Viktorija Panovaite
Souvenirs from Vietnam

“Must” and “maybe” souvenirs from Vietnam

No matter you like to travel with small bag or big luggage, most probably you still buy some “touchable memories” (souvenirs) from visited places? Some of us have collection of fridge magnets, other brings whatever they like or something specific only from that country. Personally, I like to bring something small and practical, what can be used in daily life. For example carved tray for cup from specific village, candlestick from specific that place materials and etc. (depends what I’m missing at that moment at home).

Here are the lists of MUST and MAYBE (as well specific ones) souvenirs from Vietnam that you can consider to bring back home. It’s based on my personal suggestions from what I saw in the streets and what recommended my Vietnamese friends.

MUST souvenirs from Vietnam

SILK

Even if you can buy it in Thailand, Malaysia as well (like those countries “unique” souvenirs) but if you are in Vietnam you should think to buy a scarf, silk painting (is quite unique, an iconic art form in Vietnam) or even suit the clothes from silk (tailor can suite it during ~15 hours).
Silk in Vietnam is made on traditional hand looms. You can find beautiful patterns, different colors and sizes. Even if you can buy silk anywhere in Vietnam but one of the best places are Hoi An city, silk village Van Phuc (near Hanoi). The price will be better, more options and quicker service (sewing). Prices begin at about $ 3.00/per meter for 90 cm wide material.

Silk shop - souvenirs from Vietnam
The tailors place in Hoi An city

LACQUER WARE

Is special in its style of using resin from son tree. It’s said that high quality lacquer products go through 20 stages of development and can be used to craft dishes, bowls, vases, and more in beautiful colors and intricate designs. Very special  is lacquer paintings – sơn mài. Prices begin at $ 1.00 for a small dish, $ 3.00 for a large dish and etc.

VIETNAMESE EMBROIDERY

An art passed down from ages, embroiders in Vietnam make use of Chinese techniques mostly. Become a master in this art can take 8-10 years. If you are visiting Sa Pa – you can buy really exclusive embroidered clothes, scarfs, small bags and etc. from different villages. You can see how it’s made straight in your eyes in the evening market in the main square. A good pair of pillow cases or a set of bed linen, both on a white cotton base, should cost around $ 6.00.

Sa Pa market - souvenirs from Vietnam
Women from Sa Pa region preparing for night market, where they will sell their works

DO PAPER postcards, notebooks

“Do” paper is made from the bark of the Do tree, a wild plant commonly found around local riverbanks. It was popular for many years before the modern paper came. Now Do paper is only used to make Hanoi’s ethnic greetings cards, water color, folk paintings and bamboo-bound notebooks. Do paper cards with embroidered squares, hemp covered notebooks cost more or less $ 2.00, bamboo bound notebooks are from $ 1.50. Better to search in book stores.

Do paper - souvenirs from Vietnam
You can see those drawings in hotels as well, like it’s very famous painters works.

GUOC MOC (wooden clogs)

Are traditional footwear for males and females in Vietnam. Before females were wearing these with the traditional Ao Dai dress. Now it’s not so traditional wear, but you can still buy these in stores. I saw some such clogs in Bangkok as well but it looked like brought from Vietnam.

AO DAI dress

Recognized as a national wear for females in Vietnam. It’s a tight-fitted long dress worn over long pants. The Ao Dai costs about $32.00 for a plain finished product. If you want a more detailed or custom made Ao Dai, you can buy some fabric and have a tailor make it for about $70.00.

SNAKE WINE

There’s not too much “wine” – the snake is infused in grain alcohol – but you get exotic view. Bottle cost ~ $20.00.

BOOK “Que Huong my homeland Vietnam” by Nguyen Manh Dan

It’s a book of photographs of Vietnam by Vietnamese photographers and you will find there Vietnamese songs, poetry written in English, Vietnamese. Unfortunately how hard I was trying to find it in Hanoi book street (even with local person) – didn’t manage. If you will be lucky to find it, I think you will be very happy to have it.


MAYBE souvenirs from Vietnam

If you like to travel in Asia or plan new trip there, I suggest considering maybe not to buy in Vietnam souvenirs which I’m mentioning below. You can find them in other Asian countries as well (in some countries even cheaper).

CERAMIC

You can easily find ceramic vases, lacquer vases and more such variety in a plethora of sizes, shapes and colors. A good quality plate costs ~ $2.00. Can be an idea to buy small tea cup set. But ceramic you can bring from any other country as well: Indonesia (for example in Yogyakarta there is area Kasongan, where most crafts are from ceramic), Thailand and etc.

Ceramic souvenirs from Vietnam
Tea cup set

BAMBOO AND WOODEN PRODUCTS

You can buy beautifully carved bamboo hats or salad bowls, trays, baskets and more such items made out of bamboo and wood. Apart from being cheaper alternatives they are also eco-friendly. It’s cost from $13.00 to $45.00. But the same you can buy in any other Asian country where bamboo is growing, for example in Thailand it will be cheaper.

CONICAL HATS

Referred as leaf hat or non la, these are a symbol of Vietnam and can be seen on drums as old as 3000 years. The same can be used as an umbrella during rains and sun protector during summers. Such hats but with different names you can buy anywhere where are rice paddies: Indonesia, Thailand and etc.

Conical hat
Conical hat used in Vietnamese daily life

RICE

How not to buy a small package of rice from rice country? Brown, white, different shape, mixed and etc. The price will be ridiculous and straight from the rice paddies. But the same you can buy in any other “rice” country.

TEA

Good quality tea can be bought in specialist shops in the large cities. Kilo of top-quality tea can cost ~ $8.00, if lightly flavored ~$5.00, without flavoring ~$2.00. But in each other country you can buy tea as well: Japan, Indonesia, China and etc.

COFFEE

Even if Vietnamese coffee quite famous for its preparation and taste (strong, instead of sugar they put condensing milk) but you can enjoy it in the coffee shops in Vietnam. To buy it like souvenir you can but then need to buy special tools to prepare it in right way. Good quality “Trung Nguyen” coffee 1 kilo Robusta beans costs ~ $4.00, Arabica will be more expensive.
But as well in Indonesia you can buy coffee, even more popular one, the most expensive in the world “Kopi Luwak”.

HANDMADE WOVEN PRODUCTS

For example in Vietnam scarf cost ~$2.00. A garment, such as a woven, embroidered or appliqued jacket, can  cost from ~ $15.00. But handmade woven products you can buy in any other Asian country (for example Indonesia, Lombok island).

JEWELRY, PEARLS

Other popular souvenirs from Vietnam. Mostly jewelers are made of local gemstones. But the same things you can buy in Indonesia as well, where gemstones really popular and one of the places for pearls can be in Lombok island near port to Gili Meno, Air or Trawangan islands.

CLOTHES

If you want to buy Asian style pans or other clothes, before buying it check if it’s really made in Vietnam. I had experience when bought pans in Vietnam and in Indonesia met girl with the same pattern dress what she bought in Thailand. Conclusion that all things made in China. By the way in Thailand clothes are much cheaper than in Vietnam.

Clothes from Vietnam and Thailand
I bought pans in Vietnam, girl bought dress in Thailand. But both of them made in China.

Specific souvenirs from Vietnam for specific interests

  • WAR SOUVENIRS – you can buy coins, zippers and other old things that remains war time in Vietnam.
  • MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS – here you can buy bamboo flute and miniature bamboo xylophone.
  • INSTANT NOODLES – like I live in Indonesia where instant noodles is eaten everywhere. I wanted to bring my friends in Indonesia try Vietnamese instant noodles. It’s really different from Indonesian ones or those that you can buy in Europe.
  • FAKE THINGS – some people like to buy famous brands fake copies. Here you can find whatever you want.
  • CARVED WOODEN STAMPS – you can optionally require craftsmen to carve the characters that you liked or a meaningful icon. If you are not too picky, just select the template and change some details or even purchase the stamps which have been carved already here. It can be great souvenir for friends with their name letter. It’s not so practical but fun.
  • VIETNAMESE JACKET – nowhere else I saw such jacket – mostly it used driving on motorbike, but can be used in daily life as well. Can be quite unique gift (you can choose different colors, materials).

Of course you can buy as well other souvenirs from Vietnam: magnets, stamps, postcards, traditional music CD. But buy them not in touristic places, go to bookshops and smaller shops out of touristic areas.

Here some tips how to buy souvenirs from Vietnam and 10 best shopping places in Hanoi:

What to buy in Vietnam
Pin it for later!

 

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

  • Found some other souvenirs from Vietnam that is worth to buy? Share with us
  • What kind of souvenirs you like to bring from your travels?
  • Is Vietnam in your bucketlist? What you would like to see, do or try there?

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29 thoughts on ““Must” and “maybe” souvenirs from Vietnam”

  1. I don’t usually buy souvenirs, the most I get is a magnet for my mom if she requests one, but this is a good list for those that normally do buy souvenirs and need ideas for unique gifts. It’s funny that you said that both the dress and pants were made in China. How were you able to tell? I bought pants in Thailand but there is no tag. I assumed they were made in Thailand when I bought them.

  2. I’m not big on buying souvenirs but I would probably have to imbibe in buying some of the clothing there. Just love exploring the markets. Great list to think about wherever you visit.

  3. Great post and a great list! I will definitely be buying silk and I want to get some dresses made for me – when would I ever get a chance like that again!

    I also collect fridge magnets – small cheap and just this side of tacky!

  4. I was in Vietnam for a month last year, and sadly didn’t buy anything (I don’t really buy souvenirs…. I guess my photos serve as my souvenirs!). But next time I go back, I definitely want to get some clothes tailor made! I know Vietnam is super famous for that, and I’ve seen some of the clothes that my friends got tailor made, and they look great!

  5. Thank you for sharing this with us, I will go to Thailand and Cambodia in a few days and this list can come handy when it comes to gifts. I used to buy fridge magnets from every place I visited but now I am just buying postcards for my family and friends and maybe some traditional food. You can actually drink the “snake wine”? If someone would give me this a gift, I will faint 😂.

  6. Great ideas! We’ve just returned from a big trip around Vietnam and saw most of the things you suggested. For us though we only collect fridge magnets, yes they are tacky and that’s why I love them! However in Vietnam this time we did buy lots of things, with Christmas around the corner, we thought they would make perfect gifts and Hoi An didn’t disappoint.

    1. My mom likes to collect fridge magnets, so I try all the time bring her one from my trips :) I did it too before but I don’t know why lost interest in it – maybe because moved to other country and didn’t have space to bring all my collection there :D

  7. This is a well thought out post with great advice and will be useful when we visit Vietnam next year! It’s interesting you say silk is cheaper here, I will bear that in mind and I love all the colours to choose from – it really would be special to have something hand made in Hoi An (thanks for the advice about clothes being cheaper in Thailand and probably all made in China!). #feetdotravel

    1. Thank you for kind words :) In any case – whatever you will buy in Asian countries – you need to bargain a lot! I hope you will bring from your trip in Vietnam not only photos but some lovely souvenirs too! :)

  8. I love the topic – souvenirs! I try to take my sons something from every country I visit. As well as something different i.e. a carving, pottery etc I get them the same thing from each county i.e. for the eldest I try to get a shot-glass with the name of the country on it. For the middle son it is playing cards and the youngest a stubby holder (not sure what you call them in other countries). Sometimes these types of souvenirs are not available. In Laos I couldn’t find any of them – we didn’t visit Vientiane (maybe we would have found them there).

  9. I love your list! It is always a bit of a headache to decide which souvenir to bring, and frankly I usually opt for food items, as they usually make everyone happy and come to use ))))))

    1. Thank you, Alina :) I agree that some drinks, snacks, food from visiting country is always good idea – especially if you are doing meetings with friends and want to tell all your traveling stories, show the pictures :)

  10. I want the traditional dress but; ha, more for weddings and special occasions. Good call, and ill advising the rice.. Honestly, rice is rice.. to me it taste the same everywhere it’s just cooked diff. My fave type of rice is thai/laos style..steamed sticky (but grainy)

    1. Not exactly the rice the same everywhere :) Unfortunately I don’t have photo, but when you come to Indonesian special rice shop – there are so many different kind of rice that I even don’t know which one to choose :D

What's in your mind? :)