Before traveling to Vietnam for a holiday, it’s a good idea to research what to expect in the country and prepare accordingly. One of the most important things to consider is the currency used in Vietnam, and how much money you need to budget for your stay.
Another important consideration is whether or not you need to organize a visa to visit Vietnam before your trip. While some foreign citizens are able to visit Vietnam for varying lengths of short stay depending on their nationality, the majority of travelers are required to have a visa to enter the country. Although a Vietnam visa on arrival is available, eligible citizens are now available to avoid queues in the airport with the Vietnam eVisa, which makes it possible to receive travel authorization exclusively online and grants the traveler expedited entry to the country.
The simple online visa application is quick and straightforward to complete, and also saves travelers from having to worry about having local currency on arrival to pay the visa fee in the airport. Nevertheless, travelers are advised to exchange at least a little of their home currency before arrival in Vietnam. Read on for a complete guide to travel tips for money in Vietnam and how to travel to Vietnam on a budget.
How Much Money Should I Budget to Travel to Vietnam?
The Vietnamese dong is the official currency of Vietnam. Travelers are advised to be careful when paying with dong notes to avoid spending more than necessary, as some of the denominations look quite similar.
Although many stores in touristic areas may quote prices in both dong and in US dollars, the asking price can usually be twice as high. It’s therefore better to bring mostly dong for travel money in Vietnam, and perhaps bring a little bit of currency in dollars for emergencies.
Those coming from Western countries will find Vietnam comparatively cheap and discover that their money will go far in the country. It’s therefore incredibly easy to travel Vietnam on a budget, and visitors can easily spend as little as $25 a day on food and lodging. Mid-budget prices for a bit more of a comfortable stay range between $35-65, and even luxury travelers would only expect to pay around $100-200 per day for an experience including a five star hotel.
Can You Use Credit Cards in Vietnam?
It’s possible to use credit or debit cards for large purchases in Vietnam, especially in mid to high-end shops, hotels and restaurants in the larger cities. However, not all types of credit card are accepted in Vietnam: while many businesses may accept Visa and Mastercard, it’s less likely that American Express and prepaid travel cards will be accepted.
Withdrawing money from an ATM in Vietnam can also cost the traveler depending on the card they use and which bank the machine is affiliated with. There is usually a charge of around $1-2 on top of bank fees for withdrawals made with most debit cards, so it’s a good idea to find a card which doesn’t incur charges in Vietnam. Travelers are advised not to use a credit card to withdraw from an ATM due to high service and interest fees.
Where to Exchange Money in Vietnam
As it necessary to use local currency for the majority of transactions, it’s a good idea to be aware of Vietnam money exchange rates. Travelers are able to find Vietnam money exchange options in banks, large hotels, and local jewelry stores.
It’s possible to exchange a range of foreign currency at branches of the government-run Vietcombank, as well as a variety of other local banks in the major cities. Hotels can also offer competitive exchange rates to match those of the banks, although some small establishments may add on an extra service fee.
But, surprisingly, the best deals can be found in local jewelry shops in the major population centres, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. These stores, located in Hanoi’s Old Quarter and Ho Chi Minh City’s Nguyen An Ninh Street usually don’t ask for a service fee and offer very fair rates.
Do You Need to Tip in Vietnam?
Tipping is not a common practice in Vietnam, as most hotels and restaurants will automatically add a 5-10% service charge to all bills. However, its nevertheless a nice gesture to tip a few American coins to any waiters, porters, guides and taxi drivers who may help you out during your stay.
While not strictly a ‘tip’, it is heavily encouraged for visitors to make a donation if visiting one of the many Buddhist temples in Vietnam. Many of these institutions rely on charity to keep their doors open, and if you enjoy your visit you might like to help with a small contribution to the donation box before you leave. Typical donations are around $1 or less.
When to Haggle in Vietnam
Haggling is widely accepted and encouraged in Vietnam: local people love to feel like they are getting a bargain. At the majority of tourist shops the ‘fixed prices’ aren’t really all that fixed, and you are able to haggle the price down quite a bit if you are prepared to spend some time negotiating with the seller.
Getting a bargain price is often easier in areas with mid-to-low tourist traffic, as sellers are more likely to engage with your haggling attempts. Vendors in the busiest tourist areas of Ho Chi Minh City are more difficult to sway, as they know that there are plenty of tourists who will gladly pay the asking price without attempting to negotiate.
If you happen to have a Vietnamese friend with you on the trip who can haggle on your behalf you’re even more likely to get a bargain price for your goods and save more of your budget to travel around Vietnam.