Money makes the world go round… or so they say. As you can imagine, money is an important consideration when visiting a different country, and not just because of the exchange rate. It can also be fascinating. Who is on the notes and why? There is a reason so many people are interested in collecting Thai currency and other coins from around the globe.
As with anywhere in the world, money in Thailand is highly coveted. It allows them to pay for food and shelter, and maybe send some money home to their parents to support them. So then, what is the currency like in Thailand?
For today, we will take a look at Thai currency, and the general history of Thai money.
The national currency of Thailand is the baht (บาท). It uses the symbol ฿ and has the code THB.
A baht can then be split into 100 satang (สตางค์), though this has mostly fallen out of use, with the smaller coins having very little value and only being used by certain institutions.
Thai currency comes in both coins and notes, with images depicting the king. Older notes and coins show King Rama IX while newer ones show King Rama X, the current king of Thailand. Due to the depiction of the king on Thai currency, it is considered offensive to not handle baht properly.
For example, if you drop a coin on the floor, you should not use your foot to step on it or stop it. You would be better off letting it roll and then picking it up afterward, otherwise you may be seen as disrespectful. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Coins are available in denominations of 25 and 50 satang, and 1, 2, 5, and 10 baht. The 10 baht coin is round with a silver lining and golden interior, not unlike a 2 euro coin. The 5 baht is a nonagon shape (with 9 sides), with a silver color. The 2 baht coin is a small and round shape and bronze in color. The 1 baht coin is smaller, still round and copper. Both the satang coins are also copper in color, being smaller than baht coins.
Banknotes come in denominations of 20, 50, 100. 500 and 1,000 baht. Each note has a corresponding color, with the 20 notes being green, 50 being blue, 100 being red, 500 being purple and 1,000 being brown.
Each note also varies slightly in size, with the 1,000 notes being the longest and 20 being the shortest. Their value and rate are changing all the time, so be sure to check the latest if you plan to exchange at the bank or elsewhere.
It is worth noting that larger notes (500 and 1,000) can be difficult to break up in smaller markets, so having change on you is always a good idea. Also, as hinted at before, satang is not widely accepted except in certain larger stores. With that out of the way, we can move onto the more interesting facts about the currency.
If you know your Thai weight measurements, you will realize that baht is part of the traditional measurement system used in Thailand. In the metric system, it is equal to 15g. For the imperial users out there, that is around 0.53 oz.
Specifically, baht was the weight measurement used for precious metals like silver. What is even more fascinating than this is how the general term for money in Thai, ngern (เงิน), is also the word for silver.
Interestingly, while Thai baht is only the national currency of Thailand, it is often accepted in Laos as well, though mostly in the border areas. The conversion rate may not be the best when paying in baht directly, but it could save you time if you are only visiting the country for a few days.
The Thai baht as we know it today (with the decimal system) began just before the 1900s in 1889. In terms of history, this isn't particularly long ago.
While the Thai people have referred to Thai currency as baht since then, in the English-speaking world, they were referred to as ticals. In fact, this was what was written on Thai banknotes for the English text. This was not changed to say baht until around 1925.
Previously, Thailand used its traditional weight system to measure the mass of silver. These were each easily divisible and so were easy to understand, unlike systems used in places like the UK.
For some reason, it was only the baht that survived from this system to become the national Thai currency, although, some of the old systems is still used today to measure precious metals. Wherever you visit, you will likely come across gold shops quite often - more so than in some other countries.
This is because Thai people still trust gold to hold its value better than the baht, something you can see in countries worldwide where there have been large fluctuations in value in the past.
While not a particularly relevant topic for language learners, there is some useful vocabulary to learn here, as well as many cultural facts. Understanding Thai currency will come in handy most when you visit the country and put your Thai language skills to use. It will be particularly useful if you are traveling on a low budget too, so getting to grips with the Thai baht is important.
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