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Money and shopping matters

What currency should I use?

Mostly Vietnamese Dong (VND) as this is Vietnam’s currency. Besides, US Dollars are also accepted in big cities and provinces in Hanoi, Hochiminh City, Hue, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Da Lat, etc. 

Will my bank machine card or credit card work in Vietnam?

All kinds of credit and debit cards work in Vietnam, particularly Visa, MasterCard and JCB cards are now widely accepted in all major cities and many tourist centers. However, a 3% commission charge on every transaction is pretty common; check first, as some charge higher commissions than others. Some merchants also accept Amex, but the surcharge is typically 4%. Better hotels and restaurants do not usually slap on an additional charge.

If you wish to obtain a cash advance from Visa, MasterCard and JCB, this is possible at Vietcombank branches in most cities, as well as at some foreign banks in HCMC and Hanoi. Banks generally charge a 3% commission for this service. This is handy if you want to take out large sums, as the ATMs have low daily limits.

Are ATMs available everywhere in Vietnam?

It used to be just a couple of foreign banks as HSBC, ANZ, Standard Chartered bank Vietnam in Hanoi and HCMC that offered ATMs, but Vietnamese banks have now got into this game in a big way. Vietcombank has the best network in the country, including most of the major tourist destinations and all the big cities. Agribank, Vietin Bank and Sacombank are also well represented. Every branch stocks a useful leaflet with a list of their nationwide ATMs. Withdrawals are issued in dong, and there is a single withdrawal limit of 2,000,000d (about US$125). However, you can do multiple withdrawals until you hit your own account limit. ANZ offers 4,000,000d withdrawals per transaction. Most banks charge 20,000d per transaction. Cash advances for larger amounts of dong, as well as US dollars, can be arranged over the counter during office hours. 

Should I change money before I go or when I get there?

You should change money into USD as all big cities in Vietnam accept USD (if you don’t have USD yet). And you don’t have to change your USD or other currencies into Vietnam Dong (VND) before you go because you can easily do it in Vietnam at airports, big hotels, and big cities with banks. In this case, all you should do is to bring sufficient US dollars. However, if you are going to small towns with few banks, it’s best to change some into VND at home before you go to spend during your time there. Remember NOT to change to much as VND is not quite widely used outside of Vietnam. 

What does "VAT" mean?

VAT means Value Added Tax, which is the tax levied upon the goods or services you buy for its added value. Normally, it is 10% of the goods, service value. So, customers have to pay 110% of the goods, service value. 

Can I get a VAT refund?

No, because this VAT is to be submitted to the Central State Treasury of Vietnam (the Government) later by those who sold you the goods, service. 

Shopping in Vietnam

Shopping in Vietnam is a fun and interesting experience, and guarantees good bargains to those who know what to look for. It is true to say that you can find nearly anything in Vietnam. Markets vary from high class shopping malls, supermarkets to bustling open market, galleries, boutiques and street stalls.

It is not recommended that you buy imported, famous branded products such as clothing, perfume or electronics in Vietnam as tax makes these items more costly than neighboring countries.

In terms of shopping for tourists, Vietnam is most famous for its handicrafts, war souvenirs, authentic clothing, art, antiques and gems. Hotspots include Hanoi, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City, each of which has a temping selection of everything from avant-garde art to sumptuous silk suits.

Art and Antiques

Vietnam has very strict regulations about exporting real antiques. There are several shops to hunt for art and antiques. Both traditional and modern paintings are a popular item. More sophisticated works are displayed in art galleries, while cheaper mass-produced stuff is touted in souvenir shops and by street vendors. Be careful and check your sources for certificates if they claim to sell you an original or antique piece. 

Clothing

Vietnam is emerging as a regional design center and there are some extravagant creations in the boutiques of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Clothing varies greatly from tourist T-shirts to beaded handbags and traditional Ao Dai (the traditional costume) made to fit your size. Items made from silk are a popular buy, with prices varying depending on the material and tailor. Pre-made traditional dresses are sold in many places. However, it is more recommended to have the dress made to fit your body, which takes more time and slightly more money.

Shoes, slippers and handbags made from traditional materials (silk and bamboo) can also become unique gifts and accessories. The Vietnamese traditional conical hat, can be found everywhere throughout the country, but hats made in Hue are most famous as they have a poem embroiled on the inside. None (conical hats) are favorite items for women in both rainy and sunny times. The best quality ones can be found in the Hue’s area. 

Gems and jewelry

Vietnam is rich in gemstones. The jewelry business is also increasing during current years, and sophisticated works are produced by both big businesses and traditional craftsmen. The quality of the gemstones sold is sometimes doubtable, so it is recommended that you buy gems at prestigious locations and be ware with cheap prices.  

War souvenirs

Most war souvenirs sold today in Vietnam (for example, Zippo lighters engraved with platoon philosophy) are fake reproductions. Be careful while transporting these items as many airlines do not allow weapons, even fakes to be carried on their planes. 

Handicrafts

Other popular handicrafts in Vietnam include lacquer ware, wood-block prints, and oil and watercolor paintings, blinds made from bamboo, reed mats, carpets, and leatherwork.  

Tip: Bargaining

Bargaining should be good-natured, smile and don’t get angry or argue. Once the money is accepted, the deal is done. Remember that in Asia, “saving face” is very important. In some cases you will be able to get a 50% discount or more, at other times this may only be 10%. 

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