Shopping in vitamin for the souvenir hunter can range from eye–catching mementos and handicrafts like basket-ware conical hats to fabrics that have been crafted by local ethnic minorities. While there are plenty of choices, the best places to shop on the Vietnam holidays are in cities like Hoi An, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Also, prices in the stores and malls are fixed, while the stalls and markets are more open to negotiation.
Let’s look at a few of the best regions for shopping in Vietnam:
Hanoi is a shopper’s paradise for those on the Vietnam family tour that love to pick up the local wares for gifts or souvenirs. Hand-tailored clothing, scarves, water puppets, lacquerware, silver, gems and silks are everywhere to be found in the city centre. A visit to Nha Tho Street in the Old Quarter has a high-quality selection of home-décor items, handbags, and clothing, while Hang Gai (also referred to as Silk Street) is great for the tourists interested in silk shops. Other options include the malls trading in brand-name cosmetics, clothing and electronics.
The local ethnic minorities in Vietnam continue to create the more sophisticated fare to trade on the tourist markets. The use of fabrics is popular with many items made including shoulder bags, purses, and other accessories. Plus, the fabric can simply be sold in lengths. For the minorities living in the central regions, some of the popular items include bamboo pipes, mats, baskets and backpacks. The greatest variety is in the large cities like Hanoi, which has a very varied collection of minority handicrafts ready to buy on the stalls. Other cities likely to have a reliable selection of goods is Ho Chi Minh City, while a trek to a northern region like Sapa is great for buying the local Hmong items like bags and clothes.
A must-visit destination on the Vietnam tours for the shopaholic is Hoi An’s Old Town with its high-end tailor shops waiting to create the bespoke, one-of-a-kind outfit. These tailors are highly skilled and easily able to create an outfit that matches the personal choice. Many of the outfits are made by copying an item or using a pattern book. But, make sure to be in Hoi An for a few days to make it possible to attend the required fittings. Hoi An has built a reputation as the country’s centre of tailor and silk fabric shops with a lot of these places set up in old or traditional Chinese merchant houses that have been converted into shops. While tailoring is a major local feature, there are now plenty of other souvenir shops opening in the local area for the more diverse shopping experience. A great place to shop is Hoi An’s Central Market, which is located near Nguyen Hue Street and relatively close to the Quang Cong Temple. This market is the best destination for gifts or souvenirs for family or friends at home.
A visit to Dalat makes it possible to explore the Central Market with its endless stores selling all kinds of wares, from souvenirs and deer jerky to local wines and candied fruit. The market is located in a three-storey structure which is split between clothes, souvenirs and food. It is easily located at the junction of Le Dai Hanh and Nguyen Thi Minh Khai. This region of Vietnam is well-known for its collection of flowers such as its roses, which are found on the lower level of the market. Strawberries are plentiful and used in a variety of different ways: blended in fresh strawberry milkshakes, turned to wine, or candied, as syrup. Plus, there is the option to try the local Dalat wine (Vang Dalat). A visit to the XQ Historical Village is worthwhile for the travellers interested in silk embroidery.
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is starting to become a key Asian shopping district. Beyond the mass-produced and cheap goods, this city is starting to emerge as the undisputed capital for shopping in the country for home-grown, stylish stores that sell a varied range of contemporary stuff at very affordable prices. With the city's international designers and local talent, this is a great place for exceptional clothing, modern art, lighting, furniture, and home accessories. Many of the designers incorporate contemporary designs and ancient artisanal techniques to produce the practical and decorative goods.
Great souvenir choices to witness on the Vietnam travel packages include silk lanterns, ceramic tea sets, and marble stone boxes which are easily found at plenty of the gift and souvenir stores in places like Pham Ngo Lao and De Tham for the backpackers, while other options include Le Loi and Dong Khoi streets.
In central Ho Chi Minh City there is Ben Thanh Market, which is the preferred covered market in the local area. This is a great place for handicrafts (conical hats, T-shirts, ceramics, lacquerware, etc.), coffee, and other low-cost items to make perfect gifts for family or friends.
Bargaining and haggling
In many places in Vietnam it is possible to bargain and haggle when it comes to the price – although this doesn’t apply in the supermarkets where the prices are static and non-negotiable. To be more successful when haggling, it helps to stay polite and smile. If the ticket price appears quite high it can benefit to make a counteroffer at 50% and then continue until able to reach an agreeable figure for both parties. It rarely benefits to get overly concerned over a few thousand Vietnamese dong (less than $0.15). Try to reach a price that is acceptable for both, but there isn’t always a need to get to the really low prices.
What items to avoid
Vietnam does have in place rules and regulations that prohibit the export of real antiques, so there aren’t going to be available when exploring the stores. Anything that is advertised as an antique art piece and intended for the tourist trade is certain to be a copy or fake.
Also, there are laws in place that forbid the sale of items created from wild animals or endangered species – though this rule is often exploited. But, to stay on the safe side while experiencing the Vietnam travel, it is advisable to avoid products like tiger claw necklaces, bear teeth, sea turtle shells, coral pieces, snake wine and butterfly or insect collections.