Vietnam is an incredible country for shopping. You can shop at an expensive designer outlet in the morning and browse an authentic market in the afternoon to find brand-name clothes or unique pieces of souvenirs. There is nothing you can’t find here! However, Vietnam is also famous for its high prices targeted at tourists. Though you can shop at malls, which have already built their fixed prices, your traveling experience will only be complete if you try the art of bargaining.
One first haggling tip is to be mindful of where you are shopping, and that bargaining is usually only done in markets and with street vendors. Below are some more tips and tricks to make sure that you leave Vietnam with some amazing gifts that you got for a fair price!
Start bargaining by halving the given price
Vendors in the markets and along the streets are always going to give you an inflated initial price. A lot of tourists come with cash to burn and vendors will take advantage of that. This is why bargaining when shopping is so common place in Vietnam.
A good place to start is by halving any price you are given immediately. From this price, you can begin to haggle and see if you are able to reach an agreed upon price. Remember to be confident! The last thing you want is to reach your holiday budget just by spending on the eye-catching souvenirs and eating all the street food you can get your hands on!
Try to appear more expat than tourist when shopping in Vietnam
Vietnam has quite a large community of expatriates living in the larger cities and one thing I have noticed is the vast difference in pricing once vendors realize that you might be local and have more of an idea of what things are supposed to cost.
Tourists in Vietnam tend to stand out like a sore thumb. T-shirts emblazoned with the names of popular Vietnamese cities, bulky backpacks worn on your front and the iconic cotton elephant pants make you a prime target for high prices! There are a few ways to make yourself look more expat than tourist when shopping in Vietnam.
Do you have or are you renting a bike helmet? Carry it into the market with you! Most expats living in Vietnam get around the same way the locals do and will have helmets with them.
Another way to seem less like a tourist is to learn a few Vietnamese phrases before heading out shopping. Always greet the vendors in Vietnamese and use the correct term when speaking to a woman, man or someone younger than you and they would never know you’re a tourist! We have included some useful phrases at the end of this article for you.
Especially when purchasing clothes always ask to try it on first. With bags or other goods check thoroughly for any rips or damage before purchasing.
Don’t be scared to walk away if the price isn’t right!
One thing you will notice is that many shops and market vendors are selling very similar (sometimes identical) items. If you feel like you cannot come to a price you are comfortable paying, move on.
It is wise to walk around a bit before starting to shop, don’t just get the first thing you see. This way you can compare prices and you will be able to make the best spending decision. You may even prefer the next store.
Often times when you walk away, the vendor you were unsuccessfully negotiating with will call after you and be willing to reconsider, but if not, keep walking!
Be mindful of a fair deal when shopping in Vietnam
It is exciting to visit a country where you can get designer clothes, hand-made souvenirs and even electronics for so much cheaper than you are able to in your home country. You can pick up delicious coffee, hand woven cashmere scarves and name brand bags and jackets for next to nothing. Shopping in Vietnam is an adventure in itself and can be a highlight of your trip, with bargaining being a part of the experience.
Remember that the people you are buying from (especially street and market vendors) make their living from selling their goods. These vendors are more often than not friendly and give you a chance to interact with Vietnamese locals, so if a price seems fair you don’t always have to try to get it as low as possible.
Some useful Vietnamese phrases when shopping
- Hello – “Xin chào” (sin chow)
- How much is this? – “Bao nhiêu” (bao new)
- Oh my god – “Trời ơi” (troy oy)
- That’s too expensive – “Mắc quá” (mak kwa)
- Can i try this on? – “Tôi muốn thử nó” (toi moon too no)
- Excuse me – “Anh ơi” (an noi) when you’re addressing a man, “Chị ơi” (chi oi) when you’re talking to a woman, and “Em ơi” (em oi) when you’re talking to someone younger than you, regardless of gender.
- Thank you – “Cảm ơn” (come an)
Shopping in Vietnam and bargaining with locals is an experience in itself. The more you do it, the easier it will become. Remember to be friendly but confident when bargaining. We hope this article helps you when putting your skills of negotiation to the test! Not sure where to apply your newly-learnt skill of bargaining? Have a glance through this complete guide to shopping in Ho Chi Minh City.
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My name is Kim Thoa, you can call me “Kim”. I am 23 and I have graduated from Sai Gon University. My major is English for Tourism and Business. My…Learn more