Money matters in Vietnam

The local currency of Vietnam is the dong, which refers to ‘d’ or ‘vnd’. Among them, small denominations include paper notes of VND 1000; 2000; 5000, while bigger ones include polymer notes of VND 10,000; 20,000; 50,000; 100,000; 200,000; 500,000 with Ho Chi Minh’s picture is on every banknote. The interesting thing when you are in Vietnam and change your money is that you suddenly find yourself VND millionaire. The Dong value is rather low in comparison to other currency and the exchange rate now is around 23,000 vnd to 1 USD. Since the banknotes bear many digits and the color of some notes roughly the same, it is advisable to check the face of the note carefully before handling your deal since it might cause confusion and misunderstanding.

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Currency use

Vietnam dong is the first and theoretically the only official currency for any common transaction in the country. According to government regulation, all prices for services and commodities must be quoted in VND; foreign currencies can be only dealt with through authorized exchange bureaus or with special permission.

In fact, USD is considered the second currency in tourist places, and with the commonness of EUR, AUD, BP… goes on respectively. Places like restaurants, bars, travel agencies, or souvenir shops in tourist places sometimes accept both USD and VND and prices might be quoted in both types of currency so, the best solution is to carry both of them.

Out of tourist sites or in remote areas, only Vietnam dong is accepted.

Remember to stock up enough small bills for your petty deals when you around. Additionally, it is better to check all bills to make sure they do not have any tears in the corners or look too tatty, as local restaurants and shops will not accept them.

Also, try to change just enough money at one time following your plan to avoid a large wad of notes. At the present, the largest denomination is currently 500,000 dong. The notes of 20,000 dong look quite similar but the value is really a big gap. Keep big notes separate from other smaller notes to avoid confusion then.

vietnamese money
The picture of a island in Halong Bay on the 200,000 Vietnam dong bills (Source: Collected)

Exchange money

The exchange rate is rather fluctuant due to inflation or other effects include government regulation that was issued unmethodically at the time. Recently, the exchange rate for 1 USD is around 20,500 to 21,000 d.

In theory, you can only exchange your money at banks and government authorized exchange bureaus, and any transaction out of those places is considered illegal but the practice is not really strict. Before, the black market operates quite openly but recently that type of business has been cracked down on by government authority.

Please, note that exchange money on the streets is vulnerable to get risk. Fake money or cut of the amount is rather common in this case. If someone approaches you on the street with an offer to change money at the better rate you can have at a bank then it is most likely a trap being set for you.

Most major currencies can be exchanged at banks in Vietnam that nowadays available with offices and branches everywhere in towns and cities and the rate offer among them are roughly the same.

According to our contemporary regulation regarding money, you cannot take the dong out of Vietnam but you can, of course, change them into US dollars before departure at the airport or the border crossings.

ATMs and Credit cards

In cities and tourist places, you can easily find ATMs from different banks at many corners of the streets. The most common and well-represented banks include Vietcombank, Argribank, Vietinbank, Sacombank, SEAbank, and so on. HSBC, ANZ, Citibank, or some other foreign banks are less common but can be found in big cities. Withdrawals are issued in dong, and most Vietnam banks offer multiple withdrawals with a limit of 2,000,000d each time. ANZ offers a far higher limit depends on your type of card.

The ATM fees are 20,000 or 40,000 per transaction depending on what bank you use. You can use your credit card (Visa, Master Card, Plus, Cirrus, JCB, etc.) to withdraw cash from ATM anytime in a day. However, remember that a 3% service fee is normally charged per transaction. Amex is accepted somewhere but the fee is a little bit higher (around 4%).

Travelers Cheques

Traveler cheques have now become less common since using ATMs is much more convenient. You need to present your passport and pay the transaction fee of around 2-5% per transaction to get cash at authorized foreign exchange outlets and banks.

When traveling abroad, besides travelers' cheques, you should also bring along some US dollars in hand. If your cheques are in different currencies (not US dollars), they may be rejected in some cities.


The cost of traveling in Vietnam ranges from dirt cheap to sky-high. You can live it up with a budget from US$15 to US$250 depending on your level of taste and comfort.

In comparison to many parts of the world, travel in Vietnam, in general, is quite cheap and reasonable.

Street food is cheap and you can fill your stomach with around US$2 or US$3. A meal in an average restaurant costs you around US$5 to US$8 while gourmet restaurants can offer a good meal with a dink between US$12 and US$15. Drinks in the bar are quite reasonable with US$1 or US$2 for a beer, cocktail from US$3 to US$6.

If you plan to do good shopping on your Vietnam holiday, then it is the right place. With cheap labor cost, most of the product made in Vietnam is in good price.

Here you can find stuffs from clothes, bronze wares, china wares, wood carvings, paintings and so on with good quality and reasonable price.

vietnamese money 20000vnd
Japanese Bridge in Hoi An is a Vietnam money symbol (Source: Collected)


Bargaining is essential in most shopping places except supermarkets and department stores. ‘Saving your face’ is an important thing that you should remember while traveling to Asia countries, so bargaining should be good-natured. Smile and don’t get angry or argue. This is not only for a deal but it is a type of art of living. Bargaining is applied for both locals and tourists without exception.

The percentage of discount that you are able to get may vary from 10% to 50 % or more. And once the money is accepted, the deal is done. Don’t be disappointed if you see other people get a lower price than you did; it just means you have paid the price that is suitable for you.


Tipping is not compulsory in Vietnam, but it is extremely highly appreciated. If you're happy with the services provided, then some tip is appropriate. It shows your great significance and satisfaction to the people who take care of you during the trip, encourages excellent services, and is a deep-rooted factor of the tourism industry.

Although in some hotels or restaurants, a service charge of 5% is sometimes put on your bill but this money most likely not going to the pocket of workers. So, if you are happy with the service provided, tipping should be given directly to the recipient.

The following amounts are recommended per person based on local considerations and collections of feedback from our past travelers:

  • In local restaurants, if you are a single diner, then a tip of around US$1 is appropriated. It is from 10% to 15% of your bill in the more up-market restaurants. If you are in a group then depends on the group size, a gather of US$4 or 5 is good.
  • For drivers, we suggest US$5 if you are a single traveler and an amount of US$10-15 from the whole group per day can be used. For your tour guides or group leaders, tipping is much depending on their services. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however, it is US$5-7 per day or US$2-4 per person in a group tour is appropriate.
  • Of course, tipping is not mandatory at all. Your tip can be more or less depending on your satisfaction regarding the services’ quality and the duration of the trip.

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