Whether you are looking to send money out of Vietnam or leave Vietnam with your money, both can be a bit challenging. If you are in Europe, North America, or many other places in the world, you can simply walk up to money transfer service like Western Union, Moneygram, or RIA and accomplish this.
But one of the unfortunate facts about Vietnam is: that can’t be done here (at least not so easily). Go into a bank, and they’ll usually ask for a letter explaining exactly why you want to transfer money out of the country, whether that be in đồng (the local currency) or its equivalent in foreign currency. Moreover, popular low-fee international online banks like Wise don’t work for sending
Since the beginning of the pandemic, many expats have left Vietnam. Some had legit work teaching English or working in other fields, while others had under-the-table jobs. Regardless, many of them faced issues while trying to take their money out of Vietnam with them.
In this article, we’ll answer the questions of why it’s hard to take money out of Vietnam and the best solutions for sending money out of Vietnam.
Why It’s Hard to Move Money out of Vietnam
So is this just some kind of communist rule? A few theories have emerged as to why it’s difficult to get money out of Vietnam.
One goes that Vietnam is trying to preserve the value of its currency. Currently, the đồng is the world’s 3rd lowest valued currency, with 1 USD equating to approximately 25,000 VND.
Another is that because there have been so many scams, frauds, and phishing attempts, Vietnamese banks do as much security checks and paperwork as possible to negate such risks.
No matter the reasons, it does really seem like the Vietnamese government don’t want Vietnamese currency to leave Vietnam. On top of that, even if you to get a decent among of đồng out of the country, it can be notoriously difficult to exchange abroad.
You can probably change Vietnamese currency in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. But when I went to Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore, it was already hard to find money exchange shops that would accept VND cash. And in Europe or Western countries? Good luck!
The Best Ways to Send Money Out
Transferring money out of Vietnam is not easy, but still possible. Mainly you should just expect higher fees and some hassle in the form of paperwork. The below are your main options for getting money out of the country.
If you or your family overseas need the money right away, this is not the best way. However, if you are leaving Vietnam, this is your best bet for bringing money with you without losing too much on fees.
Vietnam lets you bring up to 15 million VND in cash, or not more than $7,000 USD (or its equivalent in other currencies) per person. Find more details about this on the official Vietnam customs page.
You’ll probably want to exchange your đồng into another currency, such as Euros of Dollars, before leaving, given how useless the đồng is abroad. However, exchanging a large amount (such as the maximum you can carry out, $7,000 USD) all at once may arouse suspicion at the bank. In order to not get flagged, I recommend you do a few trips to a handful of different banks. For example, take $1000 to a branch of Vietcombank, another $1000 to VP Bank, and so on.
Personally, when exchanging a smaller amount such as $500, I only had to show my passport. However, I’ve heard of people trying to exchanging higher amounts, and the bank wanted to see proof of the source of the cash (such as a work permit and/or salary slip) before allowing the transaction to happen.
Another option, and often with better rates, is to exchange your Vietnamese money at hotels in Vietnam. And the best rates are often given by gold and jewelry shops!
The limit of this method is of course that you won’t be able to take more than 15 million VND or 7000 USD out of Vietnam when you leave.
If you have an account at a local bank in Vietnam, depending on the bank, they might let you transfer some (if not all) to an overseas bank account. But before doing so, many banks will ask you to fill in a declaration form explaining why you need to send the money and/or proof that the money you earned in this bank/account came from your employer. You can present a work permit or salary slip to prove this.
Even with success, the amount of money you can send at one time may be limited (for example around USD 5000 per transfer) and the fees can be unusually high compared to doing the same thing in other countries.
If you are leaving Vietnam permanently, make sure to do this months or weeks before you leave Vietnam. In this way, if the money doesn’t arrive in your overseas account, you have time to fix this before leaving Vietnam.
Trying to fix the “money that didn’t arrive” problem from abroad can really be a nightmare.
As mentioned above, in Vietnam you can’t just walk into a Western Union and send money out of the country. However, some Vietnamese banks do have have Western Union service. Receiving money through this service is not a problem (many locals with family overseas use this often to receive money In Vietnam from them).
Sending money abroad is a different story. The biggest challenge here is proving where the money you are sending overseas came from. If you work here, just like doing a regular bank transfer, you’ll need to show where it came from with a work permit and/or salary slip plus some forms to fill in.
If the cash came from an ATM (let’s say you withdraw cash from your overseas bank to send to your family or friend), you’ll need to show the receipt from the ATM and probably a bank statement that shows the withdrawal transaction to prove that the money came from your international bank and not a Vietnamese bank.
The amount that you can send will also be limited. The fee is generally lower than for a regular bank transfer, but still higher than your average Western Union fee in other countries.
Asking a Friend
This is a common choice among expats in Vietnam. If you want to leave Vietnam with more than $7000, you can carry that amount of cash and ask a friend to help you with the rest. And I don’t mean they would mean Vietnam too. What I mean is that you can ask anyone who is staying in Vietnam if they need VND cash for general living in Vietnam, in exchange for foreign currency which they are able to transfer to your international bank account.
For example, imagine you give your British friend Vietnam 30 million VND cash, which he will use for his daily expenditures there, and this friend will transfer £1,000 from his UK bank account to yours, which is easy to do. Perhaps, your friend will do it for free, a small fee, or for a couple rounds of Bia hơi.
I have personally done this for friends many times in Vietnam. They gave me the cash and I transferred the equivalent of that cash to their bank account, online bank, or even PayPal/Wise (see next entry. Depending on the bank, the transfer might take only a few minutes to a few days for the transaction to reflect in your account.
Why would your friend do this? Well, using an international bank card at an ATM in Vietnam can be very expensive. ATM fees easily go up to USD 5 per transaction, and most ATMs here only let you take $150 to $200 at a time. By doing this, your friend can get some local currency without paying the ATM fees.
Wise and PayPal
Wise and PayPal unfortunately don’t work for sending money out of Vietnam – wouldn’t it be nice!
Wise, formerly known TransferWise, is a digital international bank. It is quite popular for those who work online and receive their salary in different currencies or people who have family spread around the world. It is like known for its very low rates for sending money, notably lower than PayPal’s. If you sign up for Wise with this link, you’ll be able to transfer up to GBP 500 without any fees.
Keep in mind that it does take a few days to fully sign up because there are some steps to verify your identity. For example, you usually have to upload your passport and/or other IDs. Once verified, you can run a transfer test. Paying with your bank card and depending on the amount, the fee can vary.
What Wise does work well for is sending money TO Vietnam. Travelers can also sign up for a Wise international debit card before their trip, then spend in local VND while backpacking in Vietnam without paying major conversion fees.
Believe it or not, digital currencies, especially Bitcoin, are actually popular in Vietnam. You can even find Bitcoin ATMs at these locations in Ho Chi Minh City, where you can either withdraw or deposit cash, but there aren’t yet any elsewhere in the country.
If you can’t find any Bitcoin ATM, you could ask a friend or stranger who will accept your VND cash in exchange for a Bitcoin transfer. The good thing about Bitcoin transfer is how fast the transaction happens.
It takes only 10-15 minutes to transfer from a Bitcoin account to transfer to another account. You (the receiver) will see the money before you even finish your coffee. Of course, that only works if you have a Bitcoin account.
Hopefully and better and/or cheaper way to send money out of Vietnam will become available soon. If you know other ways or tips on how to send money out of Vietnam, let us know in the comment section below.