March 03, 2015

Notes on Thailand (Part 2)

  • Money
  • Electricity
  • Electricity in Hotels
  • Hotels and Guests

Money

The currency is the baht (฿/THB).

There are coins (Satang/'cents') but you'll mainly be using notes (฿20, ฿50, ฿100, ฿500, ฿1000). Every hotel I was at changed my excess coins into notes when I asked, at the front desk.

Excluding accommodation, budget about ฿1000-฿3000 (~R280-~R850) per day. This will let you eat what you want, drink what you want, get a massage, and generally have a lot of fun, every day.

At the time I was there, the exchange rate was approximately ฿3.45 = ZAR1.00. Nice to finally go to a place where the Rand has some muscle. :)

Many places take credit cards, and many places don't. Cash (baht) is king.

Don't bother with forex. Take your credit card and/or ATM card, and use that to draw baht from the local ATMs. Notify your South African bank you're going be using it in Thailand to avoid such transactions being incorrectly seen as possible fraud.

ATMs are everywhere. Seriously, everywhere. The yellow Western-Union ones give lousy exchange rates. All the others appear to give better exchange rates.

In Samui, I had the misfortune to have an ATM reboot on me, swallowing my ATM card (although I still had my credit card). The local bank staff were very helpful, made all the phone calls, took my details, gave me a call the next day, I went in with my passport, and got my ATM card back (see: The Thai People).

The maximum amount you can draw from an ATM in one go is ฿20,000 (~R5,630.86), and you'll be charged ฿150 as a withdrawal fee, regardless of the amount drawn. Put your card in, enter your PIN, and if the screen isn't already in English, within 1 or 2 button presses you will have the option to switch to English.

You can also change ZAR notes to THB if you want to. The exchange rates are posted outside the money-changing booths. TMB (blue-and-white booths) gave the best rates (3.3 vs 3.45) and none of them appear to charge for changing notes. Again, avoid Western-Union in the yellow booths (2.3 vs 3.45).

Electricity

While Thailand uses the small 2-flat-prong plug, their sockets will accept your small 2-round-prong plugs from home. Your large 3-prong plug will need an adaptor. The voltage and Hz is the same as SA.

I plugged in a laptop (3-prong via adaptor) and a South African 2-prong charger for the Kindle/Nexus 7/Galaxy S II into the wall socket of every room I stayed in. It all just worked. (Exception: see Electricity in hotels.)

I carried another universal plug adaptor with a built-in USB connector. It wasn't as necessary as I thought it would be.

Electricity in hotels

Every hotel I stayed in had an electronic key/card for room access.

After opening the door with the key/card, you had to put the card into the slot, which activated the room's electricity.

Leave the room, take the key, and the electricity shuts down after 10 or so seconds. This is to ensure that guests don't run up a huge electricity bill with every light on, TV on, A/C set to full Arctic, etc. (Exception: the minibar fridge remains on.)

Bear this in mind as you leave the room, thinking your plugged-in devices are 'charging'.

Workaround: the minibar fridge is on a separate circuit. Locate the plug point for the minibar, plug your charger in there. Do not let housekeeping find this. It's almost certainly a violation of the rules somewhere. But it'll do for the first time when you haven't planned your charging cycle properly.

Hotels and 'guests'

Some hotels reserve the right to charge you a 'guest' fee if you bring someone back to your room. They usually take great pains to explain this to you upfront when you check-in. This fee seemed to range between ฿1500-฿2500.

The stated reason for this is to ensure the safety of other hotel guests, and hotel property. And, I think, to curb the natural tendency for eager tourists to turn the hotel into something resembling a 'house of ill-repute'.

If you do bring someone back, you may be able to sneak them in a side entrance, and avoid the charge. They won't be allowed to have the hotel breakfast the next day. And if they break something, it'll be for your account.

Most hotels have security cameras covering all the public areas, so keep that in mind.

Next up, in part 3: Weather, Air-Conditioning, Clothing, Footwear, Beach/Pool Towels, Hygiene, Water, Food.

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