Sending money from UK to Thailand - essential information

Whether you're simply planning a holiday, or going one step further and emigrating to Thailand, your timing couldn't be better. Despite a deterioration in relations between the UK and Thailand stemming from the outbreak of World War II, relations are now as positive and mutually supportive as they have ever been. British retailers, manufacturers and service providers have invested heavily in Thailand, encouraged by tax incentives and import duty concessions; likewise, Thai businesses are for the first time making considerable investments in the UK.

This commercial confidence is mirrored by over 800,000 British holidaymakers, who travel to the stunning Southeast Asian Kingdom of Thailand, formerly known as Siam, every year. Thailand is situated in the centre of the Indochina Peninsula, bordered by Myanmyar (formerly Burma) to the northwest, Laos to the east, Cambodia to the south east and Malaysia to the far south.

Why might you send money to Thailand?

A higher proportion of Brits choose to live abroad than any other nation. In 2011, Home Office statistics show that 149,000 British citizens left the UK with the intention of living in another country for at least a year. Figures tracking the reasons for migration abroad show that more than 50,000 UK emigrants left the UK for a definite job, 30,000 more left in search of employment, and many more left to study, be reunited with family members or retire abroad.

Although Thailand does not quite make the list of the ten top destinations for UK expats, there are still an estimated 45,000 Britons living in Thailand and enjoying the low cost of living, laid back lifestyle and glorious sun drenched beaches. With so many expatriates living in Thailand, it is perhaps unsurprising that in 2010 alone around £1.2 billion worth of personal remittances were sent to Thailand.

There are many reasons why British residents might choose to make a secure money transfer and wire money to Thailand. These include:

  • Family – Individuals can help to finance family members living or travelling in Thailand by choosing to exchange pounds to Thai Baht. By sending baht to family in Thailand, it is also possible to benefit from the great baht exchange rate.
  • Property – Thailand is not only home to some of the world's most beautiful beaches, there are also a number of up and coming cities in Thailand in addition to the vibrant and fast paced capital, Bangkok. With an established expatriate community and a burgeoning property market, it's hardly surprising so many people are choosing to live or invest in Thai property. In many cases it is necessary to transfer Thai bahts from the UK to complete the purchase. Alternatively, you may make a Thai Baht exchange to meet the mortgage repayments on a Thai property.
  • Importing – There are a whole host of importing opportunities in Thailand. The cost of electrical goods and components is considerably less in than it is in the UK, and many private individuals and commercial enterprises send money to Thailand to take advantage of these bargains.
  • Education – The cost of living in Thailand is extremely low, making it the perfect destination for international students on a budget. The Thai government's goal is to put Thai universities at the forefront of science and technology, creating a real lure for British students seeking a fantastic education in a vibrant culture. A Thai baht conversion would be an effective method of paying the tuition fees from here in the UK.
  • Pensions – If you have an existing UK pension fund, transferring your £s to Thai Baht cheaply could help to make your retirement dreams come true and stretch your pension fund further than it would otherwise reach in the UK.

What is the Thai currency?

The currency of Thailand is the baht, issued by the Bank of Thailand. The Thai baht is available in note form, in denominations of 1000, 500, 100, 50 and 20. There are also 10, 5, and 1 baht coins. Much like the British pence system, satangs are also available in coin form to represent fractions of one baht. Currently there are 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 satang coins in circulation, although 10, 5 and 1 satang coins are rarely seen and may not be accepted in some smaller shops.

On December 19, 2006, The Bank of Thailand introduced a series of exchange controls with the consequence of creating a considerable divergence of up to 10 percent between offshore and onshore exchange rates. Thankfully, these controls have now been lifted, resulting in more favourable offshore exchange rates.

If you exchange pounds to Thai baht, at the time of writing (March 20, 2014) one British pound will buy you 53.47 baht.

Which money transferring options are there?

There are a number of ways to transfer Thai baht from the UK to Thailand, each offering varying degrees of safety, speed and expense. The right method for you depends largely on your reason for making the transfer, the amount of money you intend to send and whether the recipient has a Thai bank account.

  • Bank-to-Bank transfers – If the recipient of the transfer has a Thai bank account, it is possible to make a direct bank-to-bank transfer. Although this is a fast method of transfer, the hitch lies in the hefty transfer fees you will pay, which are deducted automatically on each transaction. Along with a per-transfer fee, the banks typically offer an uncompetitive exchange rate. You may also find yourself lumbered with any fees charged by the recipient's bank. Before any transfer is made, contact your bank for a quote which includes all the payments, fees and commission you will be liable for.
  • Money sending bureau – If the intended recipient does not have a Thai bank account, a money sending bureau provides an alternative option. Money sending bureaux are common across the UK, offering a service without fees or commission. However, they offer particularly unfavourable exchange rates which recoup over and above the associated costs of fees and commission. 
  • Money sending bureaux are also potentially risky, as not all those in operation are properly regulated. You should be particularly wary of small bureaux that only target Thailand, as their exchange rates and fee structures often make this the most expensive way to transfer Thai baht.
  • Foreign exchange broker – A foreign exchange broker is in many cases the cheapest way to send money to Thailand. By using a foreign exchange broker you will benefit from a great baht exchange rate which is more competitive than most banks and money sending bureaux will offer. This is further compounded by low transfer fees and zero commission.
  • A foreign exchange broker is a secure solution thanks to authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), providing peace of mind that any money you send is safe. There is also the added convenience of transferring money online. Rather than waiting in a queue at the branch of your local bank, simply log into your account and make a cheap money transfer 24 hours a day.

How to transfer money to a Thai bank account

Whether you need to send money to Thailand to support a family member, pay the tuition fees of an international student or top up a foreign bank account, a few simple steps can make the whole process easy. Firstly, either you or the intended recipient will need to set up a Thai bank account to receive the funds.

  • Opening a Thai bank account - Finding a Thai bank which will let you open a bank account should not pose a problem. Although they all have slightly different criteria, a bank like the Bangkok Bank, which also operates in London, will let you open an account with an address and a copy of your passport. There's also no charge for receiving funds.
  • Creating a foreign exchange broker account – The next step is to open an account with a foreign exchange broker like Xendpay. To create an account, register online with some basic information, along with your reason for making a secure money transfer. Once you're ready to make a transfer, you will receive a live quote to exchange pounds to Thai baht, so you know precisely how much currency the recipient will receive.
  • Making a payment - Then, simply enter the recipient's account details along with the amount of currency you wish to send. The final stage is the payment, which can be made securely by debit card, credit card or bank transfer.
  • The transfer is made via SWIFT – A secure, fast money transfer is made to the recipient's bank account via SWIFT. A SWIFT code is simply a unique identification code for a particular bank, commonly used when transferring money between banks.

Useful links