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Exchanging Canadian money in Vietnam, Cambodia & Thailand

Exchanging Canadian money in Vietnam, Cambodia & Thailand

Old Jan 7th, 2020, 09:30 AM
  #1  
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Exchanging Canadian money in Vietnam, Cambodia & Thailand

Can anyone tell me if there will be a problem exchanging Canadian cash in Vietnam, or Cambodia? I am trying to avoid exchanging to US dollars, as you loose each time you exchange. I have been told I will be able to exchange Canadian dollars at Gold/Jewelry shops. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thank you.
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Old Jan 7th, 2020, 09:40 AM
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Why are you exchanging anything? You can get local currency at ATMs in boith countries.
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Old Jan 7th, 2020, 10:37 AM
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US$ in Cambodian ATMs. It's the de facto currency. Plus elsewhere there'll be transaction charges.

​​​​I'd stick to changing crisp Canadian $ notes at a local bank.....Canadia Bank comes to mind. Make sure you get dispensed crisp US $ over the counter. You'll only get Cambodian currency as change from a purchase, use it for tips or buying bottled water.
​​​​​​
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Old Jan 7th, 2020, 10:48 AM
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You really don't want to take money to exchange in these countries, as mentioned above, use an ATM to get Thai Baht and VN Dong. In Cambodia, the US dollar is used except for small purchases, plan to get your local currency in Cambodia when you receive change for a purchase.
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Old Jan 7th, 2020, 11:00 AM
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Cash is King.....Never use a 'stand-alone' ATM, not worth the risk of the machine eating your card.

ATMs usually dispense high denomination notes, which can be a pain. Money Changers are humans and more likely to oblige.
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Old Jan 7th, 2020, 06:05 PM
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I'm confused. In Cambodia they don't use local currency? I've read that in all those countries you can use small denomination US currency for a lot of things but I thought that was only for tips or small purchases. So in each country how do you pay for most things (like lunch or dinner at a casual restaurant, food from a street cart, admission to a museum or temple, etc., purchases of relatively inexpensive things in a store). I realize you can use a credit card for things like hotel bills but I though other than that credit cards were not widely accepted. When you say 'never use a stand alone ATM' do you mean it is OK to use one attached to a bank?
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Old Jan 7th, 2020, 10:36 PM
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ATM attached to a Bank.....yep, but best done during business hours in case the ATM eats your card or dispenses the wrong amount. Make sure you are aware of transaction charges.

In Thailand always use baht, in Vietnam use dong. But in Cambodia US$ is the de facto currency, though change will almost always be given in local currency, which you can use for small purchases or tips.

Some people may say you can use US$ in Vietnam, that may be true, but it's also an illegal practice for traders to accept other than Vietnam dong. Things are solely priced up in US$ for the convenience of lazy foreigners.

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Old Jan 7th, 2020, 10:41 PM
  #8  
kja
 
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Originally Posted by isabel View Post
I'm confused. In Cambodia they don't use local currency? I've read that in all those countries you can use small denomination US currency for a lot of things but I thought that was only for tips or small purchases. So in each country how do you pay for most things (like lunch or dinner at a casual restaurant, food from a street cart, admission to a museum or temple, etc., purchases of relatively inexpensive things in a store). I realize you can use a credit card for things like hotel bills but I though other than that credit cards were not widely accepted. When you say 'never use a stand alone ATM' do you mean it is OK to use one attached to a bank?
What guide books are you using, isabel? This information is laid out rather clearly in all the ones I've consulted.
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Old Jan 7th, 2020, 10:42 PM
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Credit cards are widely accepted, but not by most small traders. NEVER let your credit card out of your sight. And if you do want to get around by using plastic, don't rely on one card only.
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Old Jan 8th, 2020, 06:01 AM
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kja - it's not the guide books that are confusing me but some of the trip reports (here and on other sites). I keep reading about bringing "crisp US dollar bills" to pay for small things. Makes sense. But for larger things that don't accept credit cards the guidebooks say to pay in local currency. Yet I just read benitakaren's current trip report that she was asked to pay in US currency for a Halong Bay cruise. I've read numerous other accounts of being asked to pay in US currency for things like a day with a tuk-tuk driver in US currency. Those are much larger amounts than $1-2 for some street food. Assuming you are there for a month or so you'd need to bring hundreds in US cash. I'm just trying to figure out how it's done.
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Old Jan 8th, 2020, 12:30 PM
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You are absolute correct tha5 exchanging into USD is an expensive way of changing money. Why pay two fx spreads. There won’t be an issue exchanging Canadian $$ in any of those countries, It is in Vietnam where the gold shops you have beards of operate and the rates are generally better than the banks (and much shorter queues!) .

I have found that rates in Vietnam are generally similar from place to place but in Thailand the exchange booths always seem to offer widely divergent rates so shop around.

As has been suggested above, ATMs are ubiquitous in all three countries and are by far the most convenient way of getting cash BUT also the most expensive. In Thailand there is a flat charge of I think around 200 baht per withdrawal, in Vietnam this seems to vary between banks, somewhere between 30-60k dong but is constantly changing. This is in addition to your card provider fees which are typically 1-3%. Not sure about Canada but in some countries it is possible to obtain card that will reimburse fees charged or offer zero fees on foreign transactions. Worth shopping around before you go.

If using ATMS I agree with LL and would stick to using those attached to banks and during banking hours. In SE Asia ATMs have been known to swallow cards. You want someone to be around to get it out for you. I avoid standalone ATMs as they are more prone to fraud and, by definition, have no one around.

Isabel - re being asked to pay for tours etc in USD - in Vietnam this is actually illegal ( although many providers do do it) . generally speaking, it is unlikely that they will be offering fx rates that are advantageous to the buyer
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Old Jan 8th, 2020, 09:46 PM
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Isabel - I was confused before I went to Cambodia as well. I'll try to explain. The ATM's spit out US dollars. If you are American, you can bring with you some 1's and 5's, but not too much. You will typically be given change for your US dollars in US dollars, unless it is a less than a dollar, then you will be given the local currency. I used an ATM at the airport, and one in Siem Reap near my hotel that my tuk tuk driver took me to. It all worked out.

I use freestanding ATM's and I have never had a problem having my card eaten. When travelling alone, I take my husband's ATM card, and when travelling with him, I take ATM cards from a secondary bank.

If you are American, get an ATM card with no fees. I have a Charles Schwab card, and one from First Republic Bank. Also, get yourself a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, and make sure the merchant charges you in the local currency. I just opened a Chase Business Card, which has no foreign transaction fees.

Hope that helps.
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Old Jan 9th, 2020, 02:45 AM
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I've never, in many visits to all over SE Asia had a problem with any currency. Cash is 'King' in much of SE Asia, so I've always gone down that road. I keep my cash safe [wear a multi-pocket gilet], never put all my money in the same place, always keep my £sterling separate from local currency

If I want to change money It's never been difficult to change it, even at short notice. And I've always got the denominations that I want, not what a ATM dispenses which are often high denomination. It's important, especially when dealing with small local traders, and taxi drivers that you have small denominations. Always count across the money you are paying to a trader or taxi driver.

If a stand-alone ATM eats your card, what will you do, even though you may have a back-up? As a minimum precaution always have that back-up.....and don't forget if your main card gets 'eaten', that 'back-up' will no longer be a back-up! It's all very well someone saying they've never been unlucky to have their card eaten. It happens, as do other ATM scams. At a money changer, inside a bank, gold shop, or travel agency, you are dealing face-to-face with another human being......and providing you pay close attention to the person you are dealing with, you shouldn't have any problems getting a fair rate of exchange in the denominations that you want. Never change money anywhere that advertises too good to be true rates, or use an exchange place down a back alley.

My experience in several weeks in Cambodia was to, whenever possible, use Canadia Bank to exchange my £sterling into US$. I hand over crisp £50 notes, and expect crisp US$ in return, and politely refuse to accept anything other than crisp notes in return.

Last edited by LancasterLad; Jan 9th, 2020 at 02:49 AM.
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Old Jan 9th, 2020, 10:01 AM
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LL - I have four ATM cards with me, and since I have never have had a card eaten before, I think I am covered. Everyone is different. You have a system that works for you, and that's great. The point is to show Isabel different perspectives, since she was worried about what to do. I personally don't like carrying cash, and prefer to get small amounts everyday from an ATM. That's why this forum is so nice, we can all present the way that we do things. Take care, happy travels.
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Old Jan 10th, 2020, 03:20 PM
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"I personally don't like carrying cash, and prefer to get small amounts everyday from an ATM."

For Thailand there is a fee to use the ATM. The fee is the same for a small amount withdrawn or the maximum the ATM and your bank allows.

Like the previous post I use ATMs when the parent bank is nearby and open. I have friends who have had cards that did not come out of the ATM. If this happens at least you can tell the bank what happened. Otherwise you will be playing phone tag with some faceless clerk "somewhere" in Thailand.

Do not rely on a single card for your spending money, have back up cards.

For Thailand, along with debit and credit cards, I take my currency, US dollars, $100 denomination, the ones with the big heads. For cash no writing on the bills, no stains or tears. For Thailand Canadian currency is easy to change in major cities tourists visit.

Below link for Thailand shows daily rates for several currencies.
https://daytodaydata.net/

Do not leave these countries with their currency because it is usually difficult to find someone who wants it.

Good luck.



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Old Jan 10th, 2020, 05:42 PM
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Thanks for all the opinions on best ways to manage money over there. I am early in the planning stages so haven't looked at hotels much expect to see that there are plenty of good looking places for decent prices on booking.com Since that's how I reserve hotels when traveling in Europe I'll probably do that. I assume you can use credit cards to pay for hotels. I would be booking (and I assume paying for) flights in advance. So doesn't sound like you need enormous amounts of cash anyway - food, admission fees, tuk-tuk drivers, etc. Would US dollars in denominations of $50 be able to be used? I always have at least 2 or 3 ATM cards and credit cards and always try to use ATMs in a bank.
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Old Jan 10th, 2020, 06:37 PM
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Booking.com is my preferred method for hotels in Asia. Sometimes, for the more expensive places, the hotel’s own sites can yield some good deals.

US $50 bills would be fine to exchange, but I wouldn’t rely on using them to pay for stuff except in Cambodia. If you do use them to pay directly, I would expect the exchange rate to be not great. Most hotels will credit cards. I think the approach you have outlined is eminently sensible.

Re the cash v ATM debate. FWIW my own experience over the last few years has been to have a couple of cards eaten - one in Mexico City and the other in Chiang Rai. I was glad both were at banks where I could get the cards back straight away ( albeit by hammering on the door in CR as it was just at closing time. They very kindly opened up the door and the machine and gave me my card back - phew!)

As far as carrying cash is concerned, (or cards or passports I suppose), I have had several attempts at pickpocketing in places as diverse as Cambodia, Bolivia, Barcelona, Beirut and Sierra Leone (the last one did involve a degree of violence). I travel a lot so I suppose it is inevitable that it is going to happen occasionally. Fortunately I have never actually had anything stolen but if I had, it would have been inconvenient to say the least. In the case of cards, any loss would pretty much have been covered by most banks ( but not always) . The loss of cash, is only going to be covered by a decent travel policy.

The chance of anything happening is small, but it does happen. Itdoes pay not to rely on any one solution and also not to keep all cards or all cash in the same place.
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Old Jan 10th, 2020, 06:59 PM
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SirHalberd - The two ATM cards I have reimburse all fees charged by the owner of the foreign ATM. They reimburse all fees at the end of the month, including their own fees. That is why I go to the ATM daily when travelling.

Isabel - Some hotels take credit cards, but the small family type places do not. I would make all my arrangements, and then ask all of the hotels, tour providers, etc. what you need to pay. You'll be fine, really.

Crellston - Husband and I are leaving tomorrow for Argentina. Am I destined to get all four ATM cards eaten due to my smugness? Uh oh.
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Old Jan 10th, 2020, 07:26 PM
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CaliforniaLady - they probably won’t get eaten but, in my experience, they probably won’t work! Seriously, every time I have been to Argentina, the banks were on strike/the ATMs just didn’t work or had run out of cash, plus the high fees and low Max withdrawals made it hard and expensive work to get cash out. Argentina is the one place where taking USD really does pay off. The "blue rate" has apparently returned making it better value to exchange USD through "unofficial "channels.

Despite all that, it is still one of my favourite countries to visit - Buen viaje (from the Shinkansen en route to Kyoto - isn’t technology great?
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Old Jan 10th, 2020, 07:50 PM
  #20  
kja
 
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I've had ATM cards eaten in Goreme (fortunately, the attached bank was open) and at Barajas Airport on a Sunday (proving the benefits of traveling with a back-up). It can happen any where.
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