Vietnamese currency is call the “Vietnamese Dong” and is represented by VND in any of the Currency Exchange calculators. The exchange rate currently hovers around 20-21 000 Vietnamese dong for $1 USD and everything else fluctuates relative to that.
For current Exchange Rates Click Here
Vietnamese Dong notes come in the following denominations:
500 000 (~25 USD), 200 000(~10 USD), 100 000 (~5 USD), 50 000(~2.50 USD), 20 000 (~1 USD), 10 000(~50 cents), 5000 (~25 cents), 2000 (~10 cents), 1000 (~5 cents) and 500 (~2.5 cents).
You will rarely see any of the 500 notes and you may receive a candy in your change at the supermarket in lieu of these.
Vietnamese Dong coins come in the following denominations but are very rare to come by.
5000, 2000, 1000, 500 and 200 VND.
Common Mistakes by newcomers
For newbies it can take a bit of getting used to all those zeros. Common mistakes include mixing up:
- the 100 000 and the 10 000 (both greenish and similar numbers)
- the 500 000 and the 20 000 (both bluish), and
- the 200 000 and 10 000 (very similar in colour).
Most people are honest and will point out your mistake but I have heard of street vendors scarpering quick smart after being handed the wrong note before the unlucky tourist realizes what they have done.
Also be aware that the Vietnamese notes 10 000 VND and above are made of a polymer and can often stick together. Make sure you “flick” the notes as you count them out or you might end up paying double.
Outside the Tourist areas a 500 000 dong note can be extremely hard to change unless you are buying something substantial.
How to Access Vietnamese Dong in Ho Chi Minh City
It’s extremely easy to exchange money INTO Vietnamese Dong (VND) in Ho Chi Minh City. All banks, most travel agents and hotels will happily exchange your USD and other major currencies for VND. Note that if you change anywhere other than an official exchange or a bank, rates will normally be slightly lower. If you are quoted higher rates from individuals you are probably being set up for a scam although some locals will give you a good rate just to obtain “hard currency”.
If you are from Australia, UK, Europe, Japan or China OR travelling via Thailand, Singapore or Malaysia, there is no advantage in changing your money into USD before you come. Exchange rates will be proportionate to the country’s exchange with USD and you will save the double conversion spread. Some countries such as Canada and Hong Kong appear to give a slightly lower rate but the conversion to USD might also be higher.
When I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City in April 2014, the rate at the official airport exchanges was slightly better than that in the areas surrounding the major tourist centres so it would make sense to change some up when you enter the country.
There are ATM’s everywhere in HCMC that dispense Vietnamese Dong and most will accept foreign cards. Vietnamese banks that accept foreign cards include Vietcom, Sacombank, Vietin, Agribank and Technobank. The most common foreign bank ATM’s are Commonwealth Bank (Australia), ANZ (Australian & New Zealand), HSBC and Citibank although the last two ATM’s are far less common than the first two.
Most Vietnamese Bank ATM’s will have a maximum withdrawal of 4-5 million vietnamese dong (~2-250 USD) but you can make multiple withdrawals until you hit your own bank withdrawal limit. Be aware you may be being hit by a foreign ATM fee every time you make a transaction. Commonwealth Bank allows withdrawals of up to 9 million dong (~450 USD) so makes a better option if you are withdrawing a large amount of cash. Note that some machines will only dispense 100 000 VND as the largest denomination. Even the biggest note (500 000 VND) is the equivalent of $25. Draw out more than a couple of hundred bucks and you are going to end up with quite a pile of cash.
Some typical costs
You can spend very little per day in Ho Chi Minh City or you can spoil yourself rotten with 5 star luxury for much less than you would spend in Western, or indeed, many other Asian Cities
Ho Chi Minh City Street Food is some of the best street food you’ll ever eat. You can easily live on less than $5 USD a day. At the other end of the scale, less than $50 will get you a sumptuous buffet at a 5 start hotel. Click here for more great Ho Chi Minh City Restaurants
The cost of buying a beer in Ho Chi Minh City varies considerably but even in the poshest hotels you would be hard pressed to pay more than $5. A local Saigon beer can be purchased for less than 15 000 VND (75 c) in many of the small bars in the Bui Vien, Pham Ngu Lao area, although a more established bar is likely to hit you up for a massive 25-40 000! (< $2). Beer Hoi (or fresh/draft beer) is even less. Spirits can be consumed for around $3/ drink and cocktails less than $5. Decent wine is a lot harder to come by in the cheaper places and anything imported will be at least $3.50 for a glass. (I’m not a big fan of Vietnamese wine personally but it is a lot cheaper)
Transport is cheap and it shouldn’t cost you more than 70 000 VND to go anywhere in District 1 or 3. A taxi from the airport is around 160 000 VND ($8). Xe Oms (motor bike taxis) are even cheaper. A city bus will literally cost you < 20 cents to get across town and are fairly comfortable if you can work out which one to take. Most tourists will stick to the taxis and Motorbikes though because they are so reasonable
Including tours, a rock bottom budget traveller could get away with less than $20/day possibly $15. A mid range budget would be around $35/person per day and the skies the limit for 5 Star although $100-120/day will see you living pretty luxuriously compared to what you’d get in other countries.
Check out these guides for more detailed information and tips to save money.
My Saigon: Saigon Secrets to Save Money in Ho Chi Minh City, VietnamThis book is like having a local friend in Saigon helping you save money and get the best of everything. Elly, gives out all the tricks and insider tips to get Vietnamese prices at every step of the way.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Travel Cost Guide by Budget Your Trip (Author) This travel cost guide gives you insider’s information into real travel costs in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (Saigon). A perfect supplement to other travel resources, for every type of traveler, from backpackers to resort hoppers.