When traveling in Vietnam, you will need lots of Vietnamese Dong (VND) for your trip. Credit cards are rarely taken at international hotels and select restaurants, so travelers will need to have local currency. Rarely will you be able to use your credit card in Vietnam, so you’ll need to keep plenty of VND with you during your trip. But how much do you need to keep with you so you can enjoy your trip to this beautiful country? This article will go through the basics of using VND while traveling in Vietnam.
Like many countries throughout the world, haggling is the norm, and negotiating in markets can be difficult for Americans who are used to flat pricing seen in US markets. Treat it like a game and you won’t be intimidated by the process. The important point to remember is that US dollars won’t help in markets and in daily transactions. You need to keep a stack of VND with you if you are going to make purchases. Don’t show your money until you and the merchant agree on a price.
Another feature of Vietnamese commerce that is different from US practices is tipping. Tipping is uncommon in Vietnam. You can do it, but there are no generally accepted percentages like in the US. It is most appreciated in taxis, and it could win you a friend who is willing to be your personal taxi in whichever city you are staying. The only other place you want to tip is if you go to religious sites. It is a sign of respect and charity to offer a tip when you leave.
Another important tip is to pay attention to the quality of your money. Make sure not to get any damaged or ripped currency. Most merchants will not accept worn out VND notes. Dongs can be delicate, so treat them carefully and place them gingerly in your wallet, don’t stuff them in your pockets or the bottom of a purse.
1 US Dollar is worth around 23,000 Vietnamese Dong. Because of the multiple zeros you have to deal with, many Vietnamese will shorten the Dong in their pricing. 23,000 VND will usually be referred to as 23K. Because of the large number of VND found in typical prices, coins are rarely accepted anywhere in Vietnam. If you are feeling extra stubborn and want to use the US Dollar, some vendors will take it, but you will pay double what you would have to pay in VND.
Vietnamese Dong look very similar to one another. The 100K bill and the 10K look alike; the color and imagery are similar, and the two notes can be easily mistaken if you don’t pay close attention to the zeroes.
100,000 Vietnamese Dong
10,000 Vietnamese Dong
Many VND bills are made of a polymer material. In the humid climates of Vietnam, these bills tend to stick together, so make sure you are handing over one bill at a time. Don’t use high-denomination bills. If you offer a bill of 500k or more, most vendors will not want to make change for such large bills. Keep smaller bills handy for daily transactions.
If you’re traveling from the US, a modest budget will go a long way in Vietnam. Lodging, food, and tourist activities are a fraction of the price they would cost in the US. A good rule of thumb for travelers with a lean budget would be about 930K VND ($40 USD) per day. If you want to really live comfortably on your trip, you should budget around 1.860K VND ($80 USD) per day. If you decide to live like a king in Vietnam, plan for 4.650K VND ($200) per day.
Here’s a simple breakdown of food and beverage costs you can expect while traveling in Vietnam.
To keep your costs down, eat street food. You can have a meal at a street vendor for around 23K VND ($1). Also if you are looking to bargain, stay away from the high traffic markets where there are many tourists. Vendors will see you coming a mile away and are less likely to bargain. You will pay a “tourist tax” that is built into inflated prices. Try to visit markets with low to moderate traffic as the vendors will be more likely to bargain.
You can exchange currency at local banks, large branded hotels, and some jewelry shops. Your best bet is to order your currency before traveling to Vietnam so that you have it with you when you arrive. Use the local resources only as a backup. Exchange rates and fees will not be favorable to you if you exchange currency in the country. If you plan to order foreign currency online, place an order from a reputable dealer, so the VND notes you receive are intact and clean.
At US First Exchange, we can deliver clean, crisp Vietnamese Dong directly to your front door. We deal in a range of currencies, including exotic currencies like Iraqi Dinar and Vietnamese Dong. You can order foreign currency online and have your money shipped straight to your door in 24-48 hours. All shipments are fully insured, and we promise the best exchange rates along with the lowest fees of any money broker in the US.
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