When you arrive in Vietnam you will need deep pockets. Not because of the costs of goods and services but because there are so many damn denominations here!! Notes range from the virtually worthless 200 VND up to the 500,000VD note. There are 10 denominations in total. At the current rate of exchange, 1 US dollar is worth 21,000VND. So imagine your surprise when you exchange $20000! It makes you feel as though you are one of the wealthiest people on earth. You receive a stack of money the size of a small paperback book.
As a newcomer to the country you must be very careful to check the money you are handling as some of the bill colours are quite similar. For example, your in a dark club and you hand a blue note thinking you’ve paid for your 110,000VND cocktail only to be embarrassed that you’ve given the waitress a 20,000vnd bill instead of a 500,000.
Then there’s the challenge of organizing this mitt full of currency. Invest in a wallet or a money clip ( which by the way, street sellers will try to sell these items to you several times a day) just to simplify things. I’ve never been a fan of either, so every morning I have the ritual sorting of the cash moment, small to big (always keep the big bills on the insie of the role). Bloody tedious!
A very valuable tip from one traveller to another, try to keep your money in different places on your persons when out and about. You make yourself an appealing target to thieves and pick pockets if you pull out a wad of cash. A little in the wallet, a little in the pocket, whatever. Just play it safe.
For good or bad foreign chains are growing like weeds in Vietnam. The saving grace of such institutions is they can always make change. Do not expect that the lady on the corner selling coffee is going to have the cash on hand to change a 500,000VND note. (Most ATM’s issue 500,000VND notes) Head to the local Circle K and buy a drink or a pack of gum. They will always have change.
And lastly, as a side note, foreign currency trade is not allowed, but in some places American dollars are accepted. So, it’s alway handy to bring some along just in case.