The currency of Thailand is the "Baht" - sometimes spelled "Bath" but pronounced to rhyme with "hot." One Baht is divisible into 100 Satang. Major credit cards are accepted by hotels and large shops, but "hard cash" is the preferred tender almost everywhere. Travelers checks are not widely accepted outside of hotels, so change them for cash at a bank exchange, which you'll find in any and every tourist destination.
Coins come in six denominations: 25 and 50-Satang coins are very small and made of brass. They're practically useless, and as a tourist you're unlikely to encounter them unless you shop at a supermarket or department store. The other coins come in one, two, five and ten-Baht pieces. The one, two and five-Baht coins are silver, while the ten-Baht coin consists of a silver ring around a brass center.
Bills vary in size and color according to denomination: 20-Baht is green, 50-Baht is blue, 100-Baht is red, 500-Baht is purple and 1,000-Baht is white. There is also still a 10-Baht bill in circulation, which is brown in color, but these are quite rare. Actually, there are several versions of coins in circulation, and not a few variations in bills as well. They're all legal tender, so don't worry if you start comparing the change in your pocket and notice some differences.
All bills and all coins have a picture of His Majesty the King, and are therefore supposed to be shown some respect.
See our on line money gallery for pictures of Thai currency.
What's the Thai Baht worth?
To find out what the Baht is worth in your local currency, try the Currency Converter.
And Speaking of Money...
If you travel with a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or other credit card, watch out when charging purchases overseas.
The reason: Most U.S. and Canadian credit-card companies are now tacking an extra 2% to 5% fee on international transactions. To find out more about this practice, see an article at EuropeForVisitors.com written by Durant Imboden, one of the web's most experienced travel writers.
While we're on the subject of credit cards...
You should be aware that many shops in Thailand, while they may accept credits, will often charge you more for using one. The typical surcharges are 3% for Visa or MasterCard and 5% for American Express. The reason: The credit card companies charge the merchant about these figures for handling the transaction for them. Of course, the credit card companies hate it when the merchant does this - it's specifically prohibited in the agreement the merchant signs with the credit card company. But from the merchant's standpoint, he's just being fair - if you want to use a credit card, you should pay the cost of it, and not the merchant's other customers. This practice is never encountered in hotels, restaurants or major department stores, but is quite common everywhere else.
But wait, there's more...
Most experienced travelers will tell you that ATMs are the cheapest way to get cash overseas. For that matter, so does Visa, which handles currency conversion for banks around the world. Here's a statement from the Visa Global ATM Network Web page:
"Withdrawing cash at Visa/PLUS ATMs using a secured PIN can save you money and makes it easy to take advantage of the favorable exchange rates offered by ATMs. Cash withdrawals are dispensed in local currency, and are debited from your account in your own currency - this eliminates additional currency conversion fees and commissions often assessed by traditional currency exchange bureaus."
Well, think again. Some banks are now tacking an additional "conversion fee" onto the Visa or MasterCard currency-exchange commission. Not only that, but this hidden surcharge is on top of the flat transaction fees that banks often charge for ATM withdrawals away from home. Once again, Durant Imboden's EuropeForVisitors.com exposes the bank's dirty little secrets.
Note also that almost all Thai banks now charge a 150 Baht (4.01 USD) fee for using a foreign ATM card.