What to Look For
Ho Chi Minh City is home to almost 20 million people and, as such, provides shoppers with a diverse range of products to buy. In particular, Ho Chi Minh City is famous for its traditional Vietnamese handicrafts, fake brand name clothes, and war memorabilia. Electronics, purses, coffee, and sporting goods are also widely available and very common.
Shopping in Ho Chi Minh City can be divided into two basic types: markets and malls. The famous street markets, such as Binh Tay, offer tourists a more authentic atmosphere and are the best places to buy cheap consumables, handicrafts, and cheap knockoffs.
Malls and plazas will be more familiar to the Western shopper and are a good destination for travelers looking to spend a little more money on luxury brands.
Hand Carved Statues
Hand carved statues of Vietnamese men and women in traditional clothing are possibly the most iconic type of souvenir from Ho Chi Minh City. While you can buy these statues in almost every city in the country, the Vietnamese people themselves associate the art with HCMC.
For the average tourist who is just looking for a few knickknacks to take home as well as those in search of a traditionally carved statue try Ben Thanh Market. Located along Le Loi Street in the heart of downtown HCMC, this market is well known to taxi drivers and easy to find.
In this market, you can find these beautiful statues and interact with the artists who make them.
Elaborate Silks and Sand Paintings
Try Binh Tay Market if you are interested in finding the silks and sand paintings that have come to represent art in Ho Chi Minh City.
HCMC has a long history as a producer of silk and it can be purchased by the bolt or already made into clothes. Look for hand-embroidered silks that cannot be found anywhere else in the world and are the marvel of Southern Vietnamese textiles.
Sand painting is another type of traditional handicraft that is special to Ho Chi Minh City. Artists paint their medium with glue and then decorate it with spirals of colorful sand. Each painting is unique and some offer depictions of scenes of life in Vietnam while others are more abstract expressions of the artists’ creativity.
Some artists in this market will offer customized paintings that include the buyer's name or likeness.
Due to the modern wars that affected Vietnam so much, the country is an excellent place for the history buff looking for a few good collectables as well as for outdoorsmen and survivalists who prefer military surplus goods. Head to Dan Sinh Market on Yersin Street if this sounds like you.
Although many of the canteens and uniforms on sale in Dan Sinh are replicas, it is possible to find genuine war memorabilia if you have a trained eye.
As a general rule, make sure to look around multiple shops to see if you can buy the same item in multiple places. If you can, then it is obviously a mass-produced replica and not, perhaps, the genuine war relic that the shop owner may be claiming it is.
Saigon Square is the home of cheap knockoffs in Ho Chi Minh City. Located on the corner of Hai Ba Trung Street and Le Duan Street, the Saigon Square market will have most of the international brands you are familiar with.
Be warned, almost none of these products are genuine and the quality may be poor. If this does not bother you then you can truly find some amazing deals.
Vietnam is one of the world’s largest producers of clothing and textiles. The fake and occasionally low quality clothes you can find in Saigon Square are sometimes made in the same factories where their higher quality counterparts are made.
If you are lucky, you can snag a seemingly genuine set of designer clothes for a fraction of the cost.