In all major cities, as well as towns of appreciable size, financial services are abundant. Traveler’s checks can be cashed at banks and well-established hotels in Vietnam accept them as payment. Many shopkeepers catering to tourists are also happy to accept US dollars, through they may charge a two percent transaction fee. While currency exchanges and Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are common in most towns and cities, this is not yet the case in rural and remote areas. Remember to carry a sufficient amount of Vietnamese currency to such places, although you will never be more than a day’s journey from a banking facility of some kind.
The dong , abbreviated to VND or d, is the Vietnamese unit of currency. The current rate of is about 22,000d to US$ 1. Though it is not “official,” US dollars are now accepted everywhere, especially in tourists zone. Always ensure that these notes are in mint condition. It is also advisable to keep some dong notes and coins at hand for day-to-day expenditure. Bear in mind that the dong cannot be converted outside Vietnam.
Vietnamese banknotes are circulated in denominations of 500d, 1,000d, 2,000d, 5,000d, 10,000d, 20,000d, 50,000d, 100,000d and 500,000d. The most common is 50,000d note which is worth about US$ 3. All notes bear Ho Chi Minh’s visage, and notes from 10,000 upwards are made of polymer.
Banks and Banking Hours
Vietnam’s leading banks are Vietcombank and Sacombank, while the most common international banks are ANZ and HSBC. All maintain offices and ATMs throughout the country, and are connected to Plus ATM network. Going to banks for currency exchange or credit card withdrawal is more time consuming than an ATM or private exchange.
While it can vary marginally in different cities and banks, banking hours are generally from 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, with some banks closing at midday for lunch. Most private currency exchanges set their own hours.
In 1999, there were only two ATMs in the country, both in Hanoi. Now they are found virtually everywhere there is a bank. All provide instructions in Vietnamese and English, and are available 24 hours a day. Money is issued only in the Vietnamese currency, calculating dollar withdrawals at the daily official rate of exchange. Unlimited number of withdrawals may be made in a day, but each is limited to 2,000,000 dong, with a fee for each withdrawal, usually between US$ 2 and US$ 5. Larger withdrawals can be arranged with a bank teller. If you are planning to stay in Vietnam for more than a few months, consider opening your own account.
The process of changing cash has improved over the past few years, but a long wait at the banks is still a norm. The process is faster at the private exchange, although the rates are not as good sometimes. In fact, the best rates are given by gold and jewelry shops, but they offer no security against short changing or counterfeit bills. With the proliferation of ATMs in most cities, however, many travelers opt simply to use their debit cards instead.
Credit and Debit Cards
Although credit cards are not widely accepted in Vietnam’s smaller towns, plastic is just as useful as dollars and dong in larger cities, especially Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Airlines, travel agents, upscale hotels and restaurants, as well as shops catering to tourists, are all glad to accept major credit cards such as American Express, MasterCard, and Visa. If needed, you can also get a cash advance at the bank drawn on your credit card.
Encashing and using traveler’s checks in not the best option in Vietnam, although it is a good to carry a few in case of emergency. They can be cashed in at leading banks and exchanges, as well as at airlines and high-end hotels for a small commission. If lost, it is likely that you will need to go to a major city to have them replaced.