Whilst caught up in the excitement of planning outfits, restaurants and activities for a trip, how you are going to pay for everything can sometimes become an afterthought. Luckily, you can use money in many ways you want to since Vietnam is pretty friendly when it comes to paying for your roof top sundowners in Saigon, to your handmade leather shoes in Hoi An or to your Dragon boat trip in Ha Long Bay (and all the street food, xe om trips, ca phe sua da, massages and bags of freshly cut fruit along the way).
We have put together a list of useful information and tips on how to use money wisely and safely around Vietnam.
The local currency
The current Vietnamese currency is the Vietnam Dong (VND). While the Vietnamese currency does rise and fall, $1 USD is always around 20,000 VND. There are numerous apps available to track the exchange rate up to the minute. Some bars, stores, hotels and restaurants in major cities (Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi) will accept USD as payment but you should definitely not rely entirely on this.
Use money wisely – Cash or card?
While it is advisable to always have cash on you, a lot of places do accept card. If you are in the bigger cities of Vietnam, you will find that it is very easy to pay for visits to malls and restaurants by card. Vietnam’s large cities are cosmopolitans, without a doubt, boast brand name boutiques, highly exclusive restaurants and lavish dining experiences. Depending on your bank and country it may even be advisable to pay for things with card where possible instead of having to much cash on you.
One of the things that make this country such an amazing place to visit is the contrast between glamour and opulence found in the sky scrapers, roof tops and authentic Vietnamese life happening on the streets below, therefore, needing cash on hand is unavoidable. If you are shopping in markets or eating at any of the amazing local street restaurants you will have to use money as cash. Some taxi services accept cards but nothing is too careful having some cash because most taxis in Vietnam still going with the traditional payment method – cash only.
Most travelers would be advised that they should never having less than 100,000 VND in their wallet while walking the street of Vietnam. You never know when you’re going to walk past a pair of sunglasses or the handwoven scarf of your life!
Plan your cash for your trip
So we know that it is possible to use cards in Vietnam’s bigger cities, but what if you are going trekking in Sa Pa or taking a long trip down the Mekong Delta? Card machines are not available everywhere in Vietnam and you do not want to be caught out. So do a research about the place that you are going to just to make sure everything would go on well.
Remember to keep your cash in a safe preferably water proof place since Vietnam is a tropical country and it could rain anytime.
Drawing and exchanging money
When you arrive at any major airport in Vietnam there will be multiple currency exchange desks for you to change your countries currency into Vietnamese currency. If you were in a rush at the airport, the line for the currency exchange desk was too long or you were so excited that you finally arrived in Vietnam you totally just forgot to exchange your money at the airport, don’t worry.
Every major city has a tourist district that is full of currency exchange stores, hotels, travel agencies and even restaurants that will exchange your money into Vietnamese currency for you. Some of these places do charge an extra fee so while it is very convenient it may cost you just a bit extra.
ATMs are also commonplace in big cities, although your international card may not work at all of them. If you need to draw money the tourist districts are your best bet. Many Circle K convenience stores have ATMs that accept international cards inside of them.
Pay close attention to the colour of your bills
Suddenly having to use money in a different currency can be confusing and might take some time to get used to. Different colour bills may throw you off or a colour signifying a very small bill in your native currency may be worth a lot in Vietnam, so it is important to pay close attention to the currency especially in your first few days of vacation. Mostly everything in Vietnam is unbelievably cheap, if you know some bargain skills, therefore, ask for the price before you pay for anything.
One thing to remember to always double check is the colors of the Vietnam Dong bills, there are the two blue bills with big differences. The 20,000 VND bill (roughly $1) is blue, as is the 500,000 VND bill (approxiamate $20). People have often mistaken those two. So be mindful of the cash you are handing over to people to avoid trying to piece together why you spent so much money after just buying a coffee and sandwich. Vietnam is filled with some of the most selfless and generous people you will ever meet, but you should always be careful. Depend on how you use money and how much carefully planned you are that keep you from a disappointing holiday. Again, always keep your money on you at all times in a safe, waterproof spot.
When you are about to leave, you may find your wallet filled with really small notes that seem almost useless and definitely won’t be worth exchanging back into your native currency, why not drop them into the various charity boxes in the major airports on your way out?
Enjoy your trip and be amazed at the outstanding food and unforgettable experiences you can have in Vietnam.