Travel guide

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The national currency - đồng (VND)
The national currency is đồng (VND).
We quote exchange rates on July 23, 2019 - Vietcombank:
1 US $ = 23,180 VND, 1 Euro = 26,921 VND, 1 Swiss Franc = 22,831 VND, 1 Dollar CANADA = 17,738 VND
Of course, these indicative exchange rates are constantly changing, and it is wise to update them before departure.
The đồng (VND) comes in the form of tickets: 200, 500, 1 000, 2 000, 5 000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000, 200,000 and 500,000. When you change the money at the hotel or at the banking office, you feel very rich once in your life.

Foreign currency
The most common foreign currency in Vietnam is the US dollar (US $). The euro is nevertheless very courted. It is changed without any problem anywhere in the country, at a rate no less advantageous than the US$ . Swiss Francs and Canadian dollars are also in most (but not all) exchange offices.
A law states that everything must be paid in Dong since 2010, but it can not be said to be applied to the letter!
In most cases you will have to pay in cash. And, although it is theoretically forbidden, it is possible to pay in American dollars almost everywhere. In any case, it is more advantageous to pay for purchases in Dongs.
Only large hotels and tourist restaurants accept payments by credit cards.

Exchange rates
Foreign currencies are exchanged for no commission in the exchange  offices and banks, at rates that vary daily. We advise you to change gradually and not all at once, and always keep small bills on you. It is not always easy to pay with too big tickets for a bottle of water, a diet coke or a cold beer for example.
It is possible to return to Vietnamese territory with foreign currency. So you can travel with your US$ or euros in your pocket. However, you will have to declare amounts exceeding 5000 euros  or dollars.
A tip: do not exchange money on the street. You should go to the banks. They are numerous in the big cities like Hanoi, Danang, Hoian, Ho Chi Minh city in particular. Exchange rates will be the same if you have chosen to bring travelers cheques.

Note: do not leave Vietnam with dôngs. Indeed, you will not be able to exchange them once back in your country.

Travelers Cheques
Most banks accept them, especially in Hanoi, Hồ Chí Minh city and tourist cities. In the rest of the country, Vietcombank is often the only one to change them. In remote places (in the mountainous regions or rural provinces), it is impossible to change traveler's checks, but there are distributors accepting major credit cards: Visa, Master, Amex. The bank commission levied on checks varies from 0.5% to 3%. Vietcombank is the largest national bank in Vietnam. Exchange rates are often applied by hotels, restaurants or souvenir shops.

Banks generally open from 07:30 to 11:30 (or noon) and from 13:00 to 16:30 (or 17:00), during the week days, and sometimes on Saturday morning. They are closed on Sundays and public holidays.

There are all kinds of ATM such as Vietcombank, BIDV, Citibank, HSBC, Vietinbanks, … a  few to name.
ATMs are  located everywhere in big cities and in Vietnam, even in small towns in the rural areas. You can therefore draw money with these ATMs using Visa and Master Card credit cards. Vietcombank ATMs can only draw VND 3,000,000 at a time. The others at Agribank accept withdrawals of 3,000,000 VND once. And what tends to multiply the bank commissions.

Credit card
It's easy and simple to pay for your purchases by credit card. A growing number of hotels, restaurants, shops and travel agencies accept them.

Travel budget

Vietnam remains a cheap destination for the western travelers. Traveling with two, we can get by with a budget of about 30 € per person per day: 15 - 20 € for the double room (about 10 € each), two meals at 3 - 5 €, the rest to spend for drinks, visits and transportation. By adding 10 - 15 € per day, you can stay in hotels a little more comfortable, sit at better tables and make a trip a little less tiring by borrowing minibuses or local taxis.
Similarly, local buses come back much cheaper than domestic flights. Of course, all depends on the time of your stay.
On the other hand, if you go down in chain hotels and restaurants more touristy, expect to see the prices multiplied exponentially: up to 250 € for a night of hotel.

Here are some numbers to remember:

  • A bowl of "pho" - rice vermicelli, noodles with pork, beef, chicken: 30 000 - 50 000 VND
  • A condensed milk coffee with ice cube: 20 000 - 40 000 VND
  • A local beer: Hanoi, Saigon or 333: 20,000 - 30,000 VND
  • A bottle of water La Vie, Aquafina 500 ml: 10,000 VND

These prices are given as indicative only, varying from one region to another, one shop to another. It's up to you to play the game.

Tips: a delicate subject not to be avoided.
Giving a small tip to those who serve you is a common practice in the world, especially in tourism.
Tips are not compulsory. But a small tip is always welcome when traveling to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar or Thailand. You give a tip if you appreciate the service that they serve you well: tour guides, drivers, waiters at restaurants, porters at the hotel, boatmen, rowers, the crew of the junk at Halong Bay ...

To whom do you  give a tip ?
When you travel with a tour guide and a driver, they are the people who accompany you every day.
It is best to tip guides and drivers at the end of your stay :  in Hanoi, Hue, Hoian, Danang or Saigon. That is when you finish a short journey of your long trip. It is very often that you have 3 guides in North, Central and South Vietnam if you go on individual trips or in small groups.
Then, the baggage handlers at the hotel help you to carry your luggage from the car to the reception, and then they pack your suitcases in your room upon your arrival. They drop your suitcases when you vacate your room or check out.
The waiters at  local restaurant  are there to serve you the dishes by hand. It is customary to give 10% of your bill at the end of your meal.
Boatmen in Halong, Hue, Hoian or the Mekong Delta or rowers in Tam Coc, Van Long, Trang An also deserve a small tip as your appreciation of their services.

How much should you give as a tip?
It's pretty hard to tell you how much to give. See below our suggestions for information:

  • Guides: 3 - 5 US$ / person / day
  • Chauffeurs: 2 - 3 US$ / person / day
  • Baggage handlers: 1 US$ / suitcase
  • Boatmen or rowers in Tam Coc, Hoa Lu, Hue, Hoian or Mekong delta: 1 - 2 US$ / person

It's up to you to rate their services by tipping. If you are happy, you can give them a little more. They would be grateful for your kindness in this regard.