The Ultimate Shopping Guide For What To Buy In Vietnam

What To Buy In Vietnam Cover

Vietnam is a country that captivates the senses. From the moment you step off the plane, you’re met with an array of colors, sounds, and scents that hint at the cultural richness awaiting you. Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of any trip to Vietnam is exploring the diverse markets and shops that offer a wide range of unique items. From traditional handicrafts and textiles to exotic food items, there’s something for everyone. But that will also lead to the question “What to buy in Vietnam?

This blog post aims to guide you through the myriad options available, highlighting some of the best items you can take home as mementos or gifts.

Why Shop In Vietnam?

1. High-quality Craftsmanship

What To Buy In Vietnam
“What To Buy In Vietnam?” – one of the most asked questions of travelers

Vietnam has a long history of craftsmanship that dates back centuries. Whether you’re looking at intricately carved wooden statues, handmade lanterns, or finely woven textiles, the attention to detail is apparent. Many of these crafts are handed down from generation to generation, meaning you’re not just buying an item; you’re purchasing a piece of Vietnam’s rich cultural heritage.

2. Affordability

One of the many advantages of shopping in Vietnam is the cost. Compared to many Western countries, the prices in Vietnam for handcrafted goods are incredibly reasonable. This affordability doesn’t mean you’re compromising on quality; it simply reflects the lower cost of living in the country. So whether you’re in a high-end boutique or a bustling local market, you’ll find items that are both high-quality and budget-friendly.

3. Unique, Culturally Rich Items

When you shop in Vietnam, you’re not just buying souvenirs; you’re buying pieces of the country’s soul. Each region has its own specialities, from the lacquerware of the North to the silk of the Central region and the intricate bamboo products of the South. Along with these, items like Vietnamese conical hats, lotus tea, and fresh local fruits offer you a taste—both literal and metaphorical—of the country’s diverse culture and traditions.

A List For “What To Buy In Vietnam?”

1. Handicrafts

Discover the Must-Have Souvenirs from Vietnam You’ll Cherish Forever

  • Lacquerware – Sơn mài
Colorful lacquerware In Vietnam
Colorful lacquerware in Vietnam is a popular item to purchase

Ever wanted to take home something that’s not just beautiful but also deeply rooted in local culture? Enter Sơn Mài lacquerware. Crafted through a painstaking process involving months and as many as 20 detailed steps, these creations are anything but ordinary. Whether you’re drawn to vibrant paintings, intricate photo albums, or elegant bowls and trays for daily use, you’ll find lacquerware that adds a touch of Vietnamese sophistication to your life.

  • Hand embroidery

Picture this: Art so detailed, it seems to come alive. That’s the essence of Vietnamese hand embroidery. Often showcasing scenes from nature and wildlife, these pieces are more than just eye candy. Want something tailor-made? Head over to XQ Hand Embroidery in Nha Trang. It’s not just a shop; it’s an experience. Styled like a classic Vietnamese home, complete with a peaceful garden, you can watch artisans bring threads to life. Choose from ready-made masterpieces or, if you’re not pressed for time, get a custom portrait. Trust us; it’s worth the wait.

  • Handmade lanterns

Ever strolled under a sky of floating colors? If you visit Hoi An, that’s exactly what you’ll experience. Lanterns are not just street decor; they’re the heart and soul of this ancient town. Their paper make allows for easy packing, so you can recreate a slice of Hoi An’s magical ambiance back home. From intricate patterns to vivid hues, each lantern tells a story. Don’t miss out; bring a piece of this enchanted world home with you.

  • Bamboo and wooden items

Bamboo and wood are deeply intertwined with Vietnamese daily life. In almost every corner of the nation, you’ll come across a plethora of bamboo and wooden artifacts, ranging from the functional to the decorative. Think of bamboo hats that shield against rain and sun, or elegant wooden bowls and chopsticks that become a conversation starter at dinner. The range extends to beautiful baskets, strays, and even intricate furniture pieces. These souvenirs aren’t just affordable; they’re sustainable choices for daily use.

>> Read More: The Best 12 Vietnam Souvenirs To Bring Home

2. Textiles and Clothing

Drape Yourself in Vietnam’s Rich Fabric Traditions

  •  Ao Dai (Traditional Vietnamese Dress)
Ao Dai Vietnam
Many travelers are interested in trying out ao dai since it’s very beautiful

Have you ever seen an outfit that’s both graceful and stunning, capturing the very essence of the culture it hails from? If you’re in Vietnam, look no further than the Ao Dai. This isn’t just a costume; it’s a cultural gem that reflects the beauty and dignity of Vietnamese women. Comprising a long, form-fitting tunic and trousers, the Ao Dai does a remarkable job of showcasing a woman’s curves while maintaining an air of decorum. Perfect for special occasions or just feeling fabulous, it’s a must-try experience for any visitor.

  • Silk Products

Let’s talk about luxury that doesn’t break the bank—Vietnamese silk. Created from silkworm cocoons and handwoven on manual looms, this fabric is a feast for the eyes. Imagine shirts, ties, dresses, and accessories coming alive in a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns. Tempted? Wait, there’s a catch! Fakes are everywhere, so if you’re looking for the real deal, head to trusted spots like Hoi An Silk Village or Van Phuc Silk Village, located about 10 km southwest of Hanoi.

3. Food and Beverage Items

Savor the Unforgettable Flavors of Vietnam

  • Vietnamese Coffee

Think you know coffee? Wait until you’ve tried the Vietnamese version. It’s not just a drink; it’s an experience that captivates both locals and visitors alike. Imagine this: rich, locally sourced coffee grounds brewed to perfection using a unique metal filter called a “phin.” This isn’t your 2-minute brew; the process involves a steady dripping of hot water through the coffee grounds, leading to an intensely aromatic and dark elixir. One sip, and you’ll understand why this strong, fragrant beverage has enchanted so many, especially Korean tourists who stock up on Vietnamese coffee grounds like there’s no tomorrow!

  • Fish Sauce

Meet Nuoc Mam, a versatile dipping sauce that turns every meal into a flavor adventure. Whether you’re munching on spring rolls or diving into a bowl of noodles, a splash of nuoc mam elevates the experience. Available in a gamut of flavors—sweet, salty, savory, and spicy—this irresistible condiment combines lime, sugar, garlic, bird’s eye chilis, and fermented fish sauce (nuoc mam pha) into a magical blend. The best part? You can find bottled Nuoc Cham at local markets from Hanoi’s Dong Xuan Market to Hoi An Central Market. Trust us, your taste buds will thank you!

  • Fresh Fruits

Forget your usual apple or orange; in Vietnam, fruits are a captivating sensory journey. Picture biting into the world’s best lychee, each succulent morsel bursting with a sweetness that’s second to none. Or imagine devouring mangos and bananas that are so intensely flavorful, they’ll redefine your understanding of how these fruits should taste. But that’s not all. Vietnam’s jackfruit is a unique textural wonder, blending flavors you’d liken to pineapple, mango, and apple, while their watermelon is the epitome of crisp, refreshing sweetness. These aren’t just snacks; they’re a vibrant celebration of Vietnam’s tropical bounty.

  • Tea
Lotus Tea-A-Delicacy-Of-Summer
Lotus Tea -A delicacy of summer in Vietnam

In Vietnam, drinking tea is an age-old ceremony that elevates simple sipping into a meaningful experience. But what sets it apart? The purity of flavor—perfectly balanced between sweet and bitter—especially in their cherished green and black varieties. And for those seeking an extra layer of intrigue, Vietnam also offers aromatic teas, a sensory indulgence like no other. 

4. Jewelry and Gemstones

Find Your Next Treasure In Vietnam’s Radiant Jewel Box

  • Pearl Jewelry

Pearl jewelry is never out of style. It is also Vietnam’s local pride and joy, offering beauty without breaking the bank. Looking to buy? Your journey for the perfect pearl might just take you to the scenic coastal areas of Ha Long Bay and Van Phong Bay, where pearl farms produce these maritime treasures. Shopping tip: Always ask for a certificate of authenticity when purchasing pearls to ensure you’re getting the real deal.

  • Semi-Precious Stones
Travelers can choose between a variety of stone bracelets
Travelers can choose between a variety of stone bracelets

Pearls are only the beginning. Vietnam also offers an array of semi-precious stones to suit every taste. From the calming shades of jade to the vibrant hues of amethyst and turquoise, each stone is a little piece of Vietnam’s rich geological tapestry. Specialty shops and local markets are usually good places to start, and always remember to ask for proof of authenticity.

5. Souvenirs and Traditional Items

Bring Home A Dear Piece Of Vietnam

  • Propaganda Posters

For the history buffs or those who appreciate vintage art, Vietnamese propaganda posters are a definite standout. Reminiscent of a bygone era, these posters beautifully intertwine art and politics, offering an authentic window into the nation’s past. Adorned with vibrant colors and potent imagery, they serve as a conversation starter and a piece of history. If you find yourself wandering the streets of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, be sure to seek out specialty shops housing these posters.

  • Ceramic Figurines

These intricate pieces, ranging from majestic dragons to peaceful Buddha statues, tell a tale of tradition and artistry. The renowned Bat Trang Ceramic Village near Hanoi is a haven for ceramic lovers. Alternatively, the quaint streets of Hoi An also boast shops brimming with these ornate artifacts. Whether displayed on a mantle or cherished in a curio cabinet, these figurines are a testament to Vietnamese artisanship.

  • Vietnamese Conical Hat (Non La)
Vietnamese Iconic Conical Hat that the world knows about
Vietnamese iconic conical hat is an item that associated with Vietnam

A symbol of Vietnam and a favorite among travelers, the Non La is more than just a hat. It’s a reflection of Vietnamese culture, history, and way of life. This iconic conical hat serves a dual purpose – acting as a stylish accessory while also providing much-needed respite from the scorching sun. Whether you’re exploring bustling city markets or tranquil rural landscapes, the Non La is an omnipresent sight. Available in myriad designs and patterns, finding the perfect Non La for yourself (or as a gift) becomes a delightful quest in itself.

  • Musical Instruments

With 54 distinct ethnicities, Vietnam is a cacophony of cultures, each reverberating with its own set of traditions. This diversity extends to the realm of music, with every ethnicity having its own set of instruments crafted ingeniously from materials like bamboo, wood, bronze, and even stones. For those with a love for music or a penchant for collecting rare instruments, Vietnam is a veritable treasure trove. Dive deep into local markets, and you might just discover a unique flute, a percussion instrument, or even a stringed marvel, all echoing the melodies of Vietnam.

  • 3D Pop-up Cards

When open them, you’re transported to a whimsical world of paper artistry. These 3D pop-up cards, often detailed with intricate designs, are a testament to Vietnamese craftsmanship. Perfect for occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, or even Christmas, they offer a slice of Vietnam in a compact form. Beyond their beauty, these cards offer tremendous value; they look far more opulent than their price tag suggests.

Amazing Tips For Shopping In Vietnam

To make the most of your shopping expedition and to navigate the bustling markets and shops, here are some essential tips:

  1. Bargain Wisely: Haggling is an art in Vietnam, especially in street markets. Always start at about 40-50% lower than the offered price and then negotiate. However, be respectful and understand when to stop. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of a few cents.
  2. Know Your Currency: The Vietnamese Dong (VND) has many zeros, which can be confusing for first-time visitors. Always double-check your notes and the amount handed over to avoid overpaying.
  3. Quality Check: Whether you’re buying silk, handicrafts, or other goods, always check the quality. For instance, genuine silk feels cool to the touch and warms up with your body heat.
  4. Explore Local Markets: Markets like Ben Thanh in Ho Chi Minh City or Dong Xuan in Hanoi are perfect places to immerse yourself in local shopping culture. They offer a wide range of products from fresh produce to handicrafts.
  5. Support Local Artisans: Vietnam is home to many traditional crafts. Consider buying directly from artisans or stores that support them. Not only do you get authentic items, but you also contribute to sustaining local crafts and traditions.
  6. Dress Conservatively: When shopping in local markets, it’s best to dress modestly. This shows respect for local customs and can also prevent attracting undue attention.
  7. Shop for Regional Specialties: Different regions of Vietnam specialize in different products. For instance, Hoi An is known for its tailor-made clothes, while Bat Trang near Hanoi is famous for ceramics.
  8. Keep Small Change: Having small denominations is helpful, especially in street markets where vendors might not have change for larger notes.
  9. Get a Local Sim Card: A local sim card with data allows you to check prices online, use currency conversion apps, and communicate more easily with local vendors using translation apps.
  10. Learn Basic Vietnamese Phrases: Simple phrases like “Bao nhieu?” (How much?) can go a long way in facilitating smoother transactions.
  11. Check Customs Restrictions: Before buying products, especially agricultural or animal products, check the customs restrictions of your home country to ensure you can bring them back without issues.
  12. Stay Calm and Enjoy: Sometimes, negotiations can get intense. Remember to stay calm, smile, and enjoy the process. After all, shopping in Vietnam is as much about the experience as it is about the products.

Final Words

Vietnam, a country woven with rich history and culture, is a treasure trove for the discerning traveler. Each market stall and boutique shop beckons with tales of artistry – from exquisite handicrafts and timeless textiles to glistening gemstones that mirror the country’s vibrant soul. Dive into this shopping paradise, and you’ll find flavors, fabrics, and finery that not only capture the essence of Vietnam but also weave an unforgettable narrative of your journey. As you depart, every item you carry isn’t merely a purchase but a story, a memory, and a slice of a land that leaves an indelible mark on your heart.

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