Cat Ba is an island that is getting increasingly popular between travelers visiting Vietnam. Quite often you can use US Dollars for payments there but paying in local currency can save you lots of money. Even if the options are limited, you can withdraw cash from ATM or exchange your foreign currency on the island. Check where you can find real ATM in Cat Ba and who often offers the best currency exchange rate in Cat Ba Town.
ATMs in Cat Ba
You will see plenty of ATM signboards when walking around Cat Ba Town but in reality we could find only 2 real ATMs when visiting the island. All other places were just tour agencies or other kind of shops offering withdrawal from your credit card.
Such a “fake ATM” service means that the shop charges your card and gives you an amount of Vietnamese Dongs counted by shop’s own exchange rate which is usually worse than you would be given on the real ATM. We wouldn’t recommend using this service but if you will, make sure that you know the exact exchange rate they are going to give you and what other fees they are charging. By far not all these shops are trustful so it’s better to avoid them and don’t get overcharged.
Real ATMs in Cat Ba Town are provided by two banks Saigon Bank and Agribank and can be found in these locations:
Saigon Bank’s ATM is hardly of any use to most of the travelers as it doesn’t accept Visa, MasterCard or Maestro (only some Asian cards work here).
Agribank’s ATM is the only option for Visa and MasterCard holders so it’s often occupied and you need to wait in a queue for using it. The worse thing is that this ATM quite often runs out of money or just fails to work. Sometimes the ATM is lagging and withdrawal is failing so even if it’s the best option for money withdrawal in Cat Ba, the service is much worse than you would be expecting.
When using ATM Agribank, you need to pay the withdrawal fee which is 22,000 VND (~1 USD) per transaction. Maximum limit for withdrawal is 3,000,000 VND.
Currency exchange in Cat Ba
When looking for the best place to exchange your foreign currency, normally you first think of the bank. However, even if there are branches of banks in Cat Ba, normally they exchange only US Dollars and the exchange rate offered by them isn’t that good. If you want to get a better exchange rate for your US Dollars or exchange any other currency (e.g. Euro) in Cat Ba, you need to find another money changer.
Most of the shops who act as “ATM” normally offer currency exchange as well. Tour agencies and hotels usually can exchange your foreign currency too. However, none of them is offering good exchange rate and checking their offers is hardly worth an effort. Gold shops are another popular option for exchanging money in Vietnam and you shouldn’t ignore them in Cat Ba.
Currency exchange rates in Cat Ba
During our stay on Cat Ba Island, we’ve visited several tour companies that were advertising currency exchange service as we wanted to exchange some Euro to Vietnamese Dongs for daily expenses. The exchange rate offered by Cat Ba’s tour agents was about 24,600 – 24,800 VND for 1 Euro. As the mid-market exchange rate for Euro was 25,883 VND at that time, the best rate that we’ve got here was by 1083 VND or by about 4.4% lower than that. Not the exchange rate you would be expecting to get in Vietnam as even money changers at Hanoi Airport were giving much more competitive exchange rate that was still far from the best in the city. As we are always trying to get the best value for our money during travels we continued searching for more fair exchange rate.
Gold shops are well known for offering some of the best exchange rates in various cities of Vietnam. Cat Ba Town wasn’t an exception as the best exchange rate for our money we got in one of town’s gold shops.
Bao Tin Ngoc Lien is the name of the gold shop where we got the best currency exchange rate in Cat Ba Town. The gold shop is located on Duong 1/4 street (124 Đường 1/4, TT. Cát Bà), just few meters from Cat Ba Market. Bao Tin Ngoc Lien is not the usual jewelry shop as they are advertising currency exchange and ATM services very openly – you can hardly miss the huge red sign in front of it.
Currency exchange rates here are not displayed so you need to ask. During our visit, the best money changer in Cat Ba was offering 25,600 VND for 1 Euro which was by about 1,000 VND more than we could be getting from tour agents on the same day. As the mid-market exchange rate on the day was 25,883 VND for 1 Euro, the best EUR exchange rate we could get in Cat Ba was only by 283 VND or by about 1.1% lower than mid-market rate. Sounds like a good deal as it’s better than our home bank would be giving us when withdrawing cash from ATM.
Best way to get money in Cat Ba
Considering the issues with the only normal ATM on the island, the fee that ATM charges (the fee adds at least 0.7% to your loses and even more when withdrawing not maximum amount) and hardly favorable home bank’s exchange rate, currency exchange seems to be the most economical way for getting Vietnamese Dong in Cat Ba as long as you choose the right money changer.