Is your new girlfriend asking for a one-baht gold ring? Watch out, as this isn't the cheap trinket it sounds like: for jewellers and goldsmiths, the baht is also a measure of weight, or 15.244 grams around 0.5 oz to be exact. At 2009 gold prices, one baht of gold would thus cost you well north of 16,000 baht in cash!
The currency of Thailand is the baht THB, à¸¿, written in Thai as à¸à¸²à¸ or à¸. There are six coins and six notes:
25 and 50 satang cent, copper colour coins - nearly worthless and only readily accepted and handed out by buses, supermarkets and 7-11s
1, 5 silver colour, 2 gold and 10 baht silver/gold coins
20 green, 50 blue, 100 red, 500 purple and 1000 grey-brown baht notes
The most useful bills tend to be 20s and 100s, as many small shops and stalls don't carry much change. Taxi drivers also like to pull the "no change" trick; if caught, hop into the nearest convenience store and make a small purchase. Beware of 1000-baht notes, as counterfeits are not uncommon: feel the embossing, look for the watermark and tilt to see color-changing ink (http://www.bot.or.th/Engl...) to make sure the note is real.
ATMs can be found in all cities and large towns, and international withdrawals are not a problem. When using a debit card, an ATM will typically provide a much better exchange rate than a money exchange counter, and this is especially the case if you have a card that does not charge a transaction fee for overseas withdrawals becoming common in countries such as Australia. ATMs are available at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport BKK after collecting your bag and clearing customs, and while it is advisable to arrive with a small amount of baht if possible, you may obtain cash from an ATM after landing as well. Since early 2009, there is a 150 baht surcharge for use of foreign ATM cards on virtually all banks' ATMs, and as of February 2010, only Aeon [ (http://www.aeon.co.th/lan...) appear to be holding out in not charging this. There are also occasional unconfirmed reports of success with other banks such as HSBC or GSB. Anyway, you'll be notified about this fee in any ATM which charges it, so you always have an option to cancel. Yellow Ayudhya Krungsri ATM's should be avoided. Not only do they charge 150 THB surcharge, the exchange rate is horrible.
One notable money exchanger is SuperRich (http://www.superrich.co.th), with branches in Bangkok at Silom, Ratchadamri, Khao San Road and Chatuchak. No fees are charged and the exchange rate is typically better than at ATMs even before you consider ATM and your local bank fees, with a very small buy/sell spread.
More remote areas including smaller islands don't have banks or ATMs, so cash or traveller's checks are essential. Many hotels and guest houses will change money for guests, but hefty commissions and poor rates may apply. US dollars in small bills 1s, 5s, and 20s are invaluable for onward travel to neighbouring countries other than Malaysia, but are only useful in Thailand for exceptional purchases eg paying visa fees for Cambodia.
Credit cards are widely accepted in the tourist industry, at restaurants, shopping malls and shops catering to tourists. Fraud is regrettably common though, so use them sparingly and tell your bank in advance, so your card doesn't get locked down because you are using it. Some businesses add a surcharge usually 2-3% if you're paying by credit card; in this case, it can turn out cheaper to pay them in cash.
Thailand is a shopper's paradise and many visitors to Bangkok in particular end up spending much of their time in the countless markets and malls. Particularly good buys are clothing, both cheap locally produced streetwear and fancy Thai silk, and all sorts of handicrafts. Electronics and computer gear are also widely available, but prices are slightly higher than in Singapore, Hong Kong, Philippines and Kuala Lumpur.
A Thai speciality are the night markets found in almost every town, the largest and best-known of which are in Bangkok and the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai. Here a variety of vendors from designers to handicraft sellers have stalls selling goods which cannot normally be found in malls and day markets. Most night markets also have large open air food courts attached.
You can also find marvelously tacky modern clothing accessories. Witness pink sandals with clear plastic platform heels filled with fake flowers. Night markets along the main roads and Bangkok's Mahboonkrong MBK Mall, near the Siam skytrain stop, are particularly good sources. Not to be left out is what is often touted as the world's biggest weekend bazaar - The Chatuchak Weekend Market or knowned to locals simply as "JJ" Market. Chatuchak sells a myriad of products ranging from clothes to antiques, covers over 35 acres 1.1 km square and is growing by the day!
Haggling is the norm and often market and road-side vendors will try to charge you as much as they think you can afford to pay. It's not uncommon to buy something, walk outside, and find somebody who bought the same item for half or one third what you paid or even less. Try to figure out the item's rough value first — adjacent stalls, government-run fixed price shops and even hotel gift shops are a good starting point â and you'll find that prices drop drastically when the seller realizes you have some idea of what it costs.
Thailand is not as cheap as it used to be with Bangkok recently being named the second most expensive city in south east Asia behind Singapore. However, budget travelers who are careful with what they spend will still find 1,000 baht will get a backpacker a dorm bed or cheap room, three square meals a day and leave enough for transport, sightseeing, and even partying. Doubling that budget will let you stay in decent 3-star hotels, and if you're willing to fork out 5000 baht per day or more you can live like a king. Bangkok requires a more generous budget than upcountry destinations, but also offers by far the most competitive prices for shoppers who shop around. The most popular tourism islands such as Phuket and Ko Samui tend to have higher prices in general. It is common for tourists to be charged several times the actual price in tourist areas of other places, as well. If you do want to have an idea what the real Thai prices are - consider visiting malls like Big C, Tesco or Carrefour where locals and expats do routinely shop. Those are available in any major cities in Bangkok, there are dozens of them and even on some larger islands such as Phuket or Ko Samui.