Money and cost in Ho Chi Minh city Vietnam
Until recently, many upmarket hotels insisted that you pay in US dollars, but now all businesses (except Vietnam Airlines) must accept payment in dong. In practice, many still display their prices in US dollars. It’s advisable to bring travellers cheques in US dollars as well as a little US currency.
Name Vietnamese dong
Symbol ₫ The banknotes come in denominations of 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000, 200,000 and 500,000 dong. In small towns, it can be difficult to get change for the larger notes, so keep a stack of smaller bills handy. Now that Ho Chi Minh has been canonised (against his wishes), you’ll find his picture on every banknote.
Coins are being reintroduced for use in Vietnam, partially to help stave off the number of counterfeit banknotes. There are coins to the value of 1000, 2000 and 5000 dong.
Changing Your Money
There is now a reasonably extensive network of ATMs in major cities and this can be a convenient way to get your hands on money. It is also handy to have a combination of US dollars and travellers cheques for more remote or rural parts of the country. There are four ways to exchange currency: at a bank, through authorised exchange bureaus, at hotel reception desks, and on the black market. The best rates are offered by the banks, but the exchange bureaus are generally more conveniently located and have longer opening hours. The black market rate is worse than the legal exchange rate, so if you’re offered better rates than a bank it’s bound to be some sort of scam. Visa, MasterCard, American Express and JCB credit cards are accepted in the major cities and towns popular with tourists.
It’s virtually impossible to exchange travellers cheques outside the major cities and tourist areas. Visitors heading off the beaten track will either need to stock up on dong, or conduct a private cash transaction on the black market. It’s a good idea to bring a small calculator with you for currency conversions, unless you’re the kind of person who can divide or multiply by large numbers in your head.
Travellers staying in budget accommodation and eating in small cafes should be able to get by on around US$20.00 to US$25.00 per day, plus long-distance transport costs. Those wanting to stay in mid-range hotels, eat out at moderate restaurants, charter occasional taxis and enjoy the nightlife should budget on around US$65.00 a day.
Tipping is not expected in Vietnam, but it is enormously appreciated. For a person who earns US$50.00 per month, a US$1.00 tip is about half a day’s wages. Upmarket hotels and some restaurants may levy a 5% service charge, but this may not make it to the staff. If you stay a couple of days in the same hotel, tip the staff who clean your room, if you can.
You should also consider tipping drivers and guides – after all, the time they spend on the road with you means time away from home and family. Typically, travellers on minibus tours will pool together to collect a communal tip to be split between the guide and driver. About US$1.00 per day (per tourist) is standard.
It is considered proper to make a small donation at the end of a visit to a pagoda, especially if a monk has shown you around; most pagodas have contribution boxes for this purpose.