Only ever get into a Vinasun (white with green and red stripe) or Mai Linh (green and white) taxi. Do not get into any other taxi, metered or not or you are likely to be ripped off.
90% of places won’t take card. Cash is king here so withdraw at any of the many ATMs. Always check the ATM to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with and check around yourself before taking out cash to make sure there isn’t anyone dodgy around. Expect a fee of between 20k to 50k VND per cash withdrawal. If it is more than 50k, move on to a different ATM. I found that taking out 2m VND at a time was most effective.
Pay in VND at all times. USD may be asked for but the official currency is VND and you will get the best exchange rate that way.
WiFi is freely available in most places, especially hotels, cafes or restaurants so you should have easy access to top-up.
I tried to take some cash out from an ATM at a bank in Hanoi and it didn’t work . I got a notification and it said “declined at ATM because withdrawal using magnetic stripe is not supported”. It was in november last year so perhaps it’s been fixed now?
There is nothing to fix. It is a security feature due to the level of magstrip enabled fraud. The card only works in chip and pin ATMs by default. You need to enable magstrip support. This is done on a temporary basis either in app or by contacting customer service
Just finished a 2-week trip in Vietnam and used only my Monzo card to survive - here’s some tips:
Most places don’t take card (debit or credit), so you’ll need to withdraw cash to pay for most things. For larger shops or local travel agencies (eg for tours) that take card, typically a 3-5% card surcharge applies, so you’ll have to weigh up the convenience versus paying the surcharge
Most ATMs have withdrawal limits - some with ridiculously low limits (eg. 2 million VND or ~£70) - and most ATMs also charge withdrawal fees for foreign cards (ie. the bank that owns the ATM charges you, not Monzo). Some charges a flat 3% of any amount (eg. Techcombank) but some charges a flat rate (generally 20,000 VND to 50,000 VND) no matter how much you withdraw up to the withdrawal limit. Beware as the transaction fee is sometimes not disclosed (depending on the bank) but the bigger banks generally will warn you how much the fee is before you decide whether you want to go ahead.
(a) Hanoi - if you fly into international terminal of Hanoi airport, there’s a VP Bank ATM on arrival floor. Once you exit from customs, turn right and walk to the end of the building and you’ll find it. Very handy as I withdrew a combination of small notes to pay for arrival shuttle buses to the city. In Hanoi itself, VP Bank, Military Bank and SeABank ATMs are everywhere and I found that Google Maps tag them pretty well, so just do a search
(b) Halong Bay - withdraw all the cash you need before you hop on the bus to the marina! The marina recently relocated to another part of town (to accommodate for sheer increase in number of tourists) and the new marina doesn’t seem to have great facilities yet, other than small souvenir shops and cafes.
(d) Hoi An - I found that MB was the most convenient and has an ATM a few minutes walk from the Old Town. VP Bank and SeABank are in Da Nang (30 kms away) but don’t seem to have local ATMs in Hoi An. Google Maps have MB’s ATMs well tagged.
(e) Ho Chi Minh City - Same as Hanoi - VP, MB and SeABank are all everywhere and easy to find. Ho Chi Minh City airport also have good choices of ATMs in both the international and domestic terminals, so just use one of the 3 banks. (All the ATMs are next to each other).
Not related to money matters but beware of “fake taxis” that are painted exactly like VinaSun taxis in HCMC. If possible, get your restaurant or hotel to order a taxi for you, as opposed to getting one off the street. If you have to get one off the street, take care to match the phone number on the taxi itself to the real phone number of the taxi company before you get in.
Rate is indeed the Mastercard rate, so you’ll getting almost the “perfect” mid-market exchange rate as you can get for an ATM transaction, provided you pick an ATM that doesn’t charge you X% transaction fee on top. I did not bring any cash with me (other than about 50 USD in small denomination notes for emergencies but I didn’t end up using any).
Don’t bother buying VND in UK before leaving, as the exchange rate is very poor. If it makes you feel uncomfortable not bringing any cash at all, then bring some GBP notes which are relatively clean. The exchange rate at Hanoi / HCMC airports for GBP/VND were surprisingly reasonable.
Also, free WiFi is everywhere in Vietnam, even in the smallest of cafes by the side of the road (go figure!), so I had no issues getting internet access when I needed to top up my Monzo card. 4G is not really available so it’s a personal preference whether you want to get a local SIM card or not. I unashamedly just asked for the WiFi password everywhere I went.
Just arrived in Vietnam. Monzo working well so far. If you fly in to HCMC the free cash machines are a little hard to find (or I was very sleep deprived). Inside the international terminal there are only Citibank machines which charge.
Just returned from Vietnam. Monzo worked wonderfully (I am a newbie btw) until I requested an amount in excess of my balance. Rather than rejecting the request due to insufficient funds and returning the card which would happen in the UK, and I imagine most countries, I received a message in capital letters “THIS CARD IS HOT” and it got sucked into the machine. This occurred on a Friday evening and we made tracks on Sunday meaning I couldn’t visit the bank during working hours, and we were off the beaten track for the majority of the remainder of our trip. For the record, the ATM machine in question is operated by BIDV. In summary, if using this machine make sure you have slightly more than the GBP equivalent of 2m VND in your Monzo account.
Hi Conor, thanks for this feedback, this certainly isn’t something I’ve heard of happening before so will be really helpful to add to the profile! Did you manage to freeze your card afterwards? Even if there is hardly any cash left on the card, it’s an important precaution
I’m going there in October. Thanks for the heads up about the taxi’s. Last year some twat in Cambodia tried to take us to somewhere off the grid. I had to almost strangle him before he understood the word no.