Vietnam money talk – The Dong and how to use it

ho chi minh motorbike food tour vietnam currency where to exchange money

Vietnam Dong notes

All Vietnamese people is millionaires. It’s actually not a joke!

If you ever dreamed of being a millionaire but haven’t got the chance? Then Vietnam, this beautiful country in Southeast Asia should be in your must-go-destination list. The feeling of being a millionaire for a couple of days is so much fun and you will be amazed by how the money works in thousands. Where the 1,000 note in your currency can buy quite a lot then the 1,000 Dong can buy nothing, even for a load of bread. That is when the story begins

Welcome to Vietnam, the interesting land where every citizen is a millionaire!

In this post I will give you a brief history of the “Dong” and some tips to do it right.

1. Getting to know the Dong

Since Vietnam is a developing country, traveling here does not hurt your pocket like the other destinations. $1 US Dollar and you have street food choices, but you need to carry with you a 5 zeros money which is 20,000 dong. The bank note 1,000 Dong can only buy you a single cucumber in the wet market if the seller agree to sell in that small quantity. In the photo below I have in my hand ten banks notes. All in papers and they are all the small notes.

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“Tiền lẻ” is called for small bank notes in Vietnam Dong

And in this photo, I have the bigger bank notes, all in polymer and the biggest one is 500,000 Dong. Five zeros and it’s equal to 200 US dollar.

2. Back to the history of the Dong

“In 1946, the Viet Minh government – who later became the government of North Vietnam – introduced the dong to replace the French Indochinese piastre at the same value. In 1951, the rate was revalued at 100 to 1 and by 1958, it had been raised again to 1000 to 1. In South Vietnam, both piastres and dong banknotes were issued in 1953. When the city of Saigon fell on September22 1975, South Vietnam’s currency became the Liberation dong, worth 500 of the old South Vietnam dong.

Vietnam was reunified on May 3 1978 and the dong followed suit by merging into one currency. One new dong was equal to one Northern dong and 0.8 Southern Liberation dong – until it was revalued again on September 14 1985 due to inflation, with the new dong worth 10 of the old.”

 – Wikipedia


3. How to use Dong in a right way?

I know how confusing it is for the first time you use the Dong. So here is the guide:

  • Paper notes means small money while polymer means big money. You got the idea!
  • The note 20,000 Dong and 500,000 Dong have the same color and I’ve seen many foreigners have misunderstanding between them. The tip is that when you have to use those notes, be a little careful and don’t let you eyes tricks you. Good people will return your money bak but some will keep it. Good and bad people is every countries.
  • Wondering if you can use US dollar in Vietnam, Yes it’s widely accepted and used in most of the cities, but if you want to have better conversion rate, use Dong instead.
where to exchange money in ho chi minh motorbike tour saigon kiss tours

Dong is really confusing 

where to exchange money in ho chi minh motorbike tour saigon kiss tours

20,000 Dong and 500,000 Dong looks very alike in the evening 

4. What can I buy with $1 US dollar?

 Well, with $1 US dollar (or a bit more than 20,000 dong) you can buy a lot:
  • Vietnamese sweet soup Che: 15,000 Dong
  • Grilled rice paper Banh Trang Nuong: 15,000 Dong
  • Vietnamese barquette Banh Mi: 18,000 Dong
  • A bowl of noodle at street food vendor: 20,000 Dong
  • Entrance fees for most tourist attractions (Independence Palace, War Museum, …): 20,000 – 40,000 Dong ~ 1 – 2 US Dollar
  • This is not always the case, but there are a few of local noodle soup they serve on the street with the price of $1 US Dollar.
where to exchange money in ho chi minh motorbike tour saigon kiss tours

It’s me, hell yeah! I’m a Vietnam Dong millionaire with only two notes

5. Where to exchange your money and obtain cash in Ho Chi Minh

First place is the airport since there are a number of currency exchange counters there. Most of the banks in Vietnam do money exchange within their working hours from Monday to Friday 8am to 11:30am and 1pm to 4pm. Some banks works on Saturday morning but very few. Please note that only the banks in big cities do the services, when you travel to villages and towns like Mekong delta for example, the banks may not help with that. Below is some banks that offer the services:
  • Vietcombank (VCB)
  • Asia Commercial Bank (ACB)
  • Vietnam Technological and Commercial Joint Stock Bank (Techcombank)
  • Military Commercial Joint Stock Bank (MB Bank)
  • Global Private Bank (HSBC),…
Those banks can exchange US, Australia, Canadian, Hongkong, Singapore dollars, Euro, British pound, Thai Baht, Japanese Yen to Vietnam Dong for you.
I would highly recommend the bank if you need to exchange a large amount of money (more than a thousand US dollars for example). And the security system in the bank is definitely greater for you and your property. Some banks require you to show your passport and fill a form before you can exchange money. If you want to make it quicker, here I list some money exchange countes that you can trust. Those places are central for your convenience.

 Hung Long Money Exchange

Hung Long Ltd offers the best rate for currency exchange.  Mac Thi Buoi is next to Nguyen Hue, the famous pedestrian street.
Address: 86 Mac Thi Buoi, ward Ben Nghe , District 1

 Ha Tam Jewelry Store

This place located just across Ben Thanh market. They also have a good exchange rate. However, you should check for the rate online in advance to have an idea of what to expect.
Address: 2 Nguyen An Ninh street, ward Ben Thanh, District 1

Ben Thanh Money Changer

Another place for money exchange near Ben Thanh. This place located just 9 meters away from the West of the market.
Address: 30-36 Phan Boi Chau, Ben Thanh, District 1

ATM machines is everywhere on the streets and most of them work with Visa and Master Card. If you want to obtain cash in Vietnam, look for the street corners to find the ATMs. All have varying withdrawal limits for each transaction. It varies from bank to bank and can be from 2,000,000 Dong (approximately US $90) to 10,000,000 Dong (approximately US $440).


6. Having fun when asking for the bill in Vietnamese

When finishing a meal, simply say those phrases:

Anh oi tinh tien”: brother, can I get the bill please?

Em oi tinh tien”: sister, can I get the bill please?

Say a bit louder. As the street vendors or crowded restaurants might be a bit noisy, it’s the cultural norm when calling the waiter or waitress for the bill and it’s totally polite to behave like that as long as you are not in a luxury restaurants when the atmosphere is quite.

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A street food corner when you can get 1 US dollar (20,000 Dong) per order

where to exchange money in ho chi minh motorbike tour saigon kiss tours

Saigon Kiss Tours’ girl riders with guests in Saigon Street Food Tour

Above is the guide for Vietnam currency, the Dong. I hope you find it helpful for your travel planning to Vietnam. Feel free to share your experience of using Vietnam Dong with us.

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Natalie Vo
Natalie Vo
100% Vietnamese, my passion is traveling and running projects related to tourism. I'm here to share what I know about Vietnam for travelers.

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