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Thailand - Currency

The currency used in Thailand is the Baht but used to be known as the ‘tical’. Tical was the name given to a unit of weight used to measure gold and silver. Until 1925 the English language script on the banknotes used this name, even though it had already begun to be referred to as the Baht. The Baht is subdivided into 100 Satang and this decimal system dates back to 1897 although the older system was still used until 1910. As a rough guide, there are around 30 Baht to the US dollar.

The longest-lasting form of currency in Thailand was known as ‘bullet money’, due to the shape. This was created during the 14th century and continued to be used for around 600 years. It was at this time that standardised notes and coins were brought into circulation. Queen Victoria presented Thailand with its first coin minting machine in the 19th century which led to the production of a series of silver coins. Since then, coins have been produced in a variety of metals including bronze, nickel and cupronickel.

There are a number of slang phrases for Thai coins and some of these date back many decades. The 25 satang is referred to as a ‘salung’ and this phrase was used before the system was decimalised. It can also be used to refer to any amount up to 2.5 Baht.

All coins in Thailand feature an image of the King, although each denomination has a different image on the other side of the coin. The 1 satang coin has an image of Wat Phrathat Haripunchia, Lamphun. On the 5 satang coin it is an image of Phra Pathom Chedi, Nakon Pathom. On the 10 satang coin it is an image of Wat Phrathat Chungchum, Sakon Nakhon. The 25 satang coin features Wat Phra Mahathat, Nakhon Si Thammarat while the 50 satang coin has Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai.

The 1 Baht coin has an image of Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok and the 2 Baht coin features Wat Saket, Bangkok. The 5 Baht coin has an image of Wat Benchamabophit, Bangkok and the 10 Baht coin has Wat Arun, Bangkok. There are plans in place to issue a 20 Baht coin.

It should be noted that some of the smaller denomination satang coins may not be accepted in shops any more. They continue to be legal tender but there are some smaller outlets that will not take them. It is also possible that buses and some smaller shops will not take the larger notes as they have little change available sometimes. Some newer coins have raised dots which correspond to the Braille for that number.

Banknotes are issued in a ‘series’ in Thailand and the 16th series is currently in use. As with the coins, each features the image of the current king, but there is a former king featured on the other side. For the green 20 Baht note there is an image of Rama VIII while on the blue 50 Baht note it is Rama IV. On the 100 Baht note, which is red, there is an image of Rama V and the purple 500 Baht note has an image of Rama III. The brown 1000 Baht note has the current king on both sides. Some notes have been created with a plastic-type coating in order to give them a longer life.

There are regularly issued commemorative notes and coins and these are legal tender. They may feature images other than those which have already been mentioned and will relate to the events that they commemorate. In 2000 a banknote worth 500,000 Thai Baht was issued to commemorate the 50th wedding anniversary of the King and Queen. All notes and coins are issued by the Royal Thai Mint.

The Thai Baht is also used on an unofficial basis in other countries including Laos, Burma and Cambodia. Shops in Thailand will not take any other currencies but there are plenty of exchange centres in urban areas. These are run by the banks and have much longer opening hours than banks as they are usually open until 9 pm.

The abbreviation for the Thai Baht is THB.

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