The local currency in Viet Nam is dong, however US dollars are widely accepted, which has some travellers wondering when to use dong and the best places to exchange it.
Bring US Dollars
I’m from New Zealand, but I never bother taking little ol’ Kiwi dollars to Viet Nam. Sure I could exchange them, but my choices are narrowed. I get all of my spending money changed into US dollars before I leave, and that’s what I’d recommend that you do also.
Arriving at the Airport with Only US Dollars
So, you’ve arrived in Viet Nam, say Ho Chi Minh City, and you need to catch a taxi to your hotel. You can do this with your US dollars, so all you need to do now is find a taxi from a reputable company. At Tan Son Nhat International Airport, the taxi rank is about 10 metres on the left after exiting the terminal. You’ll spot some taxi company employees in uniform guiding people into taxis. They’re there to help you, so ask them for a Vina Sun taxi. It’s white and green with a red stripe, and it’s the company that our family uses and trusts. They have a mobile phone app to make the chaos of traveling seem easier. When you book a taxi you’ll be notified of how many minutes it is away, what the number plate is, what the fare will be, and when it arrives the driver will call you if you wish.
Otherwise, jump in a nearby taxi and negotiate a fixed price, if that’s what you’re more comfortable with. For example US$7-10 to your hotel in District 1. Alternatively, you could advise that you’ll be paying in US dollars, but ask that they keep their meter on, so that you can gauge the price. Roughly speaking US$1 is equivalent to 20,000 dong. Note that you don’t have to tip your taxi driver, only if you want to.
When to roll out Uncle Ho
Whilst US dollars are widely accepted at places like hotels and big restaurants, it’s handy to have Vietnamese dong. So as soon as you’re settled in at your hotel, it’s time to invest in some Uncle Ho.
Where to Exchange your Money
Obviously you can exchange money at any bank, however that’s not so smooth. You’ll need a bit of paperwork and it can be a bit time consuming. Your next option is probably your hotel reception, just know the exchange rate before you take this step, so you know how much money you should get. Now, you didn’t really hear if from me, but there is one other place where you can exchange your money. It’s not legal (as of recently), but it’s what the locals use and I’m just passing on the information.. Ah hem. So, you can exchange your money quickly and easily at the best rate at any local jewellery store, including those in the markets. The bigger the jewellery store, the more variety of currency you can exchange.
If you’ve traveled to Viet Nam, what were your experiences dealing with the local currency and US dollars?