Vietnam Money and costs
Small denominations include VND 200; 500; 1000; 2000; 5000 in both coin and paper notes though coin is more popular. Bigger denominations include VND 10,000; 20,000; 50,000; 100,000; 200,000; 500,000 in both polymer and normal paper notes.
Note: Vietnam uses colon “,” as decimal symbol and “.” in digit grouping (opposite to the US standards).
Cheques issued in Vietnam include VND 500,000 and 1000,000 – mostly used for commercial transaction in the South.
Exchange rate is virtually quoted everywhere now: banks, newspapers, internet, etc. You can check it any time at http://www.xe.com. Money is easily exchanged at the airport, hotel reception, official exchange bureau or banks and all its transaction branches in big towns and cities. Thanks to low valuations of dong compared with other major currencies, it is extremely exciting to find yourself a dong millionaire in such an instant.
In small towns and remote areas, however, these facilities are currently limited or none. On heading to these places, hence, you should consider stocking up a bit more dong but not too much as you may have less chance to pour it. Particularly, there is no official exchange service in border crossings other than black market which must be dealt with high alertness. Miscalculation and fake money may cost you a lot.
Generally, all major currencies can be converted into dong without any hassle but American dollar is normally much more preferred. It is wise to cash your traveler cheques into US dollar in Vietcombank or other major local banks before jumping into anywhere. You may be charged 0.5 to 2% commission for this, still much lower than in the black market.
Also, it is important to make sure that any note you take do not have any tear or look too worn, as it is possible to pass them to no one again. Legally, you are not allowed to bring the dong out of Vietnam. Actually, you have nothing to do with it. Thus, when you end up with a considerable amount of dong, reconvert it into US dollars before leaving unless you find something to pour on.
Method of payment
The most popular method of payment in Vietnam is directly by cash (both in dong and dollar), albeit the situation is changing gradually. More and more restaurants, hotels, shopping malls and supermarkets accept credit cards (mainly Visa, Master Card, JBC and American Express). Traveler’s cheques are cashed only in major banks in Ha Noi or Ho Chi Minh City.
It is strongly recommended that you do not equip yourself with lots of cash, neither dollar nor dong. In Vietnam now, it is much easier for you to access your money almost everywhere and any time in Hanoi, Saigon or other major cities through an extensive ATM network. It is, therefore, important to check whether your credit card company has any ATM access in Vietnam in advance. Holders of Mastercard or Visa can refer to these websites for details:
If you are going to spend some months in Vietnam, it’s great to arrange for an account ownership with major local banks. This costs you almost none of time, money and effort, yet does give you enormous utilities.
Traveling costs varying from dirt cheap to sky-priced are almost nowhere to be seen but Vietnam. Whatever your budget is, Vietnam has something to offer. Hence, your desired taste and comfort will decide where your money goes. It is, however, important to make sure you are shrewd in saying goodbye to your hard-earned income though not everyone wants to rip you off. The following tips will help you to be smart at spending money, yet first things first – you should know the generic costs for common goods and services beforehand.
Eating and drinking
Vietnam, to most connoisseurs, is a real paradise. Dining out here always offers top value for money. Strolling around any town and city, you will easily come across a host of street stalls where delicious and unique dishes can be served for between US$0.50 and US$1. A decent meal in small cafeterias may cost you around US$2 to US$3. In a-bit-larger restaurants, well-liked by local gastronome, a meal with several superbly -prepared dishes and drinks will get you a bill of US$ 5 to US$10 or more.
If you are a do-it-yourself follower, spending some times to grasp Vietnamese cuisine is also remarkably exciting. Vietnam offers everything you need to be an excellent cook. Vietnamese produce such as rice, beans, vegetables, herbs, chicken, fish and fruit are abundant and cheap. You can load them up in a nearby supermarket but really, part of living in Vietnam is to do things in the Vietnamese way. Surfing the streets or the markets in early mornings, you will find thousands of vendors who all sell fresh food at cheap price . It is also and interesting social experience. With a bit of bartering, a bit of talking and a bit of laughing, life here is much more wonderful.
If you keep moving from place to place by air, then airfares will make up a lion share in your traveling cost. Thanks to ongoing downward trend, domestic flights in Vietnam are now a bit cheaper. A one-way ticket from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is between US$80 and US$100.
Trains offer great value for independent travelers to cover long distance of Vietnam with little money. A sleeper on the fastest Unification Express (S1) from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh costs you around US$40 to US$60.
Bus travel is also a good choice for tight budget. While fares of public buses between major destinations are fixed, traveling by bus to most distant areas means bargain. For instance, you may be asked US$60 or more for a trip from Hanoi to Saigon while the normal cost for locals is around US$30. If you want to be completely independent and flexible, consider renting a car (with a driver, of course) and a guide if deemed necessary. Rental costs may vary considerably, depending on your journey, but usually US$30 for around-town and US$70 or more for along-country. A guide adds up between US$20 and US$40, depending on destination and trip duration.
Lodging is none of matter in Vietnam. Just make sure not to hesitate to negotiate for a discount in low season. You should look for more details in “Vietnam Accommodation”.
You may be frequently overcharged with these items, so be smart at bargaining.
Tipping This practice is not very popular in Vietnam, yet highly-appreciated. Usually, big hotels and restaurants include a service charge of 5-10% in the bills already though it is unsure if that money goes to the employees. It is, then, up to you whether to tip or not. If you feel satisfied with the service, let well-done jobs be rewarded, maybe around US$ 3-5 or more, depending on your budget. A small gift is also honored, a pack of foreign-brand cigarettes for men; postcards, souvenirs or cosmetic items (reasonably priced of course) for women, etc.
Whom you ought to tip? Drivers, guides and someone who cleans your room should come first in the list since they spend much time and effort with you. A small donation to the pagoda you visit is also commonly expected, nearly all pagodas place contribution boxes for this purpose.