Vietnam Currency: Online and Physical Money Exchange

Whether you are planning on staying in Vietnam long term or are just staying for a weekend – you’re probably going to want some money for your trip.

The national currency here is the Vietnamese dong (VND). Now obviously there are fluctuations but on average $1 is worth around 23,000 VND.
You’ll need to exchange some cash for your arrival, and doing the math in your head can get complicated. This guide for physical cash and online transfers with Vietnam currency should help.

Physical Cash

Cash is King in Vietnam.

For new travelers to the country, it is important to note that Vietnam is a big cash economy. The hawker style food vendors, wet markets and street stalls emphasize the prevalence of paper over plastic. Be prepared to carry out mainly cash transactions, as cards are not always accepted.

Where to Exchange Your Money?

Major currencies can be exchanged in many places in Vietnam. You’ll get charged the highest fees at the airports. The most competitive rates can be found at jewelry stores around the city, and especially around District 1’s Bui Vien, Nguyen An Ninh near the Ben Thanh Market.
Some banks can offer good rates as well for cash exchange. In Ho Chi Minh City banks like Vietcombank and Eximbank on Dong Khoi Street are your best bet. None of them will accept card, make sure to bring your dongs in cash!
You’ll see that many hotels will also offer currency exchange. However, keep an eye on the service fees where additional charges may be added on.

Finding and Using ATM’s

Vietnam currency: three working ATMs in a Vietnamese mayor city
The ATM’s around can be hit or miss. If you find your international card doesn’t work in one ATM, do try it at another. Most ATM’s have a withdrawal limit of about VND 2 million ($85). Most HSBC, ANZ and TechCom banks allow a withdrawal of about VND 5 to 6 million, with a small fee of $1-2. Keep an eye out for these if you need to withdraw larger sums. Otherwise, it is possible to make several VND 2 million withdrawals if needed, usually up to VND 10-20 million per day.

Can U.S. Dollars Be Used?

American dollars are the most popular foreing currency in Vietnam
U.S. Dollars are not legally accepted, so plan to trade in local currency. You’ll often get a better rate for day to day spends using Vietnamese Dong. However, it is common to see US dollars used as a reference point for rental prices and salon treatments. Despite this, use VND for these, and keep your dollars for emergencies.

Tipping in Vietnam

Most hotels and restaurants in Vietnam add a service charge to the bill. In these instances, you don’t need to tip. However, it goes without saying that it’s always appreciated. Many salons and spas will encourage tipping and will end the service with a slip that will ask you to tick a box with an amount that you’d like to tip. If your spa service menu looks especially cheap, it’s likely you’ll be passed a tip slip at the end.

Other Insider Tips!

Some of the notes look the same. The 20,000 and 500,000 notes have similar hues of blue. Be careful not to mistake one for the other when paying for goods. Likewise, the 10,000 and the 200,000 are shades of yellow. Again, pay attention to the zeros on your bills.

Try pay with smaller bills

Carry smaller bills with you (10,000’s and under) as you may have trouble finding changing otherwise. Services like Grab, for instance, don’t often carry large amounts of change. Try to pay with exact where possible.

Sticky notes

You may notice that some bills are paper while others are plastic. The plastic notes have a tendency to stick together, flick through these carefully to avoid overpaying.

Using Credit Cards

Some ATMs in Vietnam allow cash withdraw from foreing cards
You’ll find that many hotels, restaurants and department store retailers accept credit cards. Visa, Mastercard, American Express and JBC are widely accepted. Outside of that, be prepared to have to make cash handy.

Online Transfer

In Vietnam, online transfers are usually more complicated. While there are possible they are managed through the banks in the country so any transfers in or out the country will typically go through them.

Getting Money In the Country

Getting money into the country is rather easy. Once you have a bank account set up in Vietnam you could use a simple bank transfer from your home country to Vietnam. However, to save money it’s best to use an online service like Transferwise. Their fees will be much lower than what the bank will charge you and are usually pretty fast as well.

Getting Money In/Out of the Country

There are few main ways to transfer money out of the country that you may have earned while working here.

You can do it through your bank. With online banking it’s a simple matter of logging in, putting in your receiving bank’s details and sending the money. Which should arrive within a few working days after the bank has taken their fee. For example, HSBC’s fee is around $20 for transferring $1300.

Another way is to use an international bank account like Mastercard or Monzo in the UK. Some shops and restaurants will accept international card payments but the best way would be to use it to withdraw money at an ATM, as mentioned above. The point of most international cards is to reduce fee’s while withdrawing money abroad but makes sure to check anyway. Otherwise, you’ll just have the small ATM fee.