Shopping Tips in Vietnam

If you ever had a chance to visit Vietnam, shopping should be on top of the list of things you should do. No, I don’t mean buying things in the shopping mall. Why?

Because luxurious shopping centers are everywhere and they would only give you the very same shopping experience you would get at home. I am talking about the real shopping experience. The one that lies inside the busy markets where countless foreigners come every day to buy unique souvenirs and to bargain like a local for items that can’t simply be bought anywhere else at an extremely cheap price.

Before you revel in the experience, here are some of the things you must know before walking into markets.

Things to buy

There are many things you can buy in Vietnam as well as many things from Vietnam that you can also buy in other countries. So, to make the best out of the shopping experience, you should try to get the things that significantly refer to Vietnam.  

Ao dai

Perhaps one of the most popular items that you should get is the Ao Dai. This traditional outfit was and is still worn by men and women of Vietnam in special holidays, such as Tet.

It is a combination of a long tight-fitting silk tunic, worn over trousers of a different color. Ao Dai is one of the most famous cultural symbol in Vietnam. It first appeared during the 18th century, and this national garment now has its place in the English dictionary.

Ao Dai Vietnam

Non La

Second, but not far from the first is the Non La, also known as Conical Hats. Granted, Vietnam is not only the country that has Non La, but the Non La has become embedded deeply into the Vietnamese culture and is unremovable. Made of straw, Non La was first accessible to Vietnamese farmers thanks to its waterproof material.

It was soon picked up by the beautiful Vietnamese women in their Ao Dai and has become an essential accessory of the outfit. Non La and Ao Dai make a perfect combination that speaks of the country. So, don’t forget to do yourself a favor and pick a Non La for your outfit.

Silk Painting

The last thing you would not want to miss buying is Vietnamese silk paintings. These paintings often include images that represent parts of Vietnamese culture. It is usually a view of a modest village, residing next to a blue river with figures of people rowing their boats peacefully.

Such a simple image would require a lot of effort from the artists, especially working with silk, a delicate material, to convey the beauty of traditional Vietnam in colors.

Silk Painting Vietnam


Vietnam is filled with traditional handicrafts with the purpose to spread the culture in rural areas. Since Vietnam is the home to many ethnic groups, there are many different types of crafts to collect. Forms of handicrafts include the century-old pottery business, basket-weaving, embroidery, folk painting, etc.

Handicrafts Vietnam

Lacquer art

Considered as one of Vietnam’s traditional paintings, Lacquer art comes from the resin of a tree. Combined with French techniques, the art usually reflects the traditional culture and beauty of Vietnam. A long and arduous process, however, the result will be worth it.

Where to Buy

Ho Chi Minh City

There is no other place in the world where you will see so many name brand in one place like Ben Thanh market. With brands ranging from Nike to Gucci, from Samsung to Apple at prices that are too good to be true, there is nothing you can’t buy that is not cheap enough.

Hoi An

To buy the items above, you should look no further than the streets of Hoi An Ancient Town, both a tourist attraction and a place for foreigners to experience an authentic Vietnam shopping experience. On this road, you can find plenty of goods such as traditional apparel, handicrafts, fresh produce, and local items.


There are many traditional markets and narrow streets with small shops to go shopping. Especially places like the Old Quarter and Silk street where you can buy souvenirs such as the famous conical hat and hand-made silk items.

Lacquer Vietnam


When traveling, seeking places that sell local goods can bring a sense of satisfaction that one cannot describe. In Sapa, you can find souvenirs made by the people in the northern mountains of Vietnam. In markets are numerous colorful embroidered fabrics, brocade bags, and scarves.

How to shop efficiently

Do your research

Before carrying out the actual shopping procedure, it’s always best to do a bit of researching on the average prices of items you want to get and souvenirs. The price for these traditional pieces will vary depending on where you shop, with the exception of silk paintings being generally expensive in most place.

Learn the language

Vietnamese is a difficult language to learn for most foreigners, especially with all the different tones and sounds. Despite that, there are a few easy phrases to learn that will make your experience much more manageable.

Practice makes perfect. Try sitting in front of your mirror and mouthing out the words. Communication between a buyer and seller is vital to make sure you’re on the same page. Learning a few simple phrases such as “how much is this?” or numbers will allow you both to be on the same page.


Bargaining - The gist of shopping in Vietnam

There are many places in Vietnam where you could shop for beautiful souvenirs. If your main priorities contain mostly traditional gifts, with ample research, you should be confident to shop for plenty to bring back home, in any souvenir store. Although Western countries find it an uncommon action, it is entirely normal in Southeast Asia

Why should you bargain?

First and foremost, you might feel guilty for bargaining during the first few times.

However, unless you haven’t known already, all luxuries in Ben Thanh market are mostly fake. That’s why you’re able to get them for much cheaper than you usually are. However, if they’re fake and affordable, why should you bargain?

Because they could be a lot cheaper than you think, as they buy all their goods in big batches, they get it for a lower price. Most sellers will try to rip you off no matter your background. Most famous tourist places sell items with inflated prices and it’s common for sellers to double the amount, especially to tourists.

Bargain First

Knowing when to walk away

Bargaining is not just an exchange; it is also like a game. However, to win the game of negotiation, sometimes, you must know when to quit. What this means is that you must know when to walk away from the deal.

This tactic is very effective against sellers who are desperately wanting to get rid of their stocks. You walking away means the seller wouldn’t be able to sell. Consequently, they would be the one to submit your deal.

However, if the seller didn’t grab your arms and agree with the deal, you should still comfortably walk away from the game and try your luck at another stall.

When to bargain

The last thing you need to know is knowing when to bargain. This rule should be easy to understand. In Vietnam, not everywhere is a market. Places like shopping centers, restaurants, coffee shops, or even taxis are not to bargain. The prices there are fixed and reasonably determined by the business. There is no way you can negotiate for a lower price at such places.


Shopping in Vietnam can be quite an enjoyable experience if you know what to buy and where to buy. You could purchase unique souvenirs that will continuously remind you of the rich history and culture of Vietnam. However, the best thing is about haggling and bargaining with shopkeepers to get ten of those “expensive” inexpensive pair of shoes or handbags that would make you a millionaire when you return home.

With the necessary knowledge given above, I strongly recommend you to use and combine all those tactics. It’s a win-win situation. This way, you get what you want, and the stall lady gets to sell her product. Don’t forget, the more you practice, the better you’ll get at shopping in Vietnam.


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