About Currency Exchange in Vietnam.
Following up on the previous article about where to exchange money in Vietnam, this time, I’ll go into detail about how much you should exchange when you visit Vietnam.
As introduced in the article about Vietnamese currency and exchange in Vietnam, it is recommended to withdraw only as much money as needed from an ATM while in Vietnam.
If you’re visiting Vietnam, it’s best only to exchange a minimum amount of dollars before your visit. The amount of currency you need for an initial exchange in Vietnam that I will introduce here is based on the essential amount needed.
The more cash you have, the greater your loss will be if you are pickpocketed or robbed, and having a large amount of money can be worrisome.
Violent crimes targeting tourists are rare in Vietnam, but minor crimes like pickpocketing happen frequently.
Even if you stay at a five-star hotel in Vietnam, it’s common for thieves to use various tools to steal cash through small gaps in your luggage during an exchange process in Vietnam.
The process of exchanging money in Vietnam
You probably won’t be able to walk into any bank in many countries and exchange money directly into Vietnamese dong, so most visitors to Vietnam will follow the process below.
- Exchange US dollars.
- Exchanging essentials (like taxi fares) for Vietnamese Dong at the airport.
- Visit banks and private currency exchanges after arriving in the city.
- Compare exchange rates and convert US dollars to Vietnamese dong.
- Repeat when you run out of money.
However, it’s generally safer and more convenient to withdraw the amount you need from a local ATM in Vietnam.
- Local banks’ ATMs in Vietnam allow you to withdraw up to VND3 million (about $130) at a time.
- Foreign banks’ ATMs in Vietnam (like Citi, Standard Chartered, Kookmin, Woori, etc.) let you take out up to VND8 million ($350) per transaction.
In perspective, VND8 million per withdrawal is roughly the average monthly salary of a university graduate in Vietnam.
This isn’t an insignificant sum of money; even with just one withdrawal of VND8 million, you can afford many things in Vietnam.
Withdrawal fees usually range from 2 to 30,000 dong (about $1 to $1.50). Despite the differences in exchange rates and fees, carrying large amounts of cash presents significant risk due to the prevalence of pickpockets and thieves in Vietnam.
Hence we strongly recommend bringing along an internationally accepted credit or debit card like Visa or Mastercard and only withdrawing as needed.
How much money should I exchange when visiting Vietnam?
The amount of money you need to exchange will depend on your location in Vietnam and the purpose of your travel.
For instance, in major cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, there’s no need to exchange a large sum of money because you can easily withdraw and exchange currency anywhere within the city.
However, if you’re traveling to a city like Phu Quoc, where cash withdrawals are only available in certain parts of the city, you’ll need to exchange more money.
For the sake of this article, we’ll assume you’ve already booked your hotel. Therefore, exchanging around $200 should suffice. More details on why $200 is sufficient will follow below.
USIM purchase and service registration fees – approximately US$10 to US$20
Upon arriving at an airport in Vietnam, one of the first things you’ll likely want to do is purchase a USIM and register for wireless internet service.
Having an internet connection can be a huge relief. It opens up numerous possibilities and solves many potential problems.
You can buy a USIM in advance or use roaming if available, but if you’re looking to save some money, you can purchase a USIM at the local airport upon arrival.
The price of a USIM may vary slightly depending on the number of digits in your phone number, but this isn’t significant.
The cost primarily depends on which wireless internet service you opt for. We’ve covered more about using USIMs in Vietnam in our comprehensive guide to mobile phones!
Transport from the airport to the city (hotel) – approximately $10 to $50
After purchasing a USIM, the following expense you’ll need to account for is the travel cost to your hotel.
Like any other country, the distance between the airport and the city center varies in Vietnam.
Some cities are nearby, such as Da Nang, while others, like Hanoi, are about an hour away.
Regardless of the city in Vietnam, you can reach your hotel in the city center from the airport for under $50 if you take a taxi.
It’s really not necessary to recklessly travel long distances by taxi.
In our Vietnam Guide, we’ve detailed various transportation methods from airports to city centers for each major city, including buses and taxis.
An even better alternative to taxis is to install and sign up for the Grab app in advance, register your credit card, and hail a Grab to your hotel.
Grab is a must-have app for traveling in Vietnam, and we’ve got you covered with our complete guide to Grab in Vietnam.
Assuming you’re using Grab, you can minimize the amount of currency exchange as the cost is automatically taken out of your registered card.
Moving from the hotel to a nearby downtown area – about $10 ~ $20
You can withdraw money directly if there’s an ATM near your hotel.
However, if not, you’ll need to go downtown to use an ATM. Since taxi fares in Vietnam are not very expensive, in any major city, you should be able to reach a bustling area for about $10 ~ $20.
Eating at a convenience store or restaurant – approximately $10
As soon as you step out of the airport in Vietnam, the sweltering heat might tempt you to buy a bottle of water.
It’s wise to factor in some expenses for convenience store purchases.
Bottled water and food are relatively cheap in Vietnam, so you can easily get a quick bite for around $10.
Conclusion: Exchanging about $200 should be sufficient.
First, exchange only $200 (about 4.8 million VND), then use it in Vietnam and withdraw the necessary amount from an ATM afterward.
In your country, there will surely be banks or card companies that do not charge fees for overseas withdrawals.
Moreover, in Vietnam, there are even banks with no ATM fees. So, exchange the minimum amount and withdraw the rest locally in Vietnam.
What currency should I exchange?
Although we’ve explained in detail in our previous post, “Introduction to Vietnamese Money and Precautions for Use,” Vietnam does not have coins and only uses 12 banknotes.
Typically, when you exchange dollars or euros for Vietnamese dong at the airport or locally, they give you 500,000 VND notes, depending on the amount.
Ask to have your money exchanged mainly into 200,000 and 100,000 VND notes. Since 500,000 VND (about $20) is quite a lot of money locally in Vietnam, there are very frequent cases where small shops or taxis don’t have change when you pay with a 500k note.
If you only use 100k notes, your wallet will become very thick. Therefore, the best method is to get 500k notes and exchange the rest into denominations of 200k -100k.
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