Currency: ₫ VND or $ USD
Although the official currency is Vietnamese Dong we have stated costs in US Dollars as many establishments list prices in this way.
General Living Costs
Living expenses in Vietnam are exceedingly low, although a need for quick transport in the way of taxis and flights will drive costs up. Backpackers can get by on just $15usd a day easily, for more comfort and nights out budget around $25usd. Those looking for 5 star living will spend $100usd or more a day easily.
In Vietnam you will rarely feel the need to spend more on better quality goods and services as even the cheapest options are above expectations. Save by eating street foods and using public transport as much as possible.
Vietnamese travel a lot during public holidays especially during Tet, the week long celebrations start between late January and mid-February, consider making travel and accommodation reservations in advance and be mindful that costs rise during public holidays.
Getting Money & Currency Advice
The official currency of Vietnam is the dong, which is abbreviated to vnd or ₫. Banknotes come in denominations of 500₫, 1000₫, 2000₫, 5000₫, 10,000₫, 20,000₫, 50,000₫, 100,000₫, 200,000₫ and 500,000₫. It’s illegal to list prices or ask for payment in any currency that is not the Dong, that being said many still do and will happily take your $usd or $aud though their rates will be awful compared to the banks.
ATMs usually have a maximum withdrawal limit of 2,000,000₫ unless you are in large cities like Saigon or Hanoi where limits up to 10,000,000₫ are available from banks including ANZ, CitiBank, HSBC and the Commenwealth Bank. Multiple withdrawals can be made until the accounts daily limit has been reached, be aware that on top of any ATM fee’s your bank will also likely charge a fee.
Vietcombank and Agribank ATMs charge a low 20,000₫ per transaction and are found throughout Vietnam, the next best are Sacombank and ACB at 30,000₫ and 35,000₫, try to avoid Techcombank and Vietinbank who charge 55.000₫. Few ATM’s have free withdrawals and they only accept Visa not Mastercard, one is CitiBank, again only available in Saigon and Hanoi.
Only exchange cash at banks or trusted hotels and always check the notes and rates first. Only use street shops and stalls when buying currency that is not dong, jewellery shops are the most reliable, you may get scammed and the exchange rates will be weak. Never accept torn or damaged banknotes as they can be extremely difficult to spend.
Try an spend all of your Vietnamese dong before exiting the country as foreign currency exchanges may not accept VND.
Travellers’ checks can only be cashed at major banks charging up to 3% commission per check.
Credit and debit cards are best used for booking flights, hotels and other larger transactions. Some establishments simply do not accept cards, those which do slap on a transaction charge similar or worse than a ATM withdrawal fee. The saying is true ‘Cash is king’.
Dorm beds aren’t too popular in Vietnam as a decent private hotel room can often be found at the same price if not lower! So spend $6-$9usd and rooms will generally be private including air-con and satellite TV. The big jump in comfort and service comes in 4 star hotels for $50usd a night, fantastic 5 star hotels and resorts are in reach at $100usd and over. If travelling during low season try to negotiate a discount on rooms, long stay deals can also be found.
Food and Drink
Street stalls and markets kick out cheap eats for under $1. Grab yourself a Bánh mì, a baguette sandwhich, for as little as $0.60 or a traditional bowl of Phở for around a $1. Local restaurants have lots on offer for between $2 and $5 pleasing the stomach and wallet. Even 3 courses in a top class Vietnamese restaurant will only set you back around $20.
Bia hoi draft larger is very light at 3% ABV, available for $0.15 a glass in some places, I’d recommend it to anyone. Large bottled beers like Tiger range from $0.60 to $1.20. Wine can be considered expensive in comparison at close to $10 a bottle in restaurants
Cocktails are priced between $1 and $3, low end spirits are of course the cheapest and are often the only option, thankfully the quality is usually tolerable.
Soft drinks and famed Vietnamese coffee are also a bargain, starting at around $0.50.
Like anywhere be wary of taxi drivers, they’re great value for money in Vietnam but watch out for the many tricks and scams used. Tariffs usually start at $0.60usd for the first 0.7km then around $0.70 for each kilometre after that though negotiated fares work out cheaper, or rent a driver for the day or a lengthy journey for $40-$60usd. Green and white taxis from “Mai Linh” or “Vinasun” are good and are widely available throughout much of the country.
Trains have great coverage and are easy to arrange, short city hops like a 3 hour trip from Hue to Danang cost $3-$5usd. Longer distances like Hanoi to Hue, or HCMC to Nha Trang are priced from $20usd for a hard seat to $60usd for a soft berth sleeper. Trains take longer but given the better scenery and lack of road safety they’re more than worth it.
Rent one for $5-10usd a day but be aware of the many risks involved, or use the many moto taxis for $1usd they can get you across towns in a flash. Moto taxi drivers will also happily take you anywhere for a whole day and it will cost as little as $7usd.
Public buses are abundant within towns and cities, fares are no more than $0.50usd. Hop on/off buses are the most flexible, comfortable and efficient way to get around, simply purchase an open ticket between HCMC and Hanoi (many other routes available) from a travel agent for around $25usd, then your free to stop and explore places between the two.
Mini buses are prone to overloading and make many comfort stops, in remote areas most will overcharge as they know travellers have fewer transport options. Among the trusted bus brands are Hoang Long, Mai Linh and Phuong Trang which offer good services at reasonable prices.
Top museums and attractions including the Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum in HCMC also the Hanoi prison cost under $3usd for entry. Hoi An Ancient town, Hue citadel and other top attractions are still no more than $7usd making entertainment and Vietnamese culture accessible to all. Vietnam is not just one of the cheapest countries in the world to live, it’s also a bargain for visitors to experience.
Tips are expected more in the South than the North, where they are taken with either extreme thanks or complete bemusement! As ever though, if a local guide or driver has given excellent service, offer a tip it will no doubt be appreciated.
Prices listed are as a guide only. Due to market changes and currency fluctuations we cannot guarantee the 100% accuracy of the prices listed. Those listed are gathered from primary research accurate in May 2015.