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Travel money guide: Vietnam
Everything you need to know about using cash and cards in Vietnam
Forget the sunscreen and swimsuit — planning your travel money options should be on top of your Vietnam vacation prep list.
The official currency of Vietnam is the Vietnamese dong (VND). Because the dong is tied to the US dollar, you can use your money at most hotels and big shops. To make things easier, prices are often quoted in US Dollars in tourist areas. But beware — you’ll pay twice as much if you pay with your US dollars, so exchange your money before you arrive in Vietnam. Let us help you compare your options to find the best way to manage your money on your Vietnam adventure.
Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options
Vietnam is a popular destination for experiencing the rich culture and natural beauty for rock bottom prices. Plan to bring a number of payment options on your Vietnamese vacation for peace of mind. Credit cards are good for bigger purchases, and you can earn travel rewards, but cash is what you’ll need the most. Only carry the cash you need, keeping the rest on your debit or prepaid cash card.
Compare travel credit cards
How much dong do I need to bring to Vietnam?
Your money will go along way in Vietnam. Accommodation, food and tourist activities cost a fraction of the price of what they cost in the US. If you want a travel on a backpacker’s budget, $40 or less a day will do. For a more comfortable trip, you can budget $60 to $100 per day. If you have expensive taste, it’s easy to find a five star experience with prices to match at a budget of $200 a day.
Hostel dorm bed
$5–$15 USD per night
2 star hotel
$15–$30 USD per night
5 star hotel
$150+ USD per night
Western style steak
Hoan Kiem Lake and Turtle towerfree
|Walking tour of Hanoi old town|
$30 USD per person
|Halong Bay overnight cruise|
$190 USD per person
Travel card, debit card or credit card?
Credit cards can be used for big ticket purchases in Vietnam. For example, in Hanoi mid to high-end hotels, restaurants and retailers will take Visa and Mastercard — you’ll struggle to find merchants who take American Express credit cards and prepaid travel cards. Everywhere else you’ll need to pay with cash.
If you bring your debit card, you can expect to pay between $1 and $2, on top on any fees your bank charges. Find a debit card that allows you to withdraw from any ATM without charging a fee. You should never use ATMs to withdraw money from your credit cards — they charge high fees and interest on your withdrawal immediately.
Travel money options for Vietnam at a glance
Trying to decide how to pay for your vacation to Vietnam? Compare these travel money options and see what works best for you.
|Travel money option||Pros||Cons|
|Prepaid travel money cards|
This table is a general summary of the travel money products on the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.
How travel money works in Vietnam
Using credit cards
Travel credit cards give you the most purchasing power on expensive items like hotels and flights when traveling in Vietnam. Find yourself a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees. Carrying a credit card gives you the added benefit of travel insurance and discounts, depending on your provider. For added savings, take advantage of the interest-free period by paying your balance in full each month.
Cards that offer travel perks and waive fees often charge an annual fee, so make sure the fee is worth it before you bring it along on your travels. If you’re ever in a jam, credit cards also offer cash advances, though we don’t recommend it. You’ll pay high fees and interest rates apply the moment you get your money.
- Tip: It’s worth researching credit cards that offer travel benefit and rewards for things you’ll buy anyways like flights and hotel stays.
Using travel money cards
Travel cards can lock in conversion rates once you load USD. Use it for purchases without worrying about rates each time you spend — debit and credit cards often charge 3% for each transaction.
Where you save in the conversion rates you may pay in fees. You’ll pay fees each time you load the card, ATM withdrawals and sometimes even an inactivity fee.
- Tip: Banks that provide travel cards make money by applying a higher margin to the exchange rate. You can get a better rate using a debit card or credit card.
Using debit cards
A travel debit card could be a good travel money choice to take to Vietnam. You’ll have access to cash each time you come across an ATM, without carrying lots of cash on you all at once. Because you’re spending your own money, you avoid interest charges. The Citibank Plus waives the fee for international ATM withdrawals and doesn’t charge a monthly account keeping fee.
- Tip: A debit card can be used to shop over the counter, online and for ATM withdrawals in Vietnam.
Using traveler’s checks
Security is the main advantage of using traveler’s checks. Each check has a unique serial number and can only be cashed with photo identification. Fees are the main disadvantage. Banks charge you to get check and to cash them. You’re better off using a debit or travel card which lets you make cheap or free ATM withdrawals to get Vietnam dong.
- Tip: Traveler’s checks are good for locking in a good exchange rate. So if you watch the forex market, get them while the getting’s good.
Taking cash with you
Cash is king in Vietnam, so be sure you have access to plenty of it. Make sure you don’t get any damaged or ripped banknotes — merchants in Vietnam won’t accept them. Dongs are delicate, so carefully place money in your wallet rather than in the bottom of your bag or pockets.
- Tip: Exchange your money at banks or other licensed exchange stores — Vietcombank doesn’t charge a commission. There is a black market for exchanging money in Vietnam that charges a lower exchange rate and, most importantly isn’t legal.
Using an ATM
Mastercard and Visa cards can be used to make cash withdrawals from a majority of ATMs in Vietnam. The maximum withdrawal limit varies depending on the machine. Machines from American banks often have a higher daily withdrawal limit compared to Vietnamese banks. Although Vietnamese banks often charge a lower withdrawal fee.
- Tip: Keep yourself and your money safe when using an ATM. Block your PIN from cameras and onlookers. And be sure to use ATMs in busy areas or inside a business.
Case study: Dean’s trip to Vietnam
We interviewed Dean, a finder.com user who traveled to Vietnam, and asked him about his experience using travel money. He spent two months in Southeast Asia, including a month adventure in Vietnam. He flew from Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh, finished his trip in Hanoi and took a bus to Laos. He was there for the Tet Festival in December — which Dean said is not to be missed.
Where did you go?
Ho Chi Minh City, Mui Ne, Nha Trang, Hoi An and Hanoi.
What cards did you take?
- Citibank Plus Transaction Account
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard
Why did you take these cards?
Dean says he took the Citibank Plus card because it doesn’t charge an international transaction fee and has no monthly account fee. Most importantly, there’s no international ATM charge from Citi when he made ATM withdrawals. He took the Barclaycard Arrival Plus because of the bonus miles he could earn, along with the interest-free days when he paid his balance in full.
Where could you use these cards?
Dean says Vietnam is a cash economy. You can tell pretty quickly where you can and can’t use your cards, and if in doubt, always ask. He used cash for most of his transactions in Vietnam including his nights in the boarding houses, meals and the bus ride out of the country. Credit cards were good for shopping at department stores and businesses inside shopping centers. He also used his card to pay for a couple of nights stay in high-end hotels.
Tell us about ATM withdrawals in Vietnam.
Dean says he made withdrawals from Vietnam bank ATMs when he could. He says there was a charge of about $1 to $3 dollars each time he made a withdrawal from a non-Citibank ATM. Not only did Citibank not charge a fee, he said that it had the highest ATM withdrawal limit of 8,000,000 VND or about $350 USD.
What are your travel money recommendations for Vietnam?
Dean says the Citibank Plus is a traveler’s best friend. Regularly, ATM withdrawals can cost up to $20 for each transaction. The $5 charge for international ATM withdrawals and a $10 fee for foreign exchange of a couple hundred dollars can be avoided using the Citibank Plus. He says cards with exchange and international ATM withdrawal fee are the best option.
Do you have any other travel money tips?
Dean says make sure you do the following:
- Tell your credit card and debit card provider about your travel plans in Southeast Asia.
- Make sure you’re covered by travel insurance.
- You’ll be carrying cash on you so use caution and make sure it’s out of reach from thieves and pick pockets.
- Load your card with your choice of 6 available currencies: Euros, British pounds, Australian dollars, Japanese yen, Canadian dollars, and Mexican pesos
- Lock in your exchange rate
- Use your card abroad at millions of locations
A guide to the Vietnamese dong banknotes
The Vietnamese dong is the major currency used in Vietnam. The dong comes in denominations of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000 and 200,000, each a different color. Be sure to pay the right amount when you make your purchases, and always count your change. Familiarize yourself with what the currency looks like and how it works will avoid confusion when handling your money.
Buying Vietnamese dong in the US
While you’ll get a better rate if you wait to get Vietnamese dong in Vietnam, you can purchase dong in the US from your bank or a foreign exchange provider like Travelex. If you’re flying into Vietnam directly, and you want to get a visa on arrival (VOA), be ready with cash to pay the fee when you pass through customs. Here are some popular ways to exchange your US currency into dong.Back to top
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