Money in Vietnam
The currency in Vietnam is the Dong (abbreviated “VND” or just “d”). There are quite several denominations, smallest one is 500 dong and biggest one is 500,000 dong. Coin is not widely used. Credit card is increasingly widespread in big cities, but remains limited elsewhere. And though it is possible to pay in USD or EUR, it is easier to bargain in local currency.
It is recommended to change your money into dong for payment of your purchases. Also, you do not need to change all at once upon your arrival because exchange facilities are widely available in big cities. Authorized banks (eg. Vietcombank) may charge you up to 2% commission for this; still much lower than in hotels or on black market. Make sure you recount the amount you get back, unless it is counted by a machine already. For prevailing exchange rate of the day, please refer to Vietcombank website at: http://www.vietcombank.com.vn
At the moment of writing (March 2017), current exchange rate is
1 USD = 22,840 VND
1 EUR = 24,216 VND
Generally, it is not necessary to take a lot of cash with you. The cost of living in Vietnam is much lower than in the West and your budget depends on the comfort and style you wish to travel in. It is possible to bring with you less than 7,000 USD (or equivalent in EUR) without customs declaration. However, it is very risky to take a lot of cash with you. It is best to bring credit cards or traveler’s checks for your travel in Vietnam.
Visa, MasterCard and American Express are now widely accepted in major cities and tourist centers in Vietnam. Still, most businesses apply a commission, usually 2.5% to 3%, sometimes a little extra for bank charges. For Cambodia and Laos, while for many years, there were no ATMs, you can now easily find one in big cities.
(Note: The Terrible Tour Guide Travel accepts only VISA, MASTER & AMEX CARD and you will pay charge of 2.8% if you settle the balance with a credit card).
Just one more thing, if you bring a single credit card, you may find yourself in trouble if it doesn’t work sometimes.
Travelers checks can be cashed only in authorized banks in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other tourist towns. In the rest of the country, Vietcombank is often the only one that accepts. The Banking Commission levied on travelers checks varies from 0.5% (Vietcombank) to 3%.
(Note: The Terrible Tour Guide Travel only accepts checks issued by American Express.)
It is local custom to pay a tip in exchange for a service received but it is at the discretion of the customer and never mandatory.
Generally, a tip is acceptable at 5 USD / person / day (a bit ‘more if they are perfectly happy) for the group of 2-6 persons and 3 USD / person / day for the group of 6-15 persons. The driver is usually tipped half that amount. Tipping is generally not popular in cafes and restaurants, except those run with a cause (eg. helping children with disabilities). Of course, you may tip if your taste tells you so. To conclude tipping is totally up to you, no one will judge you on that.
Tipping and gratuities are never included in quotations.