Vietnam is an experience that’s hard to forget
If you want to experience the intoxicating blend of exotic beaches, breathtaking scenery, incredible cuisine and a pulsating culture, Vietnam is the place to go. Ho Chi Minh City is a dizzying mixture of culture and commerce and is so busy at times; you might find it hard to cross the street. But it’s a fascinating city that visually shows the scars of the past and the promise of the future.
If you want to escape the buzz of the non-stop motorbikes, the Mekong Delta, with its sleepy villages and watery landscape is a perfect spot to experience Vietnam as it was hundreds of years ago. Hanoi, by everyone’s standards, is the most captivating city in the country. It is the cultural heart, as well as the pulse of the country, and has been for over 1,000 years. The city can be a surreal experience, especially if you spend some time and get to know the people. Vietnam is known for having the friendliest people in Southeast Asia.
The economy of Vietnam is changing so plan accordingly
Three years ago Vietnam joined the World Trade Organization and ever since then the economic atmosphere in the country has been undergoing growing pains. Vietnam is now considered a valuable trading partner and the world market wants to take advantage of its cheap labor force and natural resources. Tourism has replaced agricultural as the driving force behind the economy. Exports are also playing an important role, but the country still imports more than it exports and that is creating instability in the value of their currency, which is called the Dong (Vietnam Dong - VND). The US Dollar has gained strength against the Dong thanks to a gold buying frenzy, which increased the value of the Dollar. The unofficial exchange rate of the Dong is staying around 19,800 per Dollar, while the official rate is bouncing all over the place. Some government officials are pushing to devalue the Dong, while others want to increase exports to stabilize the currency. If you want to stay within budget on your trip, you’ll need a solid currency exchange strategy so you can offset changes that could potentially ruin the trip financially.
How should I exchange currency?
Do some research and find a professional broker to do your currency trading with. A broker watches the currency market every hour and will help you formulate a currency exchange strategy while you’re planning the trip. A broker will give you a real time rate every time you exchange currency and will save you money on the transaction fees and surcharges that banks and credit card companies use to make a profit. A currency broker will show how to average your exchanges, which is exchanging small amounts of money at different times while you’re planning. Averaging will offset any value shifts that can occur in Vietnam’s volatile currency market.
Other travel tips
Stay away from airport exchange merchants, they charge a lot to exchange money. Hotels and retail shops are the worst places to exchange currency and credit cards should only be used in an emergency. Use your ATM card, the transaction fees are lower and the exchange rate is usually better.
You can carry up to $5,000 cash through customs, if you have more than that you must declare it or it will be confiscated. Always carry cash in a money belt, leg pouch or hidden pocket that’s secure and out of sight and use hotel safes when you reach your destination. Remember common sense is your best security weapon when you use it.