Hanoi can be your shopping heaven or hell depending on your haggling skills as well as patience. Finding the perfect gift for yourself and/or family and friends back home can be extremely time-consuming. Hanoi has so much to offer which makes it difficult to choose. We initially had a look on TA for the best shops but after visiting two (Metiseko, 71 Hang Gai and Maroon, 156 Hang Bong) and ending up a bit disappointed we decided to just follow our own instincts and roam around the Old Quarter. Both shops had really nice and unique items but were too pricey for our shopping budget.
Here’s a list of things we bought including prices. I am not sure whether they are good prices but in the end you just need to decide what you think the item is worth. For us the prices we paid seemed more than fair and we would have paid much, much more for them back here in the UK.
- 3 small propaganda posters for our new flat (170,000 dong for all three; you can get the original ones from the 50s/60s for a starting price of 80 dollars before haggling, we didn’t show too much interest in them but the nice lady from the shop went down to 50 dollars so I am sure you can get the original for even less than that)
- 2 handmade soft toys (120,000 dong for a monkey and a turtle; these are sold literally everywhere; we bought ours on Hang Gai)
- Vietnam football top (100,000 dong, bought this from an old lady on Hang Bong)
- 2 cashmere/silk pashminas (100,000 dong each)
- 3 t-shirts (80,000 dong each)
- 2 silk and cashmere scarves (185,000 dong and 250,000 dong; I had to pay a bit more for the second one because the design I wanted wasn’t available in all shops and in the end I only managed to get the seller down to 250,000 dong which isn’t too bad considering she wanted 45 dollars to start with)
- Kopi Luwak coffee (800,000 dong for 1kg, only got 250g though, I got it from a coffee shop on Hang Manh where you can taste the coffee before you buy it. They sell all sorts of coffee such as Arabica and Weasel, but the Kopi Luwak was my favourite. It’s really strong coffee but doesn’t leave the bitter after-taste that coffee usually does. Great gift for my mum!)
- 2x500g bags of coffee from Cong Caphe (150,000 dong each; fixed price and available from all Cong Caphe outlets across Hanoi)
Overall, I don’t think we did too badly. We discovered that there is no set key to haggling success but these few tips and hints might help you save a penny or two.
- shop around – don’t just go to the first best place as you won’t be able to get an idea of what the lowest possible price is.
- be friendly – yes, haggling is tough but we found that if you remain friendly and smile you’re more likely to get the discount you want
- decide how much you want to pay for something before you ask for the price – this is your personal price and should determine how much you’re willing to pay for something
- don’t get frustrated with sellers that don’t want to give you the price you feel is fair – try somewhere else and if you still don’t get a quote for your right price it might be a sign for an unrealistic expectation
- don’t rely on the night market for all your gift shopping – we went at around 7pm on a Friday night when it only just got busy, range of products was disappointing, it’s mainly clothes and shoes of rather poor quality, on a positive note though many stalls have fixed prices; beware of pickpockets (the market gets extremely busy so you won’t notice that someone is fiddling with your bag until it’s too late, only take what you really need with you and leave other valuables somewhere safe)
Our last dinner was a good bowl of Pho Bo at Pho 24 which is is a Pho chain throughout Vietnam. It only serves beef Pho but you can order different cuts of beef cooked depending on your preferences.