In Vietnam the dong is their official currency, and is represented by (VND) in any of the Currency Exchange calculators. Paper notes come in denominations of 200d, 500d, 1000d, 2000d, 5000d, 10,000d, 20,000d, 50,000d, 100,000d, and 500,000d. Only recently, in 2003, coins were reintroduced in denominations of 200d, 500d, 1000d, 2,000d and 5,000d. You will rarely see any of the 500 notes and you may receive a candy in your change at the supermarket in lieu of these. Also be aware that the Vietnamese notes 10 000 VND and above are made of a polymer and can often stick together. Make sure you “flick” the notes as you count them out or you might end up paying double. Outside the Tourist areas a 500 000 dong note can be extremely hard to change unless you are buying something substantial. Arriving tourists can change their dollars at banks, hotels, and authorized exchange bureaus. Major hotels often offer the same rate as banks. Smaller hotels may charge an extra fee for exchange. You can also use the website of Vietcombank to see the daily exchange rate, so you won’t be at the loss side. The U S dollar, preferably crisp clean bills, is widely accepted among major shops and restaurants. The downside to this is that the prices will be converted from Dong at the vendor’s chosen exchange rate, which may or may not be close to the official exchange rate, and will be rounded up to the nearest USD, making it more expensive than the cost in Dong. It’s extremely easy to exchange money INTO Vietnamese Dong (VND) in Vietnam. If you are quoted higher rates from individuals you are probably being set up for a scam although some locals will give you a good rate just to obtain “hard currency”.
If you are from Australia, UK, Europe, Japan or China OR travelling via Thailand, Singapore or Malaysia, there is no advantage in changing your money into USD before you come. Exchange rates will be proportionate to the country’s exchange with USD and you will save the double conversion spread. Some countries such as Canada and Hong Kong appear to give a slightly lower rate but the conversion to USD might also be higher. Make sure that the Vietnamese notes you receive are not torn, this is because many shops and restaurants will not accept them. Also try not to change too much money at one time, as you will end up with a large wad of notes. The largest denomination is currently 500,000 dong (approx. USD 24). Be careful, the 20,000 notes look only slightly different from the 500,000 one but the value is a big gap. Handy tip: Keep 500,000 dong notes separate from your other dong notes. Less chance of confusion then. Other paper notes are 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000; 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000, 200,000, 500,000 Dong. Most are clearly identifiable by colour. You can get a reference from Wikipedia or doing a search for Vietnamese currency.
Note: Banks are open on weekdays from 8am to 3pm, with a lunch break from 11:30am to 1pm. You’ll be able to change foreign currencies and travelers’ checks in urban bank branches, but not always in smaller towns.