The Vietnamese Dồng: 5 Essential Facts about Vietnam’s Currency

Last updated on May 24th, 2024 at 02:40 pm

 
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50,000 Vietnamese Dong

With natural beauty and a growing economy, Vietnam is a vibrant Southeast Asian country with a deep sense of history. Vietnamese currency and currency transfers are important to residents of Vietnam and to its large diaspora. Vietnamese immigrants send home both Vietnamese dong and USD to support their loved ones.

The Vietnamese đồng (VND) is primarily issued by the State Bank of Vietnam. Its name comes from the Vietnamese word for “copper.”

A brief history of the Vietnamese dong

  • The đồng officially replaced the French Indochinese piastre in 1946, when it was introduced by the Viet Minh government (later known as the government of North Vietnam).
  • In the early 1950s, the South Vietnamese government adopted a different form of the national currency.
  • The fall of Saigon in 1975 led to the currency in South Vietnam being converted to the liberation đồng.
  • In the mid-1980s, the currency was revalued, making every new đồng worth 10 old đồngs.

About the official currency of Vietnam

The currency symbol for Vietnam is ₫, while the currency code is VND. The currency code appears after the monetary amount, such as 1,000 VND or 5,000 VND.

On the front, all Vietnamese banknotes have a portrait of Ho Chi Minh, the revolutionary who served as President from 1945 to 1969. The images on the back vary by denomination, and the material used for the banknotes differs from bill to bill.

Vietnamese banknotes currently in circulation

  • 100 VND: Blackish-brown cotton paper bills with an image of Pho Minh Tower on the back
  • 200 VND: Reddish-brown cotton paper notes with an image of a tractor representing the agricultural industry on the back
  • 500 VND: Dark red cotton paper banknotes with an image of ships on the back
  • 1,000 VND: Purple cotton paper notes with an image of a timbering operation on the back
  • 2,000 VND: Dark brown cotton paper bills with an image of a weaving workshop on the back
  • 5,000 VND: Dark blue cotton paper material with an image of Tri An Hydropower Plant on the back
  • 10,000 VND: Dark brown and green polymer material with an image of oil rigs on the back
  • 20,000 VND: Dark blue polymer material with an image of the Pagoda Bridge on the back
  • 50,000 VND: Red and purplish-brown polymer material with an image of Nha Rong Port on the back
  • 100,000 VND: Dark green polymer banknotes with an image of the Temple of Literature on the back
  • 200,000 VND: Brownish-red polymer banknotes with an image of Ha Long Bay on the back
  • 500,000 VND: Blue and purple polymer banknotes with an image of Ho Chin Minh’s home in Kim Lien on the back

The State Bank of Vietnam is also responsible for minting coins. Vietnamese dong coins include:

  • 200 VND: Nickel-plated steel coins with a plain edge, showing the emblem of Vietnam on one side and the denomination on the other
  • 500 VND: Nickel-plated steel coins with an alternate reeded edge, displaying the emblem of Vietnam on one side and the denomination on the other
  • 1,000 VND: Bronze-plated steel coins with a continuous reeded edge, featuring the emblem of Vietnam on one side and an image of Đô Temple on the other
  • 2,000 VND: Bronze-plated steel coins with an alternate reeded edge, showcasing the emblem of Vietnam on one side and an image of the Communal House on Stilts on the other
  • 5,000 VND: Nickel, copper, and aluminum coins with a shell-like reeded edge, decorated with the emblem of Vietnam on one side and the One Pillar Pagoda on the other.

5 Fun Facts about Vietnamese Currency

1. You won’t be able to retire on 1 million Vietnamese đồng.

Surpassed only by the Iranian Rial, the Vietnamese đồng is the second-lowest-valued currency in the world. For visitors to Vietnam, this often leads to the surprise that they’re “instant millionaires” upon converting foreign currency into đồng.

While that’s technically true, having a million Vietnamese dong does not make you wealthy.

At the time of this writing, for example, 1 million đồng is worth about $43 U.S. dollars. That is roughly the amount that a tourist would spend per day vacationing in Hanoi.

2. Don’t expect to use coins in Vietnam.

Once travelers get over the new realities of being a millionaire and that not meaning much, the next big surprise usually comes when they go to make a purchase and realize that coins are rarely used in Vietnamese currency.

Due to chronic inflation, the Vietnamese government has paused the production of coins at various points, last resuming production at the end of 2003 when they minted coins in 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, and 5,000 đồng denominations.

However, while the law says Vietnamese coins should be accepted as legal tender, some businesses, and even banks, may refuse them. That’s because they’re widely seen as collector’s items due to their incredibly low value.

3. The same man is on every banknote.

If you’re used to seeing bills like the United States dollar, New Zealand dollar, Thai baht, or Swiss franc, you’ll expect that every denomination of a national currency is marked by a different historical figure. Yet, this isn’t true for the Vietnam đồng, every denomination of which focuses on the same historical figure.

The face on these banknotes is that of Ho Chi Minh, popularly known as “Uncle Ho.” Uncle Ho is a national figure loved by some and vilified by others, but either way, his face is known by everyone in Vietnam.

If you find it harder to differentiate between denominations, take a look at the backside of the Vietnamese dong banknotes. There, you’ll see various national symbols, helping to distinguish between the notes.

4. Vietnamese dong banknotes come in two “families,” based on their material.

Various Vietnamese Dong and heart-shaped bills

All Vietnamese currency notes belong to one of two “families.” Banknotes of lesser value form the “cotton” family, and the others are the “polymer” family.

Cotton family

Notes in the cotton family are of low value. You’ll rarely touch them because you simply can’t buy a lot with them.

Five notes fall into this family: VND$200, VND$500, VND$1,000, VND$2,000, and VND$5,000. (In current USD values, these range in value from less than a penny to $0.22).

A 200 đồng note is bronze in color. You can’t buy anything with it alone, and for that reason, it’s quite rare to see one being used. The 500 đồng red notes are slightly more popular, but even a small snack would likely cost at least a 1,000 đồng note, which is purple.

The more common but still low-value 2,000 and 5,000 đồng notes are brown and blue, respectively.

Locals often collect these low-value cotton notes and later gamble with them during the holidays. For example, gambling is a popular activity during Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, when people use cotton notes in the same way people would use change for “penny slots” in the United States.

Adding to their perceived (and actual) lower value is that cotton family notes are easily torn. They are also often damaged by water.

Polymer family

Notes in the polymer family are a bit more expensive to produce, but they also last longer than cotton notes. They’re also worth more.

The more of these you’ve got, the more buying power you have, with notes ranging from VND$10,000, VND$20,000, VND$50,000, VND$100,000, and VND$200,000 to VND$500,000.

All six of these notes are tougher, making them more resistant to water damage and general wear-and-tear.

Locals and travelers alike use the VND$50,000 note the most. At the time of writing, it’s worth about $2.15 USD and is recognizable for its pink color. With this note, you can generally order a full meal, including a drink and dessert.

On the back of the bill, you’ll find an image of Phu Van Lau, a famous pavilion in Hue.

5. Mix-ups are common.

When making a purchase with Vietnamese đồng, be careful that you don’t accidentally hand over too many. These banknotes, especially the polymer đồng, can stick together.

Another problem for people who use high-denomination notes is that they have trouble getting change. Street vendors in particular often don’t have enough change.

In order to avoid these problems, someone using đồng might keep the higher-value polymer notes in a different compartment of their wallets or purses.

Understanding the VND exchange rate

To get a sense of typical exchange rates for Vietnam’s money, take a look at these approximate rates from June 2024 for the đồng with popular currency pairings.

For the latest conversion rates, use an online currency converter or check your preferred money transfer app. Foreign exchange rates are published widely.

  • American dollar (1 USD) = VND$25,471
  • British pound ≈ VND$32,452
  • Euro ≈ VND$27,645
  • Swiss franc ≈ VND$27,834
  • Canadian dollar ≈ VND$18,614
  • Australian dollar ≈ VND$16,874
  • New Zealand dollar ≈ VND$15,596
  • Japanese yen ≈ VND$162.27
  • Singaporean dollar ≈ VND$18,864
  • Hong Kong dollar ≈ VND$3,261
  • Taiwanese dollar (New Taiwan dollar) ≈ VND$789
  • Thai baht (THB) ≈ VND$695.17
  • Mexican peso (MXN) = VND$1,525
  • South Korean won (KRW): VND$18.64
  • Indian rupee (INR): VND$307
  • Philippine peso (PHP): VND$437

Sending money to Vietnam

If you’re looking to convert the U.S. dollar, the euro, English pound, Saudi riyal, or another currency into Vietnamese dong to send a transfer, there are two main options to choose from: banks and transfer services.

Money transfer services

You may find that using a dedicated transfer service is a more affordable way to make a EUR to VND, USD to VND, GBP to VND, or any other currency to VND exchange. Transfer companies based entirely online, such as Remitly, are more affordable than traditional transfers and don’t come with hidden fees.

Converting the Vietnamese dong

If you’re in the country, you may not need to use local banknotes, as you can often use USD. Credit cards are accepted in major cities. If you want cash on hand, you can use your debit card to withdraw from ATMs.