Traveler’s shopping in Vietnam: Treat & Trick

Vietnam is a very diversified country for those who love sightseeing, great Asian cuisine and unique culture. One of to-do-lists for all travelers is shopping. Language is always a barrier but it’s not an obstacle for everyone to shop in local markets. One of the most popular shopping arcades among travelers in Vietnam is Ben Thanh Market. Located just a short distance from the famous backpacker area Pham Ngu Lao, this market is the best place for everyone to get their desired souvenirs such as T-shirts, accessories, bag and even antiques.

Be careful with Cheap Fakes

South East Asia is very popular with cheap fake items and there are no exceptions in Vietnam. From perfumes, bags, to clothes, it seems like someone right here has figured out a creative way to make a cheap copy and selling it at higher price. You will not be surprised when your VND400.000 Tag Heuer stops ticking after one day of buying. There are fake items which easily can be verified such as DVD’s which you can get at price VND10.000 for each copy. But for some other products such as name-brand clothing and accessories is very difficult to determine. Just keep in mind, majority western-branded items that you found at shops and markets are very high possible imitations. Do not believe if they say, the product is just being released by customs department and it’s tax-free.

LV, Gucci, Prada and Coach are among the hi-end
brands which is very popular between Fake Cheap
market and the followers.

Go Around for a Better Deal

It is good to shop around before you decide to buy anything. Else, you will be frustrated when you see other shop offer a better price for you. Example, if you are shopping in Saigon Square, most of the merchants will sell the same type of product line. Sometimes they will arrange their product identically next to each other shop. So, if you did not get the price that you want, just keep walking and you will have chance to get it at their neighbour shop.


Negotiation is an art of buying in Vietnam’s open market, but this is optional. You may directly pay the asking price if it will not hurt your wallet. This might be not so comfortable for westerners, but you must know that merchants love the challenge with foreign buyers and you should bargain for best price. While bargaining, you have to remember not to make the merchant suffer losing face with your unreasonable price.

Westerner are equal as a Walking Dollar

Westerners can be seen as a “Walking Dollar”. You will meet some merchant who will hold your hand to their shop and ask you to buy something. As a traveler, you must be courteous towards them. Many of them are doing business to support their family and to upgrade their quality of living. Just tell them the truth if you are not buying instead of playing-heart with them. A polite “No Thanks” can be accepted instead of just being ignorant.

Be a Responsible Traveler

Take note that some souvenirs in the market were made by using unsafe materials such as melamine and some other dangerous chemical. As a responsible traveler, you should not buy any souvenirs made from suspicious materials, animal products, seashell or coral based items. There are a lot of lacquer products in this country. Some of them were made in China with a lower quality. It is good if you can buy from a trade shop, directly from the artisan or local craftsmen whenever possible.

All travelers must be careful and think smart when shopping in Vietnam. While busy with bargaining, do not forget your kids, wallet and important documents because thieves are aware of every careless moment.

Note: This article was published in The Vietnam Guide on 2012


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