The ultimate guide to Vietnamese currency

Issued by the State Bank of Vietnam, the Vietnamese Dong or Đồng (VND) has been Vietnam’s official currency since May 3, 1978. The Dong is represented by the symbol “đ”, it is from the term “đồng tiền” which means money.

History of Vietnamese Dong

In the past, one Dong was subdivided into 10 “hào”, which was subdivided into 10 “xu”. “Hào” and “xu” are not used in recent days.

In 1946, the Viet Minh government, which became the government of North Vietnam, introduced the Dong (đồng) to replace the French Indochinese piastre in North Vietnam.

In 1953, the notes denominated in piastres and đồng was introduced for the State of Vietnam, which became the government of South Vietnam in 1954. After the fall of Saigon, the currency was changed to “liberation đồng” which worth 500 piastres.

For your information, Vietnam was divided into North Vietnam and South Vietnam in 1954. The two parts were reunited in 1975.

Since May 1978, the Dong has become the official currency until today.

No coin in Vietnam

From 2003 to 2006, the State Bank of Vietnam had published a new collection of coins made in five denominations: 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000 Vietnamese Dong. Since 2012, the use of Vietnamese coins has greatly decreased. Since 2014, they are rarely accepted in retail but still accepted at some banks. You may not see it when being in Vietnam at the current time. Collections of coins are sold as souvenirs at post offices and souvenir shops.

Here are some characteristics of Vietnamese coins:

  • VND 200 and 500 coins were made from copper and nickel.
  • VND 1,000, 2,000 and 5,000 coins were made from copper and brass.
  • On the front sides of all coins is the emblem of Vietnam.
  • On the back sides of VND 1,000, 2,000 and 5,000 coins are Đô Temple where eight emperors of the Ly Dynasty are worshiped, communal house, and one-pillar pagoda.
  • The diameters range between 19 and 25 millimeters, the weights range between 3.2 and 7.7 grams, the thicknesses are from 1.45 to 2.2 millimeters.

Vietnamese banknotes

List of Vietnamese banknotes – cotton (small denomination) and polymer (high denomination)

Vietnamese banknotes include 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000, 200,000, and 500,000. They can be divided into two groups: the cotton and the polymer.

The cotton groups include 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 notes which are the smallest denominations. They are all made of 75% cotton and 25% linen blend so that they are torn, crumpled and damaged by liquid, heat and get dirty easily.

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The polymer groups include 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000, 200,000, and 500,000 notes, which are made from a synthetic polymer such as biaxially oriented polypropylene.

Pros of polymer Vietnamese banknotes include:

  • Polymer bills last about 2.5 times longer than cotton bills.
  • They are able to withstand a temperature of up to 140 degrees Celcius.
  • Polymer notes are “cleaner” than cotton ones.
  • Polymer notes are more difficult to forge than cotton notes thanks to detailed images and expensive technologies.
  • So that many locals prefer polymer banknotes to cotton ones. How about you?

Cons of polymer Vietnamese banknotes include:

  • Wet polymer banknotes get sticky together. Protect your polymer notes from the rain in Vietnam and count wet notes carefully before handing them over sellers.

  • Colors of the notes may turn fade and make them hard to be recognized. Old and fade VND 10,000 and 200,000 polymer notes look similar.
  • Folding a polymer note is not as easy as folding a cotton note.  If you force to fold a polymer note, it will have a crease along the fold line. A pile of folded polymer notes can make your element wallet thick.
  • Old sorting machines may not sort polymer notes as fast as they sort cotton money. It is the issue of banks and we do not need to worry about this disadvantage.

VND 200 note

The low denomination paper VND 200 note is rarely used and seen in Vietnam. New notes are sometimes used as gifts and best wishes to family members and friends at Vietnamese Tet. The note is even sold on social media and worth many times than the value.

  • Front side: emblem of Vietnam, President Ho Chi Minh.
  • Reverse side: agricultural production topic, one tractor, farmers wearing conical hats and traditional Ao Ba Ba and harvesting rice.
  • Size: 130 x 65 mm.
  • Dominating color: brown red.
  • Year of publication: 1987.

VND 500 note

Similar to the VND 200 notes, the new and new-looking VND 500 notes are hunted at Tet festival and used to gift other people. This cotton note is still in use but most likely seen at supermarkets and convenience stores. Some shops give customers one or two candies instead of a VND 500 note as the change. Some customers refuse to receive the note or candies. A customer tip shipper VND 500 when being delivered a package that costs VND 130,500.

  • Front side: emblem of Vietnam, President Ho Chi Minh.
  • Back side: Hai Phong Port – one of the leading seaport for Northern Vietnam.
  • Size: 130 x 65 mm.
  • Dominating color: lotus pink.
  • Year of publication: 1989.

VND 1,000 note

The VND 1,000 note is used more often than the smaller notes. What can we buy with VND 1,000 in 2020? The answer is one small package of soy sauce, one lime, a few longans, or a few cheap candies.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com.

  • Front side: emblem of Vietnam, President Ho Chi Minh.
  • Back side: ethnic people work in logging and log in Western Highlands, one of them rides an elephant.
  • Size: 130 x 65 mm.
  • Dominating color: yellow green.
  • Year of publication: 1989.

VND 2,000 note

The VND 1,000 note is used more often than the smaller notes. Can buy a single use shampoo packet, a few cheap candies, one average cost candy, extra steamed rice at a cheap eat, ice cubes for making a few glasses of drinks, a wet tissue, a glass of iced tea, a very small plain Vietnamese bread, motorbike parking fee in rural areas, rose, medical mask.

  • Front side: emblem of Vietnam, President Ho Chi Minh.
  • Back side: female workers at Nam Dinh Cotton Factory which was the biggest cotton factory in Indochina.
  • Size: 134 x 65 mm (a little wider than smaller cotton notes).
  • Dominating color: dark brown.
  • Year of publication: 1989.

VND 5,000 note

You can buy a cheap instant noodle package, a spring roll or Bo pia roll at a cheap eat, a small glass of iced sugarcane juice, one fishcake skewer, a Vietnamese plain bread, extra steamed rice, motorbike parking fee in big cities.

  • Front side: emblem of Vietnam, President Ho Chi Minh.
  • Back side: Tri An Dam which is a hy0.droelectric dam and lake on Dong Nai River and produces around 1.76 TWh of electricity each year.
  • Size: 134 x 65 mm.
  • Dominating color: blue.
  • Year of publication: 1993.

VND 10,000 note

You can buy lots of things with VND 10,000: a glass of herbal tea, a portion of boiled sweet potato, sticky rice, steamed cassava, a portion of instant noodles, a portion of omelet and bread, a skewer of meats, fish, fried tofu, poultries, organ meats, fried banana cake, a grilled banana in sticky rice, a Vietnamese sandwich in a rural area, a small bowl of tofu pudding, a small bowl of hot sweet soup, a Pia cake, a Pyramidal rice dumpling, one Balut, a bottle of soy milk, a big glass of iced sugarcane juice, aloe vera drink, a fresh coconut, a Baozi and lots of Vietnamese traditional cakes and drinks at low cost food stalls.

  • Front side: emblem of Vietnam, President Ho Chi Minh.
  • Reverse side: Bach Ho oil field a major oil field in the Nine Dragons basin of the East Sea, located offshore due east of Mekong Delta region.
  • Size: 132 x 60 mm.
  • Dominating color: dark brown on yellow backround.
  • Year of publication: 2006.

VND 20,000 note

Top things you can buy with VND 20,000 include a delicious Vietnamese sandwich at most of the Banh mi shops in Vietnam, a Vietnamese pizza, a portion of Vietnamese salad, a sausage, a portion of instant noodles and egg, a cup of coffee, a sandwich, a portion of three spring rolls, an ice cream cone, a bottle of local beer, a portion of Can cake, a Khoai cake, a plate of Bot chien, a bunch of bananas, lots of desserts and snacks, phone top up credit, a paper or fabric fan, a magnet in a shape of a Vietnamese girl in Ao Dai as a souvenir. Although you can find a noodle soup or steamed rice plate that costs VND 20,000, I think that they are not safe to eat very cheap meals which may be cooked from expired, unfresh or contaminated ingredients.

  • Front side: emblem of Vietnam, President Ho Chi Minh.
  • Back side: Japanese Bridge since the 17th century – the iconic site of Hoi An ancient town.
  • Size: 136 x 65 mm.
  • Dominating color: dark blue.
  • Year of publication: 2006.

VND 50,000 note

VND 50,000 can buy a great bowl of Pho noodle soup and other delicious Vietnamese traditional noodle soups, noodle mixes, a Vietnamese pancake in Ho Chi Minh City, a portion of grilled foods, a snail dish, small souvenirs such as a conical hat, 3D popup card, lacquered bowl or plate, brocade wallet, flip flops. The entrance fees at some attractions such as War Remnants Museum and other museums, Independence Palace cost up to VND 50,000.

the building housing Ho Chi Minh Museum - Branch Ho Chi Minh City

  • Front side: emblem of Vietnam, President Ho Chi Minh.
  • Back side: Nha Rong Port where Nguyen Tat Thanh (Ho Chi Minh) left Vietnam for other countries to find a way to save Vietnam on June 3, 1911.
  • Size: 136 x 65 mm.
  • Dominating color: a mix of brown, purple and red.
  • Year of publication: 2003.

VND 100,000 note

VND 100,000 can buy one of the clothing items, accessories such as a shirt, dress, pants, shorts, underwear, hat, wallet, purse, one kilogram of durian fruits or other fruits, a small painting, a package of Pia cake, a Big Mac Combo meal, a bottle of high quality fish sauce, a 1.5-hour cyclo ride.

  • Front side: emblem of Vietnam, President Ho Chi Minh.
  • Back side: Temple of Literature which was built in 1070 is a temple dedicated to Confucius in Hanoi and Vietnam’s first national university.
  • Size: 144 x 65 mm.
  • Dominating color: dark green.
  • Year of publication: 2004.

VND 200,000 note

VND 200,000 can buy one kilogram of Vietnamese coffee, dried fishes or fruits, nuts,  Ao Dai fabric, a bottle of 0.5-liter Vietnamese rice wine, a small sand painting.

thanhnien.vn

  • Front side: emblem of Vietnam, President Ho Chi Minh.
  • Back side:  – top 1 Vietnam’s natural landscape and a must-see in the country.
  • Size: 148 x 65 mm.
  • Dominating color: red brown.
  • Year of publication: 2006.

VND 500,000 note

VND 500,000 can buy one kilogram of fresh crabs, lobsters, dried squid, dried shrimps, 100 – 200 grams of dried salangane nests, high quality Ao Dai fabric, embroidered or beaded Ao Dai fabric, a rice painting, an embroidery painting.

  • Front side: emblem of Vietnam, President Ho Chi Minh.
  • Reverse side: Kim Lien Relic Site where Nguyen Sinh Cung (Ho Chi Minh) was born.
  • Size: 152 x 65 mm.
  • Dominating color: a mix of ligh blue and dard purple.
  • Year of publication: 2003.

Counterfeit Vietnamese banknotes and how to identify them

According to the State Bank of Vietnam, counterfeit banknotes have been still used as real cash. Produced abroad or domestically, counterfeit money is sold and used in the country, especially rural areas where people can not spot fake bills. Some people did not check the cash carefully while receiving it and find a way to buy something with the fake bills instead of reporting to the police. So that it is difficult to control counterfeit Vietnamese banknotes.

Because it is meaningless to produce paper low denomination banknotes including VND 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 notes and polymer lower denomination banknotes including VND 10,000, 20,000, you may receive fake VND 50,000, 100,000, 200,000, and 500,000 bills in Vietnam. You must be careful when receiving VND 50,000, 100,000, 200,000 changes or exchanging money and receiving high-domination notes at a gold shop or tour desk.

How to spot fake polymer Vietnamese banknotes?

1. Check the polymer material:

  • Polymer banknotes exhibit high durability and stability. Hold the note in the palm of on your hand, then close your hand in order to crumple it. The real note return to the original shape quickly and there is no fold or sign.

  • Tear slightly at the edge of the note, the fake note will be torn easily.

2. Touch the banknote’s surfaces to check if it is the real or the fake.

  • On real banknote, the image of landscape, attraction, factory or other on the reverse side, the “CỘNG HÒA XÃ HỘI CHỦ NGHĨA VIỆT NAM” text, “500,000” number, image of President Ho Chi Minh on the reverse side are embossed, each of them has a light and dark effect. So that it feels rough when touching a real Vietnamese banknote’s surface.
  • The surface of fake Vietnamese note is smooth.

3.  Put the note in front of a light source such as sun or flashlight of your smartphone, check if the bill is real or fake:

  • A faint image of President Ho Chi Minh or One-pillar Pagoda can be viewed when light passes through it.

  • When light passes through the note from the front side, you can see a security stripe revealing the value of the note, sometimes “NHHNNVN” which stands for the State Bank of Vietnam.

  • “Hình định vị” image becomes complete, white slots between triangles are even.

4. Tilt the polymer Vietnamese note

  • The image on the left of the front side change between yellow and green when tilting the note.

  • Try to tilt the note until the value of the note in the small transparent window on the right of the front side is visible.

  • Tilt until you see an iriodin stripe that revealing the value of the note or a pattern on the reverse side of the banknote.

Tips on using Vietnamese money wisely

  • Protect your money as well as possible when it rains or being on a cruise ship, boat or sampan. So that a waterproof bag is always recommended. You can put your money in a plastic zipper bag to protect them from water. Be careful when counting wet Vietnamese polymer notes which are prone to stick together. Borrow some clothespins from the hotel and dry them.

  • How much money should I carry on airplanes to Vietnam and domestic flights? You must declare at customs if you carry more than $5000 USD cash or other foreign cash with the same value. If you carry over VND 15,000,000 (~ $600 USD), you must declare at custom.
  • Some new arrivals take the VND 200,000 note instead of the VND 10,000 because these notes look similar. The VND 500,000 note also looks like VND the 20,000 note.
  • Put small denomination notes and high denomination notes separately in different compartments of one wallet or in different wallets. So that you decrease the risk of taking wrong banknotes.

  • Count money with your two hands instead of only one hand. Hold counted notes in one hand and the others in the other hand.
  • Some of my foreign friends ask me if it is necessary to carry small denomination notes in their wallets. What do you think?
    • The truth is, rich people in Vietnam carry only high denomination notes. They even do not get a change of less than VND 10,000.
    • It is better to have different denomination notes. Some Vietnamese vendors do not have any change and you can not buy your favorite item. For example, coconut fruit costs VND 10,000, you give the vendor VND 50,000, the vendor does not have change for VND 40,000 so that she refuse to sell you the coconut. Some vendors may be angry with you if you buy only one bottle of water which costs VND 5,000 but give her a VND 500,000 or VND 200,000 note. In case the vendor is not angry with you and still would like to sell the item, she goes somewhere to exchange the high note for many small notes and it takes you for at least 5 minutes.

    • At supermarkets, well-known convenience stores such as Circle K, electronic centers, pharmacies, bookstores and shops of top retail chains, cashiers are willing to hand you back any amount of money. These places provide professional services and prepare enough small notes.
    • If you do not want to carry many notes, you can leave VND 1,000, VND 2,000 notes at home or hotel. But you should have some VND 5,000 notes and higher denomination notes in your wallet.

Common scams on the currency in Vietnam

  • You can meet a cyclo driver who is free and offer you a cheap ride around the city. He raises his hand to let you know the price of the ride. You think it costs VND 50,000, right? The driver looks poor and kind so that you would like to not only enjoy a cyclo ride but also help him to earn some money. However, he asks you to pay VND 500,000 at the end of the ride.

  • Never eat at eating places without menus. You may think that the food prices are not very expensive at a simple restaurant or food stall although there is no menu. If you are unlucky, they will bring you a bill of some millions of Vietnamese Dong.
  • Service charges are up to some millions of Vietnamese Dong at tourist trap restaurants. You should ask the waiter how much the service charge is before ordering if you can find it on the menu.
  • You wander a market and would like to buy one kilogram of dried foods, coffee, salangane nests or fruits. For example, one kilogram of mandarins costs VND 50,000 at many shops in the market. There is a shop that sells good mandarins at the price of only VND 35,000. You do not negotiate for a better price, ask the vendor to sell you one kilogram. After you receive the package of mandarins, she asks you to pay VND 70,000. You see the price tag again and find out that “VND 35,000” is in large font while “1/2 kg” is in very small font. At some restaurants, you may misunderstand prices because the price boards read prices per 1/2 kg. You must pay twice more than you think after the meal.

  • Sellers, waiters and vendors can hide torn, burn or too old banknotes in the middle of other notes when giving you the change. When you are in a hurry or it is at night, you find that one of the notes they gave you is damaged when you arrived in your hotel or residence, there is no chance to give them back the damaged note. In fact, a damaged note can be changed to a new one but there are some requirements, it sometimes takes a too long time. Many people simply throw the note away or tried to use it to buy something. Cashiers of trusted supermarkets, convenience stores rarely give you torn notes because they have checked all the notes carefully.

  • Money given by vendors at wet local markets may be contaminated.

Most common Vietnamese phrases on currency

  • Vietnamese Dong: đồng.
  • 100: một trăm.
  • 1000: một nghìn or một ngàn.
  • VND 200: hai trăm đồng.
  • VND 500: năm trăm đồng.
  • VND 1,000: một nghìn đồng.
  • VND 10,000: mười nghìn đồng.
  • VND 20,000: hai mươi nghìn đồng.
  • VND 50,000: năm mươi nghìn đồng.
  • VND 100,000: một trăm nghìn đồng.
  • VND 200,000: hai trăm nghìn đồng.
  • VND 500,000: năm trăm nghìn đồng.
  • How much is it?: Bao nhiêu tiền?
  • Too expensive: đắt quá.
  • Can you lower the price?: Bớt chút được không?
  • Is VND 100,000 ok?: một trăm nghìn được không?
  • Here is your tip: đây là tiền típ.
  • Keep the change: giữ tiền thối lại.
  • I would like to exchange money: Tôi muốn đổi tiền.
  • Please tell me how to reach the nearest exchange money shop/bank: Vui lòng chỉ đường cho tôi tới nơi đổi tiền/ngân hàng gần nhất.
  • I think you gave me the wrong amount of money: Tôi nghĩ bạn đưa tôi tiền nhầm rồi.
  • Sorry, I don’t want to buy it now: Xin lỗi, tôi không muốn mua nó bây giờ.
  • I lost my money: tôi bị mất tiền.
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Less-known facts about Vietnamese currency

Any Vietnamese has a huge chance to become a millionaire. In 2019, the minimum wages range between VND 2.92 million (~$125 USD) and VND 4.18 million (~ $180 USD).

The symbol “K” means 1,000 Vietnamese Dong. For example, 20K means VND 20,000; 200K means VND 200,000.

Folded Vietnamese paper notes in shapes of hearts, swans, flowers are great gifts in Vietnam.

K means 1,000

50K means VND 50,000.

Read more about:

The ultimate guide to exchange currency in Vietnam

The ultimate guide to credit cards in Vietnam

The ultimate guide to ATMs in Vietnam

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