The best shopping in Vietnam

Dress shop in Hanoi Old Town, Vietnam. Photo: Shutterstock
Dress shop in Hanoi Old Town, Vietnam. Photo: Shutterstock

Shopping in Vietnam is changing as the creation of new, homegrown designer brands has been complemented by a trend towards high-rise, upmarket shopping malls. Some of the best goods that you can purchase around the country in boutiques, shops and street markets include silk, handicrafts, homeware and tailor-made fashions.


Hanoi

For those with money to spend and space in their suitcases, Vietnam's capital Hanoi can be a shopping paradise. Exquisite silks, colourful lacquerware, gems, silver, scarves and hand-tailored clothing can all be found at reasonable prices in the city centre. In the Old Quarter, Hang Gai (Silk Street) has a clutch of top-notch silk shops, while Nha Tho Street offers some of the best fashion, handbags and home decor items. In the city’s bright, air-conditioned malls, stores selling brand-name electronics, designer clothing and cosmetics do a booming trade thanks to the new generation of affluent Vietnamese consumers.

Make the most of Hanoi's shopping opportunities as part of Insight Guides' Vietnam – Hanoi to Halong trip

Silk scarfs on the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Shutterstock


Hoi An

'When it comes to shopping in Vietnam, you can't miss going to Hoi An,' says Audrey Bergner of That Backpacker. 'This is a city known for its tailor shops, and it's the place to get one-of-a-kind designs specially made for you. If you're on a bit of a time crunch, you can choose pieces straight off the rack; however, if you come with a bit more time and a handful of magazine clippings, the tailors will be able to adapt and recreate any outfit of your choice.'

Hoi An’s Old Town has some of the best shopping in Vietnam. For many years the district has been known as a centre for fabric, silk and tailor shops, many of which are housed in the old Chinese merchant shop houses. While tailoring is key to Hoi An’s economy, in recent years an increasing number of souvenir shops have joined the commercial fray. Hoi An’s Central Market is located across from the Quang Cong Temple at the end of Nguyen Hue Street. You will find even better bargains on souvenirs here than at the boutique shops in town.

But don't forget that tailoring a suit within 24 hours does not make for the ideal working conditions for those creating your outfit, nor does it allow for the highest quality workmanship.

'Keep in mind that if you're getting some elaborate pieces made, you'll want to give yourself a few extra days to schedule fittings and make sure the final product fits you just right,' adds Bergner. 

Tailor shop in Hoi An, Vietnam. Photo: Shutterstock


Dalat

Occupying a 1950s three-storey building at the junction of Nguyen Thi Minh Khai and Le Dai Hanh, the Central Market in Dalat offers a plethora of wares, from candied fruit and local wines to deer jerky and souvenirs. The city is famous for its roses and other flowers, which are sold at stalls outside the market. Strawberries are abundant – candied, as syrup, turned to wine or blended in delicious fresh strawberry milkshakes. Artichokes are grown here and made into tea called tra atiso or actiso. You may also want to try the locally produced Vang Dalat, or Dalat wine.

Sample culinary delights in Dalat as part of Insight Guides' Very Vietnam trip.

Dalat is famous for its flower stalls. Photo: Shutterstock


Ho Chi Minh City

As Vietnam’s southern capital and economic powerhouse HCMC is fast emerging as a key Asian shopping and design hub. Although still a source of cheap, mass-produced goods, Vietnam’s undisputed shopping capital now offers stylish, homegrown stores selling contemporary goods at down-to-earth prices. Local talent and HCMC-based international designers create exceptional home accessories, furniture, lighting and fashions. Many innovative designers combine ancient artisanal techniques with contemporary designs to create both decorative and practical goods.

Souvenirs such as marble boxes, ceramic tea sets and silk lanterns are sold at the many souvenir stores located along Dong Khoi and Le Loi streets, and around the backpacker area of De Tham and Pham Ngo Lao streets. The city's Ben Thanh covered market sells piles of cheap and cheerful souvenirs and handicrafts, such as lacquerware, ceramics, coffee beans and conical hats in a compact ground-floor area. At night, it is also a popular eating area that stays open until late.

Handcrafted lacquerware from Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Shutterstock


Haggling in Vietnam

Prices in Vietnam are usually negotiable, except in supermarkets where they are marked. When haggling, it is important to smile and remain polite. If a price seems high, counter-offer 50 percent of the initial price and then negotiate until a happy medium is reached. It’s important not to fret too much over a few thousand dong. The most important principle in haggling is to arrive at a price that both you and the seller are happy with – not necessarily to reach the cheapest price possible.


What not to buy

Vietnam has very strict regulations on the sale and export of genuine antiques, and as such, most 'antique' art pieces sold to tourists are actually copies or fakes. If someone claims they are selling an original piece, ask to see a certificate of authenticity and ownership.

Vietnam now has strict laws prohibiting the sale of products made from endangered species and other wild animals, but there are still many loopholes that can be exploited and many people who break the law outright. To be safe, don’t buy insect or butterfly collections, snake wine, coral pieces, sea turtle shells, bear teeth or tiger claw necklaces. Unfortunately all are readily available, and usually come from wild animals, rather than from those in captivity.


Ready to go shopping in Vietnam?

Insight Guides can help you plan and book fantastic trips to Vietnam. Simply get in touch with us to share your ideas for the trip and to let us know when you would like to travel. We will then create a personalised itinerary based on your preferences, which you can amend until you're completely happy with every detail before booking. Our existing itineraries in Vietnam can help with ideas, and remember that all of our planned itineraries can be tailored to suit your specific requirements.

 

Updated 6 September, 2019