How to haggle when you are no good at haggiling
Shopping in Vietnam is great as there are so many bargains to be had. Usually you have to haggle, and how you do this is up to you. I am pretty useless at it, but I am very good at walking away, and this is the best way I have of getting the price down.
However you do it, always smile. It is quite OK to haggle, and then to decide not to buy as long as you smile. Frowning or displays of anger will not get you a better price, or better service, and will be looked upon as bad manners.
Getting clothes made in Vietnam
If you want to buy clothes you can have them off the peg or made to measure. When having things made do be careful about what the tailors call 100% cotton and 100% silk. Have a good feel of the cloth first. If something is called "Vietnamese cotton" or "Vietnamese silk" it is often a mix of cotton and polyester or silk and man-made.
THE place to have your entire wardrobe hand tailored is Hoi An. Hoi An has a very good cloth market on Tran Phu near to the intersection with Hoang Dieu. You can find the best selection of materials there, and there are plenty of tailors too. However you really do have to be specific about what you want. If you are unsure, and don't mind paying a little more - though it will still be much cheaper than at home - then try one of the more upmarket tailors such as Thu Thuy at 60 Le Loi.
Cheaper tailors will line your pockets with whatever left over cloth they have, they will use cheap buttons unless you choose yours. If you are hiveing something made in silk specify you want the thread to be silk as well. These tailors are cheap, and will "cut corner" as we might think, but to them they are just doing what you asked, so make sure you do specify exactly what you want. Having said that they are still great value for money, and I've sudes about 5 and have found them very honest.
If you want a shirt made up the same as your favourite shirt, jeans, etc. leave you shirt with them to copy exactly - after you have chosen the cloth, buttons etc. they'll do this and even deliver it to your hotel.
Department store in Ho Chi Minh
In Ho Chi Minh, on the corner of Le Loi and Nguyen Hue is a department store. This is my favourite large shop. You cannot haggle at all, it is big and clean, and all the assistants do their best to help you. On the ground floor there are perfumes, jewelry and stuff, but it is upstairs that is better.
Here you can find the ready made clothes. Some are imported, and have prices to match, but most are made locally and are so cheap it is hard to believe. So look around, but don't buy yet.
Next you will come to what looks like the supermarket bit that sells food. To get in you must deposit your bags. Do remember to take your your money first though. Inside you can find local and foreign food, but also even more clothes, and even cheaper than in the department store proper. You can try them on, and an assistant will even wait outside the changing room to get you bigger/smaller sizes.
This is also a good place to compare coffee makers, but get your coffee in Ben Than market as there is a much better selection.
Then upstairs is the souvenir section. You can find almost anything that you can buy from the street or market stalls at the real price. Some say it takes the fun out of things not to haggle, but if you have to buy a lot of small souvenirs then this is certainly the easiest way to do it.
The restaurants in this place a bit disappointing though. So if you want to eat and don't mind paying foreign prices nip across the road to the Rex and go up on their roof terrace.
If you want slightly more expensive souvenirs then I can recommend Ngyen Freres in Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. In HCMC they are located at 3 Phan Chu Trinh, just opposite the Grand Hotel. You can browse to your heart's content. The prices are fixed though I got a free gift and a very welcome cup of tea when I was there.
Also, even though I didn't ask they wrapped my goods so beautifully in very nice paper that they were perfect to give as a present without further wrapping. Do tell them to take off the prices first though if you do this. They accept the major credit cards too.
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