Show me Southeast Asian currencies!

Show me Southeast Asian currencies!
12 Dec 2015

People who travel to Asia for the first time, especially those who come from western countries, are sometimes surprised with their first-time dealings with Asian currency. There are varied reasons for this, and we list three of them here.

Here are a few things that might baffle first-timers with Asian money:

The exchange rate

Without prior knowledge of currency exchange rates, amounts usually surprise people, amazed at the long stretch that their US dollar or European euro could make in this part of the world.  Just how far could your western note take you here? To give you an idea, here’s a sampling of exchange rates as you trade your US dollar for local currencies (amounts rounded up):

Philippine Peso = 45

Vietnamese Dong = 21,785

Malaysian Ringgit = 3.76

Thailand Baht = 33

Japanese Yen = 122

South Korean Won = 1,116

Laos Kip = 8,055

Singapore Dollar = 1.34

Is your wallet ready to carry all those bank notes?

Interesting to see how varied rates rule this one particular region. While your pockets could get bulky carrying dongs in Vietnam (where their notes have 10,000 to 500,000 single bills) or almost heavy when you travel to South Korea using their won (they also have single bills from 1,000 to 50,000 notes), it won’t be as much of a burden when you travel to Singapore where the exchange rate is almost the same.

The color

US dollar holders used to the monochromatic appearance of their bank notes will find Asian currency a tad bit colorful, sometimes too colorful for their taste. Most Asian currency systems are color-coded according to the amount. For instance, a 100 Hong Kong dollar note will be all red while their 50 note will be all green. This same color-coding scheme is practiced in different Asian countries as well.

So if you travel to multiple countries, best not to mix up the notes because of their colors. Always check out the numbers before handing them over to the stores!

The coins

While some Asian currency is easy to carry in coin versions, sometimes it’s hard to decipher them due to their lack of English-language translations. Even the numerals are sometimes written in their local languages so there’s no easy way of deciphering some of these coins when you’re in a rush.

It’s best to ask a local for a guide, or research it over the Internet, before going on a shopping spree. If not, be prepared for snickers among vendors as you decipher the jingling coins in your hands. (True story!)


Regardless of what you might find as strange or colorful in Asia, it’s still worth the money to visit this region. As that credit card ad says, it’s truly priceless. Travel is always worth it, especially with the amount of knowledge and experience one will acquire during the trip. And if the destination is somewhere in Asia, it will be worth every single dollar, euro or any denomination you might be holding.

Happy trip!



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