Currency Exchange

Since relocating toVietnam, I have been dealing in currencies that I am unfamiliar with. At first I was a bit confused thinking that the US dollar was king, but after time, I have come to realize inVietnam, there is very little difference in what currency you wish to carry. Of course,UScurrency is recognized almost everywhere in the world and countries such asCambodiaaccept USD as a normal, tradable currency.

InVietnam, the legal currency is the “Dong”. The smallest is a 200 dong coin that is virtually worthless at .009 cents and the largest (that I know of) is the 500000 dong note at about 24 dollars. In between is 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000, 50000, 100000, and 200000. For convenience sake and easier understanding, prices are often quoted in US dollars, but please be aware……. It is against the law to deal in any other currency except the Dong. If you are paying in US dollars, the payee is probably making a little extra in the exchange to Dong.

Cash, credit cards, traveler’s checks, or ATM cards?

Of course the term Cash is king will always be true but some people feel very uncomfortable carrying large sums of cash on a holiday to a foreign country where anything can happen. I do not blame you.

Credit cards are still not generally accepted unless in large stores or high end hotels. Most smaller shops do not have the capability to take your card and those that do have to go through a complicated process and photocopy both sides of your card with your code and signature…… for me, no thanks!! Use your card to book flights and online services, but forget about using it in the streets.

Traveler’s checks are almost useless. A person has to go through a very inconvenient process at a bank in order to cash them.

ATM machines are everywhere As long as you notify your bank where you will be vacationing, you should have no problem drawing out money as you need it The only snag is because of the currency having so many zeros, machines can run out of cash quickly so a 2 – 3 million limit is put on most machines. That makes it difficult if you want to make a large purchase. I guess a combination of cash and an ATM card is probably the best balance.

How much cash should I bring?

Vietnamis not an expensive country to travel. I would suggest pre-paying your flights, tours, and accommodation via normal means and only carrying enough cash you think needed for daily expenses. A budget of 50 dollars a day per person is quite realistic. If you run short of funds, use your ATM card or get a cash advance on your credit card at a bank and go online to pay off the load immediately to negate the high interest.

What currency should I bring?

Some of the more common currencies I have seen traded easily inVietnamare

Australian, American, Hong   Kong,Singapore, and Canadian Dollar

Euro, British Pound, Japanese Yen, Swiss Franc, and Thai Baht.

Be sure the notes are in large denominations ( i.e. 100 dollars or 50 Euro notes)and free of tears and writing lest they be refused.

Any of these and probably more can be exchanged on the ground inVietnam. There is no need to convert your currency into USD before travelling. (save yourself the exchange)

Where do I exchange my money?

Before there were banks inVietnam, most transactions were done in gold. Gold shops are everywhere still to this day and have been exchanging foreign money for Vietnamese dong at rates higher than the banks. It has been a very handy industry as it allows hotels, local shops, tour companies and such offer you exchange rates the same as a bank. It is convenient to you as you get the going exchange without being inconvenienced by finding a bank to convert funds, and the proprietors can make a slight profit by doing the leg work and exchanging at the gold shops. In the past year, the Government has been trying to put a stop to the gold shops undercutting the banks and have shut some of the shops practices down. I see however, that many of them run business as normal. Nowadays, it seems the rates at the gold shops are not much different from the banks, so perhaps their efforts are paying off.

Understanding the Dong

Trying to wrap you head around all those zeros can be confusing. For Cad Us and Aus dollar we can drop 2 zeros and divide by 2 making a 100000 note 5.00. Other currencies are not so easy. Here is a link to a page where you can print a wallet sized cheat sheet to help in your day to day purchases.



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Tour designer and Guide specializing in off the beaten track tours of Vietnam

7 thoughts on “Currency Exchange

  1. Small correction: To convert VND to USD mentally, you need to drop 4 zeros, not 2. I just get into the habit of mentally chopping off the last 4 numbers and dividing by two, like you said.

  2. It’s hilarious when I get my changes back w/ candies instead of exact amount.
    Sadly, VN is no.2, behind Somalia for having the lowest value currency unit in the world.

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