MONEY

Currency

Dong (VND). Notes are in denominations of VND 500,000, 200,000, 100,000, 50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5000, 2000, 1000, 500, 200 and 100. Coins are in denominations of VND5000, 2000, 1000, 500 and 200.

Approximate exchange rates: 1USD = 22,000 dong 
Currency Exchange

The US Dollar is the most favoured foreign currency. Australian, British, Japanese, Singaporean and Thai currency, as well as the Euro, can easily be changed in the larger cities; great difficulty may be encountered in trying to exchange any other currencies. Hotels generally change major foreign currencies at the prevailing bank rate. Do not change any money on the streets, there is no advantage for doing so. Do change them at a jeweller (one that sells gold); shop around and you’ll get a better rate than at the state-controlled bank.

Credit / Debit Cards and ATMs

Most of services accept credit cards will charge you an extra 3% per transaction. Outside main centres, it is wise to carry cash even though ATMs are becoming more common. The withdrawal limit is 2 Million VND (US$100) per transaction and the usual cost for each is around VND21,000 (1 USD).

Currency Restrictions

Import and export of foreign currency over US$5,000 is subject to declaration. Proof of all expenses should be kept.

Banking Hours

Monday to Friday from 0730/0800 to 1130 and 1300 to 1600. Do take your passport with you or a good copy as this is necessary for all dealings.

SHOPPING

Don’t miss the markets, they are among the most atmospheric in Southeast Asia and still the hub of commercial activity everywhere in Vietnam.

The idea of a fixed pricing system is still quite novel, which means that good-natured haggling is an important habit to develop. Anywhere outside of supermarkets, restaurants and anything controlled by the state, bargaining is probably possible and usually essential.

The idea of a fixed pricing system is still quite novel, which means that good-natured haggling is an important habit to develop. Anywhere outside of supermarkets, restaurants and anything controlled by the state, bargaining is probably possible and usually essential.

Local specialties include lacquer painting, carvings (stone & wood), reed mats, embroidery, tailor-made ao dais (female national costume), ceramics painting, and mother-of-pearl inlay on ornaments and furniture, not to mention the ubiquitous conical hat. Hoi An and Saigon are some of the best places in Vietnam to shop for souvenirs at bargain prices including clothes, shoes, silk, precious or semi-precious stones (Jade), jewellery, handicrafts, antiques and paintings. Very good copies can be found, particularly items such as clothes, sports equipment and luggage. Souvenir shops in Hanoi & Saigon offer an incredible collection of genuine imitations of Zippo lighters with war logos, dog tag

FOOD & DRINK

Our own preference goes to the central cuisine, with its subtle sophisticated flavours. Northern dishes can be a little on the bland side, while the southern recipes are a bit heavy on sugary tastes. National specialties include rice or noodles that usually provide the basis of a meal.

Breakfast is generally noodle soup (known as Pho). Baguettes are available throughout Vietnam. Nems are common and Banh Chung the glutinous rice, pork and onion snacks wrapped in leaves are to be eaten at any time. Nuoc Mam (fish sauce) or Mam Tom (shrimp sauce) is served with most dishes.

National drinks are green tea and strong coffee, it is available everywhere. Bia Hoi, a local draught beer is available at street stalls in Hanoi. It is not only cheap, but free of additives. Rice wine is also a favourite.

HEALTH

There are international standard hospitals in major towns and cities. Health care centres can be found in all provinces, but facilities are limited and there is a lack of medicine. Health insurance is essential and should include coverage for emergency repatriation by air. Immediate cash payment is expected for medical services.

SAFETY

Vietnam is a relatively safe country to visit. As a global rule, we recommend you never leave your belongings unattended and always maintain eye contact or a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags. Valuables should be stored in the safety box in your room, if available, or at the reception. Avoid mopeds late at night and choose reliable metered taxi companies.

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