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How To Send Money To Thailand

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products.  We do not endorse products or services lightly.  In the case of this service, almost every one on the LTfaWG team uses this product and we feel that this could be a useful for others looking to send funds into Thailand.  

Transferring money to Thailand has always been slow and expensive.  Whether you’re sending money from the US, Australia, the UK or Canada, you get hit with fees from all sides – your home bank, the receiving bank in Thailand – not to mention the terrible exchange rate.  In addition to this, it can take several days for the money to arrive in your Thai account. 

In short – sending money to Thailand from your home country is a rip off.  Banks are able to screw us over with heavy fees since we are a captive audience with limited other options for transferring money overseas.  That is, until now.

Main Drawbacks of a Traditional Bank

  • Fee from transferring bank

The transfer fee from your home bank can be up to $30 per transaction.  If you transfer funds to Thailand once per month, that adds up to $360 per year.  And we’re just getting started… 

  • Fee from receiving bank

Not only does your home bank charge you to send money overseas, but the receiving bank in Thailand will also charge you a fee.  This can cost as much as 500THB or more (around $16.50).

  • Poor exchange rates

The exchange rate that you see on websites like xe.com or Google are the mid-market exchange rate which indicates the real value of a currency.  However, the exchange rate that your bank gives you when transferring money overseas is always lower than the mid-market exchange rate.  This is so that your bank can make a profit on the difference.  If you transfer $1000 at the mid-market exchange rate of 1USD = 30.0639 then you get 30,063.9THB. However, if the exchange rate given by your bank is 1 USD = 28THB then 1000USD would get you 28,000THB.  This means your bank is siphoning 2,063.9THB or 68.58USD!

  • Slow

If being hit left and right with fees isn’t enough, you then have to wait for up to a week for the funds to arrive in the receiving bank.  

The Solution – TransferWise

TransferWise has finally provided a cheap and fast solution for transferring money to Thailand.  The amazing thing about TransferWise is that they actual give you the mid-market exchange rate.  This means you are getting the same (or almost the same) exchange rate that you see on xe.com.  You just pay a small fee for the transfer. 

To transfer $1000 to a Thai bank the fee is just $6.57 (Dec 2020).  That works out at to about 0.7% of the amount that’s converted.  That’s it – no other fees.  Your rate is locked in at the time of transfer and is always extremely close to the rate you’d see on Google or Xe.com.  

 

screenshot of transferwise send

As you can see above, the exchange rate given by TransferWise is 1USD = 30.0850THB.  Compare this to the mid-market rate given by xe.com on the same day, at the same time.  The screenshot below shows the mid-market exchange rate at 1USD = 30.0639.  This means that the exchange rate given by TransferWise was actually slightly better than the mid-market rate.  Amazing!

 

 

To be fair, the exchange rate given by TransferWise isn’t always better than the rates given on Google and xe.com.  It just so happened that we got lucky on the day that we took the screenshots for this post.  The rates are updated throughout the day so they fluctuate between being slightly above, slightly below or exactly the same as the mid-market rate. 

Ok, looks good… but what is TransferWise?

TransferWise is an online money transfer service which gives you a “borderless” account.  This means you can hold multiple currencies within one account.  The benefits of a borderless account are that you can easily send money abroad, get paid in different currencies and pay for things when you’re on holiday.  It’s free to set up an account – you just pay a small fee for each transaction.

Why Is TransferWise So Cheap?

Instead of actually exchanging the money and sending it overseas, TransferWise searches for other people making transfers in the same currency and essentially swaps the money.  TransferWise then uses money from their own account in the recipient country and makes a local transfer to the receiving bank.  

This process bypasses the need for any money to actually be sent overseas, making it a much speedier and cost-effective process.  Clever huh?  

Summary

To sum up – TransferWise is faster, cheaper and easier than using banks to transfer money to Thailand.  The fees are low and transparent and the exchange rates are given at the mid-market rate.  This is a really welcome alternative to using banks and getting hit with their extortionate fees.  If you’re living abroad and / or dealing with different currencies – stick it to the banks and use TransferWise instead.

I Flew from Bangkok to Chiang Mai during Covid-19

After a month of accommodation problems in Hua Hin and Cha Am due to provincial governors trying their best to make it really hard for covid wildcards (foreigners and to some extent non-residents) to stay in their respective provinces,  I finally gave up on the beach for a bit and decided I’d fly back to Chiang Mai this past Saturday (May 10th) to see what’s happening.  

While I certainly spent a lot of time trying to dig through Thai provincial announcements, it can be difficult to find accurate, up-to-date information.  This post that went up a few days before I flew at least gave me the feeling that I could fly in without TOO much hassle.

At Don Muang Airport

I wasn’t sure what to expect so I arrived at Don Muang Airport maybe 3.5 hours before my flight.  There was a bunch of people, but much quieter than usual.  There was no check in line so once I got to the airline counter I was able to check in immediately.  There wasn’t anything different than usual other than we were both wearing masks and there was hand sanitizer on the counter.  

Airport Security

no lines at airport security

สะดวก ง่าย เร็ว

Security was also quick and easy.  There weren’t any lines to get through.  There was only one security line open and there were a couple people going in before me, but it only took a moment to get through.  Once past security, it was a lot more striking how quiet everything was.  To the left, the hallway was dark.  To the right, there were a handful of things open including Starbucks, but not much.  I walked to the lounge area and the Miracle lounge was open while the Coral lounge was closed.  I didn’t go inside.    

Just past security, it was super quiet.

เงียบเลย

Starbucks for the Win

Starbucks was open, but not much else so I sat there and worked for a while.  Actually, if everything was open, I’d still probably would have sat there a bit and then gone to the lounge.

starbucks don muang during covid

Boarding the Plane

ใส่หน้ากาก

At the gate people were sitting spaced apart.  When they announced boarding they told everyone to keep their distance, but it didn’t work very well. 

On the plane, middle seats were blocked off as expected.   My flight still had a fair number of people on it.  As far as I could tell, almost everyone was Thai.  I only noticed a handful of foreigners besides myself.   

There was some seat drama where an old person just sat in the row behind me, but it was someone else’s seat.  So the flight attendant just put them in my row.  There was a guy with a very unpleasant sounding cough in the row behind me which made me wince a few times.  

Not long after take off, a flight attendant came by to talk to the other guy in my row and said that as he was a ข้าราชการ [khaa-ratcha-gaan] (government employee), and normally entitled to a free meal, they couldn’t serve food on the flight so they gave him a voucher so he could get some food at the airport after landing.  I assume the government has deals with all the airlines so ข้าราชการ can get free food.  

On the plane, they passed out a form to fill out.  It asked where for the following information:

  • Flight + Seat Number
  • Flying to/from
  • Name / Date / Age 
  • Accommodation with a note in Thai with a pretty amusing mistake.
    • What they meant to write was; (โปรดระบุให้ชัดเจน) please specify (the address) clearly
      • โปรด [pprod] please (formal/written only You never need to say this ever)
      • ระบุ [ra-bu] indicate; specify 
      • ชัดเจน [chat-jen] clearly
    • What they wrote was โปรดระบุให้ จัดเจน 
      • จัดเจน [jat-jen] to be experienced or skilled at something (I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Thai person say this so don’t worry much about this word.)

Upon landing, they asked everyone to stay seated so they could control the exit flow rate and add in some social distancing.  They let everyone in the C seats exit first which kind of defeats the purpose of paying more to sit up front so you can deplane faster.  If you do book a seat on Nok, just make sure to choose a C seat in case they do that every time.  Most people adhered to it at least for a minute or so and then most people just stood up.  I don’t think there really was any more distance than usual. 

After exiting the plane, there were 2 people at the top of the escalator to slow down the line and keep people a metre apart.  

Arriving at Chiang Mai International Airport

Once you get to the bottom, there’s a sign which just says “foreigner” pointing off to the side.  I think if you looked Thai enough, you might be able to slip by this, but I’m not sure.   They didn’t ask me any questions, my appearance was enough to get me sent off to the side.  In the farang corner, there was a gaggle of immigration officers buzzing around. 

They wanted to confirm that the address I wrote was correct, they asked for my phone number and that of a Thai person and also asked where I was coming from.  She also looked at my entry stamp which expired a few weeks ago.  

It was all pretty friendly and there were the usual questions like “How is it that you can speak Thai like this?”  in addition to covid related questions like “What country were you in before coming here?’  I told her all the details and I also told my story of getting essentially pushed from province to province due to accommodation problems.   It took less than 10 minutes.  

After she walked me over to the door where i had to go through the entire spiel with a doctor who had a table setup at the exit doors from the baggage claim.  That took a little longer as I had to convince the doctor that I had a place to hide out in for a while (at least 2 weeks) and that I wasn’t going to run around spreading the disease.  She said that I should self-quarantine.  I should point out that of all the people on the plane (maybe 50 or so?), it seems a little silly to only ask me to self quarantine.   Anyways, I’m hiding in my room as I write this so don’t worry, internet shamers.

If you are thinking of flying to Chiang Mai, I would make sure you have all of your bases covered.  I don’t know how this would have gone for someone who doesn’t speak Thai.  

  • Have accommodation booked and paid for (at least 2 weeks!).  If you keep an apartment here or are staying with a Thai person, that will likely win you some points as it will make them more comfortable.  
  • They asked me to give them contact info for a Thai person and I did, but another East Asian foreigner who was standing next to me did not have to do this.  It’s entirely possible that if you don’t have a Thai person’s contact that they would still let you through eventually.  

Here’s the handout they gave everyone:

What happens when Thai people fly to CM?  

I was pulled aside immediately, but from what I could see, Thai people were able to collect their luggage and then had to line up on their way out.  I assume that their information was collected, but the line seemed more like a lecture gauntlet where a few people were telling them all the things they needed to do to stay extra safe.  They also passed out a form with all the measures that they should follow.   I was given this form as well.  It’s all in Thai and doesn’t mention self-quarantining.  

 

Thai Language Notes:

The word ข้าราชการ [khaa-ratcha-gaan] mentioned above is pretty useful.  It’s used to refer to any government full-time employee/official.   The kind of job where a person works for the government and has all the accompanying benefits like pensions and health insurance.  

 

White Guy in the USA

I’m going to be in the US from mid-July until early August.  I’ll have plenty of free time while there and I’m planning on passing through a few major cities.   If anyone stateside would be interested in learning the alphabet in person while I’m around I’d like to hear from you.   Shoot me an email if interested: learnthaifromawhiteguy AT gmail OR ltfawg AT gmail.

Definite Stops:

LA, Philly, NYC, Princeton

Maybe Stops:

SF, Boston, Rochester, Toronto

The Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project – Cambodian Phase

My  friend สนิด Phil from over at the SE Asia Movie Theater Project is trying to get setup to rummage through Cambodia to get some good shots and do a bit of investigating on the history of the many stand-alone movie theaters around the country before they get รื้อ’d by เดอะแมน.  His photos have been displayed a few times in CM of course, but he was also invited to the Busan Film Festival last year in Korea which was pretty awesome.   His shots were also displayed in Manila and he’ll probably end up in Indonesia later this year for another showing.

I tagged along with him on one adventure a few months back to อุทุมพรพิสัย and that’s the first 5-syllable city I’ve been to in a while.  We watched a movie there for a whopping 20 baht (no air con) and interviewed the lady and the projectionist about how they manage to keep it running.  It was pretty awesome.  We stayed at this แมลง infested “hotel” ตรงข้าวจาก the train station and I got violently ill and that was a little bit less awesome.

He’s using Kickstarter to raise a few bucks to help make it happen.  Check out his promotional vid below.  If you don’t know about Kickstarter, it’s basically a crowd-sourcing type model applied to fund-raising.  Anybody can post a vid and set a financial goal and try to get backers.  Backers put up money, but only if the goal is reached in the time allotted (by the poster) do the backers get charged.  It’s an all or nothing setup and it is pretty good stuff.

It’d be great if you could check out his blog (on my side bar) and vid  and maybe even throw a few bucks towards the project. If it happens, I plan to tag along for at least some of the ผจญภัย and learn some Khmer.  I’m a bit overdue in getting to Cambodia.