What To Buy In Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam - Updated 2021

what to buy in ho chi minh

During any holiday, there always comes the time for souvenir shopping and exploring the local markets of the city you are touring. Vietnam happens to be a fantastic place not only for traditional souvenir hunting, but to discover new tastes and experiences while looking for what to buy. Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is the largest and most-visited city in Vietnam and provides an opportunity to find a host of things which you would love to take home. Let’s see what this bustling and modern city has to offer for tourists and shoppers who are looking to take a piece of Vietnam with them. So, if you are wondering what to buy in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, just take a look at our list below.

1. Vietnamese national costume

Known as Ao Dai, this national costume from Vietnam is unisex, but today it is commonly worn by women. If described simply, it is a silk gown worn over trousers. The costume’s history dates back to the year 1744 when Lord Nguyen Phuc Khoat decided that both men and women at his court should wear trousers and a gown with buttons down the front. Between 1910-1930 years the Ao Dai costume allowed the wearer to show off their jewelry and necklaces by opening a collar. The modern-day Ao Dai started in 1930 when artist Cat Tuong combined Western dress styles with the traditional Ao Dai but the style continues to change until this day. In 2016, the Ao Dai costume skyrocketed to new heights of popularity by the introduction of hundreds of new designs and using new materials to make it, such as silk, brocade, and voile. This national Vietnamese costume can be found in tourist-friendly markets and fashion shops while you can also order one from a local tailor. Wear it to weddings, celebrations and other occasions and take a piece of long Vietnamese history with you by wearing the Ao Dai costume.

2. Marou chocolate

Maison Marou Chocolate Bars with Halloween Design and Decorations
Source: Photo by Flickr user Marco Verch Profe... used under CC BY 2.0

The award-winning and unique single-origin Marou chocolate might be the finest chocolate you have ever tasted. With a unique story and idea that was born on a hike through the Vietnamese jungles, two Frenchmen Vincent and Samuel now produce top-quality bean to bar chocolates. To ensure the quality, the Marou chocolate is made out of beans that are tested and checked, bag by bag every single time. It is crafted by using purely Vietnamese ingredients like cacao and cane sugar via a French artisan method. It is a great gift for any chocolate lover!

3. Conical straw hat

One of the most recognizable and iconic items not only in Vietnam but all of Asia, the conical straw hat is a great souvenir or something you could wear and use during your trip. Made from bamboo wood and palm leaves, the conical straw hat or Non-La can be a very practical headwear. It can become a guardian from the scorching sun or heavy rain. You will find this item in souvenir shops and markets almost everywhere in Ho Chi Minh. This traditional symbol of Vietnam is one of the best souvenirs you can take back home.

4. Gourmet tea

Tea in Vietnam is one of those drinks that you must try. The world-class tea has also won the International Gourmet Tea Competition in Paris and not by accident. Vietnamese tea can be found in a variety of types such as lotus tea, jasmine tea, artichoke tea, Kuding tea, and bud tea. Tea drinking takes a special and essential role in Vietnamese culture and history. Vietnam is one of the oldest and largest tea producers in the world with the history stretching for over 2000 years. Vietnamese tea is not only a drink, but it’s also a form of art and if you are visiting Vietnam, it will make a wonderful gift for anyone, including yourself.

5. Traditional coffee

Vietnam might be known for its tea and tea-drinking rituals, but coffee has its righteous place in Vietnamese culture. Introduced by French colonists it quickly became a habit for the local people. Traditional Vietnamese coffee will invite you to step out of your comfort zone for a moment and forget those old cappuccino cups. In Vietnam, you will find much more than just coffee with milk. Yogurt coffee offers an odd yet interesting combination for those who dare to try! Just stir it up with strong black coffee and enjoy new tastes. Another interesting coffee you can find in Vietnam is Egg Coffee. Its where dark coffee meets egg yolk with condensed milk providing another interesting combination. This type of coffee dates back to 1940 when egg yolks provided a convenient replacement for hard-to-get milk. Coffee smoothies are also popular in the country. Try other unique blends of coffee with fruits and sometimes even cashews. In Ho Chi Minh, you will also be able to find ‘Sinh tố sapoche cà phê’ coffee, which is coffee blended with a tropical fruit called sapodilla. Add Vietnamese coffee to your buyer’s list and experience a taste that you will always remember.

6. Vietnamese ceramics and pottery

Vietnamese ceramics and pottery is a form of art that goes back thousands of years, even before the Chinese domination. Though the art form was still highly influenced by the Chinese, over the years Vietnamese have found their own distinct style. Vietnamese potters have combined indigenous and Chinese elements and they have not shied away from experimenting with elements from other cultures such as Indian, Cambodia, and Champa. Ceramics from Vietnamese became an important trading product during the pre-modern age. Ceramics are still popular to this day and produced extensively. You can found anything from lamps, jars, bowls to teapots and vases. Vietnamese ceramics will make a beautiful gift or souvenir for anyone.

7. Propaganda art

what to buy in ho chi minh | propaganda art
Source: zico_ghosh on Instagram

Propaganda posters were used by Ho Chi Minh officials and the Northern Vietnamese government back in the Vietnam War. The main function was to try rally troops and raise the spirit of the people. These colorful artworks could be found almost anywhere during the war. They were on the trees, walls and large vehicles. Today you can found a reproduction of propaganda art almost anywhere in Vietnam. Take a glimpse at the past with these visually eye-catching historical documents, equipped with powerful slogans and bright colors.

8. Bamboo dragonfly

Montmoreau 16 Libellule bambou 2012
Source: Photo by user JLPC used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Bamboo Dragonfly is a souvenir that can only be found in Vietnam. These beautiful and cute dragonflies will balance and stand on any surface, even your fingertips. A great souvenir to take back home and even a better gift to any child!

9. Brocade

Rich in motifs and texture and made from raw cotton, flax or hemp, Vietnamese brocade is an essence of Vietnamese handicraft. The patterns came from the traditional methods of three ethnic minorities: the Mong; the Ta Oi; and the Cham. Their weaving traditions are preserved and passed on through the skillful and hardworking hands of the women in the family. Vietnamese brocade is a meaningful, fashionable and beautiful handicraft with spiritual and heritage value. If you are looking for a stylish present or souvenir, you might want to strongly consider the Vietnamese brocade!

10. Paper hand fan

Bright Spot
Source: Photo by user Rod Waddington used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Another great and stylish item with a different purpose! Paper hand fans were one of the prized objects that represented royal life and could be found in the Vietnamese households among other most important items. Today it is still popular among the locals and still has a place in people’s lives and homes. The reason why these Vietnamese hand fans are not just hand fans is because they are a work of art with beautiful drawings and paintings on the surface. These paintings usually depict the country’s land, people and traditional Han Nom characters. The combination is meant to symbolize prosperity. The surface of the fan is made of Do paper which originates from bamboo and silk. The frame contains two main slats which are the most important parts and the material used is also bamboo. These fans are very durable. Paper fans in Vietnam represent history, culture, and tradition and they make a great useful everyday item or a souvenir.

A unique paradise for shoppers

From traditional teas and historical art forms to practical items, Ho Chi Minh City hosts plenty of variety for shoppers. Every item is there for a different purpose with its unique history, giving you a perfect chance to find something that your friends or family would be happy to receive!

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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