I am a 22 yr student from Canada just finishing up university and getting ready to travel to Thailand and South East Asia for 3 months.
My question is, what is the best way to carry currency in South East Asia. Should I just take a bunch of American travellers cheques with me when I leave or use a Visa to take out local currency during my travels, or is there any better way to carry currency in Thailand??
If I use a Visa is there anyway to tell what exchange rates I will get when I take out currency??
Any advice that would help me manage my money would be greatly appreciated.
Through experience, best card to have when you travel is your bank debit card. Carry a large amount of cash is not recommended anywhere, especially in Thailand. I once saw a man being robbed at knife point in Bangkok. With a debit card, when you need money just stop by a local bank, and take out some cash. Banks in Bangkok have ATM machines just like in the US. As far as rate goes, you can trust the local banks. The rate is around 39-40 TBH to 1 $US. Most places accept US dollars more readily than Canadian dollars. Most major cities will accept your credit cards. But small town or shops prefer Thai bahts. Last year, my father went to one of those Asian countries. When he return he receive a bill for $15,000. Some hotel clerk used his credit card number for stereo equipment, airline tickets, ect... Luckily, he did not have to pay a dime; but it was a night mare just the same. So be real careful with your cards.
It is a good idea to take a few different forms of cash. Bank card, travellers cheques and a bit of hard currency. Bank cards are really useful, every large town almost in South East Asia has ATM machines. Do not rely solely on bank cards though, machines can swallow them and this will cause problems on a weekend when banks are shut. I travelled this region last year and split my money between bank cards and travellers cheques, I also stashed $100 in the frame section of my backpack for emergencies, this way if you are unlucky enough to lose one form or another you still have cash until cheques or cards can be replaced. Here is a word of warning though, banks in Laos and Vietnam are really strict when it comes to the signature on your travellers cheques, they will scrutinise it to make sure it is exactly the same as the one in your passport. I signed my passport in 1995 and my signature has changed since then, I encountered problems in these countries for this reason but eventually managed to change them, but i saw the bank clarks refuse to change peoples cheques because they were not satisfied with the signature!!
Have a safe trip Joe
Be careful with travellers checks. In SE Asia I found I consistantly had trouble using them. The ATM thing works pretty well, but check with your bank. My bank in the USA actually did not allow ATM use in Thailand because of "excessive theft". I had to call them and threaten to close my account, as well as provide a ton of info to prove I was me. Meanwhile I had to scrape by on the cash I had with me and try to find places to take travellers checks.
I used a bank card along with some loose cash in a money belt. i didn't have any problems. A friend of mine had travellers checks but had alot of trouble getting them cashed, but he went to places in the streets, i wouldn't trust those.
Just becareful around Sukhumvit, soi cowboy, in Bangkok. i had quite a few people harrasing me after i went to the ATM. even tourist are shady there.
The Islands and jungles are excellent though.
have a great trip.