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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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:
Vietnam is one of Southeast Asia countries which I really want to visit again. I was there only for 2 weeks but I easily felt in love with Vietnam. I believe you will be in love with this country as well.
But before starting to enjoy time in Vietnam, you first of all need to take care of your Vietnam visa. This is what you need to know:
Who need Vietnam visa?
Many countries travelers need a visa for Vietnam. Only under bilateral or unilateral visa exemption agreements granted by the Vietnam government don’t need it.
Under bilateral visa exemption agreement citizens of:
Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia – has free 30 days visa exemption;
Philippines – has free 21 days visa exemption;
Brunei and Myanmar – has free 14 days visa exemption.
Under unilateral visa exemption agreement citizens of:
Japan, South Korea, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Russia, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Belarus – has free 15 days visa exemption.
The difference between bilateral visa exemption agreement and the unilateral one is that those under the former one can always visit Vietnam with visa exemption provided that their stay in the country is no longer than their exempted duration.
Citizens from the countries not mentioned in the list above, can visit Vietnam with visa exemption if their arrival date does not fall within 30 days from exit date of their last visit to the country.
If you are not from the country listed above. What should you do?
You need to obtain the visa for Vietnam. There are 2 ways:
Get visa via Vietnam embassy in your country or nearest country that has Vietnam embassy;
Get a Vietnam visa on arrival (VOA).
Which visa is better? I will give a brief guide for you.
Vietnam embassy visa
This option will provide you a full visa beforehand. The issuing authority in this case is the Vietnam embassy.
Required documents: Normally, you will need to submit your original passport and a copy of completed application form. The form you need to download from the embassy to which you will submit your documents. Some embassies can also ask you to submit flight ticket, and other documents. So, you should contact them in advance for details.
How to submit: The embassy may accept application documents submitted in person, by post or by a third party with letter of authorization. But not all act in these ways. So, you are once more recommended to contact them for details.
Processing time: Normally, visa will be processed by the embassy during 5-7 working days. Sometimes, you may get it expedited faster paying extra amount of money.
The advantage and disadvantage of Vietnam embassy visa
Having visa already stamped onto your passport before your departure to Vietnam.
Applicable to travelers to Vietnam by any means of transport.
Making one-time payment for visa fee at Vietnam embassy.
Parting with your original passport.
Having to drive to the nearest embassy or send documents by post.
Dealing directly with Vietnam embassies.
Various visa fees and procedures at different Vietnam embassies.
Taking up to 3 days to get response for your emails.
Making visa to Vietnam via Vietnam embassy I suggest for those who are traveling to Vietnam through borders crossing and have enough time to wait till visa will be made. While for those traveling to Vietnam by air, I recommend Vietnam visa on arrival.
Vietnam visa on arrival (VOA)
In my opinion, this option is much more convenient, but for air travelers only. If you travel to land or cruise, you need to get visa from Vietnam embassy.
Unlike with Vietnam embassy visa, with visa on arrival, you will not get the full visa beforehand. You will get only the visa approval letter (it will be issued by the Vietnam Immigration Department via a travel agent), which will let you board the flight and get visa stamped upon arrival at Vietnam airport. But REMEMBER you need to get the Vietnam visa approval letter before departure as without it, in airport you can’t continue processing Vietnam visa on arrival.
Required documents: None at all for application.
How to submit: With Vietnam visa on arrival VOA, you only need to fill out an online form for visa approval letter. You can submit an online form for visa approval letter. This whole process is completed online. You just need fill travel and contact information an pay issuing fee with your debit/credit card. Don’t forget to fill this form at least week before you are planning to enter Vietnam.
Processing time: Within 2 working days from your submission of application form and payment of service fee, you will get the visa approval letter processed and sent to our email. You will need to print it before going to Vietnam and bring it to immigration office in airport. And then you will need approximately 15-30 minutes at Vietnam airport to get visa stamped into passport.
You can speed up processing of visa approval letter (even within 2-4 working hours) with a bit more money.
The advantage and disadvantage of Vietnam visa on arrival
No need to send your original passport away.
A complete online process – short time for Vietnam visa application.
No dealing with immigration agency. Agents deal with them on your behalf.
Especially convenient for those who are currently staying far away.
You know how much you pay at once.
You get prompt response and help online.
Queuing in front of Immigration counter at arrival airports in Vietnam to get visa stamp.
Possibly having names of other people on your approval letter.
Foreigners can’t apply for Vietnam visa on arrival themselves, the application must go through authorized travel agencies in Vietnam or organizations.
If you decided to make Vietnam visa on arrival and looking for further assistance, I recommend to check vietnam-visa.com with whom I have partnered preparing this post. This company already working more than 10 years providing Vietnam visa on arrival service, has only positive feedback and can be reached by hotline 24/7.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
Have you ever made any visa online? What was your experience?
Is Vietnam in your bucketlist? What you would like to see, do or try there?