or “How to Get More Bang for Your Buck”… and “Ten More Dings for your Dong”-by Robert
People often ask us lots of questions about money Vietnam. Usually, they want to know what sort of currency to bring to Vietnam for their holiday and what sort of money charges and conditions they might expect.
So I have knocked up a bit of a rough ten-point guide for money in Vietnam.
1. ‘Dong’ is the currency in Vietnam
The currency here is called the ‘Dong” – yep.. That’s right… the word sounds like a big gong and not like any brown, stinky stuff that bears do in the forest. This of course gives lots of opportunities for puerile schoolboy jokes about “Please don’t touch my Dong!” and “Keep your Dirty Hands Off my Dong!”. The currency is officially written as VND (Vietnam Dong). Currently, the Vietnam Dong is trading officially at around:
AUD = 16,443 vnd; USD =23,280 vnd; GBP = 28,654 vnd; EURO = 25,148 vnd; and YEN=177.53 vnd. Check out the currency rates at Vietcombank – The state bank of Vietnam. The currency is strong but ouuchhhh…. inflation is also quite high.
2. Types of Money in Vietnam
The currency used to have coins and then they just….disappeared overnight a few years ago. Actually, some of them were quite pretty and if you can find some in a coin shop or such then they would make an interesting souvenir. The money these days is mostly polymer notes (Aussies will recognise the design-it is made on licence from Australia). The biggest note is 500,000 VND (about US $25), ten there is 200,000; 100,000; 50,000; 20,000; and 10,000.
After that, there are some smaller paper notes – “market money”.
3. Take money from ATMs in Vietnam
There are simply thousands of ATMs all over Vietnam and sometimes in the most unexpected and least likely places. Almost any international Visa or Mastercard Credit Card (and some overseas Visa Debit Cards) will pull local cash out of the ATMs for you – unfortunately, you will have to pay all the normal fees (around 3% – 5%) from your robbing ‘we simply don’t care’ bank back home … but the cash will flow from the slot.
4. How much tip in Vietnam
Don’t let anyone try to tell you that tipping is compulsory anywhere in Vietnam… it simply is not. You can leave a small cash tip in a cafe or restaurant if you like. And you might give a driver or tour guide a thankyou ‘tip’ as a gift. Just as a benchmark, the average factory worker might make about US $ 200-250 a month.
If you want to give him/her a tip I would say 50,000 VND – 100,000 VND (US $3 – $ 5). It’s up to you!
5. People accept USD and local currency
Don’t be fooled into buying huge amounts of USD at exorbitant rates before you leave home. It is true, that like much of SE Asia, Vietnam has this illogical attachment to the Greenback, but people are happy to accept local currency. Maybe bring a few hundred USD in small denominations for emergencies. Don’t bother with traveller’s cheques… no-one really wants them or uses them.
6. Don’t keep Vietnam Dong
Please realise the Vietnam Dong is almost useless in any other country (unless you have friends who are heading to Vietnam).
There are a number of back-street operations in Hanoi and HCMC that you could probably find on chat forums…where they may buy and convert your Dong for various rates. There are still no official facilities at all at Hanoi airport. In HCMC airport I think there are now two or three bank booths that use the standard (very low) bank rates plus and added 2% fee… And I hear it is very hit and miss based on the amount of USD they have on hand…. certainly don’t expect to convert over a US $ 1000 (in local Vietnam Dong) back into dollars. A friend recently told us that after the immigration desk at HCMC airport, there are also now two little booths than can buy back VND depending on their cash stocks. So basically-don’t buy too much Vietnam Dong (VND) in your last few days. Spend your money on souvenir shopping or a little side trip and just try to budget so that you have enough to buy a snack at the airport before you leave. Aim to achieve that magical state of TDAFG – The Dong all Finally Gone – at The Departure Gate.
7. Pay up front to release hassle
Many businesses will accept international payment in USD, AUD, EURO and even some other currencies. If you are happy and trust your travel agent and the travel companies you are working with, then send them the money up front… it just saves you more hassle in the future.
Don’t get too obsessive about “getting the best deal”‘. Often it is a difference in price of just a few dollars. I reckon, if you do your research (and you can do it yourself without asking for help from people like us if you like), check out the forums and websites and then find a good deal on the net that fits your tastes and your budgets… then pay it down now and just get on with having your holiday. 9.95 times out of 10 it will be great… meeehh …every so often some small and solvable problem will arise, and only very rarely will the kind of horror story that is written about on the Grumble-forums ever occur. To be honest folks, if you start your Vietnam journey with the belief that you are about to enter a wide world of thieves and charlatans who are only interested in cheating and robbing you…then I would suggest you are not going to have a happy holiday, are you?
8. Check out the street rate
If you want to change cash, don’t change in your hotel without checking the ‘street rates’ and don’t buy money off the street from the ‘Seagull ladies”. “Aaaaccch!!!!…Change Money!!!! Change Money!!!!! Change Money!!! Accchhh!! Acccchh!!!”.
They screech and pounce around the Post Office, Tourist hotspots and some of the major banks and also the major gold shops. Their bill flicking counting is so fast and often there could be some dodgy bills in there… you can stand out in the sun checking your notes in front of everyone who is passing by- or just go to the nearest gold shop. There is an old tradition from Confucian times which these days means that many Gold shops are also licensed as money traders. They will give you the best ‘street’ rate (i.e. much better than the banks) and it is legal.
9. Check notes when you get money from others.
Check your notes. Vietnam is still quite ‘old-fashioned’ like that. People will often not accept banknotes that have been torn or written on or simply just don’t “look pretty”. Don’t let people fob you off with dodgy dong’
You can change them in a bank if you get a ‘dodgy dong’. But, I reckon to check your money when you receive money from someone.
So that’s it for tonight. Some friends just suggested we write a post about the tips and techniques for bargaining on the street… okay…but not tonight. Tomorrow is a national holiday (‘KING Hung’s Day) so we need to get ready to…have a holiday for three days.
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