The Thai unit of currency is the Baht. The current exchange rate (05.05.1999) is 30.08 Baht for 1 US$. You can change money either at the banks in Nathon, or at the money changers in Chaweng, Maenam or Lamai. The basic exchange rates are the same everywhere. It is best to bring traveller`s cheques, because they are safer and because the exchange for them is slightly better than the rate for cash . (You have to show you passport and give your address in Thailand if you want to cash a cheque.)
Major credit cards (Visa, American Express, MasterCard) are generally accepted in hotels and the big shops.
Most restaurants add a 10 per cent service charge to the bill but an additional 5 to 10 per cent may be given, where deserved. When a service charge is not automatic,10 per cent is acceptable. There is no tipping in very simple restaurants or food stalls. Small tips (never less than 10 Baht! If you don`t want to give that much, it is better to give no tip all all) may also be given to bellboys, or roommaids.
Thailand is very famous for its quality handicrafts, but most of the items offered in the shops of Bangkok have not been produced there but in the North. (See Chiang Mai Travel Guide, Shopping Tour)
Lacquerware, Carvings, ceramics and benjarong china all make nice souvenirs. The Chitralada Shops (under the patronage of Queen Sirikit) are especially recommendable. Thai silk is famous around the world. The silk is produced in many different qualities, and you should compare the prices before you buy. A lot of tailors offer 24 hour service, but you should always give them time for at least 2 fittings.
Many visitors are tempted to buy gemstones and jewellery (Thailand is one of the leading producers of sapphires and rubies), but often this is not a good idea - you may pay a large sum for a gemstone that at home turns out to be of inferior quality. Costume jewellery (like gilded orchids) is less dangerous in this respect.
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