Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Money and Banks

The currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese đồng. The currency code for Dong is VND, and the currency symbol is ₫. The approximate exchange rate as of March 2011 is 20,800 VND to $1 and 29,500 VND to €1.

Banknotes are available in 12 paper denominations, of which the most commonly used are 10.000VND, 20,000VND, 50,000VND, 100,000 VND, 200,000 VND and 500,000VND.  Coins have 5 denominations: 5,000 VND, 2,000 VND, 1,000 VND, 500 VND and 200 VND.

It is very easy to pay with major credit or debit cards for hotels, at big supermarkets, luxury restaurants, or at some tourist sites. But you should also have local currency when you want to buy food from street vendors, when going by cab, or when using public transportation. Paying cash and having Dong on you all the time is the safest bet. There are many ATMs around the city, but don’t rely completely on them all the time (e.g. during Tet). ATMs only give in VND. The most extensive ATM network in the city belongs to Vietcombank.

The withdrawal limit of 2,000,000d, but you can do multiple withdrawals until you get the desired amount (within your account limits). The ATM withdrawal fee is generally 20,000d per transaction.

Dollars are widely accepted (this is basically the second currency), while Euro is not. However, you can exchange both in banks and hotels. Frommer’s recommend a reliable currency exchange at 4C Le Loi St., right in the town center.

Traveler checks are also a good idea. They have a fixed exchange rate and can be easily exchanged into cash at any bank in Saigon.

Major banks here include:

ANZ Bank - 11 Me Linh Sq., District 1, Phone: 08/3829-9319

Citibank - 115 Nguyen Hue St., District 1, Phone: 08/3824-2118

HSBC - 235 Dong Khoi St., District 1, Phone: 08/3829-2288

Vietcombank - 29 Ben Chuong Duong, District 1, Phone: 08/3829-7245

Agribank, Vietin Bank, and Sacombank are also well represented. Generally banks open from Monday to Friday: 8:00 – 11:30 and 1:00 to 4:00. Some large banks also open through lunch or on Saturday mornings. Banks are closed on public holidays.

There is no maximum amount you are allowed to bring to Vietnam, but all amounts over $7000 have to be declared at the customs.

Western Union has a number of locations throughout the city. You can find all of them listed here: http://www.westernunion.com/info/agentLocator.asp?country=VN

  1. Whenever you go touring to remote places or shopping from street peddlers or markets, always stock up on dong. Traveler checks and credit cards will help you only in the big cities.
  2. You have to be careful when you use Vietnamese notes, as they are similar and can be easily mistaken one for the other. Always check the change you receive: there are instances when sellers try to take advantage of newcomers.
  3. Don’t forget to bargain politely. It’s important for saving face in Asia. Street sellers will always tell tourists or Westerners a higher price. The discounts usually range between 10% and 50% (sometimes even more). If you manage to pay local price, it will most of the times be a bargain to the price you are used to in your country.
  4. Tipping is not compulsory or expected, but much appreciated. We usually tip drivers, guides, and waiters.
  5. Before departure, exchange dong to your own country’s currency. It’s forbidden to take dong out of the country. And it’s useless, anyway.

Now, have a wonderful time shopping!

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