What's the best way for Canadians to get cash or transfer money in Thailand & SEA?

We’re setting off on our first venture for new digital nomad life in 20 days!

  • starting in Chiang Mai as our home base
  • 1 year ED visa
  • planning to bounce around all over

Right now, I’m utterly baffled and confused by trying to figure out how we’re going to be able to get more cash or transfer money from our bank accounts in Canada. Either at all or without getting charged insane fees.

I’ve looked through the forum and a lot of solutions put forth with no real luck. Hoping that some Canadians may chime in with solutions, experience or advice.


Hi Bryce, I struggled with this as well. BMO has been pretty good at letting me do wire transfers over the phone however they charge a hefty fee. I use transferwise and that works quite well.

If you declare your residency in Canada then transferwise will ask you to get some id verified, which is hard to do if you’re already in Thailand. However if you can proof your residency (living, not tax) is in Chiang Mai then you won’t need it. A Thai Drivers license works.

If you haven’t left yet then now is the time to get all your documents verified and speak to your local branch manager and advise them that you will be travelling and will need to transfer money to your Thai bank account. (Bangkok Bank IMHO is the most farang friendly).

Also a good time to get your International Drivers license so you can flip it into a Thai drivers license less painfully.

Other than that you could always carry under $10K with you and deposit it into a bank account after you get the best rate in town. You don’t want to get thai baht, you’ll need a brief case to carry it on your flight haha. CAD$100s are somewhat easier for your first lump sum deposit. Once you have transferwise set up then use it and your bank as your backup.

Nice thing about transferwise is that you can set up an alert when the CAD$ has hit a 2 week high and then transfer thereafter.

Always indicate it’s for travel expenses.

Hope that helps!

If you want to withdraw money, credit cards are great.
I lost mine but basically it’s taking money out from ATMs and paying it after from your Canadian bank account.

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We have no experience in Asia but here are some suggestions.

Use Visa or another credit card (for credit, not cash withdrawals) for purchases as often as possible.

Check out RBC’s VIP plan. About $35 per month gets you no fee withdrawals at ATMs on the Plus network. Find out whether it’s in Thailand. Neither end (RBC nor the ATM) charges a fee. We’ve used it extensively in Europe and recently in Colombia. It’s preferable to Visa as there’s no interest charged on what you withdraw.

There can be maximums on what you can withdraw per day, so plan for large transactions like rent.

Manage your funds across accounts and pay your credit cards online.

If you go with RBC and your ATM card is declined twice for any reason, do not use it again for 24 hours. RBC said that with the third decline in24 hours it can be blocked and can only be unblocked onsite at an RBC location in Canada. That’s when your Visa card as backup for cash withdrawals would be needed.

Travel with cards for two separate Visa accounts so that if one is lost, or gets shut down you have the other. Never carry them both on your person unless there’s no other choice. If you each have a card for each account, when carrying them all, each person should carry both cards for one account so the other account isn’t affected if one person loses them or is robbed.

When buying on credit, if the machine offers for you to pay in your currency or the local one, common agreement is to select local, so that your credit card company determines the exchange rate and not the vendors bank or credit card provider.

Hope that helps.

In Thailand, its easy to open a bank account as a foreigner, then use something like Transferwise to send money from Canada to Thailand. Only local cards have no ATM fee ($3-5 per withdrawal) and using Transferwise means you get a very good exchange rate.

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I’d use as many means as possible.

  1. Payoneer or Paypal (check out the Thailand integration, in most countries it works).
  2. Check out Xoom.com
  3. Open a Thai Bank Account (i have one with Bangkok Bank)
  4. Get a trusted Thai person to evtl. back you up with transfers (Paypal could do)
  5. Have Canadian low-fee Credit Cards.