What to Buy in Vietnam
If you want to know what to buy in Vietnam, what massive savings you can make on a huge amount of things – read on.
Prior to coming to live in Vietnam, we 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 it costs in Australia plus you get a holiday thrown in as well as somewhere to hide while you recover.’
Well all this can be had in Vietnam. Vietnam has come on leaps and bounds in the past ten years and if you take advantage of the many deals available you could well find the savings will pay for your holiday with some money left over. So apart from the usual purchases like souvenirs in Vietnam and tailor made suits let us show you what to buy in Vietnam that will put a very big smile on your face.
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 money saving deals that are on offer here while people in Australia pay a fortune for the same 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. Dentistr y, optical, hair, eye laser surgery, permanent make-up and even medication is much cheaper. So, leave your fears behind. As foreign residents we use these services and if they were sub-standard, believe me, we would be telling you.
But in the Hoi An Guide to Money Saving you will also find amazing deals on clothes, shoes, tailoring, massage, and even eye-lash extensions and tattoos. When it comes to alcohol, forget the airport’s Duty Free: it is far cheaper to buy your grog in Vietnam. So here you are, we’ve done all the hard yakka for you. Just sit back, read and enjoy – this little guide could save you a fortune!
This was a surprise. Certain medication 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. For a list of Hoi An Now-recommeded pharmacies, check out this page. Below is an approximate pricee guide in VND and USD.
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.
High blood pressure (perindopril arginine/amlodipine) = 210,000VND (~$9)
High cholesterol (Fenofibrate) = 110,000VND ($4.54) ??
Parkinsons (Madopar) = 270,000VND (~$11.50)
HRT (Tibalone) = 500,000VND (~$21)
Shingles (Neuran) = 260,000VND (~$11.80), or 200,000VND(~$0.86) for a 10g bottle of Acicylovir cream.
Want to get your teeth whitened; some crowns, a filling or a mouthful of new teeth? Check out our dental section to find out recommendations, procedures, and pricing and a comprehensive list of available practitioners.
Need a new pair of prescription glasses that are cheap but only in cost? Some sunglasses? Why not get a few?
And if you haven’t got a prescription with you, no problem. You’ll find everything much cheaper in Vietnam, including the frames. See our list of optical shops for cost and details.
Laser Eye Surgery
Laser Eye Surgery is three times cheaper in Vietnam compared to America and Australia. But would you trust a surgeon here getting to work on your eyes? Several years ago the answer would have been absolutely ‘no.’ But my, how the world is changing.
While many minor eye complaints are fine in reputable eye hospitals in Vietnam, it is unanimously agreed that for treatments such as laser eye surgery the only place to go is the American Eye Center in Ho Chi Minh City.
See our section on Laser Eye Surgery to see a Hoi An Now family member’s firsthand account and feedback of having the treatment done in Vietnam. You’ll also get an idea of comparative costs between East and West and the lowdown on procedures and waiting times.
On my last visit to Australia a one-hour massage was in the vicinity of a hundred+ dollars ($US80 approximately). In Hoi An you can pick one up for $US 10.
There are three types of spa & beauty salons offering massage in Hoi An: the high-end hotel spas that offer all manner of luxury, the medium-priced Day Spas with great facilities (Citrus Health Spa, La Luna) and the cheaper, local Vietamese spas where you can negotiate the price. I’ve had glorious and terrible experiences in the cheaper end spas because unlike with the others who employ trained, permanent staff these spas use a pool of call-in girls – so it all depends on who answers the phone.
All of the salons in Hoi An offer money-saving opportunities on pedicures & manicures.
Shopping and Goods
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 Yaly, the mid-range tailors on every corner, and the ultra cheap Cloth Market. You will find many reviews on TripAdvisor about people’s favorite tailors. It’s pretty subjective.
Hoi An has an abundance of cheap ‘brand name replica’ shoes dotted around Hoi An (Ly Thuong Kiet Street is a good start). For the real thing with great warehouse discounts, head to Rieker. And if custom made shoes are your thing, see what’s available in our Hoi An Now Travel Guide to Handmade Shoes.
If your shoe fetish is out of control jump in the nearest taxi and head straight to Le Duan Street in Da Nang. Here the amount of shoe shops at heart stopping prices will make you wish you never had to board a plane back home again.
Combining comfort and style and prices you can only dream of back home, this shop is well worth a visit.
Tailor-made too much of a hassle? There are some very cheap places to buy ready-to-wear clothes. Whilst these are mostly in Da Nang there are still a few hidden gems in Hoi An.
Bich Thuy (318 Ly Thuong Kiet) is one of the cheapest shops in Hoi An for wine, spirits, cider, imported and local beer – though none can be considered expensive. Wine isn’t as much cheaper in Vietnam as other items are and it may suffer from poor storage. However, some wine shops such as Red Apron are air-conditioned and care has been taken with storage.
As for tobacco, Hoi An – and Vietnam more generally – is a smoker’s paradise, especially if you’re coming from North America or Australia where cigarettes are taxed extraordinarily highly. Most shops will sell you a pack of Marlboros for about 25,000 VND and Vietnamese brands for about half that. Stock up while you’re here, but chck your country’s import limit, of course.
See also our Quick Guide to Supermarkets that points you in the direction of imported items like cheese, deli meats, olives and tinned Western favorites like baked beans. Not cheap by Vietnamese standards but often they compare favorably with home due to less Draconian sales tax levies.Not long ago you had to go to Da Nang for many of these items but these days Hoi An has most things covered if you know where to look.
Grooming and Beauty
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.
To give you an idea of prices and surgeries available across the country, see our Cosmetic Surgery guide. For a more extensive list of clinics here is an external directory of over 50 cosmetic surgery clinics in Vietnam that you can research.
Tattoos and Piercings
Tattoos and piercings are much cheaper in Vietnam – they are services you can get in Hoi An for a fraction of Western prices. Several expats have been very happy with work done by Faifooink, and 1984 Tattoo Studio Hoi An is starting to get rave reviews as well.
Lashes and Brows
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.
Permanent Eyeliners are also in vogue, and cheaper in Vietnam. Check out salons like Mai Mai Dep.
I had eyelash extensions in Australia. Five years ago, they cost me over a hundred dollars ($US80 approximately). See our guide to Eyelash Extensions where the same service is being offered in Hoi An for a fraction of the price in the West.
Why pay over a hundred dollars to get your hair colored or cut when you can get it done for a quarter of the price? There are two great money saving salons we recommend in Hoi An: Ba Le Well Spa and Salon and A. Nho. A. Nho offers a similar treatment to Olaplex using cheaper products: Alphaplex & Wellplex.
As for hair on other parts of the body, waxing is also much cheaper in Vietnam. Citrus Health Spa, for example, offers waxing services that range in price, depending on the treatment, from about US$10 to $30.
Manicures and pedicures are also significantly cheaper in Vietnam. Ba Le Well Beauty Salon, for example – a favourite among expats, and considered expensive by Vietnamese standards – charges US$7-13 for a pedicure, depending on which service you choose, and US$7-18 for pedicures. At cheaper salons, even lower prices can be found.