Shopping In VN: DOs and DON’Ts

Markets & Minimarts
DON’T miss the markets: among the most atmospheric in Southeast Asia and still the
hub of commercial activity everywhere in Vietnam. Notable markets in clued floating
ones in the Mekong Delta, Cho Lon market in the district of Hochiminh City that bears
the same name, the large fruit and flower market in Da Lat, any of the major markets in
Hanoi, the colorful Sa Pa market and other ethnic minority markets in the mountainous
north of the country.


DO go early when shopping at local markets. Goods are brought fresh everyday from the
countryside and without refrigeration they will suffer from the heat as the day drags on.
Shopping in Hochiminh City is now little different from shopping in Bangkok or any
other Asian metropolis. Commercial complexes and supermarkets are also sprouting up
in Hanoi and other sizeable towns.
DO check the expiry dates carefully on any imported produce you buy: many of the more
obscure items in these shops have been quietly gathering dust (not to say rotting away)
for years. In Hanoi, you may notice a baffling remnant of the city’s old ways. Tradesmen
as part of Chinese-style commercial guilds were traditionally grouped together
geographically (as many have remained in the Old Quarter), but a more modern breed of
shopkeepers, such as those selling televisions or making photocopies, often elect to bunch
together in a similar way. The practical upshot of this is simply impossible for the
moment to obtain, say, a tennis racquet. Then, one day, you will turn a corner into an
unexplored street and be confronted by an entire row of shops selling nothing but tennis

Bargain, bargain, and bargain
The idea of a fixed pricing system is still quite novel in most commercial contexts, which
means that a little good natured haggling is an important habit to develop. Anywhere
outside of supermarkets, restaurants and anything controlled by the state, bargaining is
possible and usually essential.
DO be warned that, as you are always easily spotted from a distance as a foreigner, you
will be asked to pay more than locals. Sometimes just a little more, but often
outrageously more, even if this is not always immediately obvious to you, especially
when relatively small sums are involved. It might seem like a snip, but you may be
paying ten times the going rate.
If you feel mean haggling over such small sums or are tempted just to pay up for a quiet
life, DON’T forget to think of other people who will pass this way after you. You should
not be too afraid of offending local sensibilities: if you pay vastly over-inflated prices
without a murmur, you’ll simply be seen as the sucker you’re letting yourself be taken
DO negotiate firmly if you want to rent a place: as a foreigner, you are a good prospect,
since you will almost certainly pay more than a local, you won’t start worshipping your
ancestors in the house and refuse to ever move out – and you may even attract other
monied foreigners to the neighbourhood. However, you should also be aware that there is
no legal protection for people renting accommodation: if you have a problem, you must
solve it with your landlord – again, through negotiation. The pleasant result is that
Vietnam has actually been getting cheaper over the last few years.

Fake goods
Much of Southeast Asia is notorious as an earthly paradise for counterfeiters and
Vietnam is no exception.
DO consider your motives carefully if you purchase counterfeit goods: if you buy a Rolex
wristwatch for $20, you know that there is no chance of it being anything like a real one,
except for its superficial appearance. If this is all you want, that’s fine, but DON’T
complain if you get searched at customs o your return home, have your fake Rolex
confiscated and are made to pay a fine equivalent to the cost of a genuine one. Copies of
expensive makes (especially good ones) pose a real threat to business and these luxury
goods companies are determined to defend their interests – and have the means to do so.
Very good copies can be found in Vietnam, particularly items such as clothes, sports
equipment and luggage. The Vietnamese are redoubtable and wily business operators,
and both foreign and domestic companies often find it impossible to prevent know-how
from leaking out. Even products made from materials imported exclusively find their way
onto the local market at budget prices.
However, DO let the buyer beware that it’s possible to find excellent deals, but only if
you really know what you are doing.
DO check the quality of what you’re buying, especially if there are safety concerns
DON’T expect to get your money back if you change your mind after making a purchase,
Impress Travel Company Limited or even if you realize belatedly that the goods you have been sold are not as advertised…
Check everything checkable yourself before you hand over your money. If it runs on
electricity, get the assistant to plug it in and test it.
What not to buy in Vietnam?
There are some products which you may find for sale here which you should avoid.
These may be illegal in Vietnam or your home country, or simply may encourage
destruction of the environment and harm to the local people. These include:
Coral and coral products. Buying these products encourages destruction to Vietnam's
irreplaceable coral reefs.
Sea Turtle products. You may find preserved sea turtles in shops - particularly sold in
the open in Hanoi. This should be obvious--but sea turtles are endangered and all
products made from them are illegal.
Rice wine containing whole animals or animal products. Wildlife populations have
been decimated in Vietnam. Many of the animals and animal parts used as ingredients in
rice wine are globally threatened and endangered - including the snakes.
Ivory, bone and tooth products. This animal product will be illegal in most home
countries, regardless of which animal it came from. The only allowable products may be
those made from farm animals--but this may be very difficult to distinguish.
Alligator and crocodile leather. This is illegal to transport between many countries.
Drugs - including marijuana are illegal and the sale or use of them can carry SEVERE
Prostitution is illegal and destroys not only yourself, the person you engage with, and
your family. Aids and other serious STD's are VERY COMMON in Vietnam--even the

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