Money and payment in Vietnam

Despite government attempts to outlaw the practice, the US$ still acts as an alternative currency which is almost completely interchangeable with the Dong. Many prices, especially for hotels, tours and expensive restaurants, are still quoted in $, though you can pay in dong if you'd rather - just check what exchange rate they're using.

1. Is it better to use American Dollars or Vietnamese Dong for daily expenses in Vietnam?

For everyday expenses, I recommend carrying a mix of US$ cash and dong. For larger items (hotel bills, train tickets, etc) or when the exchange rate works in your favour, use dollars.

For cyclos, local food stalls and small purchases, it's best to use dong. In either case, make sure you always have a stock of small notes so that you don't have to worry about change.

2. How widely accepted are credit cards in Vietnam?

Major credit cards (Visa, American Express, JCB, and Master Card) are gradually becoming more widely accepted in Vietnam, particularly in Hanoi and HCMC. All top level and many mid-level hotels accept them, as do a growing number of restaurants and upmarket shops catering to the tourist trade.

But watch out for the extra taxes they wap on when using a credit card - these can amount to an additional 5 percent. Outside the major cities you will have to rely on cash and travellers' cheques.

3. Can I get cash on my credit card in Vietnam?

Cash advances on credit cards are available at the central Vietcombank in Hanoi, HCMC and other major cities, for which you will be charged around 4%.

Hanoi and HCMC also boast 24hr ATMs where you can withdraw cash on MasterCard, Visa and other cards in the Cirrus/Plus networks. In Hanoi, go to the ANZ Bank beside Hoan Kiem Lake; in HCMC both ANZ Bank and HKSB have ATMs.

4. Should I take my money to Vietnam in cash or travellers' cheques?

Vietnam's official currency is the dong, which can not be purchased outside Vietnam. The main banks in Hanoi and HCMC can handle a fairly broad range of currencies nowadays, but the dollar is still the most widely accepted.

I therefore recommend taking a combination of US$ cash and US$ travellers' cheques, with the bulk in travellers' cheques for safety. American Express, Visa and Thomas Cook cheques are the most recognised brands.

It's a good idea to arrive with at least some small denomination dollar bills ($1s, $5s and $10s) to get you from the airport into town and to a bank. Even if they're open, the airport exchange desks offer unfavourable rates. If you do bring dollars cash into Vietnam, make sure they are not badly tattered as they may be refused.

5. What kind of currency do you use in Vietnam and will it be easy to change other currencies to your currency?

In Vietnam the currency is called the Vietnamese Dong (VND). Changing other currencies in Vietnam is quite easy. Changing common currencies such as USD and the Euro as well as traveler cheques are the easiest.

It is although tougher to exchange your dong back into USD. You can exchange you money at the banks, many currency converters and jewelry stores. Rates will vary from place to place and from currency to currency.

Tip: Always carry small denominations. Some small shops and small villages often will not have change. Being aware of this will save you time, money and frustration.

6. Where can I change for Vietnamese money?

You can change cash and travellers' cheques at exchange desks in big hotels and at authorised foreign exchange banks in the main cities. Among the banks, Vietcombank usually offers the best exchange rates and charges the lowest commission (around 1-2%).

Note that commission rates are slightly lower if changing travellers' cheques into dong rather than dollars. Vietcombank does not levy commission when changing dollars cash into dong, though some other banks do.

It's worth bearing in mind that you get a slightly better exchange rate for $100 and $50 notes than for smaller denominations. When cashing travellers' cheques you may be asked for your passport, though this practice seems to be dying out.

Outside the main cities and tourist areas, authorised foreign exchange banks are few and far between. So if you're heading off the beaten path, stock up with enough cash (dollars and dong) to last the trip. Wherever you are, you'll always find someone willing to change dollars cash into dong, though rates will vary.

When receiving dong, you'll be presented with a huge pile of notes. The largest bill is only 50,000d (roughly $4), so bear this in mind when changing $100! Refuse any badly torn notes (you'll find it hard to get rid of them - the same goes for dollars) and ask for a

7. What is an exchange rate for Vietnamese Dong?

In general, 1 USD is approximately 21.700VND and 1 EUR approximates 27.800VND

You can exchange your money at the airport before leaving, or at banks and official exchange centers in Vietnam or at the hotel. It is strongly recommended that you do not exchange money in the black market.

8. How do the ATM work in Vietnam?

When you take money out from an ATM, using your credit card, it is always in Vietnam Dong, you are allowed to withdraw 2,000,000 dong per time and not over 20,000,000 / day.

9. Do I need to tip in Vietnam?

Tipping inspires great service and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry in Vietnam. In local markets and basic restaurants we suggest rounding your bill up to the nearest 1 USD. In more up-market restaurants 5% to 10% is appropriate.

If you are happy with the services provided by your guides and drivers, we suggest a tip of 3-5 USD per person per day for guides and 2 USD per person per day for drivers. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality. 

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