Vietnam: Money & Costs

Until recently, many upmarket hotels insisted that you pay in US dollars, but now all businesses (except Vietnam Airlines) must accept payment in dong. In practice, many still display their prices in US dollars. It’s advisable to bring travellers cheques in US dollars as well as a little US currency.
Currency of Vietnam is Vietnamese dong and symbolized as ‘?’.
The banknotes come in denominations of 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000, 200,000 and 500,000 dong. In small towns, it can be difficult to get change for the larger notes, so keep a stack of smaller bills handy. Now that Ho Chi Minh has been canonised (against his wishes), you’ll find his picture on every banknote.
Coins are being reintroduced for use in Vietnam, partially to help stave off the number of counterfeit banknotes. There are coins to the value of 1000, 2000 and 5000 dong.
Changing Your Money – There is now a reasonably extensive network of ATMs in major cities and this can be a convenient way to get your hands on money. It is also handy to have a combination of US dollars and travellers cheques for more remote or rural parts of the country. There are four ways to exchange currency: at a bank, through authorised exchange bureaus, at hotel reception desks, and on the black market. The best rates are offered by the banks, but the exchange bureaus are generally more conveniently located and have longer opening hours. The black market rate is worse than the legal exchange rate, so if you’re offered better rates than a bank it’s bound to be some sort of scam. Visa, MasterCard, American Express and JCB credit cards are accepted in the major cities and towns popular with tourists.
It’s virtually impossible to exchange travellers cheques outside the major cities and tourist areas. Visitors heading off the beaten track will either need to stock up on dong, or conduct a private cash transaction on the black market. It’s a good idea to bring a small calculator with you for currency conversions, unless you’re the kind of person who can divide or multiply by large numbers in your head.
Money Tips – Travellers staying in budget accommodation and eating in small cafes should be able to get by on around US$20.00 to US$25.00 per day, plus long-distance transport costs. Those wanting to stay in mid-range hotels, eat out at moderate restaurants, charter occasional taxis and enjoy the nightlife should budget on around US$65.00 a day.

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