For those visiting Vietnam, priorities can be different according to your personal tastes. Some go for the food, others for the culture and others again for the lush green countryside. If shopping is your favourite activity, then there is one city in particular that you’ll want to visit.
Whilst the capital, Ho Chi Minh City has its very own charms, the shopping scene in Hanoi is a little less touristy and the purchases you’ll make there will be more authentic, locally made and less inclined to be mass produced. While there are other things to do in Hanoi – like eat, sightsee and wander around bustling markets – shopping really seems to be the star attraction here!
Shopping for Silk
So you want to buy some gorgeous silk? Hanoi has an entire street devoted to the lush fabric and silk clothing so you will be spoilt for choice! It’s called Hang Gai Street (Silk Street) in the Hoan Kiem District, a wonderful 300 metre stretch where you can have a suit or dress made to order for you by the tailors and dressmakers, or simply pick up some of the gloriously coloured material to whip up your own designs back home.
As with most other shopping experiences in Hanoi, haggling is encouraged and it is recommended that you start by suggesting fifty per cent off the asking price and you can expect to land at a price that’s more like thirty per cent off the original price.
You can go to a shopping mall anywhere in the world, but in Hanoi they offer wonderful respite from the heat and humidity and can be quite enticing in terms of the array of international brands on offer.
- Parkson Hanoi – In the Dong Da district, Parkson is a multiple outlet mall where you can buy men’s and women’s fashion, fragrances, electronics and cosmetics. You’ll find Calvin Klein, Lacoste, Clarins and other international brands all peddling their wares.
- Savico Megamall – One of the country’s largest malls, Savico is a multi-storey complex in the Long Bien district. It features a Megafood Centre, ice skating rink, bank and all the shops you could want.
- Trang Tien Plaza – A rich shopping experience for the wealthy, the plaza is a five-minute walk from the French Quarter. Five levels of luxury fashion labels including Dior, Zegna, Louis Vuitton and Cartier beckon the big spenders.
- Hang Da Galleria Shopping Mall – a.k.a. Hanoi Square, this is where you’ll find your lower priced fashion including bags, shoes and accessories. You can even haggle for bargains, purchase local artworks and discover a treasure in the second hand clothing market where everything is spectacular condition.
- Vincom Mega Mall Royal City – Head underground to a massive 800-outlet, 3-storey mall where you can eat at one of 200 restaurants and eateries or visit the indoor water park. Oddly, the shopping isn’t its most famous feature and the clothing tends to be suited to the smaller-built Vietnamese shopper.
10 Tips for Shopping in Hanoi
- Pack a suitcase of things you’ll need for your trip into a larger suitcase. Use the empty, larger one for all the purchases you’ll want to bring home.
- Don’t buy anything that may be a ‘red flag’ for Customs. . If you have any doubt that it’ll be allowed into Australia – or anywhere else you travel before you come home – don’t waste your money on it.
- If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is. Luxury designer goods should only ever be purchased from the brands’ stores or from reputable retailers. This goes for fragrances, clothing, accessories and anything else of a famous brand name.
- Don’t be duped by Hanoi antique dealers into thinking you’ll be able to take your purchases out of Vietnam. You’ll be heartbroken when Customs tells you you’ve wasted your money, thanks to strict regulations on the export of antiques.
- In many Asian countries, the size of the clothing available is more suited to the local population. If you are considered ‘plus size’, then don’t expect to find too many clothing items to fit. Vietnamese men and women are tiny by comparison and even the shoe sizes are difficult to come by beyond a fairly standard size range.
- Speaking of shoes, be wary of the very enthusiastic individuals who will want to attend to your shoe shine and repairs for a fee. The price is generally low however you must agree on how much it will cost before you allow them to begin.
- Carry bottled water at all times. Shopping is a thirsty business, particularly in Hanoi’s warm and humid subtropical climate. You can purchase bottled water at the supermarket very cheaply and pack a couple to take with you when you leave your hotel each day. Remember, it doesn’t matter if it’s cold or ambient; you just need to stay hydrated. Never drink the tap water!
- Beware of locals trying to insist that something is “cheap”, “free”, “the best in Hanoi” and so on. Unless you are very familiar with the culture and know your way around, it’s best to stick with known tourist paths and attractions. Muggings are not uncommon. Be on your guard at all times.
- Corrupt taxi services are rife in Hanoi where the meters can be tampered with so they charge passengers more than they should. Ask your hotel concierge to call your taxi for you as they will usually be familiar with the reliable companies.
- Bargain, haggle and negotiate. When purchasing goods at markets or road stalls, always engage in a bit of price haggling as it is expected.
Potential Traveller Issues in Hanoi
Pickpocketing and muggings abound in Hanoi, as in many other major tourist centres of the world. Additionally, visitors to Hanoi may be targeted by scams involving fake bank notes. You will find English-speakers in the city however most people there do not. With all this in mind, it’s important to protect yourself so that you won’t need to seek assistance. Travel insurance* is all the more important in an unfamiliar place where the language is not your own. Having access to a 24/7 English language helpline will give you an incredible sense of relief.
One final pointer; while you’re in Hanoi, be sure to sample the local cuisine, but also make sure you only eat from establishments that look clean and hygienic. Street food can be challenging to unaccustomed stomachs!