Shopping culture is huge in Vietnam. And, visiting the many local markets, shopping districts, and shopping centres is a great experience. Bargaining is the norm at many of these places. Vietnam offers some excellent products at great value, so be sure to schedule some shopping time while in Vietnam.
Tips for shopping and bargaining in Vietnam
- If the item does not have a price tag, the price is nearly always negotiable.
- When negotiating a price, knock at least three quarters off the top.
- If negotiations are getting you nowhere start to walk, you will be amazed by the number of sellers that will agree on your price while walking away.
- Vietnam has recently changed from paper to polymer (plastic) bank notes, and some of the notes look very similar because of their color, and because of all the zeroes. For example the 20,000 Dong note looks very similar to the 200,000 dong note, and the same goes for the 50,000 and 500,000 dong notes. So It always pays to double check before handing over any money and also when receiving change.
- When you enter into a negotiation figure on a price that you feel good about and shoot for that.
- Always remain positive and smiling throughout the process.
Wandering around and shopping in Hanoi is endless. Look for great bargains and interesting products at these recommended spots:
Dong Xuan Market - Although it is mainly set up for Vietnam wholesalers selling to the numerous Hanoi shops, it is stil a great place to see Vietnam in action, and maybe even get a good buy on something.
Dong Xuan Night Market - On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings Hang Dao and Hang Duong streets are pedestrian only lit up for Hanoi's largest night market. The market has a range of cheap products including clothes, cell phone cases, and sunglasses. Lots of great local energy and street food to be found along the side streets as well.
Warning: The night market has become notorious for pick-pocketers and bag slashers. Please leave all valuables at your hotel, do not take your passport, do not take a bag or purse, and only take as much money as you will need for the evening. If you do this you will not have any problems at all, and soon those pesky theives will have nothing better to do but go home.
Hanoi's Old Quarter - The Old Quarter's shopping possibilities are endless! You can walk around and around for days shopping and bargaining, and filling up your luggage with souvenirs and gifts. Most of the streets are organized to sell a certain product. Look for shoe street, silver street, and kitchen supply street to start off. Hang Bong is well known for its numerous multi-floored art galleries.
Luxury Shopping and Brand Names - Near the Opera House and Metropole Hotel, there are a number of true brand name stores. Find Louis Vulton, Gucci, and others here.
Ho Chi Minh City perhaps some of the best shopping areas in the country. Here are some recommended markets in Ho Chi Minh city:
Ben Thanh Market - Number one on any trip to Saigon should be the historic Ben Thanh Market, located in District One. The variety of items for sale here is quite staggering with the sale of everything from clothing, fabrics, cosmetics, fake Rolexes and coffee, to fruit, vegetables and live animals. As mentioned Dong Khoi Street in District One is the place to go for top quality brand labels, and is well worth a visit. Dong Khoi's trendy neighbourhood also host some quality Vietnamese art and craft shops, cafés, and nightclubs.
Diamond Plaza - The most popular shopping mall is Diamond Plaza, which has a good rang of quality designer clothing, fragrances and electronics, with a cinema and bowling alley on the upper floors.
Saigon Tax Trade Center - Sitting on the corner of Nguyen Hue and Le Loi Street is the Saigon Tax trade center. The ground floor mostly specializes in locally made gold and silver jewelry. Throughout the store there is great quality local and imported clothing, shoes, cosmetics and tourist souvenirs. Of special note is the 3rd floor where you will find a seller of pirated DVDs along with a reasonable sized supermarket selling a great selection of local and imported foods from around the world.
Parkson Department Store - Parkson Department Store, which opened its doors in 2005, is different from the two mentioned above, as the entire store is owned operated entirely by Parkson, and they sell more of the big ticket items such as plasma TVs and electronics, along with the usual clothing and cosmetics. Great for a quick look if you have the time.
An Dong Wholesale Market (Near China Town) - Shoppers are presented with an overwhelming choice of clothes fabrics, jewelry and food, but with an emphasis on clothing and fabrics. Even though this is a wholesale market store holders are happy to sell to the public and international travelers. Fewer tourists frequent An Dong because it’s a little further away and not as well known as Ben Thanh, however it’s a great opportunity to see a local Vietnamese market in action. The ground level of An Dong specializes in mainly gold jewelry and food, with the upper levels of the market selling clothing and home items.
Binh Tay in Cho Lon (China Town) - Nearly every major city in the world has a China Town and Saigon is no different. Cho Lon District is Saigon’s China Town with the huge Binh Tay wholesale market at its focal point, is bigger than Ben Thanh, and just like An Dong, sellers are happy to sell to everyone. Binh Tay has a huge array of items imported from China (as you can imagine), around the world, as well as locally made items.
Warning: this market is not air-conditioned and not well ventilated so its recommend you get there early in the morning to beat the heat.
Great things to buy in Vietnam
- Ladies have a traditional Vietnamese Ao Dai (long silk dress) and other tailor-made clothing.
- Vietnam is renowned for stunning quality lacqureware pictures, bowls, plates & drink coasters.
- Vietnamese art. Saigon and Hanoi has many great traditional and contemporary art shops offering sculptures, carvings, rattan, and stunning paintings.
- Vietnam’s coffee is some of the best in the world. Renowned for its unique flavor and richness, it’s no wonder the global coffee giant Nestlé reportedly buys a third of the country’s entire coffee export. When purchasing your coffee also get yourself a coffee grinder and a stainless steel coffee filter.
- Shoes and Handbags. All women love their shoes and hand bags and Vietnamese women are no different! You will find an enormous range and variety of shoes and handbags, from reasonable quality brand name rip-offs to original Vietnamese designed masterpieces.
- Men often have a casual or business suite made. Vietnam's tailors are some of the most skilled in the world and fantastically cheap.
- You can get some very cheap yet practical tourist items. Wooden business card holders, for example, are cheap and compact, and friends and business acquaintances love them.