SHOPPING IN HOI AN
No More Baubles and Beads
Not that many years ago, shopping in Hoi An was a rather hollow experience for a shopaholic. There were a fair number of outlets, including tailor, souvenir, jewelry, leather and shoe shops, but once you’d been to one you’d pretty much been to them all.
Nowadays, original, high-quality retailers and products are sprouting like mushrooms as Hoi An becomes more boutique by the year. To be sure, many are still replicating the old formulas but, as never before, there are exciting shopping opportunities to be had as fierce competition spawns unique products and keener pricing.
Affordable yet high-quality tailoring services are ubiquitous in Hoi An. Tourists arrive – some specifically – in the hope of purchasing their own bespoke dresses, suits, shirts, and shoes within a day or two and at a fraction of the price they might pay back home. It’s a tradition that follows from its longstanding history as a major trading port on the Silk Road and many businesses can be traced through a number of family generations.
With over 400 tailor stores competing for your attention, it can get somewhat confusing knowing which to trust or deciding which one best suits your taste, but with some key tips and pointers under your belt, the process of choosing your own fabrics and walking away with your own unique garment can be an exciting and satisfying experience.
If getting a custom-made outfit is on your radar but you don’t know where to start, peruse our guide to the best tailors in Hoi An and read our advice on how to choose wisely and prevent a tailoring disaster.
Hoi An is every clothes addict’s dream come true. You know when you visit a town for the first time and need to buy a new outfit or item of clothing, but there’s nowhere you’d even remotely consider shopping? Well, you’re unlikely to have that problem in Hoi An. Choices are plentiful, so much so that navigating the town’s shopping scene is not an easy feat albeit an exciting one. But we’re here to guide you.
From readymade fashion to leather goods, there are unique stores dotted all over the main city, whilst Hoi An’s Old Town is brimming with well-preserved shop-houses and stalls selling an assortment of garments, both traditional and modern.
Markets in Town
Shopping at one of Hoi An’s markets is a truly exotic venture. Teeming with colours, sounds, scents and aromas, you’ll find a range of stalls laden with Vietnamese street food, specialities, traditional clothes, silk scarfs, jewelry, handicrafts, souvenirs, lanterns, spices and flowers.
There are various markets in town, including the unmissable Hoi An Central Market, where you can unearth a variety of delicious goods, eat authentic Vietnamese food, peek into daily local life, and take delight in observing the shopkeepers as they and hunt and bargain for the freshest produce. Our Market Guide offers a helping hand by gearing you up with the right Vietnamese lingo and sharpening your bargaining skills before you hit the stands.
Arts, Gifts and Souvenirs
Wandering the streets, it’s easy to see that Hoi An is a treasure trove of souvenirs, gifts, arts and crafts. The markets are an obvious place to hunt, but there is no shortage of gift and specialty shops in town, such as Phuoc Thinh Souvenir Shop, where you can pick up a plethora of interesting yet cheap presents, and Lifestart Foundation Workshop, a non-profit organization supporting disadvantaged families, where visitors can purchase vases made from chopsticks or make their own unique gift by joining an arts and crafts class.
One of Hoi An’s most distinctive and characteristic features is the elegantly-crafted lanterns that hang all around the city and can be bought in different shapes, sizes and designs at shops and stalls at every corner. If you’re looking for something a bit more quirky, potential souvenirs include historical masks representing famous Vietnamese folkloric characters, or carvings and sculptures made from bamboo, a traditional material and ingredient in Vietnamese culture. Well-known artist Do Huynh Phuong offers handicraft workshops in Hoi An where visitors can learn about the ancient craft of sculpting using bamboo root and create their own bamboo masterpiece to take back home.
Sometimes the most treasured souvenir is a work of art that represents or elicits memories of a destination. Whether you’re likely to stumble upon a painting that you become besotted with or purposely hunt for pieces of work by local artists, Hoi An is a melting-pot of artists and art-lovers alike, where you’ll have no problem finding an art gallery or store to get your hands on a memento of your travels.
Oil and water-colour paintings are particularly popular with local artisans, and whilst artworks are varied, many traditional pieces centre on Vietnamese life from a bygone era, including romantic landscapes and Vietnamese women wearing Non La hats, which have become a cultural symbol of Vietnamese character and charm, transcending generations, gender or ethnic diversity.
Wise and Happy Shopping!
The temptation to splurge is ever-present whilst travelling; there’s always something new and exciting to pique your interest and justify spending some money on, especially in a quirky, tourist-friendly town like Hoi An. By the same token, Hoi An is a perfect destination for both frugal and luxury travelers, with a continuum of things to do, see, eat, buy and experience with price-tags ranging from super cheap to hefty. Our team at Hoi An Now have devised a lengthy and detailed Money Saving guide to help stop you from going too wild with the purse strings. You find out about the most inexpensive yet recommended shops in Hoi An, and where to find the best deals on fashion, dentistry, food, alcohol, beauty, and plenty more.
Tailoring in Hoi An
A select few tailors regularly rise to the top of lists, having earned themselves a good reputation as skillful, trustworthy practitioners. Yaly Couture is a popular store in town, known for being professional and personable with an extensive offering of fabrics. Once a small market stall run by a local practitioner, they’ve steadily grown into three modern locations across Hoi An.
A Dong Silk also comes recommended by past customers due to its designs and workmanship and friendly, knowledgeable staff. As a high-end business, it’s not the cheapest place to shop, but it’s possible to get a custom dress shirt for as little as 20 USD.
Vanda Tailors enjoys a great reputation as one of few stores with its own in-house factory, creating custom-made suits and shirts at reasonable prices. Similarly, Tony the Tailor is also known for being one of Hoi An’s affordable options; it’s a family-run business comprised of several experienced tailors and has received some good feedback over the years.
You can read some more detailed Tailor Reviews below by Hoi An locals.
Finding a tailor in Hoi An can seem as hard as shutting your eyes, turning around and pointing to the nearest shop.
What makes one tailor worth recommending over another? Is it price, customer service, dress-making expertise, choice of fabrics or design advice? These are all good attributes but let’s be honest, most of them are subjective. Someone’s ‘great tailor’ can be someone else’s disaster.
The truth is it can be hit and miss wherever you go, but here are a few useful tips to ease and simplify the process:
Research your shops! Different tailor shops may specialise in, and be particularly skilled at, producing specific designs and different types of clothing, for example, Be Be Tailors has their own inhouse designer who specialises in Asian Fusion creations. You can find countless reviews to peruse online. Be sure to compare quality, price, styles and fabrics used, as well as others factors that are important to you, for example, do they operate` ethically or do they outsource their work to mass clothing factories?
Know what you want beforehand. It’s worth researching the items you would like to have tailored to ensure it’s worth doing. You can also cut out photos from magazines or take screenshots to have a clear idea of what you should ask for. Be aware that some tailors may not produce certain styles of clothing.
Communicate. Make SURE your sales assistant understands what you want. She will say ‘yes, yes’ but – unless you go over it, get her to repeat and even draw it – it is highly likely that she does not totally understand.
Choose the right material for your garment. Once know of what you want, you will then decide on your fabric and materials of choice from an array of options folded and stacked on the shelves for display. Material choice is one of the main reasons for a tailoring catastrophe, so, do your research beforehand, physically see and feel the quality of materials that are available and ask the tailor’s advice before you choose. This applies to buttons, liners, leather options, and any other items.
At the heart of many a town’s culture is its central market, and Hoi An is no exception. To some, a morning spent traipsing around stacks of material and pungent food is an ideal excursion; to others, an idea of hell. But if you’re interested in a slice of real Hoi An life, you’ve got to play the market game and join the locals in their search for the freshest produce.
Psst… don’t forget to check out our extensive list of reviews of the different markets available in Hoi An, and follow our guide to talking the talk, making the right connections and snapping up bargains (or at least, avoiding getting ripped off) to have a thrilling and satisfying market experience. Happy shopping!
Clothes and Accessories
Welcome to your new wardrobe.
Warning: the following guides may inflict serious damage on your wallet. But trust us, it’ll be totally worth it once you unleash your new wardrobe!
So much more than a maze of tailor shops, Hoi An has really come into its own in the fashion stakes. Its homegrown and ex-pat designers have combined their efforts and talents, bringing to the fore innovative, quirky and damn stylish offerings that make our purse strings loosen as if possessed.
From the inspired designs of Metiseko, where you can choose between the softest silk dresses to the funky casual wear of Hot Chilli to designer children’s wear, boutique silver stores and shoes that will send you running eagerly towards the great outdoors – well, quite frankly, you should stop reading and get shopping because you’re about to be very busy.
Before you hit the streets, take a look at our guide to shoes, guide to leather, top shopping tips as well as our reviews of stores across town.
Top Tips for Shopping in Hoi An
Here are few tips and recommendations to turn a seemingly daunting task of clothes shopping in Hoi An into a simple and enjoyable experience.
- Do your research. Whilst the process of shopping for readymade clothes isn’t as overwhelming and risky as hunting for a good tailor, it can no doubt get perplexing when you’re spoilt for choice. Make it easier on yourself by doing a bit of research beforehand. This is a good place to start. But you can also check out individual stores’ websites to see what they sell and don’t sell, and follow this up with online reviews to see what the people are saying about them.
- Check the fabric. Don’t be shy about inspecting the quality of fabric thoroughly before buying any clothes. Make sure that the quality of the material and design is sound and the stitching is all intact.
- Bargain, bargain, bargain. Haggling can feel intimidating for some, whereas others regard it as part of the cultural experience. It’s definitely a skill that’s worth harboring in this part of the world, and it’s good to bear in mind that the opening price you’re quoted by a retailer is usually provisional and much higher – often double – than the lowest price that they would actually accept for that item.
- Check exact costs before ordering. When quoted a particular price by a vendor or tailor, check that this includes additional taxes and tariffs. It’s also important to know the exact price before you start haggling and reach an agreement.
- Go lantern-shopping at night. Shop for lanterns in the evening when they are beautifully lit-up and striking, and you can see exactly what you’ll be getting.