It’s difficult to know where to start when it comes to shopping in Vietnam because the options range from the top fashion labels in the world in modern shopping malls in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi to the smallest village markets selling local produce to hill tribe villages selling local crafts. If you ask a Vietnam tour operator to arrange for you to see the country as a whole, modern and traditional there is every change that your Vietnam travel will include visiting remote places; if you want real souvenirs of your Vietnam custom travel then think about buying from the locals rather than paying much more for something likely to be less authentic in a city shopping mall.
You can certainly get a bargain in Vietnam and bargaining is also a way of life. While your may have little room for too much when you see the beautiful Ao Dai, effectively Vietnam’s national costume made of silk, it will be hard to resist. Tailoring in general is an art in Vietnam and if you are in a city like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City or Danang for just a couple of days during your Vietnam family vacation then it is possible to get fitted for a number of clothing items.
Vietnam’s style of clothing is light and loose, ideal for the hot weather you may encounter. Local designers have responded to the increase in tourist numbers by creating a number of things to suit tourist tastes, especially those tourists from the West.
Smaller items such as the conical hats and slippers, and handicrafts in general made from silk, bamboo and rosewood as just three examples are available in many places. The markets, and buying from the locals surely makes sense? Vietnamese art is beautiful but you need to be aware of the possible regulations regarding taking antiques and items of jewellery out of the country. Your Vietnam travel agency will be able to help if you are in any doubt.
When shopping you can bargain but you must be polite. The secret is that both parties agree a deal where everyone is happy; you should not reach a point where the local vendor can lose face. Obviously it is difficult to know the price that is fair so perhaps your early shopping expeditions should be simply testing to reach some conclusions?
• Ho Chi Minh City is included in most Vietnam tour packages and more shopping malls are appearing each year. However if you have limited time you should head for the Central Market, Ben Thanh, which is open for very long hours. Early in the day there will be the fresh produce stalls before some of the clothes shops open. Coffee traders are everywhere and once night falls the focus is on fashion and souvenirs with street vendors selling food.
• Hanoi is famous for its markets and narrow streets. There are modern malls and boutiques but the real joy of Hanoi is the Old Quarter with Silk Street and Silver Street some of the best shopping in the whole of Vietnam. The Weekend Night Market is always very busy and while you may not see anything different there it is a great atmosphere with of course plenty of street food available as well.
Sometimes where you shop will be dependent upon the route you take around Vietnam. You may not want to carry extra luggage for the whole of your holiday so your shopping may be in your last days. That makes sense but if you are in the poorer highland areas and see something you like, buy it no matter how many days you have left in Vietnam.