I'm leaving in two days (yay!) and I'm wondering what currency to take with me. As I've mentioned before, I live in Japan and am paid in yen, but I've read reports that the US Dollar is the preferred currency for exchange, etc. Should I change all of my yen into dollars and then into baht, or can I use yen to buy baht?
Also, I'm leaning more towards tc's than using my atm card, but because of the wacko banking regulations here, I can only buy them at the post office between the hours of 9-1 (when most of us have to work) so is it possible to buy them in Thailand? I'm an AMEX card holder and I've seen that they have an office at the airport in BKK-has anyone else bought their checks through them? Or should I just stick with the atm card-I'm just leery of using it, although I'm not sure why.
Also, I just wanted to add that this site has been a tremendous help to me. There hasn't been a day that's gone by where I haven't checked this site out and it's amazing wealth of valuable opinion. I also want to add that this is one the best message boards I've been on (no trolls or flamers that I've seen, thank goodness) and it's also been great.
How long is your trip? The reason I ask is that for a long trip you'd be carrying a boatload of cash with you, which isn't necessarily a good idea.
Anyway, you can certainly exchange your Japanese Yen here in Thailand, as many Japanese travellers do all the time (notes of course, not coins). The rate I saw for yen this morning was just over 32 baht for 100 yen (in comparison to about 37.5 baht for a US dollar). You can do the math to see if there is a huge difference there between the cross rates, but it looks like you'd be getting about the same amount of baht for your dollar or your yen, so I wouldn't think you'd need to change your yen to dollars first just to change it again into baht, particularly here in Thailand. Besides, you loose a bit every time you change money, so why do it twice?
Now, in some places, like Laos and Cambodia, US dollars are preferred and even accepted for many payments. Because of that, having a few dollars is a good idea.
I think having a few TCs as a back up is always a good idea too, but sorry to hear that it is a pain to purchase them there for you. AMEX offices typically assist their cardholders with TC services, so stopping by their office at the airport might be a good idea - depending on the service charges of course. Are there AMEX offices in Japan you can visit before you leave? There might be an AMEX office or two in Bangkok too in addition to the airport office.
We used a few travellers checks in Laos on this trip, and were glad we did, as we got a slightly better exchange rate and no service charge. But here in Thailand, I'm noticing fees per check of up to 35 baht, which can add up on you quickly.
Finally, is there some specific reason you are shy about using your ATM over here? I've never had a problem in over 15 years and hundreds of transactions. You'll find ATMs everywhere here, and they are open 7/24, unlike the exchange booths. Your call, but I use and recommend the ATM as a primary source of funds.
Hope that helps. Cheers.