When shopping in any Southeast Asian country, particularly in a place as distinct and vibrant as Vietnam, travelers will be faced with many options for how best to spend their money. To help you make the most of your shopping adventure in Vietnam, Asia Highlights recommends you know the following 5 things.
Look for Fashion in the City
Those interested in designer goods, fabrics, and elite brand-names like Hermes or Hugo Boss will be in luck when visiting either Hanoi, the Paris of the East, or the fashion-forward Ho Chi Minh City.
From the esteemed Hang Gai Silk Street and 65-story high Lotte Center in Hanoi to the fabulous Vincom Center and boutique clothing stores in Saigon's downtown district 1, your style-needs will easily be fulfilled while traveling in either of Vietnam's major metropolises.
Vietnam's major cities offer shoppers a variety of exciting, bargain-friendly market places to peruse.
If you're looking for cheap and fun accessories and apparel, Hanoi's Weekend Night Market and Dongxuan Market, as well as Hang Bac Silver Street and Hang Dau Shoe Street, are all excellent stops to make.
When shopping for quirky souvenirs in Ho Chi Minh City don't miss the Ben Thanh, Cholon Chinatown or An Dong Craft Markets.
Find Treasures in the Small Towns
Markets are a Must
Across the nation, and especially in less-developed, quieter destinations, shopping at markets is a necessity if you want to become familiar with the daily lives of normal Vietnamese people.
Outdoor and indoor markets can be great places to chat with locals, to sample tasty, organic produce, and to pick up some exotic ingredients to bring back home with you.
The best time to visit any fresh market is early in the morning, when merchants and distributors first haggle over the day's goods, or late at night, when the food stalls are plentiful and buzzing with activity.
If you plan to visit one of Vietnam's more off-the-beaten-track destinations, be sure to look for unique goods, peculiar to the area that you happen to be visiting. Most mountain villages and coastal towns are home to families who specialize in impressive handicraft traditions, and produce renowned lacquerware, elegant wood-carvings and embroidery.
Purchasing locally-made handicrafts is a favorite activity for many international shoppers in Vietnam. Hue, Hoi An and Nha Trang are excellent places for patronizing a number of non-profit, charity-run shops that work to improve the lives of people living in the surrounding areas.
Bargain and Bargain Again
When shopping in Vietnam, particularly at the touristy destinations and marketplaces, haggling for the best price is key. Vendors in almost all destinations across the country expect to be faced with bargain-hungry shoppers and they are usually willing to significantly reduce their initial asking price.
As a general rule of thumb, begin by offering 20% to 30% of the original price. If the shopkeeper seems as if he or she is not in the mood to budge, simply try walking away.
Remember to stroll around the market area first to get an idea of the goods being sold, before you make any big purchases. Like all tourist-geared destinations, you may stumble upon many of the same souvenirs being hawked at various stalls throughout the shopping center.
Try your bargaining skills with a few different merchants to settle at a reasonable amount and avoid being charged an inflated price, as many tourists unknowingly are. Remember that enthusiastic bargaining and banter is not considered impolite in Vietnam, but rather a way of life.
Remember that when it comes to shopping in Vietnam, you need to beware of counterfeit goods, particularly in bigger cities. If you are planning to make a significant purchase, ask for a certificate of authenticity to ensure the item is indeed genuine. Locally-manufactured goods will be significantly cheaper than imported articles.
Prices are lower if you pay in local money rather than your home-country's currency, so be sure to bargain in Vietnamese Dong.
Although violent crime in Vietnam is very low, there is petty theft in tourist areas. Take care of your personal belongings and keep an eye on your valuables at all times.
Have Fun and Make Connections
Speaking with shop owners and supporting vendors in your destination town is a wonderful way to ensure that the local community continues to thrive and develop.
The Vietnamese are very kind, warm people who appreciate your business and welcome you to their country. Spending a few minutes to stop and haggle over souvenirs or chat with a friendly shop owner will help you to make great memories from your trip to this lovely country!
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