A few weeks ago I published A Resource Guide to Getting Started in Chiang Mai, Thailand. At the time, I figured I would eventually think of more useful information to include in the guide and that’s exactly what happened this past week. I’ve made a few additions to the Chiang Mai resource guide that I wanted to alert everyone who has already it to: Basic information on Thai baht and the Thai language. You can check out those additions below or find them in the updated resource guide.
Learn the Currency
Converting Thai baht to USD is easy — the number to remember is 30. $1 = 30 baht. Well, actually it’s like 32 baht, but do yourself a favor and stick with 30. Not only will this make math in your head so much easier, but you’ll constantly be spending slightly less than you think you are.
Other important numbers to have memorized are 1,000 baht = $30 and 10,000 baht = $300. Again, those numbers aren’t exact, but that’s what you should commit to memory.
For exact calculations, download the XE Currency App. It’s available for both iOS and Android, and it’s perfect for making conversions on-the-go as it works offline and uses the latest exchange rates. We use it all the time.
Lastly, I highly recommend figuring out a way to distinguish between 100 baht bills and 1,000 baht bills. They have pretty similar colorings and if you’re not focused or are in a dark restaurant or songthaew, it’s easy to get them mixed up. We don’t know for sure, but we worry we’ve accidentally given someone a 1,000 baht bill instead of a 100 baht bill on a couple of occasions. We now fold the 1,000 baht bills in our wallets to distinguish them. Start learning what they look like now:
Learn the Language
Let me start by saying I don’t know Thai. I get by with a vocabulary of hello, thank you, expensive, chicken, and 20. I wish every day I was motivated enough to learn the language, but I get by just fine with these words. At the very least, you should know these words:
– Hello: sawatdee khrap/ka (male/female)
– Thank you: khap khun khrap/ka
– Expensive: paeng (say it to vendors at the night markets and they’ll laugh).
– Chicken: Gai (as in pad thai gai or pad see ew gai).
– 20: yee sib (all songthaew rides within the Old City should be yee sib baht. Clarify with the driver before you get in. They’ll appreciate you speaking Thai).
A few notes on khrap/ka: 1) I’ve noticed khrap isn’t said like it’s spelled, it’s much shorter — more like kop. 2) This addition at the end of words is used all the time to show politeness. For example, when ordering pad thai with chicken, simply say: pad thai gai khrap/ka. 3) Khrap/ka are also used as standalone words simply as a sign of acknowledgement. Like if a waiter refills your glass with water, you don’t need to say khap khun khrap every time, you could just say khrap.
Alexis knows more Thai than I do, mainly from a Mango Languages audiobook she listens to as she’s walking to and from work. She was able to rent it from the DC public library and download it before we left using OverDrive, but I’m not sure how else to access it. She also uses a Thai phrasebook app called “Learn Thai” a lot of time which has been useful. She likes it because you can change the dictionary between men and women, they have audio clips for words, and its available offline. You can download the here: iOS and Android.