The official currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). Although a handful of places will accept payment in US dollars most people would much prefer to be paid in Dong, so it is important to keep a good supply of local currency while travelling in Vietnam.
The currency is effectively pegged to the dollar, with a small trading bracket of 5% permitted - however the market usually pushes to the far side of this bracket, and the result is the exchange rate is usually around 20,800 Dong to $1 US with only a small fluctuation.
Despite the market pressure the government is reluctant to devalue the currency so although the rate may vary slighly it is likely to be similar when you come to visit the country.
Notes and Coins
Vietnamese Dong comes denominated in bills of between 1,000 and 500,000 Dong. For simplicity's sake people often leave off the 'thousand' when quoting prices so we shall do so here: notes are available in denominations of 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10, 2 and 1 thousand, as well as a 500 Dong note, while coins come in 5,000 , 2,000 and 1,000 as well as 500 and 200 coin.
Most Vietnamese people prefer notes to coins and occasionaly may refuse to accept a coin. It is very common that ripped or torn notes are refused, but faded or discoloured notes are usually fine.
In general people prefer notes to be shiny, new, crisp and unfolded. Traditionally money is given at the New Year, at weddings and other family occasions, and fresh new notes are considered 'Lucky', while grubby, crumpled soggy notes are very much frowned upon.
When paying for goods or services it is polite to straighten the notes and to hand them to a vendor with two hands, making eye contact as you do so. When giving gifts in Vietnam you should also present them with two hands and make eye contact.
Travel Money - ATMs & Travellers Cheques
Many travellers are concerned by the safety of their money when travelling, and travellers cheques are a popular option for those who do not like carrying around cash or cards. Sadly, it can be quite difficult to cash travellers cheques in Vietnam and many major hotels will only exchange currency for current residents - so unless you are staying in five star hotels throughout your trip this may be difficult.
Thankfully Vietnam's ATM network is expanding rapidly, and it is rare to visit a town that does not have an ATM facility of some kind. Most ATMs will accept Visa and Mastercard debit or credit cards - but be wary of high charges fromyour bank if you make a withdrawal on a credit card. The Plus network is also widely supported but there are a couple of banks that do not accept Plus cards so you may need ton shop around.
Most banks will only allow you to withdraw a maximum of 2,000,000 VND, or just over $100, but ANZ and HSBC machines will allow you to withdraw up to 4,000,000 VND, which should reduce your trips to the cashpoint and cut down on fees at home. It is common practice for ATMs in Vietnam to charge for withdrawals from non-customers which will be in addition to your own bank's fees - this is generally around 20,000 Dong or roughly $1 per transaction, though a couple of banks charge 30,000. HSBC has a charge of 1% which can be up to 40,000 VND on a withdrawal of 4 million dong.
If you are worried about having your own bank cards stolen an increasily popular option is to arrange a pre-paid credit card before you leave home. Many provider issue special cards for travellers, with favourable exchange rates and insurance against theft or loss, offering a convenient and safe way to carry your money in Vietnam