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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Simplifying Currency Challenges in Vietnam

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

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My husband, Billy, and I have recently arrived in Saigon, Vietnam. With 8 million residents, most riding on motorcycles in swarms, itís quite a bit different from sleepy Panajachel or Antigua, Guatemala. When the traffic light switches from red to green, itís like a starting point in a race. There is no single file and a massive group turns left or right. If you want to cross the street you simply walk into traffic with your arm raised up to alert the drivers that you are moving into the flow.  Traffic goes at a crawling pace like a choreographed symphony of metal.

Vietnamese Dong

Vietnamese Dong

There is a lot to get used to here Ė the change of weather, the contrast from Latin to Asian cuisine, the difference in languages and the increase in the tempo of life here. But the biggest challenge we face is figuring out the exchange rate of the USDollar to the Vietnamese dong.

One US dollar equals 21,277 dong. There are lots of zeros printed on the currency and to make it convenient for our comprehension, the first thing we did was to lop off three of them. It makes it easier figuring out pricing in our head and eliminates some punches on our calculators. For our purposes, we use 20 (thousand) dong to equal $1USD, 40 (thousand) dong equals $2USD, 60 (thousand) dong equals $3USD and so on.


One (thousand) dong equals 5 cents, 10 (thousand) dong equals 50 cents, 100 (thousand) equals $5USD, 500 (thousand) equals $25.

Are you confused yet? This system is supposed to make it a snap!

Without so many zeros, we find it simpler to navigate through most daily purchases. The colors of the money still do not have a lot of significance to us yet and different denominations are also assorted sizes. So our wallets have wads of colorful pieces of money sort of like monopoly.

With the separation in language, everyone hugs their calculators since itís a form of communication we all understand. Touch an object and the vendor brings out his cell phone-size number machine and begins pounding away. Step back or shake your head ďnoĒ and the price drops right away. Touch another item and the process begins all over again.

Popular grocery stores called coops have prices marked clearly. Again, we simply lop 3 zeros off the amount and begin our system to understand what we are paying. A 12-pack of individual serving sized yogurt costs 56,000 dong, or less than $3USD.


Taxi drivers use a meter here with the number ď12Ē as the beginning fare. This, of course, means 12,000 dong but they have trimmed 3 zeros off as well for simplicity. A short 5 minute ride is 27,000 dong or less than $1.50USD.

Compass Living provides us with a private driver as a translator for when we go shopping, but itís our style to be hands on. Iím sure it will all get more familiar with time, but for now we have this short system in place and it seems to be working just fine.

For more stories and photos of Vietnam, click here

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurerís Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on

Retire Early Lifestyle appeals to a different kind of person Ė the person who prizes their independence, values their time, and who doesnít want to mindlessly follow the crowd.

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