Top Tips for First-Time Tourists When Shopping in Hanoi
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Shopping in Hanoi is a completely different experience for international tourists, especially for the first-time visitors. It will not be a surprise if you can see a lot of people gathering to haggle for a replica pair of shoes or the police attempt to clear away street vendors on the walkway at rush hour. It is also very common when you come across the products sold on the street with no attached price tags or the change rooms are located right next to the street vendors and only covered with a piece of cloth. Therefore, the following list of tips has been compiled to help first-time travellers like you gain an interesting, unforgettable yet worry-free shopping experience in Hanoi despite such traffic complexity and “over-free” trading.

Get ready to haggle 

Prices of things are very cheap, but expect to pay whatever you can haggle for it. There are no fixed prices. Vietnamese people always try to inflate prices, especially at street markets. It’s how they have been doing business for centuries. This can be daunting at first, but you’ll eventually get used to it. The best thing you can do is to be informed and prepared to get a good price. You can come up with a maximum price you’re willing to pay and stick to it. It is also advisable to hide all items that make you look richer – watches, jewellery, big bank notes to make your offer more convincing. To explore more secrets to bargaining effectively, please refer to top bargaining tips when shopping in Hanoi. 

Exchange money at jewelry shops for a better rate and withdraw money from City bank to avoid multiple transaction fees. 

Most ATMs in the country accept Visa or Master Card. In all of the major airports, there are money exchanges booths; however you can find a better exchange rate in the jewellery and gold shops in Hanoi around the central part of city. Many of the local banks limit you from withdrawing more than $100USD at a time. Although, depending on your bank account, you can withdraw as much as $250USD from a HSBC ATM and $400USD from Citibank.

You don’t need to tip here

Vietnam does not have tipping culture and tips are not expected. In the markets, nothing has a fixed price and you can always bargain. 

Bring your fashion catalogue and make your clothes tailored here 

Vietnamese tailors enjoy worldwide acclamation thanks to the quality, affordability and speed at which they can produce almost any personalised item of clothing. They seem to be able to turn around a suit in less than 12hrs which usually makes customers question whether it is handmade. The quality varies so a good shortcut to find who is good is to ask what type of material and design match up – a good tailor will always know this answer. 

Be careful with discounts 

Vietnam does not have a sale culture like many other countries. What are on sale are usually products that can no longer be attractive enough or they might have many defects. Here and there in big cities you will catch sight of a local crowd surrounding a sign “Đại Hạ Giá” but don’t bother to join unless you want to sweat or to give your bag to some pickpockets. In shopping malls, there are price marked down but do not expect it to go below 30%. The good news is, most items are affordable even without sale. 

Learn how to communicate basic Vietnamese terms related to shopping 

It’s essential for tourists to know how to speak certain Vietnamese sentences related to shopping, for example “cái này giá bao nhiêu?” (How much is this?); or “ôi trời ơi” (oh my god), which implies the astonishment when the product you want to buy is too expensive. If you decide not to buy the products then you should still withdraw with a big friendly smile and polite attitude. 

Go shopping with a local friend that you know 

If you have a local friend that you have known before, you can ask her/him to go shopping with you as she/he has already known clearly about shopping routines in their home country as well as other tips and tricks so that they can help you haggle for better prices and avoid scams. 

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