Vietnam is full of wonderful gifts for you to buy and take home with you. From stunning items of clothing to delicious pastes and marinades, there’s an abundance of items that showcase the country’s unique culture.
Coming in a range of shapes and sizes, before undergoing a day of shopping, make sure your bartering skills are on-hand, as you’ll need them to respectfully haggle vendors.
Handicrafts, Clothes, and Jewelry
Vietnam is a haven for unique, handmade gifts. The country’s rich cultural history and integration of numerous native communities have resulted in an eclectic, rich, and diverse melting pot. Vietnam’s agricultural roots and humble, hard-working origins have certainly not disappeared during the country’s increasing globalization and rise to world prominence.
Such roots are reflected in the traditional handicraft villages and markets. You’ll find these all over the country from the small, rural communities of the Red River Delta to the bright lights of Ho Chi Minh City and the old quarter of the sprawling Hanoi.
The main categories of handicrafts are:
- Handbags, wallets, clothes, and hats
- Arts, crafts, and toys
- Ceramic goods
- Rugs, carpets, and tapestries
If you’re eager to learn more about traditional Vietnamese handicrafts, here are a few examples to look out for.
Ethnic Textiles and Clothing
Vietnam is rich in diversity and is home to dozens of ethnic minorities – each with its own culture and style of art. For example, those belonging to the Red Dao community are known for their complex, geometric embroidery whilst the H’Mong people are known for their use of bright colors.
You can find textiles at most markets, though you will have to be in the smaller, more rustic communities to find indigenous textiles. Places like the Bac Ha Market in Sapa will possess items created by the H’Mong people and the Giay people. As a cultural melting pot, Vietnam is abundant in unique arts, making them wonderful souvenirs for you to take back home with you.
If you’re shopping for a fashion enthusiast, then head down to one of Vietnam’s many tailors and get some stunning clothes made. Without a doubt, the epicenter of Vietnamese tailoring is in Hoi An. Here, you can visit a wide range of quality tailors and have suave, sophisticated outfits made for a reasonable price.
You get what you pay for in the tailoring world, so you’ll have to shell out a bit of money if you want serious quality. A well-made suit, for example, can cost you over $100 USD, but that’s still a lot cheaper than using the service at home. You can find good tailors in other cities like Hanoi and HCMC, too.
A delicate choice for a souvenir, ceramic pottery would make a wonderful gift for a loved one. You can purchase ceramic vases, bowls, mugs, and plates at markets in Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Hanoi, and every other large city or town, and most of it is very affordable.
Take extra caution bringing these items back home, though, as they can easily break or chip during transport. It’s recommended that you wrap your ceramic gifts inside layers of clothing or newspaper.
Carvings are portable, durable, and created with huge amounts of detail and craftsmanship. You can find wooden carvings at most Vietnamese markets, often for a very reasonable price. Markets like HCMC’s Ben Thanh Market are a great place to buy authentic Vietnamese carvings. They can display dragons, flowers, and other pieces of local folklore and legend.
Guoc Mocs (Vietnamese Wooden Sandals)
The humid, tropical climate of Vietnam requires proper footwear. Guoc Mocs, fashioned from natural materials such as bamboo or wood, are ideal for long days in rice fields. Guoc Mocs are still worn today, but typically by the older generation. Technology has evolved and the wooden design of traditional guoc mocs are starting to be replaced with more versatile materials such as leather.
You can find guoc mocs at traditional Vietnamese markets and they usually sell for around 40,000 VND.
Ao Dai (Traditional Vietnamese Dress)
One of the finest Vietnamese souvenirs you can purchase, the ao dai is the national dress of Vietnam. Allegedly inspired by the Qing Dynasty of China (which spanned from 1644 to 1912), the ao dai has become a hallmark of Vietnamese beauty and femininity. This, however, does not mean the ao dai is not worn by men.
Older generations can be seen wearing the garment for special occasions and the dress continues to play a large role in Vietnamese culture. You can find ao dai in markets all over Vietnam. The iconic status of the dress means it is easy to find and it usually costs between 700,000 to 1.4 million VND.
You can find printed t-shirts in Vietnam just as easily as you can in the West. These shirts can feature band logos, slogans, famous people, or humorous sayings and phrases. Almost every Vietnamese clothes market will sell cheap printed t-shirts and, since they are marketed at tourists, can be found in a range of sizes from XS to XXL.
Often, these t-shirts are dirt cheap and can cost as low as $5 USD. A printed t-shirt is a failsafe souvenir. You can pick one up almost everywhere.
Nón Lá (Vietnamese Conical Hat)
The iconic conical hat is one of Asia’s most notable items of clothing. Named non la in Vietnamese, these hats are designed to protect the wearer from elements like the sun and rain. They can also be used as a basket to carry goods over a long distance or up a steep hill. The hat can be made from palm leaves, straw, and even bamboo and has a history dating back almost 3,000 years.
You can find non la for sale all over the country. They make a perfect gift for a loved one back home as they encapsulate the hard-working spirit of Vietnamese locals.
The stunning colors of Vietnamese lanterns can be seen illuminating many of the country’s cities after dark. An enduring symbol of good fortune and happiness, lanterns play a large role in Vietnamese culture as evidenced by the famous Hoi An Lantern Festival. Each one is painted and decorated with a unique pattern or design to help it stand out.
You can pick up a lantern at any good Vietnamese market. They’re foldable, making them travel-friendly, and typically cost around 40,000 VND.
Silk paintings can be found all over Vietnam and is a staple of the nation’s arts scene. They usually feature the rural countryside and natural landscape, meaning that the paintings often feature bright, bold colors. Silk paintings are a great souvenir choice and they can be found at most art markets in Vietnam for a reasonable price.
Perhaps the most travel-friendly souvenir out there, Vietnamese jewelry is a perfect choice for an opulent souvenir. You can find stunning bracelets, necklaces, and rings all over the country and most are very affordable. Finding a good jewelry market or shop shouldn’t be difficult as they are widespread up and down Vietnam.
Expect to pay around 300,000 VND for a piece of jewelry, although you can always try and barter the price down.
Vietnamese Musical Instruments
If you plan on buying a gift for a music lover, an authentic Vietnamese instrument may be the gift for you. Music has an important role in the overall culture of the country and instruments like the bamboo flute are among the most purchased. You can find musical instruments on sale in large cities like Hanoi and HCMC.
3D Pop-up Cards
A highly unique gift idea is a 3D pop-up card. You can find them at most arts and crafts stores, and the stunning pictures revealed inside will keep the recipient entertained for a while. There also sold by vendors on the streets in big cities like Saigon. The prices are very reasonable and usually offer discounts for buying multiple cards.
Dried Food and Drink
Vietnamese cuisine is diverse and varied. Whilst its popularity has grown around the world due to its healthy nature and delicious flavors, native cuisine is best enjoyed in authentic towns and cities.
Coffee and Phin Filters
Coffee was introduced to Vietnam by French colonists in the 19th century and has gone on to become a vital part of the country’s economy. In fact, Vietnam ranks second in global coffee production, trailing only Brazil. A traditional Vietnamese coffee features the stronger Robusta bean – giving it a unique bitter taste as well as an increased caffeine count.
You can find great coffee outlets all over the country. If you fancy bringing some authentic local coffee back home with you, consider buying a jar of Robusta beans at a market or store. You can even buy an authentic Vietnamese phin filter to prepare coffee the authentic way.
The bold, rich flavor of authentic fish sauce (nuoc nam) adds depth to a variety of dishes and makes for a perfect travel-friendly souvenir. Be sure to protect the bottle in your suitcase, as a smashed bottle of fish sauce will cause an unpleasant smell that’s difficult to get rid of.
You can find fish sauce at most Vietnamese food outlets and a bottle is extremely affordable. You may even consider buying several bottles so you can gift them to various people who are eager to explore Vietnamese cuisine.
Shrimp paste (man tom) is a pungent and powerful paste used in numerous Vietnamese dishes. Its strong flavor means that only a conservative amount is required in cooking, but used properly, it can add wonderful flavor to food. The paste is made from fermented shrimp and salt.
It’s available at most Vietnamese markets and, like fish sauce, should be well-protected in your suitcase to avoid it leaking and causing unpleasant smells.
Chocolate may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Vietnamese cuisine, but the Marou brand has garnered classic status in Vietnam. Founded over a decade ago, Marou Chocolate is known for its higher than usual cocoa content and rich, bold taste. You can find Marou chocolate in Hanoi by visiting a confectionary shop or by visiting a food market.
Keo dua, Vietnamese coconut candy, is a popular treat for those possessing a sweet tooth. It was first introduced to Vietnam in the 1930s and has since become a staple of the country’s confectionary. Just three ingredients make keo dua – coconut, sugar, and malt. Traditionally made by hand by boiling coconut milk with two other ingredients, the advent of machinery has made it easier.
The remaining steps of the process are closely guarded, only shared with the factory owner and their families. You can find keo dua in the Ben Tre Province as this is where it originates, however, the sweet’s popularity has led it to become easily available throughout the country. Keo dua can come in a variety of flavors from its simple, classic flavor to fruit and cocoa flavor.
One of Vietnam’s most famous spirits, snake wine is made by putting an entire snake in a bottle with some grain-based wine. It’s thought to have medicinal qualities and can be made with other creatures like scorpions. The drink may seem unusual by Western standards, but snake wine has long been a Vietnamese tradition. You can try a glass or pick up a bottle at a street market or liquor store.
Made from fermented rice, Vodka Hanoi is one of the country’s most famous alcohol brands. It’s a lot different from European or American vodka and the brand can be found at virtually every bar or alcohol market.
As the economy of Vietnam continues to grow and diversify, the array of wonderful souvenirs available for purchase will continue to develop.