Skip Navigation

Currency in SE Asia

Travel Forums Asia Currency in SE Asia

1. Posted by jillianjiggs75 (Budding Member 4 posts) 4y

I am travelling from Australia to Vietnam, Cambodia & Thailand for 20 days & would like to know the best form of currency to take. I am hearing that $US is acceptable in a lot of places. I also have 2 x 4 hour stops in KL where I will prob stay within the airport. I am considering a Multi-currency Cash Passport. Has anyone used these? Just wondering if I am better off just taking $US. Any suggestions? Thanks.

2. Posted by FUNJONO (Budding Member 64 posts) 4y

$ are King

Posts 3 - 5 were removed by moderators
6. Posted by jillianjiggs75 (Budding Member 4 posts) 4y

bella chan I could care less about the detroit lions or whoever. Please post your useless information elsewhere.

7. Posted by karazyal (Travel Guru 1587 posts) 4y

Thailand may be the easiest country for currency. You can easily change your Oz currency, travelers checks and use debit cards in ATMs for Thai baht. I use Visa and MasterCard debit cards in Thailand without any problems for many, many years. But for small amounts of money I prefer to use a travelers check. I get mine for free. There is a fee of 33 baht to cash a travelers check so only take the largest denominations. There is a fee of 150 baht for ATM withdrawals in Thailand so take out the maximum you can at one time.

In Thailand you must use their currency but changing money is very easy. Bank money changers available at the airport 24 hours a day for arrivals and departures. Banks and mini banks available 7 days a week in areas of the city popular with tourists.

If you do use a debit card or even a credit card notify your banks ahead of time that you will be in Asia and where. Otherwise your ATM withdrawal or other use may be denied because of suspected fraud.

US dollars are widely accepted in Cambodia and in Vietnam. But travelers checks are not as easy to cash as in Thailand. In the border areas with Thailand you can also use some Thai baht.

Do NOT leave Cambodia or Vietnam with their currency. No one wants to change that currency once you leave that area.

8. Posted by Degolasse (Travel Guru 823 posts) 4y

Sounds to me like you plan on travelling with a big wad of cash. That's a very bad idea. If you lose it, it's gone and you'll never see it again. My advice is to never carry more cash than you'll need in the next week or two of travelling.
10 years ago life was a bit more difficult, but today traveling in these countries couldn't be easier when it comes to money. All of these countries have ATM's that will accept your debit card from home. Look at the back of your card - it will probably say either PLUS or CIRRUS. These are international banking companies, and ATM's all over the world will accept your card if it has one of these. So when you arrive in Bangkok for example, head to an ATM, and you'll be able to withdraw Thai Baht straight from your bank account back home. Same thing in all the other countries. As a general rule, all countries in the world use their own currency, and so that's what you should withdraw at the ATM and use, but Cambodia and Vietnam are exceptions. They both have their own currency which is used for small day to day things, but USD are also a defacto currency and commonly used for many things that tourists buy. From what I understand, Cambodian ATMs will offer both US and Riels, and Vietnamese ATMs will give you Dong.
It is all really that simple, but there are a couple things you should be aware of.
First, not every ATM accepts foreign cards, and occasionally you might have to wonder around town trying to find the right type of ATM. It happens to me often in China but I've never had a problem finding one in Thailand or Australia. I have no experience with Cambodia or Vietnam since I haven't been there since pre-ATM days, but my wife had no problems in both places last year.
Second, you do get dinged with fees, both from your bank back home, and from the bank with the ATM. Ask your bank at home what the fees are, and if you find that you have a particularly expensive bank, think about opening an account at another bank. As Karazyal above suggests, since the fees are per transaction, you can save money by always taking out the max amount rather than running back to the ATM every couple days.
Third, again, as Karazyal mentioned, sometimes your bank back home will see transactions in foreign countries, get a little suspicious, and might freeze your account. I have two Canadian accounts - one bank has never done this to me, and one does it to me everywhere I go, even when I warn them in advance. But it will hopefully help to notify them that you will be using the card in other countries.
Finally, just like cash, ATM debit cards are prone to theft. If you only rely on one debit card for your travels, you'll get a nasty surprise if it gets nicked and you have no access money. So be prepared.

So usually what i do is travel with two different bank accounts. I have one card with me at all times under my clothes in my money belt. And I have a second card buried in the depths of my backpack. Currently I actually have a 3rd card from Hong Kong that I usually carry in my camera bag. I spread my money out between the 3 accounts, and I figure if I ever get robbed, hopefully I won't lose all three cards. In 12 years of travelling all over the world, I have never lost a card yet.
I also have two different VISA credit cards that I keep in separate places, which I've had to use once to withdraw money at an ATM, but are really just for emergencies and booking plane tickets.
When I'm going on longer trips to more remote parts of Asia, I also take some travelers cheques just in case the ATM's fail. Some quieter, less touristed islands and small towns don't have ATMs. I think US$ works best, as just about anywhere in the world takes them. I never take too much - maybe $200-300 just in case I get stuck. Honestly though, I have used them a couple times (in China, Laos, and Bolivia), but 95% of the time I end up cashing them once I'm home and I've run out of money from my travels.
I also like to have some emergency cash one me. It's not a lot, but a couple US $50s hidden somewhere in my backpack, money belt, or sometimes even in the sole of my boots, will get me out of trouble if it came to that. Luckily it never has.

Hope this helps. I can't tell you anything about a Cash Passport. I've never heard of it until just now.
Dave

9. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 1992 posts) 4y

Cash passport is fine, but too damn expensive. I use my bank debit card for ATM withdrawals - no problems with several SEA trips. I agree that carrying cash is dangerous!