Local Currency

The Vietnamese currency is the Vietnamese dong (VND). It is non-convertible, and is currently trading at approximately 29,000 VND to £1.00 GBP and 16,000 VND to $1.00 USD. The largest denomination of notes in general circulation is the 500,000 VND, worth about £17.50 GBP or $31.50 USD. The rate of inflation against the dollar is low.

Coins have recently been introduced as an alternative for low-value notes, but they are not popular.

Exchange rates are more or less the same in banks and currency exchange points, and slightly higher in licensed gold shops.

In the cities and tourist centres, US dollars are usually acceptable in shops, restaurants and hotels, but not by street traders, 'cyclo' drivers and so on. You should make sure that you are familiar with the exchange rate and know in advance how much you need to pay and how much change to expect.

The main trap for tourists is paying inflated prices when unfamiliar with the system and the currency. It’s probably easier to change your money into local currency and concentrate on getting used to it. Trying to pay in dollars gets complicated – with such large numbers, the conversion is tricky unless you're a whiz with a calculator.

ATMs are now commonplace in the cities, and nearly all accept the main credit cards. Travellers’ cheques can be exchanged for local currency, but are hardly ever acceptable in lieu of cash or credit cards.

The official currency in Cambodia is the Cambodian Riel (KHR). It is also non-convertible, and is currently trading at around 7,500 KHR to £1.00 GBP and 4,100 KHR to $1.00 USD. Inflation is low.

In practice, the US dollar can be used as an alternative currency in the cities and towns, so there is no real need to buy Riel Credit card facilities in Cambodia are limited, but US dollar travellers’ cheques are easy to exchange for cash in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The Australian ANZ and a local bank have combined to create the ANZ Royal Bank. The new venture is introducing the country's first international ATMs. However, it will be a long time before cash machines appear outside Phnom Penh, and possibly Siem Reap.

The Thai Baht is also acceptable in the west of the country.

The official currency in Laos is the Laotian Kip (LAK). Once again, it’s non-convertible, and is currently trading at around 19,000 LAK to £1.00 GBP and 10,500 LAK to $1.00 USD. The inflation rate is unstable.

Although the Kip is the official currency, the US Dollar and Thai Baht are widely acceptable. US dollar travellers’ cheques are easy to cash, but credit card facilities are minimal and ATMs non–existent.

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