange rate (so you don’t have to worry about fluctuating currency rates)
- Currency conversion fees is included in the price (approx 3.5% on actual exchange rate)
- You will not be charged any additional fees for purchases in shops & stores (for your destination country only)
- But you will be charged for cash withdrawal from international ATM
I decided not to go with Travel Card but explore other options. I did not see any major benefit although bank representative was convincing me about the security of card and fixed currency conversion rates.
But here is my review of 5 best forex cards in India if you are interested in carrying a forex card while travelling.
I thought of trying all the options of foreign currency conversion, except travel card.
#1. Currency Exchange in India
Currency conversion was easy in India.
A quick google search suggested to get currency from Book My Forex.
They were providing better exchange rates than banks. The whole process of getting forex was convenient. I picked up currency from their local partner (Centrum) by showing my passport and visa.
I received 3,680 Thai Baht for 7,301 Indian Rupees.
Final Effective Exchange Rate : 3680/7301 = 0.504 (Bigger the better)
I read so many reviews on travel websites that forex is cheap at foreign land than India. I kept Indian currency cash in my bag for conversion at Bangkok Airport.
#2. Currency Exchange on Airport
I was disappointed with the rates available at Airport. Forex is very costly at Airports.
Never get your forex at Airports.
During my online research, people were suggesting a company named “Super Rich”, that provides best exchange rates in Thailand. I could not found their counter near baggage claim area or even outside.
Final Effective Exchange Rate : 14700/30000 = 0.49 (Loss of about 400 Baht)
They were sitting on 3rd level of basement with longest queue of people. Indeed their rates were best. That might be the reason they could not afford counter near main gate of Airport.
Expert Tip: Don’t carry notes of 1000 Rupees as they attract worst rates in Thailand.
#3. Payment by Credit Cards
I used my credit card in the stores as well as online transactions in Thailand.
I was pleasantly surprised to see better currency conversion rates even after all fees. I wish I could use my credit card for all types of transactions but Thailand is a cash country. I found very few merchants who accept credit cards.
Here are transaction statement of my Credit Card.
Final Effective Exchange Rate 1: 695/1400 = 0.496
Final Effective Exchange Rate 2: 838/1689 = 0.496
Expert Tip: Before Travel, call your Credit Card company to enable your credit card for foreign transactions.
#4. Cash Withdrawal by Debit Card
After 25 days, all our cash was finished. We had some Indian currency left but that was not sufficient. We had to withdraw money from ATM.
Honestly, we were afraid of using debit card in Thailand ATMs because everyone was saying that banks will charge hefty fees on cash withdrawal.
All Thailand Banks charge a fix fees of 200 Baht for every transaction. So I thought of making a big transaction and withdraw money required for my rest of the stay (keeping my Indian currency intact).
I calculated my current burn rate and thought that 20,000 Baht will be sufficient for rest of 25 days.
I checked my saving account transaction history.
Final Effective Exchange Rate : 20000/40226 = 0.497
As good as transactions on credit card but not profitable like cash conversion in India.
#5. Currency Exchange in the City
We were again getting out of cash. We under estimated living cost in Thailand. Everything is almost double the price as compared to India.
We needed around 5000 Baht and ATM withdrawal would have been costly. It was better to get forex from local currency exchange shop.
You can find currency exchange counters at every corner of Pattaya.
I was looking for a company for best currency rate and Super Rich was available in Bangkok only. I found another company named “T.T Exchange” that was offering good currency conversion in Pattaya.
I got 5,130 Baht in exchange of 10,000 INR.
Final Effective Exchange Rate : 5130/10000 = 0.513 (Super profitable, winner of all methods)
Share your experience in comments below if you had any issues with Forex during your travels. Do you have any suggestion for a better way for currency conversion?