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Ultimate Guide To Shopping In Vietnam- Everything You Need To Know

Ultimate Guide To Shopping In Vietnam- Everything You Need To Know

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With its charming coastal landscapes, picturesque rice fields, lush greenery, and mesmerizing culture, Vietnam is one of the fastest emerging tourism destinations in the world. If you’re thinking of visiting Vietnam, it’s natural that you’ll want to bring a memento or two to remind you of your trip. In this guide to shopping in Vietnam, we’ll show you not only what are the best things to buy from Vietnam but also which are the best shopping destinations in Vietnam, as well as some important shopping tips. 

Let’s start from the beginning…

Helpful Resources For Visiting Vietnam

If you’re looking for a cheap flight to Vietnam, you can get 25% off on all flights to Vietnam with our Qatar Airways coupon.

For budget accommodation options in Vietnam, this Booking.com offer will get you 10% off on all hotels in Vietnam.

It’s also a good idea to get some travel insurance if you’re exploring Vietnam off the beaten track. Check out some of World Nomads’ best offers. Sure, they might be more expensive than some other providers but they also offer a far more extensive coverage packages that have you covered in all kinds of situations, including incidents, delayed or canceled flights/buses, violent attacks, etc.

For the best deals on booking buses and trains around Vietnam, use Bookaway.

Lastly, don’t forget that you may need a visa and you may need to get it before entering Vietnam. You can obtain one through Ivisa for only $45 USD. I’ve used their services in the past on multiple occasions and I warmly recommend them.

Understanding The Local Currency

Vietnam Dong

The official currency of Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong. At the time of writing, one dong equals 0.000043, or to make it easier, one USD equals roughly 23,000 Dongs. And shopping is never easy when $100 equals 2.3 million of local currency. That’s why you should always recalculate prices before buying something, especially if it’s a bigger purchase. If you struggle with numbers, you can always use a calculator.

Some vendors, to make it more convenient for tourists have started accepting USD as a payment method (which is likely illegal), and more often than not, they would charge you twice as much compared to the price you would need to pay in dongs. Our recommendation is to never pay with dollars in Vietnam because you’re likely paying more than the item you’re buying is actually worth.

Exchanging Your Currency

If you’re traveling with a lot of cash, don’t exchange all of it at once. Sure, if you exchange a larger amount at once, you might get a better rate but it’s just not worth it. Don’t forget that one USD equals 23,000 dongs and currency notes in Vietnam range from 100 dongs (0.0043 USD) to 500,000 dongs (21 USD). If you exchange more than $200-$300 USD it might make it more difficult to store your notes as they might not all fit inside your wallet.

You should also note that if your bill is crumbled, ripped, or damaged, vendors may not accept it (this applies to exchange centers too- they may accept it but they’ll pay you less for it), so keep your eyes open when exchanging money or taking change. Also, pay attention when dealing with 200,000 and 500,000 dong bills. They both have a very similar color which can often lead to confusion.

Shopping Tips

vietnam shopping tips

In this section, we’ll share a few important tips for shopping in Vietnam that will make your shopping experience a lot easier.

  • Always make sure to get official receipts for the items you buy.
  • Buy local products, imported goods will always be more expensive and what’s the point of buying imported goods? Go for a local souvenir instead.
  • You’ll find the best woven textiles in the Sapa markets, the best tailored clothes and lanterns in the Hoi An markets, the best paintings in Hanoi, and the most convincing cheap knockoffs in the markets of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh).
  • For fresh produce and to experience local culture, check out the farmer markets.
  • For clothing, street markets are always a good choice.
  • For authentic arts and crafts, check out art galleries.
  • For local items like silk products, cotton products, jewelry, etc. souvenir shops are a good choice.
  • Don’t search for sales- Vietnam doesn’t have a sales culture like most western countries. The products on sale are likely products that can’t be sold in any other way. But the absence of a sales culture doesn’t mean you won’t get good deals. This leads us to the next point…

The Art Of Bargaining

vietnam bargaining

Most Vietnamese vendors see tourists as wildly rich people which is why they often try to overcharge them, in some instances even wildly. That’s why it’s important to first, do your homework and get a rough idea of how much different items cost, and second, to improve your bargaining skills.

When bargaining, it’s important to find a middle ground between being not comfortable negotiating a price and aggressively trying to push the price down as much as possible. Try to remain friendly and engaged all the time, even when you think the vendor is trying to rip you off. After all, the goal of the transaction is for everyone to be happy, not to get the lowest price possible.

If you’re a foreigner, most vendors will likely ask for a highly inflated rate. As a rule of thumb, it’s a good start to offer half of the asking price and work your way from there. If you’re not happy with the price, walk away; this is the time when most vendors will usually give you their best price.

Learn A Few Vietnamese Phrases

vietnamese phrases

English isn’t very widely spoken in Vietnam and learning a few basic phrases goes a long way and in many instances, puts a smile on the face of the vendor and accounts for a better bargaining position. Here’s a list of some helpful phrases for bargaining in Vietnam.

Hello= xin chào

How are you? = Bạn có khỏe không (ban ko kwoe hon);

How much? = Bao nhieu (baow ny-ew);

Too expensive= Mac qua (mac wa) or Dat Qua (daw twa);

Do you want to sell? = Co ban khong (cor ban kohm);

One size larger= Mot size lon hon (mot size lunh hunh);

One size smaller- Mot size nho hon (mot size nyunh hunh);

Can you decrease the price? = Giam gia duoc khong (zam za duoc khom);

Thank you= Cam on

Goodbye= Tam biet.

What To Buy

In this part of our guide to shopping in Vietnam, we’ll show you some interesting things to buy from Vietnam.

Paintings

vietnam paintings

Paintings always make a great souvenir because they can easily be rolled up and kept in a protective cardboard case. When shopping in Vietnam, you’ll find plenty of stores that sell paintings, some are from anonymous artists, others from famous artists. Most of the paintings depict local landscapes and scenes from everyday life in different parts of Vietnam. The prices of a painting start from $10 and can cost up to $100, depending on your bargaining skills.

Conical Hats

vietnam hats

At the risk of sounding extremely stereotypical (which is not my intention), conical hats are one of the most Vietnamese things you can see. It’s one of the most commonly-bought souvenirs but it’s also a symbol of Vietnam and something people have been wearing for hundreds of years for sun protection. You can find these hats in most souvenir shops and street stalls and it shouldn’t cost you more than 30,000 – 50,000 VND (~$1.25 – $2 USD).

Vietnamese Tea & Coffee

vietnamese coffee

If you like coffee or tea, then you should definitely bring back some Vietnamese coffee or tea. Vietnam is one of the largest coffee exporting countries in the world and you can find tasty locally grown coffee in most local markets and shopping malls.

Tea, on the other hand, is the national drink of Vietnam, it’s much more popular than coffee (at least among locals) and Vietnamese tea is also worldwide famous for its unique, pure flavor that combines bitterness and sweetness. The three most popular kinds of tea include green tea, aromatic tea, and black tea.

You may also like: Ha Long Bay or Lan Ha Bay -which one should you visit?

Lanterns 

lanterns shopping in vietnam

Those beautiful, colorful lanterns you see all over Instagram can be bought in most street markets in Vietnam for only $4-$6. They’re a great decoration, are very light, and are easy to pack which makes them a great souvenir. The best place to buy lanterns are the street markets of Hoi An, a city famous for the production of lanterns, among other things, including…  

Tailor-Made Clothes

vietnam tailored clothes

Vietnam and especially Hoi An is famous for affordable tailor-made clothes. If you’re a fan of tailor-made it would be a shame to leave Vietnam without using this chance to buy some affordable, high-quality tailor-made clothes. In most cities in Vietnam, you’ll find plenty of tailor shops but the tailors of Hoi An are famous around the country for their skills and expeditiousness. 

And speaking of clothes when shopping in Vietnam, another thing you should also seriously consider buying is…

Ao Dai

vietnamese ao dai

Ao Dai is a traditional Vietnamese costume worn by local women. You can find these beautiful dresses with a feminine appeal in most local stores or in tailor shops. You can find many decent ao dai dresses for $50-$60 (in Vietnamese shops in the US, the same dresses sell for as much as $300 per piece!).

Vietnamese Silk

vietnamese silk

When shopping in Vietnam, you should definitely check out some silk products. After all, Vietnam is known for its centuries-old tradition of manufacturing high-quality silk products. You can buy sheets, silk robes, pajamas, and many other things. However, real silk products don’t come cheap. There are many vendors who sell “silk products” for as low as $5 and most of the products they sell are not made of real silk. Keep this in mind before making a purchase.

Porcelain and Pottery

pottery shopping in vietnam

Porcelain, hand-made ceramics, and pottery with unique decorations and styles characteristic to Vietnamese culture always make a great souvenir. These items can be found in most specialty shops across Vietnam.

Lacquer Products

vietnamese lacquerware

Traditional handicrafts are one of the most popular souvenirs in Vietnam. The most famous kind of local handicrafts are lacquerware (son mai) are decorative articles typically made of wood coated with lacquer which gives a nice shiny appearance.  

Hand-Woven Textiles

hand woven textile

If you’re traveling around the northern part of Vietnam, you’ll find plenty of colorful, hand-woven textiles for sale. The regions which are most famous for these products are the areas around Sapa and Hanoi. Hand-woven textiles are not nearly as common in the south of Vietnam, so if you’re planning to buy hand-woven things, do that while you’re in the northern part of the country. As always, there will be many vendors who are selling cheap knock-offs. As a guideline, the average price of woven blankets is around $40-$50 (this refers to negotiated, not asking price).

Other Memorabilia

shopping in vietnam

Lastly, there are a lot of other cool things to buy from Vietnam that don’t fall in any of the above-mentioned categories. This includes old army gear and memorabilia from the war (helmets, tags from wounded GI, etc.), belts, fake zippo lighters, wooden model ships, water puppets, books, old Indochinese stamps, old coins, flags, and last but not least durable food items like candied strawberries, coconut candies from the Mekong Delta, dried herbs and spices, and local rice-distilled liquor.

What Not To Buy

vietnamese antiques

Now that we covered some of the most popular souvenir choices in Vietnam, you should also know that there are some things you should not buy when shopping in Vietnam. For example, Vietnam has strict regulations on the sale and export of rare antiques. Now, most antiques sold to tourists are knockoffs but if someone claims that they are selling at an original price, ask to see a certificate of ownership, and if they can provide that know that by buying that item, you will be breaking the law.

Another forbidden category that Vietnam has strict regulations for is items made from endangered species and other wild animals. To be safe, don’t buy butterfly/insect collections, snake wine, bear/tiger teeth or claws (mostly sold in the form of a necklace), sea turtle shells, and coral pieces.

Best Cities For Shopping In Vietnam

Due to Vietnam’s unique geography and complicated colonial history, many different cities developed their own specialty products. That’s why it’s difficult to name the best cities for shopping in Vietnam- because it mainly depends on what you’re looking for but in this part of our guide, we’ll do our best to summarize things for you.

Hanoi

hanoi sunset

Hanoi, the city of lakes, is a beautiful city that presents a charming mix of French and Chinese colonial influence and also happens to be one of the best cities for shopping in Vietnam. Hanoi is home to some of the most vibrant markets in Vietnam (more about this below) where you can find some traditional arts & crafts, clothing, hand-woven textile, silk products, traditional attire, footwear, water puppets, communist memorabilia, and much more.

Enjoying this post? Then you ought to check out our guide to exploring Vietnam by motorbike.

Ho Chi Minh

ho chi minh city

Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh is a sprawling metropolis on the banks of Saigon River, Vietnam’s capital, and its main commerce hub. Ho Chi Minh might not have as many traditional, authentic things to buy as Hanoi (it still has more than any other city in Vietnam though) but it has a lot more malls and shopping centers where you can buy cheap clothing, footwear, fashion accessories, and even some authentic souvenirs.  

Hoi An

things to do in hoi an

The colorful city of Hoi An is one of Vietnam’s prettiest towns and one of the best shopping destinations in the country. Hoi An is most famous for its tailor shops, lanterns, silk products, and traditional handicrafts that decorate most street stalls which just adds to Hoi An’s already vibrant charm.

Nha Trang

nha trang

Nha Trang is one of Vietnam’s fastest-growing big cities. The city has a long, beautiful coastline and 19 islands and was primarily known as a holiday retreat but in the last couple of decades, Nha Trang has turned into a regional commerce hub. If you’re looking for traditional souvenirs, Dam Market is the best choice and if you’re looking for a more authentic experience, we strongly recommend Xoi Moi Market.

Hue

hue shopping in vietnam

Hue is a tranquil city lying on the banks of the Perfume River that hides the glorious secrets of the ancient city’s imperial past. The city attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year which also attracts a lot of vendors selling all kinds of different things which means a lot of great bargains for visitors.

Da Nang

da nang

Da Nang is a coastal city in the central part of Vietnam known for its beautiful beaches, French colonial port, beautiful surrounding hillsides, and one of the most scenic bridges in Vietnam (the Golden Bridge). It’s also the country’s third-most populated city and a great shopping destination.

Famous Markets To Visit In Vietnam

Now that we have covered most other things you should know about shopping in Vietnam, we’ll show you a few markets you should visit in different parts of the country.

Street Night Market, Hanoi

hanoi market

With more than 4,000 shops and stalls, the Street Night Market in Hanoi is one of the largest street markets in Vietnam. Over here, you can find anything from all kinds of clothing, footwear, and accessories to handicrafts, arts, water puppets, and even household appliances.

Location: Hanoi Old Quarter

Hours: 6 PM- 11 PM

Working Days: Friday-Sunday

Quang Ba Flower Market, Hoi An

quang ba flower market

You might not be looking to buy flowers as a souvenir but you’ll definitely love the vibrant atmosphere of Quang Ba, one of the most colorful flower markets in Asia. Taking a stroll around will give you a unique aromatic experience and you’ll also get the chance to click some exciting, colorful photos.

Location: Au Co Street, Tay Ho

Hours: Open 24 hours per day

Working Days: Every Day

Hang Gai & Hang Bac Street, Hanoi

hang bac hanoi

With its vibrant, authentic shops and stalls, Hang Gai Market and the entire Hang Bac Street are a must-visit place when shopping in Vietnam. This market is frequently visited by locals for buying everyday things like rice paper and produce but there are also a lot of folk paintings, bamboo-bound notebooks, lanterns, and other authentic souvenirs you can buy. And if you’re not too tired of street shopping when you step outside of the main market, Hang Bac Street has three more blocks of shops, most of which specialize in embroidery and silk products.

Location: Hoan Kiem

Hours: 9 AM- 8 PM

Working Days: Every Day

Bat Trang Pottery Village, Hanoi

Bat Trang Pottery Village
Steven C. Price CC by SA 4.0

Located a short drive away from Hanoi, Bat Trang Pottery Village is one of the best places in Vietnam to purchase high-end pottery products and authentic Vietnamese souvenirs. You can even learn a thing or two about pottery or even make your own pottery under the guidance of one of the potters.

Location: Bat Trang Village, Gia Lam

Hours: 8 AM- 5 PM

Working Days: Every Day

Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh

Ben Thanh market

Ben Thanh Market is one of the most bustling markets in Ho Chi Minh. Technically, this market is open 24/7 but around sunset, vendors selling vegetables and other food items leave their stalls and are replaced by vendors selling clothing, apparel, and souvenirs. If you’re looking for a great bargain, this is one of the places you must visit when shopping in Vietnam.

Location: Ben Thank

Hours: 24 Hours per day

Working Days: Every Day

An Dong Market, Ho Chi Minh

An Dong Market
by Christopher CC by SA 2.0

If you’re looking for traditional fabrics, authentic Vietnamese clothing, or local handicrafts, tea sets, etc. An Dong Market is one place in Vietnam you ought to visit. Most of the things being sold here are dirt cheap which attracts a lot of shopaholics, local and foreign alike but with more than 500 parking spots on its parking lot, An Dong Market is always ready for rush hour.

Location: Ben Nghe, Quan 1

Hours: 10 AM- 10 PM

Working Days: Every Day

Bin Tay Market, Ho Chi Minh

bin tay market

Also known as Cholon Chinatown Market, this is the largest wholesale market in Vietnam with more than 850 stores for food and spice products, as well as clothes, handicrafts, household items, and plenty of Buddhism-related souvenirs.

Location: 57A Thap Muoi Street, Ward 2, District 6

Hours: 6 AM- 7 PM

Working Days: Every Day

Dong Khoi Street, Ho Chi Minh

Dong Khoi Street shopping in vietnam
by trungydang CC by SA 3.0

If you’re an art lover, you’ll definitely love Dong Khoi Street. It’s the best place in Ho Chi Minh for buying art-related souvenirs, including paintings, sculptures, statues, and many different kinds of authentic handicrafts. You can find some real gems here and the prices are more than reasonable. On the same street, you can also find the beautiful Apricot Gallery, one of the most interesting galleries in the area that often features interesting art exhibitions.

Location: Ben Nghe, Quan 1

Hours: 10 AM- 10 PM

Working Days: Every Day

Saigon Square, Ho Chi Minh

saigon square
by Fox Travels CC by SA 3.0

This list of the best places for shopping in Vietnam wouldn’t be complete without the good, old Saigon Square. If you’re looking for cheap fashionable clothing items and accessories, Saigon Square is the place for you. Because of its prominent location, this is one of the most crowded markets in the capital and a great way to experience a more modern shopping experience in Vietnam.

Location: 81 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Ben Nghe 

Hours: 9 AM- 9 PM

Working Days: Every Day

Cai Rang Floating Market, Can Tho

Cai Rang Floating Market
by Christopher CC by SA 4.0

Located a short drive away from the capital, the Cai Rang Floating Market is the largest floating market on the Mekong Delta and one of the most famous floating markets in Southeast Asia. The market is incredibly crowded and yet well-organized. During the early morning hours, larger boats anchor and create lanes for smaller boats to weave in and out. Eventually, as the day passes, this improvised waterway turns into a maze of hundreds of boats packed with anything from mangos and bananas to smuggled goods and knockoff products.

Location: 46 Đường Hai Bà Trưng

Hours: Open 24 hours

Working Days: Every Day

Han Market, Da Nang

han market
by Dragfyre CC by SA 3.0

Han Market is one of the largest markets in Da Nang and is famous for being a market where you can find practically anything from fruits, vegetables, and seafood, to spices, kitchen utilities, textiles, clothing, accessories, and even some authentic souvenirs. The market is closed and has numerous levels with the lower levels being reserved for food items (including spices) and the higher levels being reserved for stalls selling clothing items, textiles, lanterns, and other souvenirs.

Location: 46 Đường Hai Bà Trưng

Hours: 6 AM- 7 PM

Working Days: Every Day

Sapa Market, Sapa

sapa market
by Arian Zwegers CC by SA 2.0

Sapa Market is one of the best markets in Vietnam when it comes to hand-woven textiles. The entire region of Sapa is famous for its centuries-old hand-woven textile tradition and on this very market, you can find some of the highest-quality hand-woven textile items in the country. In addition to this, the Sapa Market is as vibrant as all other markets we mention in this article and there are a lot of other items you can buy besides textiles. 

Location: Luong Dinh Cua Street

Hours: 6 AM- 7 PM

Working Days: Every Day

Dong Ba Market, Hue

Dong Ba Market
by Francisco Anzola CC by SA 2.0

Dong Ba is the largest commercial center in the city of Hue. If you’re looking for a shopping destination while visiting the Imperial City, this place is a great choice. The center stretches over two stories and there, you can find plenty of fresh produce and spices, but also a wide range of goods (clothes, textiles, silk products, kitchenware, handicrafts, souvenirs, etc.) at reasonable prices.

Location: Phú Hoà, Thành phố Huế

Hours: 6:30 AM- 8 PM

Working Days: Every Day

Nha Trang Market, Nha Trang

nha trang

The central market in Nha Trang is one of the busiest shopping centers in the city. This market is very popular among tourists and you can find a lot of souvenirs here but it’s also one of the city’s premier food markets where locals come to do their grocery shopping. One of our favorite things about this market is that it’s very well organized with local souvenir shops being set in the front and middle sections while meat, fish, and vegetable stalls are located in the back.

Location: Ben Cho, Van Thanh

Hours: 10 AM- 11 PM

Working Days: Every Day

Hoi An Market and Hoi An Night Market, Hoi An

hoi an night market

Located on the banks of Thu Bon River, surrounded by beautiful river landscapes and greenery, Hoi An’s Central Market is one of the most picturesque markets in Vietnam. The only more picturesque market might be Hoi An’s night market (located only a few minutes away) that’s truly magical after nightfall when the area is completely lightened by floating lanterns. Similar to most other famous markets in Vietnam, the Central Market of Hoi An has stalls selling all kinds of different goods but the two things that the Hoi An takes pride in and is famous for are tailored clothes and lanterns.

Location: Nguyen Hue and Tran Phu Streets

Hours: 5 AM- 4 PM; 6 PM- 12 AM for the night market

Working Days: Every Day

Dinh Cau Night Market, Phu Quoc

Dinh Cau Night Market

Night shopping in Vietnam is a popular part of local culture and it’s also a great thing for tourists because they can spend days exploring the countryside and natural beauties of Vietnam while still finding a cultural activity to indulge in during the evenings. The Dinh Cau Night Market is the most popular market on Phu Quoc Island. There are many things you can buy here but the market is best known for jewelry and handicrafts.

Location: Vo Thi Sau Street, Duong Dong

Hours: 5 PM- 12 AM; Working Days: Every Day

Phan Thiet Central Market, Phan Tiet

phan tiet market

Last but not least, we round up this list with the Phan Tiet Central Market. This is the main market of Phan Thiet, a beautiful and off-the-beaten-track coastal town in the south of Vietnam. The market is famous for its fresh and delicious seafood (the market is located only 900 meters away from the coast) but there are also a lot of traditional handicrafts, jewelry, pottery, and clothing items and accessories.

Location: 115 Lý Thường Kiệt, Đức Nghĩa

Hours: 5 AM- 4 PM;

Working Days: Every Day

Famous Shopping Malls In Vietnam

shopping in vietnam malls

In Vietnam, most of the shopping is done on the street markets and shopping malls aren’t really a part of Vietnamese culture. In total, at the time of writing this article, there are 54 shopping malls in Vietnam (most of which are located in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh) which we can all agree is a small number for a country of 97 million people.

In the end, we round up this guide to shopping in Vietnam by listing the best shopping malls in the country you should definitely consider visiting on your shopping adventures.

While in Nha Trang, you should visit Lotte Mart, the city’s most popular shopping mall.

In Ho Chi Minh, there are more than 20 shopping malls but the most popular ones are Saigon Center, Aeon Mall, Lucky Plaza, SC Vivocity, and Taka Plaza.

Hanoi also has a fair share of shopping malls. The largest malls in Hanoi include Aeon Mall Long Bien, the Mipec Riverside Trade Center, Vincom Plaza, Vincom Mega Mall, and Trang Tien Plaza.

Finally, there are a few other large malls outside of these three cities that are worth visiting, including Parkson Vinh Trung Plaza in Da Nang, Vincom Plaza Hung Vuong in Can Tho, Parkson Thuy Duong Plaza in Hai Phong, the Vincom Plaza in Dak Lak, and the Vincom Plaza in An Giang.

Did you ever visit Vietnam? Would you like to do some shopping in Vietnam? Did this Vietnam shopping guide provide enough useful information for your upcoming trip? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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