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

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

[Back to Shopping List]


 

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?

Starbucks vs Vietnamese Coffee

Starbucks vs Vietnamese Coffee

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.

How to Spend One Day in Ho Chi Minh City – Custom Itineraries for Vietnam

How to spend one day in Ho Chi Minh City

Looking to spend one day in Ho Chi Minh City?

If you had unlimited time in Vietnam, you would surely be able to explore every facet of what makes this country unique. Unfortunately, many people who travel here have limited time,some only a half day to tour Hcmc, and want to make the most of it.  As part of our new “Custom Itineraries for Vietnam” series, we will guide you through the various cities in Vietnam and help you experience the country to its fullest.  We will also show you how to get off the beaten path and see the country in a unique way.  The first of our “Custom Itineraries in Vietnam” series – Ho Chi Minh City!

Tourists often transit through Ho Chi Minh City before moving on to other nearby points of interest outside the city.  Though Ho Chi Minh City has a lot to offer in terms of attractions and cultural experiences, it is difficult to take part in everything when you have limited time here.  We have compiled a thorough itinerary that helps you maximize your time here.

8 things you can do in one day in Ho Chi Minh City

1.Eat Soup for Breakfast

Vietnamese people love their noodle soup dishes.  You may already be familiar with pho, but there are countless more noodle soups that are in fact not pho!  What’s more, with a generous helping of various meats, veggies, and noodles, these soups are a breakfast of champions.  So start your day off Vietnamese style and devour a bowl of Pho, Banh Canh Cua, Bun Bo Hue, or whatever the guy next to you is having.

Recommendation:  Ben Thanh market has a huge section in the middle with food stalls.  The turnover is quite high here so it is usually a safe place to eat.

Eating inside Ben Thanh market is safe, exciting, and delicious!

Eating inside Ben Thanh market is safe, exciting, and delicious!

2.Visit Ben Thanh Market

Ben Thanh market is the iconic central market in Ho Chi Minh City.  It wouldn’t be a complete trip to the city without seeing this wonder.  They sell everything from souvenirs to kitchen supplies to groceries and meat.  It’s a one-stop shop!  Or, just a great place to people watch.  This market is not air conditioned so it gets hot and muggy here during the day.  And the sellers can be quite aggressive with both tourists and locals – that’s just the nature of this market.  Having said that, it’s important to give this place a chance.  It is more than just a tourist grab.  Even for people who live here, the market sells things that are ordinarily hard to find otherwise.  The market is a lot bigger than it seems, so make sure you leave some time to navigate through and really explore all that it has to offer.  Be aware that the prices here are very marked up so be sure to negotiate.  If a sign says ‘fixed price’ and the seller is hesitant to budge, you will most likely find the same items at another stall.

3.Marvel at the Architecture

The architecture in the city is a mish-mash of new skyscrapers, old tube houses, and French colonial buildings.  The old colonial buildings in the centre of the city have a lot of character and hold a lot of history.  Fortunately, they are all quite close together so a short walk offers you the opportunity to enjoy most of them.  If you walk between the Notre Dame cathedral and the Saigon River along Dong Khoi street and wander around Nguyen Hue and Le Loi streets, you will be able to appreciate many of the beautiful old buildings of downtown Ho Chi Minh City.  If you have time, walk into the main historical post office for a closer look at colonial style architecture at its best.

Colonial architecture in Ho Chi Minh City. The Notre Dame cathedral, the Saigon Opera House and the Post Office are some of the most popular tourist sights.

Colonial architecture in Ho Chi Minh City. The Notre Dame cathedral, the Saigon Opera House and the Post Office are some of the most popular tourist sights.

4.Sip Some Coffee

Vietnamese people really pride themselves on their coffee and there is no shortage of coffee shops in Ho Chi Minh City.  Coffee culture was huge here well before Starbucks and other big name coffee brands arrived.  If you’ve been walking around the city for a while,  sipping on coffee and people watching is the perfect break from the hustle and bustle.  Fortunately, most coffee shops have excellent regional fare.

Recommendation: One of the coolest coffee shops in the city is L’Usine at 151/1 Dong Khoi.  The entrance is through an alleyway and up two flights of stairs.

5. Get a Massage and Hair Wash

Ho Chi Minh City may be chaotic but Vietnamese people sure do know how to provide a serene escape to the chaos.  Cheap foot massages can be found everywhere and for $5-10, you can achieve complete relaxation for an hour to 90 minutes.  If you are in the mood for a more authentic spa service, get a hair wash (Goi Dau).  This isn’t a regular run of the mill hair wash – a proper Vietnamese hair wash includes a head massage, face wash and mask, and a shoulder massage!  They will even blow your hair out and style it for you after.  Read our blog on massages in Vietnam to understand the ins and outs of getting a massage here.

Recommendation:  Get a 70-minute foot massage at 118 (adequately named since its address is 118 Pasteur) for $7 including tip and then go around to Jasmine Spa (45 Ton That Thiep, at the corner of Pasteur and Ton That Thiep) for a relaxing hair wash.

6. Go on a Motorbike Tour

Soon after arriving in Ho Chi Minh City, you will notice that motorbikes are the vehicle of choice.  What better way to see the city than to experience it on the back of the bike?  XO Tours is a leading motorbike tour company in the city.  We have a range of motorbike tours to suit your taste, but by far our most popular is The Foodie.  Not only does it take you to several different districts of the city that are not generally visited by tourists, you will also have the opportunity to try the best street food Ho Chi Minh City has to offer.

The Foodie Tour takes you to see and eat in 4 other districts besides District 1.

The Foodie Tour takes you to see and eat in 4 other districts besides District 1.

7.See the Backpackers’ Area

Ho Chi Minh City is a popular destination for backpackers because it is relatively cheap to travel around here.  Over time, this small area around Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien streets has become a magnet for budget accommodations, colourful restaurants, and lively watering holes.  Even if you aren’t traveling as a backpacker, this particular area in the city is a tourist attraction in itself.  It is quite lively at night when hundreds of people sit on child-sized plastic stools, drink local beer and mingle with the crowd.

8.Take in a View of Saigon

The city has very few tall buildings so going to the top of one of these buildings gives you an excellent view of the city.  Luckily, there are a handful of bars on really high floors so you can enjoy the view and sip on a drink at the same time.  After a long and activity-filled day in Ho Chi Minh City, this is the perfect way to end your night.  It is mesmerizing to look out onto the streets hundreds of feet below and truly appreciate how the city moves. It’s a good way to relax in Saigon.

The different kinds of nightlife in the city - backpacker style with watering holes on the street and upscale rooftop bars with an amazing view of the city.

The different kinds of nightlife in the city – backpacker style with watering holes on the street and upscale rooftop bars with an amazing view of the city.

Recommendation:  The Heli Bar in the Bitexco tower (52nd Floor, 2 Hai Trieu) is one of the highest viewing points in the city, but the perspective is much better from Chill Skybar (AB Tower, 76 Le Lai).  Both these places have a strict dress code and shoe policy.

Our recommended locations within District 1 to visit during your action-filled day in Ho Chi Minh City. For sights outside D1, we recommend taking a motorbike tour.

Our recommended locations within District 1 to visit during your action-filled day in Ho Chi Minh City. For sights outside D1, we recommend taking a motorbike tour.

We hope you enjoyed the 1st part in our “Custom Itineraries in Vietnam” series.  To help you make the most of your time in Ho Chi Minh City, XO Tours offers many day tours with the most professional tour guides in Vietnam.  To learn more about our tours, please visit our main tour page,

The best time to visit Vietnam – Vietnam Weather

 

The best time to visit Vietnam

The best time to visit Vietnam

Weather and climate can often affect how much you enjoy your vacation and what activities are feasible during your travels.  In Vietnam especially, this is a huge consideration.  With more than 2000 miles between the Northern and Southern tips of the country, the weather in Vietnam in incredibly varied.  Fortunately, regardless of when you visit the country, you can maximize your time in good weather.  Use these Vietnam travel tips to decide the best time to visit Vietnam.

A simple chart showing the dry and wet seasons of Northern, Central, and Southern Vietnam.

A simple chart showing the dry and wet seasons of Northern, Central, and Southern Vietnam.

THE BEST TIME TO VISIT VIETNAM:

(please click on the link below to jump directly to the region)

  1. The Best Time to Visit NORTHERN VIETNAM – Sapa, Hanoi, Halong Bay
  2. The Best Time to Visit CENTRAL VIETNAM – Hue, Hoi An, Da Nang, Quy Nhon, Nha Trang
  3. The Best Time to Visit SOUTHERN VIETNAM – Da Lat, Mui Ne, Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta, Phu Quoc

The Best Time to Visit NORTHERN VIETNAM – Sapa, Hanoi, Halong Bay

The mountainous regions of the north are characterized by wet and hot summers and dry and cold winters.  The dry season lasts from October to the end of March (average 20C, although in the far north the average is much lower) and the wet season from April to September (average 28C).  Come prepared for chilly weather in December and January – you may even see snow in the far mountainous North!  Although the temperature drops in the dry season, it is much more pleasant to visit Northern Vietnam during this time.

Travel Tips

Halong Bay: Cruises in Halong Bay are astonishing. But wet season marks for occasional storms in the Bay so cruises are frequently cancelled or cut short when there is a storm warning.

Sapa:  Sapa can be scenic in both wet season and dry season.  Early spring (April) is when many of the flowers are blooming so the scenery can be very colourful and lively.  However, the rice fields around Sapa only have one harvest a year so if you want to see the lush green rice terraces, you have to visit around October.


The Best Time to Visit CENTRAL VIETNAM – Hue, Hoi An, Da Nang, Quy Nhon, Nha Trang

Central Vietnam is more varied in temperature from city to city.  Nha Trang and Quy Nhon are more south so they have a much longer dry season from January to September (average 28C).  In contrast, Hue, Da Nang and Hoi An have a dry season from January to August at best (average 25C).  Hue’s weather is known to be notoriously bad in that it stays gloomy and drizzly for the greater part of the year due to its unique location within a mountain range.  Just on the other side of the mountain range, Hoi An and Da Nang tend to stay hotter and drier.  Keep in mind that the wet season in this part of Vietnam often brings typhoons and nasty rain storms.

Travel Tips

Nha Trang and Quy Nhon – Early September is an ideal time to visit this part of central Vietnam – the weather is still nice enough to enjoy the pristine beaches with little rain and the cities are not riddled with tourists, as peak tourism season in this area is from June-August.  However, the beaches are at their best and most beautiful in April!

Hue – The Phong Nha caves near Hue are a popular tourist destination and a must see if you will be traveling in this area.  One of the most unique experiences here is to be able to swim in the river that runs through the caves but this is only possible in the dry months.  During the wet season, the water level is too high and there is too much sediment in the water to permit swimming.


The Best Time to Visit SOUTHERN VIETNAM – Da Lat, Mui Ne, Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta, Phu Quoc

The cities in the south also vary considerably weather wise but the climate here is more temperate than Northern and Central Vietnam (25C -35C year round).  The wet season lasts from May to November and the remainder of the year stays mostly dry.  Although the temperature remains nearly the same, the humidity varies a lot throughout the year.  Be prepared for peak humidity between February and May.  Fortunately, during the wet season, you can expect heavy rainfall usually only once a day for a short period of time.  Farther south, Phu Quoc gets more rainfall than other parts of South Vietnam and the waters are less blue and more choppy during wet season, although Phu Quoc is highly visited year round.  Da Lat is quite different than other places in the South because the city is perched in the highlands.  It can be cold in the winter, around December and January (average 20C), and really wet and humid from June to October.

Travel Tips

Phu Quoc:  the island is still developing so many of the roads are not fully built.  If you want to make your way to the other beaches on the island during the wet season, be prepared for a very muddy trip!

Da Lat:  Da Lat is known for outdoor adventure sports like canyoneering and whitewater rafting but many outfitters will cancel excursions in the wet season if the water levels are too high or if the current is too strong.


We wish you dry weather and sunny skies during your time to Vietnam and remember to pack appropriately for your trip.  Have questions for us about our Vietnam tours?  Check out our FAQ page and see if other customers have had similar inquiries.