If you need more detailed coverage, if you’re cycling or motorbike touring for example, there’s no beating the book of maps entitled Giao Thong Duong Bo Vietnam (1:500,000) published by Ban Do Cartographic Publishing House and available in bigger bookshops in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
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The most accurate and reliable map of Vietnam is the Rough Guides Map of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (1:1,200,000). Other decent maps are the International Travel Map of Vietnam (1:1,000,000) or Nelles (1:1,500,000) map of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia: both feature plans of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Alternatively, the locally produced maps you’ll find on sale in all the major towns and tourist destinations in Vietnam aren’t bad.
If you need more detailed coverage, if you’re cycling or motorbike touring for example, there’s no beating the book of maps entitled Giao Thong Duong Bo Vietnam (1:500,000) published by Ban Do Cartographic Publishing House and available in bigger bookshops in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Trouble is, it weighs about a kilo. Another good option for cyclists and bikers is the Vietnam Administrative Atlas by the same publisher, with a map of each province per page. Look out, too, for Fauna and Flora International’s Vietnam Ecotourism Map (1:1,000,000). Not only is it pretty accurate, but also includes information on visiting the national parks and other areas of environmental interest.
Vietnam’s unit of currency is the dong, which you’ll see abbreviated as “đ”, “d” or “VND” after an amount. Notes come in denominations of 500đ, 1000đ, 2000đ, 5000đ, 10,000đ, 20,000đ, 50,000đ, 100,000đ, 200,000đ and 500,000đ, coins in 200đ, 500đ, 1000đ, 2000đ and 5000đ (though coins are rarely seen). In addition to the dong, the American dollar operates as a parallel, unofficial currency and it’s a good idea to carry some dollars as a back-up to pay large bills. On the whole, though, it’s more convenient to operate in dong, and you’ll often find dong prices are slightly lower than the equivalent in dollars.
At the time of writing, the exchange rate was around 33,000đ to £1; 20,000đ to US$1; 29,000đ to 1 Euro; 21,000đ to CA$1; 22,000đ to AUS$1; and 17,000đ to NZ$1. Recently the country has been plagued by high inflation rates, so these exchange rates are liable to fluctuate. For the latest exchange rates go to Wxe.com.
Dong are not available outside Vietnam at present, so take in some small-denomination American dollars to use until you reach a bank or ATM. Most banks and exchange bureaux don’t charge for changing foreign currency into dong; banks in major cities will accept euros and other major currencies, but elsewhere may only accept dollars. Some tour agents and hotels will also change money, and most jewellery shops in Vietnam will exchange dollars at a slightly better rate than the banks, but watch out for scams. Wherever you change money, ask for a mix of denominations (in remote places, bigger bills can be hard to split), and refuse really tatty banknotes, as you’ll have difficulty getting anyone else to accept them.
There’s also a comprehensive network of ATMs, many open 24 hours: most accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express cards issued abroad. The maximum withdrawal is two million dong at a time, with a charge of 20,000–30,000đ per transaction (in addition to whatever surcharges your own bank levies). In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City you’ll also find ATMs operated by ANZ and HSBC. These accept a wider range of cards, including those in the Cirrus and Plus networks.
Major credit cards – Visa, MasterCard and, to a lesser extent, American Express – are accepted in Vietnam’s main cities and major tourist spots. All top-level and many mid-level hotels will accept them, as will a growing number of restaurants, though some places levy surcharges of three to four percent.
Traveller’s cheques are less common now that ATMs are so widespread, but can be cashed at major banks (you need your passport as ID), for a commission of up to two percent. Vietinbank generally charges the lowest rates: at the time of writing these were 0.55 percent (minimum US$1.1) when changing into dong and 1.1 percent (minimum US$2.2) into dollars or other foreign currencies. Vietcombank waives commission on American Express traveller’s cheques.
Having money wired from home via MoneyGram (UK T0800 8971 8971, US T1-800 T666-3947, Wmoneygram.com) or Western Union (US T1-800 325 6000, Wwesternunion.com) is never cheap, and should be considered a last resort. It’s also possible to have money wired directly from a bank or post office in your home country to a bank in Vietnam, although this has the added complication of involving two separate institutions; money wired this way normally takes two working days to arrive, and charges vary according to the amount sent.
See more: Tips for visiting danang Vietnam