Cheap as Chips
Deals in Hoi An
Prior to coming to live in Vietnam I used to hear stories of people going to Thailand to have cosmetic surgery. Dubbed ‘Cosmetic Surgery Tourism’, it took off because it was so cheap. Doctors, we were told, ‘are highly skilled and trained’ and not only that, ‘it all costs a fraction of the price in Australia plus you get a holiday thrown in as well as somewhere to hide while you recover. It’s cheap as chips!’
My reaction to the whole idea was macabre fascination and incomprehension. Why would anyone take such a risk with their face? I was certain that the doctors couldn’t be comparable to Australian doctors and if things went wrong there would be no recourse – and, with the lack of hygiene, something had to go wrong.
Well having lived in Vietnam now for over five years, I realise how wrong I was. Now I cannot believe the prices people pay in Australia for certain services. Why they don’t come over here and get it done for quarter of the price with a holiday thrown in is beyond me.
Not that I’m saying everything is great, it’s not. If I needed a major operation, I’d be on the first plane home but for certain services, the standard is good:
Dentistry, optical, hair and even medication is much cheaper. So, leave your fears behind. As expats we use these services and if they were sub-standard, believe me, we would be telling you.
So here are just a few of the many things that can save you a ‘fortune’ if you have them done in Vietnam.
Need a new pair of prescription glasses that are cheap but only in cost? Some sunglasses? Why not get a few? And if you haven’t got a prescription with you, no problem. See our list of optical shops for cost and details.
Bich Thuy is one of the cheapest shops in Hoi An for spirits, cider, imported and local beer – though none can be considered expensive. Bich Thuy also has a good selection of wine. Wine isn’t as cheap in Vietnam as other items and it’s often not very good due to poor storage. However, some wine shops such as Red Apron across the road from Bich Thuy are going in the right direction. Their premises are air conditioned and care has been taken with storage.
Why pay over a hundred dollars to get your hair coloured or cut when you can get it done for a quarter of the price? There are two salons we recommend in Hoi An: Tuan Boy (negotiate the price up front before sitting down) and Ba Le Well Spa and Salon. Both salons use Western products, are familiar with Western needs and are widely used by expats.
There are not too many places in the world where you can pick up a custom-made suit for $US100 – 200.
There are three strands of tailors in Hoi An: the high-end tailors such as Be Be, Yaly, Oche, Thu Thuy and A-Dong Silk. You will find a large selection of wonderful fabrics in these shops and wonderful facilities and customer service. The next strand is the mid-range tailors on every corner of Hoi An. While they do not have the fabulous choice of material the upper-end displays, the tailoring is often very good and they are cheaper. The cheapest tailors in town are those to be found in the Cloth Market. You can get good and bad tailoring in all of these venues.
You will find many reviews on Trip Advisor about people’s ‘favourite’ tailors. It’s pretty subjective.
🙄 Choosing the right material for your garment is everything!
😕 Even if your sales girl speaks excellent English it does not mean she understands what you want. Check, check and check again.
😀 Even though it’s expensive I still love the ‘experience’ of the high-end tailors.
For costs and reviews see our tailoring section.
On my last visit to Australia a one-hour massage was in the vicinity of a hundred + dollars ($US80 approximately). Here you can pick one up for $US 10.
Types of spas:
There are three types of spa &beauty salons in Hoi An. Those that operate out of hotels and offer all manner of sumptuous luxury and glorious aromas. These are the most expensive. A rung down is the medium-priced Day Spas. These have similar facilities to the hotel spas in that staff are trained, speak good English; essential oils and Zen-inspired wafting music abounds and massages are ‘mostly’ consistent and good (Citrus Spa, Na Spa, Palmarosa, Magic Spa). At the bottom rung are the local Vietnamese spas. These are the cheapest. You cannot miss these spas. As with tailor shops, they are on every corner. You can negotiate prices with these spas. However, if you are the modest, private shy type – avoid them. The girls here have no idea of privacy and will stare blatantly as you undress (if you are lucky they may close the curtain to prevent others gawking too). Staff are sourced from a local pool of masseurs who work for a variety of spas around Hoi An. I’ve had glorious and terrible experiences with these spas – it all depends on who answers the phone.
There are some very cheap places to buy clothes. Whilst these are mostly in Da Nang there are still a few hidden gems in Hoi An.
Quoc Tien &Tu Na
Suitable for all ages.
These two shops operate out of the same premises and sell the same types of clothes you see all over the Old Town (Alibaba trousers, dresses, shorts, tops). There’s no need for bartering here, the garments are priced and seriously cheap – and, if they don’t fit, no worries, the ladies will alter them for you. Highly recommended.
Note: Tailored Hats
You can also get custom made tailored hats at Quoc Tien. Hoi An Now staff haven’t had any made but according to reviews on Trip Advisor this is a ‘hidden gem for tailored hats’.
Add: 15 Nguyen Thai Hoc
Tel: +84 (0) 905 420 359.
Made in Vietnam
Male and female clothing suitable for teenagers and adults.
You can find terrific bargains in the many Made in Vietnam shops dotted all over Vietnam (if you go to Hue, you will find quite a few). They stock quality clothing with labels such as Mango, Gap, Banana Republic, F21, Zara and Osh Kosh that was due for the export market but didn’t make the grade due to some minor flaw.
Note: The shops can look very shabby from the outside but once you venture in and ferret around, you are sure to find a great bargain or two.
Due to their popularity many stores have copied this idea. They call themselves ‘Made in Vietnam’ but the quality of the ‘designer labels’ isn’t the same. But hey, they are still excellent value. Where else could you walk into a shop and for $US 4 walk out with a Mango T shirt?
Add: 32 Phan Chau Trinh
Tel: +84 (0) 977 327 633
Under 25s, particularly good for young teenagers.
‘Young fashion with an edge’. I love this shop. It is SO cheap and the designs a little more interesting than the conservatively mainstream (but still very good) ‘Blue Exchange’. At FM you will find hats, bags and other accessories as well as clothes for the under 25s.
Note: A little bit away from the Old Town but worth a visit – especially if you have teenagers that need clothes.
Popular with young Vietnamese consumers, Blue Exchange is a fashion retail chain exploding throughout Vietnam. There are four outlets in Da Nang and one has recently opened in Hoi An. The designs are bright and breezy and very reasonably priced. You will find good quality jeans, T shirts, tops and shorts from 100,000 – 300,000 VND ($US 4.50 – 13.50). Think teenage boy/girl next door.
256 Ly Thuong Kiet Street
Tel: +84 (0) 235 3 928 0683
Addresses in Da Nang
Shop 1: 46 Dien Bien Phu
Shop 2: 325 Hung Vuong
Shop 3: 291 Le Duan
Shop 4: 115 Hoang Dieu
Funky original designs for all ages
In Hoi An the choice for ready-made clothes is limited; it’s either the cheap, ubiquitous touristy clothes hanging from every shop or the original and classy but perhaps a tad quite pricey, designer shops. So it’s refreshing to see a shop come along that offers something in between. Recently opened La Boutique isn’t quite ‘cheap as chips’ but their funky, original garments are very reasonably priced.
Pictured top cost 270,000VND ($US 12 approx)
Add: 3 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street
Tel: +84 (0) 905 897 737
Clothes, shoes & accessories; all ages & good for kids
Sometimes you really wonder if it is worth telling people about a great find because then they flock to it and, inevitably, prices go up, it changes and is no longer what it was. So I have wrestled with this one because Hi-End is one of those places (though it will not seem like it when you walk in). It’s small, dark and pokey. But rummage through it carefully and I guarantee you’ll walk away with some amazing buys.
Recommended to me by a fellow expat, Hi-End sells high quality label clothing for men, women and children as well as shoes and accessories too. You’ll find Gap, Tex, Osh Kosh, Mango, H&M, Guess and Banana Republic to name but a few. This is the stock that didn’t make export for one reason or another: a minor flaw, excess stock whatever the cause, the clothes here are the real deal.
Price guide: $US 1.80 – 10.
Add: 23 Le Duan Street, Da Nang
Tel: +84 (0) 236 2245 933
Le Duan Street, Da Nang
Da Nang has many clothes shops offering amazing bargains. For a taste of what Da Nang offers, walk along Le Duan Street – but put your hiking boots on because it’s a long street! Start with Hi-End and walk. Dotted here, there and everywhere you’ll come across bargain clothing for kids, teenagers and adults – as well as shoe shops.
Reiker, Hoi An.
You have probably heard of the German shoe company, Rieker. Famous for combining quality and style with comfort, these shoes rock it. In the Hoi An outlet a pair will cost $US 45 or less which is a third of the price you’d pay back home. And even better, Rieker always has shoes on sale. Highly recommended.
Address 558 Hai Ba Trung (near Ly Thuong Kiet intersection)
Tele +84 (0) 235 3939 555
Hours 8am – 9pm every day
Tattoos are another service you can get in Hoi An for a fraction of Western prices. Several expats (including our Hoi An Now Office Manager) have been very happy with work done by Faifooink.
‘If you’re looking for an amazing tattoo I would highly recommend Faifooink Vu. His shop is super clean, uses all new needles and his technique is awesome with little to no oozing afterwards. He custom made ours at a reasonable price for such talent. Located only minutes from the Dingo Deli. You will not be disappointed!’ Sarah Fenix, Hoi An Expat Facebook Page.
*The owner would not give us a standard price guide. We strongly recommend that you barter and agree on the price before work commences.
* Make sure you double-check the draft design on your skin before work commences.
FaifooinkTatoo, 314/1 Nguyen DuyHieu, Hoi An
Tel: +84 (0) 916 488 367
This was a surprise. Certain medications such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol tablets, Celebrex, Madopar for Parkinsons, HRT drugs, Vastarel MR for angina and many others are a lot cheaper in Vietnam than in the West.
Of course, there are ‘dodgy’ pharmacies who will sell you fake pills. However, if you use a reputable pharmacy you will get the real deal and find the cost substantially cheaper.
We have listed a Hoi An Pharmacy that comes recommended by expats. However, if you cannot find what you are looking for, we highly recommend Phuoc Thien in Danang. Opposite the Big C, it is the ‘go to chemist’ for many Westerners. You’ll be surprised what they stock.
Note: Prices for medication are usually higher in Hoi An than in Da Nang; pharmacies nearer the hospitals are more likely to stock ‘hard to find’ drugs
Approximate price Guide in VND & US dollars for 1 MONTHS supply of medication in Vietnam for …
High blood pressure (perindopril arginine/amlodipine) = 204,000VND ($US 9.27)
High cholesterol (Fenofibrate) = 100,000VND ($US 4.54)
Parkinsons (Madopar) = 150,000VND ($US 6.80)
HRT (Tibalone) = 420,000VND ($US 19)
Shingles = (Neuran) = 260,000VND ($US11.80)
Binh Thuan Pharmacy
115 Tran Hung Dao Street (near the intersection of Hai Ba Trung Street)
Phuoc Thien Pharmacy
322 Hung Vuong Street (opposite the Big C)
Tel: +84 (0) 236 3827 772
(there are 3 other branches of Phuoc Thien in Da Nang)
Getting eyebrow tattoos seems to be the rage among some expats in Hoi An. Five expats I know have recently had their brows done; all are happy not only with the tattoo artistry but with the care, skill and cleanliness involved. There are several salons around town where you can get such work done, we are listing the one that has been personally recommended by Hoi An expat, Judy Park:
“Permanent makeup is a fast-growing part of the beauty industry and The Magic Spa, Hoi An is embracing this trend. Rivalling spas around the world for ambience, service and cleanliness their personalized service, expertise and artistry ensured that from the moment I entered I was relaxed and confident with their procedures.
My eye brows were meticulously drawn on with eyebrow pencil; this taking as long as the tattooing – and so important to ensure the end result is what you are expecting. It also gives the opportunity to see what the end result will look like before tattooing commences. The permanent eye liner was also completed in a professional manner, taking account of my expectations. If you are interested in permanent makeup, The Magic Spa is definitely worth checking out.”
The Magic Spa, 48 Cao Hong Lanh, An Hoi
Tel: +84 (0) 235 391 4888
Cost: eyebrow – $US64 approximately
eye-line – $US54 approximately for either upper or lower
I had eyelash extensions in Australia. Five years ago, they cost me over a hundred dollars ($US80 approximately). We have listed the spa below but there are other places in Hoi An and Da Nang that have good reviews for eye-lash extensions.
The Magic Spa, 48 Cao Hong Lanh, An Hoi
Tel: +84 (0) 235 391 4888
Cost: 500 – 700 VND
Staff at Hoi An Now have no knowledge of how good cosmetic surgery is in Vietnam. However, we can tell you Vietnam has come a long way and many clinics/hospitals not only have highly trained Vietnamese doctors they also employ Western doctors.
So here is a directory of over 50 clinics in Vietnam that you can research: