Planning to visit Vietnam? While the country is known to be a shoppers’ paradise and, in some ways, it is correctly so, you must only purchase items that are worth your hard-earned money’s value. In this article, we’ll explore the best things to buy in Vietnam, where to find them, what items to avoid buying and tips for bargaining.
Vietnam is a perfect confluence of ancient traditions meeting modern allure. Besides the breathtaking landscapes and rich history, Vietnam offers an array of unique and charming souvenirs that can catch your eye and tempt you to pick them up.
Our goal at Wander Smartly is to make your travels smarter and help you have the best experience on your travels. Now, I spill the beans on which items are worth looking at and buying, from my own experience of visiting Vietnam and carefully scrutinizing various items and souvenirs.
Best Things To Buy In Vietnam
1. Bags & Luggage
Bags are among the best products to buy in Vietnam due to their variety and fineness of craftsmanship. Whether you’re looking for stylish handbags, backpacks, or traditional Vietnamese bags, you’ll find a wide selection to choose from. These could belong to a local brand or could be imitations of luxury brands. Either way, they are reasonably priced and for the value of money they provide, you must pick up some for yourself and your loved ones back home. Trust us on this, you won’t regret buying this.
If you’re in need of sturdy and reliable luggage, Vietnam offers some excellent options. Local markets and stores have a variety of luggage sets, travel bags, and backpacks that are not only functional but also reasonably priced.
The best place to buy imitation bags are Ben Thanh Market and Saigon Square in Ho Chi Minh City. You can also scout the streets in the Old Quarter area of Hanoi for great quality bags from local brands.
Furthering on imitations of luxury brands for bags, the same craftmanship is extended to fine jewelry. Pick up knock-offs of brands like Dior, Chanel, Gucci and many more at great prices. You won’t be able to tell the difference as the quality of the imitation jewelry is quite good. Moreover, these pieces don’t rust when coming in contact with water and are thus low maintenance.
Saigon Square in Ho Chi Minh City is the best place to pick up imitations of luxury branded jewelry.
3. Clothes and Shoes
When it comes to shoes, t-shirts and other clothing items, you’ll find knock-offs of famous brands all across major cities in Vietnam. The clothes resemble the original brands to a great extent and are good value-for-money purchases. You may want to be doubly sure of your size and fit before you pick up any clothing items.
You can also pick up clothes from local shops, especially shorts and pants from Vietnam. The fine quality and reasonable prices are a solid reason to shop here if shopping for clothes in your home country (USA, Europe) is more expensive.
If you wish to buy traditional Vietnamese couture, you can find Ao Dai dresses and elegant silk robes in a myriad of styles and designs across shops in Vietnam.
If you’re a coffee enthusiast, then you must pick up bags of local Vietnamese coffee to take back home. Vietnam is the second-largest coffee producer in the world, and they clearly know their game when it comes to making great coffee. Trung Nguyen is the best brand to pick up. Remember to check for mixes that come with or without sugar that best suits your palate. These are available in major grocery stores across Vietnam and are also available at airport shops. You can also pick up coffee beans or Vietnamese drip coffee and a filter.
Wander Smartly Tip: Vietnamese Coffee is perhaps the best souvenir you can buy from Vietnam to distribute to your friends and family, owing to its great quality and specialty.
5. Dried fruits
Dried fruits, known as “o mai” in Vietnamese, are a delightful souvenir to bring back from Vietnam. These dried fruits are preserved with sugar, salt, and various spices, which impart unique flavors and textures to each type of o mai. Some common fruits used to make o mai include apricots, plums, mangos, pineapples, kumquats, and ginger.
Hong Lam stores across Vietnam are the best place to pick these up. You can also find them in airport shops. Choose from a variety of fruits and seasonings for each dried fruit. One of the great advantages of o mai as a souvenir is its long shelf life. Properly sealed and stored, o mai can last for months, making it a convenient gift to bring back home and share with friends and family.
6. Chop Sticks
Chopsticks are an essential part of Vietnamese cuisine and culture. They come in various materials, such as wood, bamboo, lacquered wood, or even reusable metal or plastic. As a souvenir, chopsticks make for a practical and culturally significant gift.
In Vietnam, you’ll find two main types of chopsticks: round-tipped chopsticks, known as “đũa bầu,” and pointy-tipped chopsticks, known as “đũa mỏng.” The round-tipped chopsticks are typically used for everyday dining, while the pointy-tipped ones are more commonly used in formal occasions and restaurants.
7. Coconut Candy
Coconut candy, known as “kẹo dừa” in Vietnamese, is a delightful sweet treat that originates from the Mekong Delta region in southern Vietnam. It’s made from coconut milk, sugar, and sometimes added flavors like durian or coffee. As a souvenir, coconut candy is a popular choice due to its unique taste and cultural significance.
8. Fish Sauce
Fish sauce, known as “nước mắm” in Vietnamese, is a fundamental ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine and an essential part of the country’s culinary tradition. As a souvenir, fish sauce allows you to take home a taste of Vietnamese flavors and cooking.
Fish sauce is made by fermenting fish with salt, resulting in a liquid that is rich in umami flavor. There are various grades of fish sauce, with the higher quality sauces typically made from anchovies and aged longer for a smoother, more refined taste.
To ensure you’re getting a quality fish sauce, look for reputable brands or ask for recommendations from locals. Avoid extremely cheap fish sauces, as they may lack the authentic flavors of traditional Vietnamese fish sauce. If you’re visiting Phu Quoc, their fish sauce is considered one of the best in the world, and is a sought-after souvenir for food enthusiasts.
9. Vietnamese Musical Instruments
For music enthusiasts, Vietnam offers a fascinating range of traditional musical instruments. Instruments like the dan bau (monochord), dan tranh (16-string zither), and bamboo flutes showcase the country’s rich musical heritage. Look for specialized music stores or traditional markets to find these instruments.
10. Handmade Lanterns
Handmade lanterns are one of the most charming and iconic souvenirs you can find in Vietnam, particularly in the historic city of Hoi An. These intricately crafted lanterns have a deep cultural significance and a long history in Vietnamese tradition. They are seen as symbols of luck, happiness, and hope. Traditionally, lanterns were lit and released into the sky or set afloat on water during special occasions, signifying wishes for a bright future.
Things To Avoid Buying in Vietnam
1. Endangered Species Products
Avoid buying products made from endangered animals, such as ivory or turtle shells, as it supports illegal wildlife trade and poses a threat to the ecosystem.
2. Silk Products
Although Vietnam is renowned for its silk production, and you’ll find a splendid selection of silk products throughout the country, be cautious about purchasing them as you are more likely to be sold something which is not real silk.
3. War Relics
Avoid buying old military items or relics from the Vietnam War, as exporting them from the country is illegal.
4. Pearl Jewellery
You will find pearl jewellery stores on your way to Halong Bay from Hanoi. Be very careful in scrutinizing the pearls as they aren’t always original or of the best quality. I’d best recommend you to avoid them altogether, as your local fashion stores back home are more likely to sell better quality pearl jewellery, real or otherwise.
How to Bargain While Shopping in Vietnam
Bargaining is a common practice in Vietnam, particularly in markets and smaller shops. Remember that it’s part of the shopping experience and should be done with respect and a friendly attitude. Here are some tips for effective bargaining:
- Start by asking the vendor for the price and then offer a counter-price that is significantly lower but still reasonable. Start by quoting 70% of the price and land somewhere between 70% to 40% of the quoted price.
- Be willing to walk away if the price doesn’t meet your budget; often, the vendor will call you back with a better offer.
- Maintain a polite and friendly demeanor throughout the bargaining process.
- Keep in mind that if the price seems fair and the item is of good quality, it’s best not to haggle too aggressively.
Vietnam is a shopping paradise that will leave you spoiled for choice with its diverse and captivating souvenirs. From an eclectic selection of bags to delicious dried fruits and aromatic coffee, each item captures a piece of Vietnam’s vibrant culture and rich heritage. Embrace the art of bargaining, but always do so with a smile and respect for the local culture. By choosing the right souvenirs and supporting local artisans, you’ll return home with meaningful tokens of your Vietnamese adventure. Happy shopping!
Check our detailed 10 Day Vietnam Itinerary for a complete guide on places to visit, where to stay, best time to visit and which activities to indulge in.
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What should tourists buy in Vietnam?
Bags and luggage, coffee, dried fruits, clothes, shoes and jewelry are the best items to pick up from Vietnam. You can also buy the local fish sauce, chopsticks and handmade lanterns as souvenirs.
How to bargain in Vietnam?
1. Start by asking the vendor for the price and then offer a counter-price that is significantly lower but still reasonable. Start by quoting 70% of the price and land somewhere between 70% to 40% of the quoted price.
2. Be willing to walk away if the price doesn’t meet your budget; often, the vendor will call you back with a better offer.
3. Maintain a polite and friendly demeanor throughout the bargaining process.
4. Keep in mind that if the price seems fair and the item is of good quality, it’s best not to haggle too aggressively.
What should you avoid buying in Vietnam?
Endangered species products, pearl jewelry, war relics and false silk products must be avoided when shopping in Vietnam.
Which are the best places to shop in Vietnam?
Ben Thanh Market and Saigon Square in Ho Chi Minh City, and the Old Quarter area of Hanoi is great for shopping in Vietnam.