How to avoid getting sick while eating and traveling in Vietnam

How to avoid getting sick in Vietnam

How to avoid getting sick in Vietnam

One of the fastest ways to ruin a vacation is by falling sick!  As a traveller in a new country, it can be difficult to know what to eat, what to drink, and how to go about your activities while staying as healthy as possible.  Here are some great tips on how to stay healthy during your time in Vietnam.

Besides health, another headache for tourists are scams. There are a handful of tourist scams and safety hazards that all travelers should be aware of while traveling in Vietnam

Top tips to avoid getting sick in Vietnam:

FOOD AND WATER SAFETY

ENVIRONMENT


FOOD AND WATER SAFETY

Drinking Water

Bottled water.

As a traveler, water safety is a very serious issue.  Like many other countries, Vietnam has an underdeveloped water treatment infrastructure in place.  Contaminated water is a major source of illness so it’s very important to understand what you are getting into.

  • In Vietnam, avoid tap water as much as possible and only drink bottled water.  Generally, even locals will avoid tap water and will drink boiled or filtered water at home.  Bottled water is almost always available at any local restaurants and hotels.
  • If you want to drink something refreshing at a restaurant other than water, an alternative is iced tea (“tra da”, pronounced “cha da”), which is cold green tea with ice.  Since it is a tea, it has been steeped in boiling water and then cooled, thereby killing any critters that may make you sick.  Most locals will drink ‘tra da’ at restaurants over water simply because it’s safe, more refreshing than lukewarm water, and cheaper than anything bottled!

Iced tea.

 

  • As for the ice, use your judgment.  Yes, ice outside may not be safe because it may have been made with contaminated water.  However, many restaurants buy ice from companies rather than manufacture it themselves, in which case it is quite safe. Many people, both locals, and foreigners, are able to enjoy drinks with ice in them without consequence.

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Food

Pho (Beef noodle soup).

Food-borne illness is also a major concern for travelers, so the meal you eat should be hot and completely cooked! Food restrictions  are easily satisfied.

  • Soup-like dishes are ubiquitous in Vietnamese cuisine so there are many opportunities to contract some sort of illness.  Make sure that the bowl of Pho that you order is piping hot!
  • Eat only cooked foods and steer away from raw meats.  Although many sushi restaurants will prepare the fish properly, it is not worth the risk if you are only here for a short time. You can try them in countries with higher standard of hygiene in Asia such as Japan, Korean, etc
  • Even eating salads and raw vegetables are not the best idea.  Adding raw herbs to your hot pho is usually fine but again, you will have to use your judgement.  Note that restaurants will flash boil the raw vegetables and herbs for you at your request.
  • Be cautious of fruit – eat fruits that have an inedible skin (i.e. bananas, oranges, watermelon, etc.) and avoid fruits like apples and sugar cane.

Fruits.

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Street Food

A lot of travelers ask about street food in Vietnam.  Is it safe to eat?  Will I get sick?  The answer is not so simple.  For instance, our XO Foodie Tour takes you to street stalls and open-air restaurants where the food quality and safety procedures have been thoroughly scrutinized and held to high standards.  Here are some things that may help make your decision when considering other street food stalls.

  • The turnover and volume at the street stall is an important consideration.  The more people who frequent a stall, the fresher the food will be.  A lot of these stalls do not have a means for refrigeration so they seldom prepare food ahead of time.  As an example, the stalls inside Ben Thanh market serve a very high volume of customers so a lot of their prepared food gets consumed on the day they make it.  That is not to say that you will avoid getting sick but the risk is less.

    The food stalls in Ben Thanh market sees hundreds of visitors a day so they tend to go through their food quite quickly in comparison to other food stalls around the city.

    The street-food stalls in Ben Thanh market see hundreds of visitors a day so they tend to go through their food quite quickly in comparison to other street-food stalls in other areas.

  • You can also observe the hygiene at the street stall you are considering.  In many cases, you can see your plate being made and if it’s not up to your standards, it is not worth the risk.
  • Be observant of the vessels they use.  If you see them wash the bowls or plates in tap water and they are still wet when putting your food in it, maybe this isn’t the street stall for you.  For this very reason, “banh mi” (Vietnamese sandwich) is one the safest street stall foods you can eat because there are no vessels or utensils involved!

A Banh Mi vendor.

  • If you really want to eat street-food during your time in Vietnam, reviews from other travelers may be a good source – if many people go to a particular establishment and none of them has become ill, you may get lucky as well!

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ENVIRONMENT

We’re very proud to offer our customers the safest insured-motorbike tour in Vietnam! 

Air Pollution
Ho Chi Minh City is not overly polluted but you can still feel the difference in air quality when compared to other cities around the world.  Protection against air pollution is a must when your body simply isn’t accustomed to it.

  • If you are spending a lot of time on a bike, you may want to don a mask to protect against dust and pollution.  This is useful if you are going to spend several hours on a bike on a regular basis such as long rides across the country.  For shorter bike rides like on any of the tours offered by XO Tours, you will be just fine without one.
  • Pollution and dust can also affect your eyes so definitely wear sunglasses or goggles on these long rides because your eyes can start to burn.

If you try to avoid air pollution, you can always escape for a day trip to the nature of Can Gio Mangrove – UNESCO Biosphere Reserves for some green and peaceful environment. Another option is to getting away to these beautiful beaches around Vietnam

Many motorbike riders in Vietnam wear masks to protect against dust and pollution.

Many motorbike riders in Vietnam wear masks to protect against dust and pollution.

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Tap Water

As trivial as it may sound, many people get concerned about how to brush their teeth and if tap water is safe for brushing.  As we discussed earlier, tap water may be contaminated so it is not safe to ingest.  Here are tips on how you can go out this everyday task and still stay safe.

  • If you are in Vietnam for a short time, it is not worth getting sick so we would recommend using bottled water to brush or no water at all to brush your teeth.
  • For extended stays, brushing your teeth with tap water is said to be a good way to get used to the local bacterial fauna.  Many tourists brush their teeth with tap water successfully without getting sick.  Again, this is only worth it if you will stay in Vietnam for a longer period of time.
  • You may also want to check at the front desk of where you are staying because many of the higher end hotels have an internal filtration system.  Keep in mind that the goal of this filtration is not to make the tap water safe for drinking but marginally better so that small tasks like brushing your teeth are hassle-free.

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Sun and Insects
With much of Asia being in a tropical climate, it is important to consider sun safety and insect protection.

  • The sun rays are very potent so please protect yourself with the use of a hat and strong sunscreen.

Vietnamese ladies cover their body to avoid sunlight.

  • As for insect-transmitted diseases, malaria and dengue fever are the two you should educate yourself about. In Vietnam, the prevalence of malaria is contained in rural areas but dengue fever is more common throughout the country.  Both are transmitted by mosquitos so an insect spray that contains DEET is a must!

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Stray Animals
One feature about Vietnam you may find different than other countries is the number of stray animals.  As you travel around, you’ll see dogs, cats, chickens and more.  An incredibly important point for you to be aware of is that Vietnam is not a rabies-free country.  Besides rabies, there are many diseases transmitted through animals.

  • Simply steer clear!
  • It is imperative that you do not touch or pet any of the stray animals, no matter how cute they are!

    Stray animals are commonly found out and about on the streets, but it is best to not pet them or come into contact with them.

    Stray animals are commonly found out and about on the streets, but it is best to not pet them or come into contact with them.

Want a worry-free tour? Our Friendly Vietnam Tour Guide will keep you safe on sound!

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MONEY TALKS – How to use Dollars, Vietnamese Dong, Credit and Debit Cards in Vietnam

One of the foremost things on every traveler’s mind is money at the destination.  Where to get it, how much to keep, how to exchange it, or how to pay for things are all questions that one must think about and understand before visiting a foreign country.  In Vietnam, and generally in the rest of Asia, cash is king, but a complicated one at that!  Before you arrive in Vietnam, take a few minutes to read through this information so that your Vietnamese trip goes without a hitch!

These are what we are going to show you:


How to Spend Your Vietnamese Dong?

500,000VND Note front

500,000VND Note back

500.000 VND = 21.95 USD l = 29.07 AUD (May 2018)

200,000VND Note front

200,000VND Note back

200.000 VND = 8.77 USD l = 11.59 AUD (May 2018)

100,000VND Note front

100,000VND Note back

100.000 VND = 4.38 USD l = 5.80 AUD (May 2018)

50,000VND Note front

50,000VND Note back

50.000 VND = 2.19 USD l = 2.90 AUD (May 2018)

20,000VND Note front

20,000VND Note back

20.000 VND = 0.88 USD l = 1.16 AUD (May 2018)

10,000VND Note front

10,000VND Note back

10.000 VND = 0.44 USD l = 0.58 AUD (May 2018)

Vietnam offers many opportunities to spend money, whether it be on shopping, travel or delicious food! You can pay for things in Vietnamese dong (VND), US dollars or by credit card.  Spending in VND is often the best way to go to ensure that you get the best price.  Be careful with the bills – even though all the denominations are different sizes and colours, it can still be hard to differentiate.  For instance, the 500,000 and 20,000 dong notes are both slightly varied shades of blue, and the 200,000 and 50,000 are shades of red. It is entirely plausible to confuse one for the other.  At the markets or local shops, make sure you carry small bills (less than 100,000) because they may not have change for you.  Many places also accept USD but you will usually not get a very good rate since the merchant can set their own term.

Several Credit Cards With No Foreign Transaction Fee.

Some large stores, hotels and restaurants may accept credit cards but most of them will not!  Make sure you check beforehand.  Firstly, any establishment that allows credit card purchases will generally only accept Visa and MasterCard.  You may have some difficulty in finding places that accept American Express, Diners International or credit cards from other charge card companies.  You will most probably be charged a 2-3% transaction fee for credit card purchases.  On top of that, you may be charged an international transaction fee through your credit card bank or company, usually 3-5% of the purchase price.  If you are an avid traveller, it would help to save a lot if you have in your hand one of these card with no international fee.  The best ones are the Discover It Card, Capital One Venture Rewards Card, Chase Sapphire Preferred, or the American Express Platinum Card.

In many instances, paying by credit card may not be an available option or may not be cost-effective, but there are certain advantages to paying with a credit card.  The first is that Visa and MasterCard give you the best exchange rate of the week.  The exchange rate that they will give you will be better than what you will get for cash at the banks.  Another important consideration when paying for things with credit card is that there is often inherent insurance provided by either the charge card company (Visa/MasterCard) or your credit card company.  For large amount items such as hotels or flights, it may be beneficial to use your credit card, just in case there is a discrepancy or emergency.  Depending on your coverage, you can claim or dispute all sorts of things if you pay by credit card – hotel burglary, fraudulent transactions, insurance for jewelry purchases and more.  However, be very, very aware of the transaction fees and the associated costs, because the cost of using your credit card in Vietnam may not be justified.

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How to Exchange Money to Vietnamese Dong?

Although it is becoming more rare, the practice of exchanging USD at gold and jewelry shops is still prevalent in Vietnam. The exchange rate used to be significantly higher than banks and currency exchange booths but the difference is much smaller now.

Although it is becoming more rare, the practice of exchanging USD at gold and jewelry shops is still prevalent in Vietnam. The exchange rate used to be significantly higher than banks and currency-exchange booths but the difference is much smaller now.

 

If you come with some foreign cash, you can exchange it for VND at banks or currency exchange establishments.  You may get a slightly better rate of return at banks but you will always lose a little bit in the exchange.  The disadvantage of going to a bank to exchange money is that you need to show a passport for identification and you need to fill out a form first.  It can be a hassle when you want to do a quick exchange and then go.  Alternatively, at currency exchange booths you can exchange money instantly.  For USD and CAD, exchange money in increments of $100 to get the best exchange rate.  The currency exchange booths around tourist locations such as Ben Thanh market may charge a higher transaction fee so it is best to avoid them unless you are in a hurry.  Also please note that many exchange places will not accept old or torn bills.  Bring new and crisp bills in order to get the best exchange rate.  If you happen to have damaged bills that no one else will accept, simply go to a bank and exchange it for a new note for a nominal fee.

Another place to exchange USD to VND is at the many gold shops in Vietnam.  This practice is technically illegal but if you have lost or forgotten your passport, banks are not an option for you so you will have to exchange money at booths or gold shops.  It used to be the case that you would get a significantly good exchange rate at the shops than at other places but now the exchange rate is no longer that different.

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How to Obtain Vietnamese Dong from ATM?

ATMs are found throughout the city so you will be able to take out cash almost anywhere you are. But remember to check the rules beforehand so you know how much your credit card company and the ATM will charge you for the withdrawal. Keep in mind that Techcombank and HSBC bank machines allow the most amount of money to be withdrawn at one time.

ATMs are found throughout the city so you will be able to take out cash almost anywhere you are. But remember to check the rules beforehand so you know how much your credit card company and the ATM will charge you for the withdrawal. Keep in mind that Techcombank and HSBC bank machines allow the most amount of money to be withdrawn at one time.

 

To obtain more cash, you can always go to any of the ATMs around the city, but first you must know the rules of your bank and your debit or credit card.  There are many credit and debit cards that will charge a hefty fee for withdrawing cash overseas and it can get very expensive!  You will also have to find out what the transaction limit is per day for your card.  As for the ATM associated fees, the withdrawal fee is usually around 20,000 Dong (about $1 USD).  Some people have reported that DongA Bank ATMs do not charge a transaction fee but in our experience there is always a nominal fee.  That said, withdrawing from a credit card will cost you a lot because not only will you be charged for an international cash advance, that amount will start accruing interest immediately.  We recommend withdrawing funds through a debit card.

Most HSBC and TechCom ATMs allow a per transaction maximum withdrawal of 5 million to 6 million dong.  Other ATMs allow around 2 million dong.  For large withdrawals, the ATM will dispense 500,000 dong notes which you will then have to exchange for smaller bills for small purchases.  The ATMs around the city are generally safe but, just as anywhere else in the world, try to avoid ATMs in convenience stores and bars.

 

If you need really large sums of cash, Western Union is the best way to go.  It is less expensive and more hassle-free than bank wire transfers, and there are hundreds of locations within Ho Chi Minh City alone.  Depending on the amount, you may pay less in a Western Union transaction fee than on international cash advance fees through your bank or credit card.  Simply get a friend or family member to go to a Western Union branch back home and fill out the appropriate paperwork.  Be sure that the spelling of the name of the recipient matches exactly as it is shown on the passport – even one letter off is grounds for refusal.  Note that the money they send to you will be from their own account rather than yours, unless they have power of attorney or joint status for your account.

Remember that no matter what, be safe with the cash that you have.   Avoiding carrying large amounts of money and use a money belt if possible!

Hope you enjoyed another great travel tip brought to you by XO Tours, the most acclaimed food tour in Vietnam! 🙂

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The Ultimate Hanoi Shopping Guide – What to buy and where to buy it

We wrote a very popular article focused on Ho Chi Minh City shopping awhile back, and have since had many requests for a similar piece for shopping in Hanoi. Shopping posts are difficult to do, however, because there are so many unique things that you can buy in Vietnam that it’s impossible to include everything in a single article. We think this blog post offers a fairly comprehensive list of things that most people will want to buy while shopping in Hanoi however.

While shopping in Vietnam, please keep in mind that although many shops in Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi are starting to accept credit cards as payment, cash is usually the currency of choice in the rest of the country. This is a general rule though, as more and more shops are comfortable with cash-free payments; things like bitcoin are not yet legal currency in Vietnam however. If you’re uncertain, don’t be afraid to ask before you get into bargaining!

Shopping in Hanoi Guide

Shopping in Hanoi Guide

What to buy when shopping in Hanoi:

  1. Silk Goods, Clothing
  2. Lacquerware
  3. Do Paper
  4. Embroidery
  5. Souvenirs
  6. Products of the Ethnic Minorities
  7. Bamboo and Rattan
  8. Lacquer Paintings and Cloth Paintings
  9. Luxury Goods (Real and Fake)
  10. Housewares and Ceramics

 


 

1.Silk Goods, Clothing


Silk is everywhere in Hanoi. Scarves and sleeping bag liners are available at every tourist shop. Raw fabrics are rolled and stacked, waiting to be turned into a creation of your choosing. Finished dresses, men’s ties and Ao Dai, the traditional Vietnamese dress, are so plentiful that shops have to display excess wares on the sidewalk.

Tailored clothes are another local specialty. Tailor shops will recreate designs from samples or pictures,and can make intricate dresses or high quality business suits in a matter of days. Check reviews online to determine a tailor’s quality, and be sure to leave enough time for multiple fittings and adjustments.

The best known area in Hanoi for silk is Hang Gai, aka “Silk Street”. Expect to pay 25-50 USD per outfit for dresses and ready to wear clothes. Be sure to drop into Khai Silk (96 Hang Gai) and Duc Loi (77 Hang Gai). Another option is the three-story Hang Da Market (1 Hang Da st). On the ground floor you will find flowers and wine; the upper levels contain fabrics and vintage clothes upstairs. Visit early and keep an eye out for Ao Dais and goods made from Do Paper.

For larger quantities or better deals on silk, cut out the middleman and take a trip out to the villages of Van Phuc or Ha Dong. Both of these villages produce silk and carry wide selections, and with skillful haggling a better deal can be gotten. Van Phuc is famous for silk sheets and is located in Ha Dong District, about 10 kilometers away from the centre of Hanoi. For other fabrics, try Ninh Hiep village.

Location of Hang Da Market

Hanoi Shopping1

 


 

2.Lacquerware

High gloss tableware is one of Vietnam’s best known crafts, one that is recognizable to many people from around the world. Introduced to the world in 1930s Paris, Vietnamese lacquerware offers a better selection and is usually of a better quality than offerings from other Asian countries. Unfortunately, many low quality mass-manufactured offerings have flooded the market. If you have a discerning eye, try your luck browsing along Hang Trong, Hang Hom and Hang Manh streets. For a more curated selection, visit MARENA Hanoi (28 Nha Chung). Minh Tam (2 Hang Bong), a 10 year old family business, offers top quality lacquerware. To buy directly from the source, visit Ha Thai village.

Location of MARENA Hanoi

Location of Minh Tam

Hanoi Shopping2

 


 

3. Do Paper

Do paper, (pronouned yaw), comes from the bark of a wild river plant known as the Do tree. After a three month process, the bark is transformed into a durable, high quality paper. This paper is then turned into all manners of goods for you to enjoy. You can browse postcards, notebooks and stationary sets, all costing under $3, along Hang Gai or Hang Bac or check out at Craft-Link (43 Van Mieu). Another traditional craft to keep an eye open for is Dong Ho paintings, which celebrate the Lunar New Year. These woodblock prints on Do paper are made in the village of Dong Ho.

Location of Craft-Link

 


 

4. Embroidery

Northern Vietnam produces some stunning embroidered cottons and linens. From the patterns of the many ethnic minorities to the fine art quality work found framed and hung in galleries, beautiful embroidery can be found on any budget. A large selection can be found at Dong Xuan Market (Dong Xuan St and Hang Chieu St).

For better quality purchases, a trip to a specialty store may be in order. Tan My, the oldest embroidery shop in Hanoi, is located at 66 Hang Gai, but watch out for similarly named shops nearby. Once there, enjoy the plentiful selection of pillow cases, tablecloths, placemats, dresses and more. Everything in this shop has amazingly detailed designs, all of which are made 100% by hand.

Two more highly recommended shops are May (7 Nha Tho) for the a nicely displayed selection and Chi Vang (17 Trang Tien) for the unbeatable quality.

Location of Dong Xuan market

Location of Tan My

 


 

5. Souvenirs

Hanoi is full of interesting souvenirs; you are sure to find the right gift for everyone on your list, as well as something unexpected for yourself. For wooden puppets, paper lanterns and paper fans, wander the areas close to the Water Puppet Theatre (57b Dinh Tien Hoang). For t-shirts exalting Vietnamese traffic, milk coffee, and pho, browse along Ly Quoc Su st.

If you’re looking for something more unique, try out musical instruments at Thai Khue, (1A Hang Manh) or browse Communist Party propaganda posters at The Hanoi Gallery (several locations, try 17 Nha Chung).

Vietnam traditional conical hats make great gifts. If you need to purchase a few thousand of them, try Chuong village. Here you can also find the flat-topped hats, often with intricate embroidery, known as Non Quai Thao.

Location of Thai Khue

Location of The Hanoi Gallery

Propaganda art

Propaganda art

 


 

6. Products of the Ethnic Minorities

Vietnam has over fifty ethnic minority groups, more than any other Asian country. Most of them hail from mountain villages in the north. If you’re not making a trip to Sapa, you can still find some of the clothing and handicrafts of these industrious peoples for sale in Hanoi.

Browse the woodwork, lacquer paintings, ceramics, textiles, carved Buffalo horn goods as well as a selection of clothes, bags and scarves at Craft-Link (43 Van Mieu). This not for profit organization specializes in fair trade products of a better quality at comparable products. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, visit their second location, which carries a different selection of products.

For more crafts and home furnishings, as well as fair trade coffee, try Indigenous (36 Au Trieu) who donates profits to disadvantaged children.

Another not for profit organization, Mekong Quilts (13 Hang Bac) focuses on offering employment and developing the community through the making of quilts. Growing from selling quilts in her friends homes, owner Thanh Truong now employs over 340 women in the northern provinces.

Location of Craft-Link

Location of Mekong Quilts

Hanoi Shops

Hanoi Shops

 


 

7. Bamboo and Rattan

Bamboo and rattan are incredibly versatile materials. The multitude of things you can find fashioned from them is astounding. From tiny chopstick rests to intricately woven full size chairs, rice paper drying trays to three meter tall vases, seemingly anything can be fashioned out of these materials by skilled craftsmen. A good place to browse these offerings is Bamboo Shop (4b Hang Hanh). Bargain hunters are advised to look for bamboo shops along Quang Trung st, near Tran Nhan Trong st.

To see the craftsmen at work, take a trip to Bang So village, famous for bamboo work. Another option is a short 35-km trip from Hanoi to Phu Vinh, well known for crafting rattan products.

Location of Bamboo Shop

Hanoi Shopping

Hanoi Shopping

 


 

8. Lacquer Paintings and Cloth Paintings

As the traditional artisans and craftsmen left Hanoi, a void emerged and today that void is filled by fashion and artwork. Lacquer paintings bridge the two worlds, creating contemporary art with ancient techniques. Hanoi has no shortage of art galleries featuring the glossy, richly colored, beautifully layered lacquer paintings, as well as high quality cloth paintings by local artists. Stroll down Trang Tien st between Hanoi Opera House and Hoan Kiem Lake and you are sure to find a number of galleries worth peeking into. One gallery you should definitely visit is Thanh Binh Gallery (25 Trang Tien), well known for high end contemporary fine art.

If history’s greatest artists are more to your tastes, Hanoi has a number of painting shops that offer recreations of famous paintings by the masters. Many of these shops take requests and will work with you to create something specific.

Location of Thanh Binh Gallery

Hanoi Shopping

Hanoi Shopping

 


 

9. Luxury Goods (Real and Fake)

Do Manh Cuong is the most successful fashion designer to come out of Vietnam, and his Do Manh Cuong Boutique (88 Nguyen Huu Huan) is the best place to find his designs. After working for Christian Dior and Dominique Sirop in Paris, DMC returned to Vietnam, where he can be found judging on Project Runway and Vietnam’s Next Top Model.

High end fashions can also be found at Ipa Nima (73 Trang Thi, 2nd location on Nha Tho). Ipa Nima carries in house designed and made handbags from Hong Kong designer Chistina Yu, as well as Spanish designed fashions from Chula (6 Ven Ho Tay) if the latter’s West Lake location isn’t convenient.

Another can’t miss area in Hanoi for high end fashion is along Trang Tien st south of Hoan Kiem Lake. Be sure to check out Trang Tien Plaza, which has a large number of designer stores on the ground floor. Just watch out for locals taking wedding pictures on the sidewalk in this area. Speaking of weddings, if you’re preparing for the big day, check wedding fashions at David Minh Duc or Thu Huong, both on Yet Kieu street.

If your budget isn’t as high, there are an endless supply of fake North Face backpacks and clothing in Hanoi, mostly near Hoan Kiem Lake. Be sure to pull on the seams and slide the zippers before buying though.

Location of DMC Boutique

Location of Ipa-Nema

Hanoi Shopping

Hanoi Shopping

 


 

10. Housewares and Ceramics

Hanoi is full of interesting, high quality home decorations available at low prices. Check out Vietnamese House (192 Hang Bac) for a nice selection of stone carved vases and boxes. For birdcages, some with birds in them, find the small shop at the intersection of Hang Da and Hang Dieu.

Mosaique Decoration (6 Ly Quoc Su) has three floors of home furnishings, from trinkets to bedroom furniture. Nearby La Casa (2 Ngo Bao Khanh) also carries beautiful locally made furniture from Italian designers.

For a better selection of ceramics, take a trip to Bat Trang village. You can easily explore it on your own, as it is located just outside the urban districts and can be accessed by a taxi or bus (number 47 from the Long Bien bus station). It is a small village with endless shops. The prices are much more reasonable compared to those in the city.

Location of Vietnamese House

Location of Mosaique

Here are a few other things to round out your shopping trip:

Shoes:

Shoe lovers will find paradise just off the east side of Hoan Kiem Lake, listed under the name Hang Dau st. This street is nothing but shoes and sandals, many direct from the factory with minor imperfections equalling large discounts. Fake luxury brand handbags can be found at the intersection with Lo Su street.

Location of Hang Dau

Jewelry and Silver:

Hang Bac, which translates to Silver St, is a dazzling maze of silver of all shapes and forms: from plain, simple rings and necklaces, stylish teapots, beautiful décor plates; to worshipping articles, such as incense holders and the four sacred animals. Silver is considered a powerful element to drive away evil spirits in Vietnam, so it’s no surprise that the silver industry prospers so much.

For a finer selection, visit Phuc Tin (Hang Gai Street), a high quality silversmith with traditional Vietnamese jewelry.

Location of Phuc Tin

Books:

Bookworm (44 Chau Long) is the best place in Hanoi to refill on reading material before a long flight or bus trip. This decade-old English language bookstore is located near Truc Bac lake.

Location of Bookworm

bookworm

bookworm

Snacks:

O Mai and Banh Com are special treats commonly offered by Hanoians to their guests during the Tet holidays.

O Mai was originally used as a remedy for sore throats in Vietnamese traditional medicine. It is made from dried apricots, seasoned with salt, sugar, ginger, chili and licorice, which gives it a nice mixture of many flavors. Nowadays, O Mai is not only a favorite treat for the Hanoian, but also a best-seller souvenir for any Vietnamese tourist visiting Hanoi. Aside from apricots, many other fruits are now used to make O Mai as well.

Banh Com is another variety of glutinous rice products. Banh Com has a soft and chewy texture, with light sweetness and a hint of the trademark “cốm” fragrance. Banh Com is normally made without any preservatives, so eat it within 5 days after purchase.

Shops selling these treats are found mainly on the Hang Duong Street (Street of Sweets/Candies). Some of the older and more prestigious shops are Hong Lam (11 Hang Duong Street), Toan Thinh (15 Hang Duong), Van Loi (34 Hang Da).

Location of Hong Lam

vietnamese traditional snacks

vietnamese traditional snacks

 


 

A guide to the Old Quarter:

For tourists of all ages, Hanoi’s Old Quarter can provide a fascinating look into the culture and history of Vietnam, making it a can’t miss destination even if you don’t plan on buying anything. For shopaholics and souvenir seekers, however, this is one of the best area to wander, browse and haggle. Famously known as the 36 streets, this neighborhood’s roads are named for the guilds that use to occupy them. This is something unique about Ha Noi old quarter that you can never find it somewhere else. Even when you visit Hoi An Ancient Town. In Ho Chi Minh city, you will have to go to Binh Tay Market in Chinatown to find this structure.

Villagers in Vietnam’s small towns ofter produced one thing per village. When craftsman and merchants moved from these villages to Hanoi, they would end up living on the same street, selling the same products. Eventually, the streets of Hanoi’s old quarter came to be known for the guilds occupying each street. Salt, sugar, copper, and tin were all more than items on a shopping list, they were locations for where to find these items. Today, some of these streets retain the products of their ancient guild. Some of them have evolved to sell similar products, and some have no relationship to the past, but nearly all retain their ancient names.

The following is a list of streets in the Ancient Quarter. In italics is the guild or product this street used to be known for. Following that is what is currently sold on that street, if a common theme exists. Streets marked “Same Same” still carry the goods they were named for.

Bat Dan / Wooden Bowls

Bat Su / China Bowls

Cha Ca / Roasted Fish / Same Same (Cha Ca La Vong is world famous)

Chan Cam / String Instruments

Cho Gao / Rice Market

Gia Ngu / Fisherman / Underwear, Socks, Scarves (Asian Sizes)

Hai Tuong / Sandals

Hang Bac / Silversmiths / Same Same

Hang Be / Rafts

Hang Bo / Basket

Hang Bong / Cotton

Hang Buom / Sails

Hang Bun / Vermicelli

Hang But / Brushes

Hang Ca / Fish

Hang Can / Scales

Hang Chai / Bottles

Hang Chi / Threads

Hang Chieu / Mats

Hang Chinh / Jars

Hang Cot / Bamboo Latices

Hang Da / Leather / Produce Market

Hang Dao / (Silk) Dyer / Ready Made Clothes

Hang Dau / Beans, Oil Extracts / Shoes and sandals

Hang Dieu / Pipes

Hang Dong / Copper

Hang Duong / Sugar / Jam and Candied Fruits

Hang Ga / Chicken / Same Same

Hang Gai / Hemp / Clothes, Scarves, Handbags

Hang Giay / Paper & Shoes / Candles, Incense, Famous Beef Jerky

Hang Hanh / Onions

Hang Hom / Cases

Hang Huong / Incense

Hang Khay / Trays

Hang Khoai / Sweet Potato

Hang Luoc / Comb

Hang Ma / Counterfeit Papers / Votive Paper Products

Hang Mam / Pickled Fish / Tombstones

Hang Manh / Bamboo-screens / Traditional Musical Instruments, Cushions

Hang Muoi / Salt

Hang Ngang / Transversal Street / Textiles

Hang Non / Conical Hats

Hang Phen / Alum

Hang Quat / Fans / Funeral and Festival Flags, Religious Paraphernalia

Hang Ruoi / Clam Worms

Hang Than / Charcoal

Hang Thiec / Tin / Sheet Metal, Mirrors

Hang Thung / Barrel

Hang Tre / Bamboo

Hang Trong / Drum

Hang Vai / Cloth

Lang Ong / Herbs and Spices / Same Same

Luong Van Can / Children’s Toys / Same Same

Lo Ren / Blacksmiths / Same Same

Lo Su / Coffins

Ma May / Rattan / Tours, Hostels, White People

Ngo Gach / Bricks

Thuoc Bac / Herbal Medicine / Same Same

To Thinh / Wood Turners Street / Same Same

 

We hope you found this post about shopping in Hanoi helpful. For more great Vietnam travel tips, please check back with us often.

If you need help shopping in Ho Chi Minh City, please consider booking our famous Vietnam Tours! XO Tours is an all female scooter tour company and our famous “Foodie” tour was recently named 1 of the top 9 food tours in the world by Forbes magazine! You can contact XO Tours by visiting our homepage at: xotours.vn rel=”dofollow”

Shopping in Ho Chi Minh City – What to buy and where to buy it!

Ho Chi Minh City is truly a mecca for shopping enthusiasts!  Everything from handicrafts to imitation brand name clothes and shoes is available at a fraction of what it would cost overseas!  As tourism has increased over time in Ho Chi Minh City , so has the establishment of trendy boutiques that cater to a tourist crowd looking beyond the typical souvenirs.  However, you can find the same treasures in the many shopping areas throughout the city.  Our aim of this article is to guide you on your trip to shopping in Ho Chi Minh City and help you find what you’re looking for at bargain prices!

Shopping in Ho Chi Minh City

Shopping in Ho Chi Minh City

Shopping in Ho Chi Minh City   :

(click on the list below to jump directly to the category)

  1. Clothes
  2. Shoes
  3. Handbags and Luggage
  4. Watches
  5. Handicrafts
  6. Antiques
  7. Paintings
  8. Fabric

Ho Chi Minh City shopping requires that you always bring Vietnamese Dong to pay for your purchases. Although there are more and more shops in Ho Chi Minh city that allow customers to pay by credit card, or even exchange currencies on the spot, you should always ask before making a purchase. If you’re taking Vietnam tours up north, and you need shopping advice and tips, please check out XO Tours’ Hanoi Shopping Guide

 


 

1. CLOTHES

Vietnam is a manufacturing country so imitations of brand name clothes are generally cheaper than the suggested retail price!  You can find both high-end brand clothing and mall brands like American Eagle Outfitters, Gap, Old Navy and more while shopping in Ho Chi Minh City.  Many locals shop for clothing in the stores along Nguyen Trai street or at Saigon Square.  Keep in mind that there are 3 locations for Saigon Square (Saigon Square 2 is currently closed) and, oddly, they have the same name!  Many people refer to the new location as Saigon Square 3.  All 3 locations carry similar items but Saigon Square 3 is cooler and more spacious than the original location. In international terms, Saigon Square is the equivalent of an Outlet Mall shopping experience; but you can bargain! This is a very popular option for tourists and expats alike.

Location of Nguyen Trai Street shopping
Location of Saigon Square 1
Location of Saigon Square 3

Saigon Square Shopping Center

Saigon Square Shopping Center

 


 

[Back to Shopping List]


 

2. SHOES

Ho Chi Minh City seems to have a specific street for everything, and shoes are no exception.  In fact, the city has two streets dedicated entirely to shoes!  As is the case with clothes, you will find great imitations of brand name shoes while shopping in Ho Chi Minh City. Be careful with the quality of these imitations as the heel or main body of the shoe may show wear and tear very quickly. You can find a list of shops selling authentic athletic footwear at the end of the video shown above.

Ly Chinh Thang street is lined with shoe shops which carry shoes in a variety of sizes and styles.  The other shoe street, Luu Van Lang is just outside of Ben Thanh Market and one block away from Le Loi street.  The shops on this street have more sports shoes and sandals whereas the shops on Ly Chinh Thang street carry more fashion shoes.

Location of Shoes Street 1 (Ly Chinh Thang)
Location of Shoes Street 2 (Luu Van Lang)

Shoes shopping in Ho Chi Minh City

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3. HANDBAGS AND LUGGAGE

If you need to buy luggage to transport your newly purchased goods, visit Le Lai street between New World Hotel and Ben Thanh Market.  You will see an entire street of luggage shops with the most well-known brands such as North Face, Samsonite, and more!  Alternatively, if you need a fashionable handbag or wallet while shopping in Ho Chi Minh City, visit Saigon Square or Binh Tay Market in Cho Lon.  If you plan on using the handbag around the city, make sure the straps are secure enough so that you are not a victim of petty theft.

Location of Le Lai Street luggage shops
Location of Saigon Square 1
Location of Saigon Square 3
Location of Binh Tay Market in Cho Lon

Handbags and Luggage shopping in Saigon

Handbags and Luggage shopping in Saigon

[Back to Shopping List]


 

4. WATCHES

Yes, it’s true, you can find excellent fake watches while shopping In Ho Chi Minh City!  Name the brand and you will find it!  Many of them are impressive imitations but you will have to feel the weight and inspect the metal on the watch to ensure that the quality is good.  Of course, Ben Thanh Market has countless stalls selling watches but expect to pay a hefty price.  If you have time to explore, check out Binh Tay Market at Cho Lon or the many small shops around the market for a better bargain.  Shop owners around the city buy their stock at this market at wholesale prices.  You can also go to Saigon Square 1 or 3 which also carry watches.

Location of Ben Thanh Market
Location of Binh Tay Market in Cho Lon

Fake Watches Ho Chi Minh City

Fake Watches Ho Chi Minh City

 


[Back to Shopping List]


 

5. HANDICRAFTS

Vietnamese handicrafts are very unique and intricate.  Vietnam is especially famous for lacquerware and coconut dinnerware.  Bowls, plates, spoons and chopsticks make great gifts and decoration!  You can also find fabulous fabric creations with patchwork and threadwork embroidery.  Or, if you prefer wood items, you might like the handcrafted wooden boats and figurines that are often sold at the markets.

The best place to find a huge variety of lacquerware at the best bargain prices is An Dong Plaza, near Cho Lon in Chinatown. We find that the choices for fabric and wood crafts are the best at Ben Thanh Market.

Location of An Dong Plaza
Location of Ben Thanh Market

Handicrafts Vietnam

Handicrafts in Vietnam

[Back to Shopping List]


 

6. ANTIQUES

Try antique street (otherwise known as Le Cong Kieu street) just outside of Ben Thanh Market.  People have commented that the stores are riddled with imitations but you may find a diamond in the rough!  Items include old money, stamps, war memorabilia, figurines made of ivory or bone and more.  Be careful when buying “antiques” in Vietnam however as it is illegal to export real antiques out of the country.

Antiques shopping in Ho Chi Minh City

Shopping in Ho Chi Minh City for Antiques on Le Cong Kieu street

[Back to Shopping List]


 

7. PAINTINGS

Ho Chi Minh City is home to many art galleries which host the most talented local artists.  However, for copies of famous pieces of art or for original paintings by lesser-known artists, visit the “painting street”.  Like shoes, there are not one but two streets that are chock-a-block full of painting shops!  More locals shop at the painting stores in District 5 than the one in District 1, but you will surely find a great selection wherever you choose to go!

Location of Paintings Street 1 (Tran Phu Street, District 5)
Location of Paintings Street 2 (Bui Vien Street, District 1)

Paintings Ho Chi Minh City

Paintings Ho Chi Minh City

 

[Back to Shopping List]


 

8. FABRIC

Vietnam is often touted as the next custom tailoring capital of the world!  If you have time to tailor custom outfits, we strongly recommend that you visit ‘fabric street’ to find an excellent selection of cloth for your tailored creations.  Fabric street is located directly across from Tan Dinh Market.  You will find even better deals on the fabric inside the market, although the stores across the street have a wider selection of fabric types.  You can also visit Soai Kinh Lam material market in Cho Lon.  This is a wholesale market so the prices are cheaper and the choices are more abundant.  Tailors will charge less if you come with your own fabric but make sure you check with the tailor first with regard to how much material is needed for your garments.

Location of Tan Dinh Market 
Location of Fabrics Street (Hai Ba Trung)
Location of Soai Kinh Lam Material Market

Fabrics markets in Ho Chi Minh City

Fabrics markets in Ho Chi Minh City

 

Vietnam is a cash-based society, which means that there is no such thing as a fixed price.  You must absolutely bargain for the goods you wish to purchase. Remember that, in a market, there will be several stores that carry the items that you want.  Therefore, the best strategy in getting things at an appropriate price is not getting attached very quickly to what you want to buy.  In many cases, the owner will call you back if you walk away and agree on a reasonable price!  Use the following phrases to help you with your negotiations while shopping in Ho Chi Minh City!

Shopping Phrases in Vietnam

[Back to Shopping List]


Final Word of Advice:

Do you have a limited amount of time in Ho Chi Minh City? Looking for a for a one-stop shopping experience?

We recommend in order of importance:

  1. Ben Thanh Market
  2. Saigon Square
  3. An Dong Plaza

Note: It pays to keep in mind that Ben Thanh Market, albeit convenient, can be much more expensive than the other markets due to its central location and frequency of tourist shoppers in search of the perfect souvenir. When shopping at Ben Thanh Market you should start with 40-50% of the original asking price and negotiate from there.  If the store owner does not lower the price, you can just as easily go to the next stall. In comparison, you should expect to get no more than 10-20% discount on goods that you purchase at Saigon Square. You will see more locals shopping at Saigon Square or An Dong Plaza.  Wherever you choose to shop, we are confident that you will be thoroughly impressed with what Vietnam has to offer.  We hope you have fun shopping in Ho Chi Minh City! If you need to find the perfect souvenir our shopping scooter tour will be a good deal for you to bargain the good price.

We hope you enjoyed this Vietnam travel tip brought to you by XO Tours, offering the best and most acclaimed food and scooter tours in Vietnam! If you’re overwhelmed by the size of Ho Chi Minh City and want to make the most of your time, consider booking our popular “Sights” morning city tour, and our famous “Foodie” street food tour! You can learn more about both tours by visiting our homepage by clicking our logo at the top.

How is Vietnamese Coffee Made? Does Starbucks Know?

The First Starbucks in Vietnam, New World Hotel

The First Starbucks in Vietnam

Well, it has happened – Starbucks has finally opened shop in the coffee capital of Asia!  You may be wondering does Starbucks know Vietnamese coffee as well as the Vietnamese?  How will it compete with the long-standing Trung Nguyen Coffee or Highlands Coffee?  Will it hurt local coffee shops or will people continue to frequent roadside coffee stands?  These are questions that will be answered only with time.  In the meantime, let us teach you a little bit about coffee production in Vietnam and, more importantly, how to make a perfect Vietnamese coffee at home!

Fun Vietnamese Coffee Facts:

  • Vietnam is now the number one C. Robusta exporter in the world, beating out Brazil in 2012!
  • Vietnam specializes in crap coffee!  Yes, you read that right… perhaps you have heard of weasel coffee?  The weasel eats the finest coffee fruits and excretes the bean.  It has a definite distinct taste and “weasel coffee” or “ca phe chon” is a delicacy enjoyed around the world!
  • Vietnamese grown coffee beans are a major component in most grocery store instant coffee brands.
  • Coffee producers in Vietnam are making an effort to grow the finer and more expensive C. Arabica in order to make Vietnam a coffee production powerhouse (if it isn’t one already).
  • Ca phe sua, coffee with condensed milk on the bottom Vietnamese style, is delicious!  Condensed milk was originally used in place of fresh milk because of difficulties with milk storage in a tropical climate, but we just think it’s genius.  🙂
How it all begins... a weasel enjoying delicious coffee berries!

How it all begins… a weasel enjoying delicious coffee berries!

Coffee beans in weasel excrement before being roasted and packaged...

Coffee beans in weasel excrement before being roasted and packaged…

From Farm to Home:

Vietnam primarily grows the C. Robusta variety of coffee. The berries are manually picked during harvest season, which is usually November to February. In the "dry method" of coffee production, the berries are directly dried without removing the fruit. Workers will sometimes walk over the drying fruit to press them down and turn them. The dried berries go to the mill to remove the outer layers until the bean is exposed. Vietnam mostly exports "green coffee", which is the dried inner bean that has yet to be roasted.

Vietnam primarily grows the C. Robusta variety of coffee. The berries are manually picked during harvest season, which is usually from November to February. In the “dry method” of coffee production, the berries are directly dried without removing the fruit. Workers will sometimes walk over the drying fruit to press them down and turn them. The dried berries go to the mill to remove the outer layers until the bean is exposed. Vietnam mostly exports “green coffee”, which is the dried inner bean that has yet to be roasted.

 

How to Make the Perfect Cup of Vietnamese Coffee:

Things needed for Vietnamese coffee

These are things you need to make Vietnamese coffee: a special kind of coffee filter called a “phin”, really strong and bitter coffee (traditionally the C. Robusta type of coffee is used which is naturally more bitter than other coffee types), and sweetened condensed milk.

  • Add 1-2 tablespoons of condensed milk at the bottom of the glass.
  • Put the chamber of the phin on top of the glass and add 1.5 tablespoons of filter coffee.
  • Place the press on top and push/screw it down to the level of the coffee grounds.
  • Add a little bit of hot water to allow the grounds to swell.
  • After a minute, add hot water up to the top of the chamber and put the lid on to keep everything hot.
  • After 3-5 minutes of brewing, remove the whole phin and stir your milk and coffee creation.
  • Enjoy your coffee piping hot or add a bit of ice for a hot summer’s day!
Give the coffee a few minutes to brew completely through the phin filter before enjoying a hot cup of coffee. Or, pour it over a cup of ice for a cold drink on a hot day!

Give the coffee a few minutes to brew completely through the phin filter before enjoying a hot cup of coffee. Or, pour it over a cup of ice for a cold drink on a hot day!

 

If you want to discover more of food specialties, you may want to join our Ho Chi Minh City food tour.