Vietnam shopping can be an exciting adventure, and there are wonderful souvenirs to be had everywhere in the country. You can find a market in Vietnam that specializes in just about every commodity the country produces. The markets are colorful and bustling places where bargains can be had and much can be learned about the culture you have come to experience. Many vacation packages include a Vietnam shopping excursion, usually in one of the larger cities. Some organized tours have built in free time for shopping after visiting certain sights and attractions. Shopping in Vietnam is, in fact, one of the top things to do while visiting. And don’t forget to try your skill at bargaining, which is traditional and expected. A general rule of thumb is to start at half the asking price and work your way up to what you’re willing to pay.
It is advised that you only visit clothing shops in Vietnam to purchase locally made authentic articles, not designer type items you can buy anywhere. A perfect souvenir is an ao dai, the graceful silk tunic worn over pants that is the national dress for Vietnamese women. You can have these made especially for you in the finer tailoring establishments in cities, and Hoi An has the best reputation for tailors. However, it is widely believed that Hue has the most beautiful silk. Other clothing items include beaded and embroidered slippers and silk purses, and bags woven from bamboo. The traditional conical hat can purchased just about everywhere, but those made in Hue will have an embroidered poem on the inside.
You can also go shopping in Vietnam for art and antiques. If it is an antique market in Vietnam that you are browsing, ensure that true antiques come with the proper certification. It is illegal to export most genuine antiques, and you cannot bring certain ones back into the United States or most countries in Europe without certain certification. Check with your home country Customs Department before you travel. Also, you can pay quite a high price for what is actually a fake if the source is not reliable. You guide on vacation packages and the concierge and front desks of hotels are often sources of advice. War souvenirs are also popular, but they also are quite apt to be fakes. The only thing authentic about most of them (Zippo lighters with military inscriptions, for instance) is that they were produced in Vietnam. There is great Vietnam shopping for gemstones. The country is a rich source of amethyst, jade, rubies, sapphires, and topaz, and other stones. This is another area in which you should be careful if you have found shops in Vietnam with expensive jewelry. You should check prices for the kinds of pieces you might desire before you leave home to ensure you do not pay more than the item is worth.
Other popular handcrafts you can find while shopping in Vietnam include exquisite lacquerware, both watercolor and oil paintings, tooled leather items, bamboo blinds and screens, and reed mats and carpets. The best places for a traditional market in Vietnam are the two largest cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Some smaller villages are known for producing a certain kind of souvenir. Da Lat, for instance is particularly known for delicate handmade boxes, frames, and other items from pine wood. Lacquerware and items handmade from seashells are popular souvenirs from Vung Tau, at the far southern tip of the country in the Mekong Delta.