The Thai currency is called the “baht”. One British pounds is worth a little more than 50 bahts. Bahts are like pounds, whereas satang are like pence; one baht is worth one hundred satang.
While cash obviously equals convenience, it can be a little unsettling to be lugging a wad of bills around a foreign country, and it is rare your travel insurance will cover a major loss of cash.
For most visitors either using credit/debit cards or travellers cheques is a much safer bet. Travellers cheques are fully protected, so should they be lost or stolen while you are travelling you can be sure you will get the value of the cheques back in full. However they are less immediate than an ATM card, as you will need to find an open exchange booth, and somewhat less convenient.
Credit and debit cards offer instant gratification, and all credit card purchases are insured so you are protected against fraud. However, many banks in the UK impose punitive charges on withdrawals that most travellers don't notice until they return home and check their statements. ATMs in Thailand often impose a charge on withdrawals too, so it makes sense to withdraw one larger amount rather than several smaller amounts.
One option many travellers are turning to are to use a prepaid credit card or specialist travel currency card (which often have the best exchange rates). By using such a card there is less worry about your card being stolen as the card is not linked to your main account, and you can budget more effectively by only transferring as much money as you need to your account.
Best of all, by using a specialist travel money card you can make great savings on the exchange rate offered by your bank. TravelEx, a major supplier of travel money, guarantees you will receive the best rate and allows you to collect your cards, cheques and travel money at the airport before departure.
Coin values include the 1 satang, the 5 satang, and the 10 satang – all of which are 99% aluminum. The obverse side of these coins are imprinted with H. M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej (the obverse side of all Thai coins). The reverse side of the 1 satang shows the Haripunchai Temple; the reverse of the 5 satang shows the Phra Patom Temple; and the reverse of the 10 satang shows the Phrathat Chungchum Temple. Respectively, these coins are 15 mm, 16.5 mm, and 17 mm. Many smaller shops no longer use nor accept these smaller denominations.
The next two coins, the 25 satang and 50 satang, are 16 mm and 18 mm respectively, and made of copper-plated steel. On the back of the 25 satang is Mahathat Temple, and the back of the 50 satang shows Doi Suthep Temple. The 25 satang is often referred to colloquially by its former name, a salung, salueng, or rian salueng.
Besides these satang coins, there are also 1 baht, 2 baht, 5 baht, and 10 baht coins. The 1 baht coin is nickel plated steel, 20 mm in diameter, and has the Phra Kaew Temple on the back. The 2 baht coin is aluminum bronze, 21.75 mm in diameter, and has the Saket Temple on the back. The 5 baht coin is cupronickel clad copper, 24 mm in diameter, with the Benchamabophit Temple on the back. Finally, the 10 baht coin has a centre of aluminum bronze with an outer cupronickel ring. The 10 baht coin is 26 mm in diameter, and shows the Arun Temple on the back. You should note that 10 baht coins look and feel very much like a 2 Euro coin. Therefore, many of Thailand's vending machines treat a 10 baht coin as if it is a 2 euro coin.
Paper baht banknotes come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1000 baht. On the front of each bill is H. M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, this time in military uniform. The 20 baht bill is green, 138 x 72 mm, with H. M. King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII) on the reverse. The 50 baht bill is blue, 144 x 72 mm, with Rama IV on the reverse. The 100 baht bill is red, 150 x 72 mm, with Rama V on the reverse. The 500 baht bill is purple, 156 x 72 mm, with Rama III on the reverse. Finally, the 1000 baht bill is brown, 162 x 72 mm, with King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the reverse.
Recently, fake 1000 baht banknotes (Bt1000) have seen their circulation rise dramatically. As a result, small-time vendors do their best to avoid accepting them from customers. It's not uncommon for vendors to request that customers use only Bt100 notes and lower. Police, however, are cracking down not only on the counterfeiters, but on shop-owners who won't accept the larger baht bills as well.
As a result, vendors are gradually learning to check for the watermark of the king and the small, translucent numbers and letters on the metallic thread. These numerals change colour when examined from different angles.
While counterfeiting in Thailand has become a problem, some commentators looking for the silver lining claim that the fake bills are actually a good sign. Counterfeiting, they argue, at least proves that the Thai baht is starting to be worth something; otherwise, why not focus on counterfeit pounds, dollars, or euros instead?
At any rate, the low value of the baht against the pound means that visitors to Thailand will be able to get a great value for each pound they spend. Thanks to the exchange rate, once your flight is paid for, the trip in Thailand itself isn't outrageously expensive, even if you stay in relatively luxurious accommodations.