Welcome to Vietnam, the new paradise for shopping. If you look at the surface, you will be disappointed by the large number of mass produced and many times low quality items in just any cities. If you dare to search, you will be caught in a complete surprise: Vietnam has every shopping scene that can match popular names such as SoHo in Manhattan, Kensington Market in Toronto, Chapel Street in Melbourne and Chatuchak in Bangkok. Here are a few tips before you begin your exploration:
Yes, unfortunately, you will have to bargain most of the time to get the price right (see tips on bargaining). Unless you plan to go to shopping mall or supermarket where price is printed on the product. It is not an intimidating task like it seems, and once you will get used to it, you will miss the bargaining scene found in Vietnam and in most of Asia.
Vietnam does not have a sale culture like many other countries. What are on sale are usually products that can no longer be attractive enough or they might have many defects. Here and there in big cities you will catch sight of a local crowd surrounding a sign “Đại Hạ Giá” but don’t bother to join unless you want to sweat or to give your bag to some pickpockets. In shopping malls, there are price marked down but do not expect it to go below 30%. The good news is, most items are affordable even without sale.
Have it tailored
You are in Vietnam, and why bother looking for Nike and Louis Vuiton? You can have your clothes, shoes and apparels made to your size and preferred colors and styles at significantly lower costs. What you will have is unique, and it’s time to show off your special taste as well. Hoi An is a great place to start for tailor-made clothing items. In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, you will have to go out of your way but the quality is worth all the effort.
Do not buy things just because it is cheap. There are inexpensive items that will catch your eyes and cost you a dollar. And the next thing you know it is out of order. This mostly applies to garment products in green markets or electronic goods at certain stores in big cities. On the other hand, expensive does not equal top quality, since you might be ripped off or they are just not worth all the currencies. It is good to start with recommended places and you will develop an instinct how shopping works in Vietnam.
You have only so much space in your luggage. Unless you want to send some home over post, try to avoid heavy and massive items. Many stores offer free shipping service so check for your convenience. Shopping in Vietnam is a culture, a ritual and a lot of fun. It is rewarding for those who really take it more seriously than just getting some souvenirs off the shelf. Whatever reason you come to Vietnam for, make sure shopping is one of the bullet points in your travel agenda.