The Vietnamese đồng (VND) is primarily issued by the State Bank of Vietnam, which is the Southeast Asian country’s central bank. Its name comes from the Vietnamese word for “copper.” The đồng has been the official currency of Vietnam since 1978, though it’s undergone many changes since its inception.
For instance, it used to be subdivided into 10 hào and 10 xu, but neither of these denominations is used today. Modern banknotes range from 100 to 500,000 dongs, with the largest note being the equivalent of about $22 USD.
History of Vietnam’s Money
- 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-eighties, the currency was revalued, making every new đồng worth 10 old đồng.
#1 One million Vietnamese bills doesn’t make you a millionaire.
Surpassed only by the Iranian Rial, the Vietnamese Dong 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.
For example, at the time of this writing, 1 million đồng is worth about $44 U.S. dollars.
#2 Don’t expect to use coins in Vietnam.
Once travelers get over the new reality of being technically a millionaire, the next big surprise usually comes when they go to make a purchase and realize there are rarely any coins.
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 they should be accepted as legal tender, some businesses and even banks may refuse coins. That’s because they’re widely seen as collector’s items due to their incredibly low value.
#Who’s that man on (every) bank note?
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.
Instead, each denomination of the Vietnamese national currency features the face of “Uncle Ho.” Uncle Ho, or Ho Chi Minh, is a national figure loved by some and vilified by others, but 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 bank notes. There, you’ll see various national symbols, helping to distinguish between the notes.
#4 Meet the two families of currency.
All notes can be divided into one of two families: The cotton family or the polymer 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. Locals often collect them and later gamble with them during the holidays. Think of it as paying “penny slots” in the United States. Gambling is especially popular during Tet (Vietnamese New Year).
Not only that, but cotton family notes are easily torn, and they’re often damaged by water. Five notes fall into this family: VND$200, VND$500, VND$1,000, VND$2,000, and VND$5,000.
The first note in the list (VND$200) is worth about a penny and is bronze in color. You can’t buy anything with it and it’s actually quite rare these days.
Notes in the polymer family are 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 $2.19 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 aren’t uncommon.
When using đồng, be careful that you don’t accidentally hand over too many to the vendor. When making transactions, polymer đồng easily stick together.
What’s more, many people avoid using high-denomination notes, especially with street vendors who often don’t have enough change. You might even keep them in a different compartment of your wallet.
Understanding the VND Exchange Rate
If you’re wondering how much a dollar (or equivalent) of your currency would be worth in Vietnamese đồng, you’ll want to ask your bank, check with your money transfer service, or check the Forex charts for USD/VND (or your currency of choice.)
To get a sense of typical exchange rates for Vietnam’s money, take a look at these approximate exchange rates in early 2021 for the đồng against other popular currencies.
- American Dollar ≈ VND$23,000
- British Pound ≈ VND$32,000
- Euro ≈ VND$28,000
- Swiss Franc ≈ VND$24,000
- Canadian Dollar ≈ VND$18,000
- Australian Dollar ≈ VND$18,000
- New Zealand Dollar ≈ VND$17,000
- Japanese Yen ≈ VND$200
- Singaporean Dollar ≈ VND$17,000
- Hong Kong Dollar ≈ VND$3,000
- Taiwanese Dollar ≈ VND$800
- Thai Baht ≈ VND$700
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