We spent several months traveling around Vietnam before finally settling down in Saigon (also known as Ho Chi Minh City). And we did a fair bit of shopping along the way. We purchased colorful textiles in Sapa, souvenirs for friends back home at the night market in Hanoi, and a few leather bags in Hoi An.
And now that we are living in Vietnam, we’ve made it our mission to explore the best places to shop in Ho Chi Minh City. We’ve purchased some traditional Vietnamese treasures for our apartment, lots of clothes to fill our closets, gifts for friends and family back home, and some jewelry to pass down to our children. So we’ve checked out a lot of shops in Ho Chi Minh, asked about a ton of prices, and have gleaned some important knowledge along the way.
Read on for my best advice for shopping in Ho Chi Minh City – the best shops, the top markets, how to bargain, and some of my favorite Vietnamese souvenirs!
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Bargaining in Vietnam
As a general rule, if the item that I’m considering purchasing has a price marked, I’ll simply pay that price without negotiating. But if I have to ask for the price for every item in the store, I assume that prices are fluid and that the seller is open to negotiation. Otherwise, they would have simply marked the price on the item to make things easier on everyone.
You’ll find that most of the large markets in Vietnam do not have marked prices. So you’ll want to do some haggling to get a fair and reasonable price. A good tactic is once you’ve been offered a price, counter with a number that is 50% of the asking price. And then hope to settle somewhere in-between.
I find that the most effective method of determining a price is to walk away. If they call (or run) after you, continuing to lower the price, you know you haven’t hit their bottom threshold yet. If you walk away and they turn around as though they couldn’t care less, you’ve probably asked for a price that is too low.
I prefer to ask for prices at several shops so I can figure out what is fair and reasonable before actually buying anything. Remember – the end goal is that you are both happy with the outcome of the transaction!
Another good Vietnam travel tip when it comes to shopping is to take some time to learn the currency. Since the exchange rate is ~23,500 Dong to $1 you’re going to be dealing with some very large numbers. Download a currency exchange app for your phone – we use XE Currency (iPhone | Android) – so you can quickly check Vietnamese prices in your own currency. Sometimes it feels like you’re at a bargaining impasse even though you’re only haggling over a couple of dollars.
Useful Vietnamese Phrases for Bargaining
Shop vendors in Vietnam tend to have a bad reputation for being a bit rude or brash, especially in touristy areas. But we find that if you make an effort to speak a little Vietnamese and make it your goal that both people are happy with the result of the transaction, shopping in Vietnam can actually be quite entertaining!
To ask how much something costs you can say “bao nhiêu tiền” (sounds like “bao new thing”). And if you want to feign shock at the high price of an item, you can say “chúa ơi” (sounds like “choy oy!”) which means “oh my god!”. That will likely give them a good chuckle.
Shopping in Saigon: Where to Shop and What to Buy in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
If you are traveling to Vietnam for the first time, you have probably seen the countless traditional Vietnamese treasures in the small shops around town. Common souvenirs that are available around the country include silk robes, woven bags and purses, leather goods, paintings, lacquer boxes, conical hats, and textiles.
Most of these things can be purchased all over the country so there’s not a huge need to stock up at the very beginning of your trip. However, you’ll find the widest selection of leather goods in Hoi An. And Hoi An is also the place to shop if you want something tailored. But if you’re just looking to pick-up one of the items mentioned above, you’re sure to find what you are looking for in Ho Chi Minh City!
Where to Buy Vietnamese Souvenirs in Saigon
Ho Chi Minh City isn’t nearly as touristy as Hoi An or Hanoi, so there are fewer small souvenir shops in town. The highest concentration of souvenir vendors set up shop in Ben Thanh Market during the day, and then some move to the street just outside around 7:00pm to become a small night market. We would recommend visiting Ben Thanh Market during the day for the biggest selection of treasures.
Don’t expect prices to be marked on the Vietnamese souvenirs in Ben Thanh Market and you’ll absolutely need to negotiate to get a fair price.
Central Market is a much smaller market with a few souvenir stalls, some food options, and other odds and ends. The vendors are far less pushy than those in Ben Thanh and you’ll find that prices are slightly less expensive. But the Vietnamese souvenir selection isn’t nearly as large or diverse. This is also a great market if you’re looking for designer knockoffs (more on that below).
Designer knockoffs are quite common to buy in Vietnam but the quality is debatable. If you purchase a pair of knock-off athletic shoes you may find that they are lacking comfortable insoles or that the rubber soles come apart within a few weeks of wearing them.
Don’t buy Vietnamese knock-offs with the impression that you’ll wear them for years to come. But if you bought too many souvenirs and need an extra suitcase to take home, or if you just need a pair of shoes to get you through the rest of your vacation, knockoffs will suffice!
What Knockoffs to Buy in Ho Chi Minh City and Where to Buy Them
There are two markets in Ho Chi Minh City where you’ll find the largest selection of designer knockoffs – Saigon Square and the Russian Market. Both are indoor, covered markets that are packed full of various vendors.
Head to Saigon Square if you’re looking for designer knockoff purses, athletic shoes, clothes, or other accessories. Prices here tend to be on the higher side so you’ll have to do some serious negotiating. And the vendors will probably claim that their products are originals, be very skeptical.
And if you’re looking for outerwear, then the Russian Market is your best bet. Vendors here are selling warm puffy jackets, knit hats, workout clothes, and other miscellaneous attire. We find the starting prices here to be much more reasonable so we don’t worry as much about negotiating.
The difference between designer knockoffs and factory overruns is that knockoffs were made with inexpensive materials to resemble a higher quality (and more expensive) item. While factory items are items that were being made for the actual designer but didn’t make it to the store to be sold for some reason or another.
The reason that items are pulled from production vary and could be anything from a small defect to the factory producing too many of one item. Or maybe one of the workers is an entrepreneurial spirit with a side hustle. Either way, these items are generally well-known brands like Zara, Madewell, or Forever 21 and are sold at a fraction of the price you’d find in the store.
Where to Buy Factory Overruns in Ho Chi Minh City
Finding shops that sell actual factory overruns in Ho Chi Minh City is a difficult task as knockoffs are often very good copies of the original. We have found two stores that we trust that sell actual overruns, not just knockoffs. But apologies to any male readers, they only deal in women’s attire.
Virion 334 Cao Thang primarily carries Forever 21 and Zara overruns and is actually very well organized. There are 3 floors in total with denim and graphic tees on the bottom floor, workout gear and other tops on the middle floor, and dresses and knit pants on the top floor. They also have dressing rooms on the bottom and top floors. You’ll need to remove your shoes when you enter and keep any large bags in a locker. They accept credit cards and prices are outstanding! When I have an urge to shop, this is my go-to!
Ombre.vn has a physical location but is used more as a warehouse for their online shop. The store itself carries brands like Madewell and Adidas but is so disorganized that you’ll have to literally dig through piles of clothes to find what you’re looking for. It’s a small shop down a random alleyway (follow the address, not the Google maps location) and the employees will probably be very surprised to see a foreigner there. And most of the employees do not speak English. But you’ll be stoked by some of the great deals that you can find here!
If you want to purchase a Vietnamese souvenir that will last you for years, consider investing in a piece of gold jewelry during your trip! Buying gold in Vietnam is quite different than buying jewelry in the US because it’s considered more of an investment in precious metals than purchasing a piece of art. You’ll pay by weight for the amount of gold in your jewelry plus the cost of any precious stones or jade and a small markup for the craftsmanship.
Many Vietnamese people invest in gold jewelry since it more predictably holds it’s value than the currency here. When they are ready to upgrade they simply take the older piece into the shop, sell it back based on weight, and use that money to purchase a new piece.
So when you invest in gold in Vietnam, you’re not paying what a designer has determined that the piece is worth. The item is simply weighed and the price is determined by the current market price for gold. You also know that if you were to sell it back that you’d get a fair price, unlike taking used jewelry to a pawn shop in the US. Even when I had to get my necklace shortened a bit here, the shop gave me cash for the small piece of leftover chain.
Where to Buy Gold Jewelry in Ho Chi Minh City
There are countless gold jewelry stores around Ho Chi Minh City but many of them don’t actually have any interest in selling to foreigners. They aren’t trying to be rude, they usually just don’t speak English and probably don’t want to deal with foreigners trying to negotiate the set prices. So don’t be surprised if you enter a jewelry store and get ignored.
The jewelry shops right across the street from Ben Thanh Market have employees that speak English and are willing to do business with foreigners. You may pay a slightly marked-up rate here for the price of the stone in your piece, but you can watch them weigh and calculate the gold so you know it’s fair.
We would recommend checking out Oanh Dien Jewelry, located at 152 Le Thanh Ton. They are happy to let you try different things on and can answer any questions that you may have. You may be able to negotiate slightly here but not much.
Vietnam isn’t necessarily known for its pottery, and the designs have more of a Chinese look than a Vietnamese one, but this antique-looking pottery was one of our favorite finds in Saigon! If you have room in your suitcase, you can find truly amazing vases for a fraction of the price that they would cost back home.
You’ll find some pottery vendors at the Ben Thanh Market but the best place to purchase pottery is not on the typical tourist track. You’ll find several open-air shops on Duong Nguyen Huu Tho Street between the Kenh Te canal and Lotte Mart. Take a Grab to Lotte Mart in District 7 and then head north on Duong Nguyen Huu Tho Street and you’ll find several shops on both sides of the street overflowing with pottery.
The shop owners will speak minimal English and you’ll probably want to rewrap your new pieces to ensure they make it home safely.
Artisan Artwork, Crafts and Food
Saigon actually has a burgeoning art scene so it’s a great place to find some unique, one-of-a-kind treasures to take home with you. There are often craft and flea markets that pop up around the city that you can find advertised on Facebook. However, you’ll need to expect to pay western prices at some of the more boutique, crafty shops around Saigon.
Artisan Shops in Saigon
If you’re looking for a statement art piece or coffee table book, we would highly recommend that you check out Couleurs by Rehahn Fine Art Photography. Rehahn is a photographer who is based in Hoi An, Vietnam and takes very beautiful and vibrant portrait photos. His photos of Vietnamese women with indigo-stained hands are iconic and well-known all over the world.
If you want to take a few sweet treats back home with you, be sure to check out Maison Marou. This artisan chocolate shop has the best chocolate in the city and a nice space to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee with your decadent dessert. They also have plenty of packaged chocolate bars in a variety of creative flavors to take home with you!
And if you want to pick up a few cute, quirky gifts during your trip to Saigon, be sure to stop into L’Usine Le Loi. L’Usine is both a gourmet restaurant with yummy western dishes (we highly recommend enjoying brunch here!) and a boutique gift shop with unique items that you won’t find anywhere else. There are several locations around the city but this one has the largest gift shop.
Artbook is a popular chain shop around Vietnam where you can get books, artwork, Vietnamese trinkets, bags, and other unique gifts for friends and family back home. If you need to find an English book during your trip to Saigon, be sure to check out Artbook.
Hipster Shopping Centers
The New Playground is where the hip, young Saigon locals shop for cheap but trendy clothes, shoes, and accessories. This mall of sorts is located underground and is home to various stalls. If you’re over the age of 30 you might feel a bit out of place here, but it would be a perfect thing to do in Ho Chi Minh City with teenagers. And it’s interesting just to take a quick walk around to check out what the Vietnamese hipsters are into these days.
The Cafe Apartments looks like an old, rundown apartment building from the outside. But on the inside, it’s filled with cute hidden shops and restaurants. You’ll want to explore the shops on every floor and then take an hour to enjoy a coffee while gazing out on the pedestrian plaza below.
Artisan Markets in Saigon
Hello Weekend Market is a lively night market that is popular with locals and foreigners alike. Here you’ll find trendy clothing, fun socks, jewelry, bags, and everything in between. They also have live music and other entertaining activities. It moves around every week so you’ll need to check the location on their Facebook page.
The Box Market is similar to the Hello Weekend Market in that it moves around weekly and is popular with the young and hip kids of Saigon. Check their Facebook page for hours and location!
Saigon Outcast is an event space in the Thao Dien neighborhood that has a fairly regular weekend flea market as well as other events throughout the week. If you’ll be in Ho Chi Minh City for a while, it’s worth spending the day exploring Thao Dien regardless as this is where most expats have chosen to live. It is filled with delicious restaurants, cute boutiques, and lots of foreigners!
This blog post is filled with local shops where you can find great prices on unique treasures to take home with you. But Saigon is also filled with stores that you’ll recognize from back home. There are huge shopping malls in Ho Chi Minh City where you’ll find brands like H&M, Zara, Adidas, Nike, Gucci, MAC, and more.
We rarely shop at malls in Saigon as we actually find the products to be more expensive than you’d find in the states. This is likely due to the high import tax on foreign goods. So unless you really need something specific from a global brand, skip the malls and opt for goods made in Vietnam. Unless, of course, you just need some air-conditioning in which case the mall is the perfect place to spend an afternoon!
Saigon Center and Vincom Dong Khoi are two large malls that are centrally located in the city center where you’ll find plenty of western brands. Takashimaya, a massive Japanese department store, is the cornerstone of Saigon Center. And H&M, Zara, and Pull & Bear are all located in the Vincom Mall.
Have a wonderful time shopping in Saigon!
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