Cheap Shopping in Thailand and Vietnam

Updated on July 23, 2019
Leann Zarah profile image

Leann is a freelance researcher. She has visited some parts of Asia, Africa, and North America.

Learn where to go and how to get the best deals while shopping in Thailand and Vietnam.
Learn where to go and how to get the best deals while shopping in Thailand and Vietnam. | Source

A trip to Southeast Asia is not complete without the experience of shopping in cheap markets. The region offers plenty of these opportunities, and Thailand and Vietnam are two top destinations for budget-conscious tourists who like to shop. In this article, learn about the best markets in Thailand and Vietnam, as well as some tips for smart shopping in both countries.

Chatuchak Weekend Market is a huge shopping center in Bangkok.
Chatuchak Weekend Market is a huge shopping center in Bangkok. | Source

Where to Shop in Thailand

Known as one of the shopping meccas in Asia, Thailand has many cheap markets. One of its most famous markets is Bangkok's 35-acre Chatuchak Weekend Market that has over 8,000 market stalls. It opens from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Fridays and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. According to Asia Web Direct, this market "has reached a landmark status as a must-visit place for tourists...this is where you can literally shop ‘till you drop’."

Other weekend markets include the Ratchada-Lad Phrao Junction Night Market, which is only open on Saturdays from 6 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. It sells many second-hand items, as well as motorbikes and scooters. Used merchandise can also be found in Klong Thom Market, which opens at 5 p.m. on Saturdays until the next day. It sells car parts and accessories, toys, DVDs, CDs, and electronics.

On weekdays, tourist shoppers in Thailand can visit the Patpong Night Market in Soi 1 from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Khao San Road is a favorite spot among backpackers. It has travel agencies, book shops, internet cafés, banks, money-changer nooks, and convenience stores. Its Banglamphu Market offers very affordable items.

Except on Wednesdays, the Saphan Phut Night Market near the Memorial Bridge is open daily, from early evening until midnight. Vendors sell food, entertainment goods, replicas of or fake designer clothes, and other cheap items.

Unique Items to Look for in Thailand

Wondering what goodies you can bring home to your loved ones from Thailand? Here are some suggestions, though some of these products are exported from Thailand as well:

  • Moniegold chewy tamarind candy: These brown, pebble-like edibles fuse the flavor of tamarind with cane sugar and glucose syrup. Each tiny chewy candy oozes with a good amount of sweetness and sourness that can make you eat quite a handful—or the whole pack.
  • Edible insects: These are unusual specialty foods that have piqued the curiosity of adventurous tourists. People who like to eat grasshoppers, bugs, crickets, worms, queen weaver ants, scorpions, and other insects are aware of their health benefits. These foods provide vitamins and lysine.
  • Thai silk fabric: Made from the cocoons of silkworms, Thai silk is used in producing colorful garments such as scarves, blouses, and sarongs with captivating designs and patterns. Some of these are tie-dyed, which is referred to as Matmi silk. These represent a part of Thai culture.

Thai silk scarves are among Thailand's popular trade products for local and foreign tourists.
Thai silk scarves are among Thailand's popular trade products for local and foreign tourists. | Source

Factors to Consider When Buying Thai Silk

According to Chiangmai and Chiangrai Magazine (2014), there are a number of factors to look at when buying genuine Thai silk:

  • Price: A good range is 600–2,500 baht.
  • Weave: Look for those that are handmade from 100% natural fiber, with "...small flaws or joins in the thread along the warp and the weft."
  • Luster: Use a light test to determine luster, as "...the overall color tone will change depending on the angle of light."
  • Print: The printed pattern can only be seen on one side, "...with only an outline of the print on the reverse side[.] When both sides are held up to the light, only the full print side will change color. The colors are not evident on the reverse side."
  • Burn test: "If you take a thread or two of 100-percent Thai silk and light them with a flame, it will leave a fine ash and smell like burnt hair. As soon as the flame is taken away the threads will stop burning."

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is a popular destination for shopping tourists.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is a popular destination for shopping tourists. | Source

Where to Shop in Vietnam

Tony D'Altorio and Karim Rahemtulla of Investment U, an online newsletter for investors, describe Vietnam as "a fast-growing emerging market" that is "undervalued [and] underrated" for investment potential in Southeast Asia. Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Hoi An are viewed as its top shopping areas.

Places that sell cheap merchandise include Cho Bình Tây and Ho Chi Minh City's Chinatown, where many stores sell wholesale goods. Cho Bình Tây supplies the items for many traders in nearby Ben Thanh Market.

Ben Thanh Market joins the equally large An Dong and An Dong II markets in selling a myriad of items, ranging from souvenir knickknacks, garments, and handicrafts to food, cigarettes, and beer. For cheap military paraphernalia, tourists can go to War Surplus Market (or Dan Sinh Market), while Huynh Thuc Khang serves as a nest for low-priced counterfeit electronics.

Crowd-infested Dong Xuan Market is based in Hanoi. A tourist attraction, it is one of the four popular covered markets (or "cho") in the city. The others are Cho Hang Da, Cho Hom, and Cho 19-12. Tourists can buy various commodities like ceramics, food, fabric, shoes, and fresh produce from these areas, as well as in many street markets.

A haven for silk is Hoi An. This place has many clothing and tailoring shops, as Frommers notes. Its Tran Phu Street is occupied by vendors selling artworks, pottery, ceramics, Chinese lanterns, and woodcarvings.

A shopping guide for tourists in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), the nest of Bến Thành Market.
A shopping guide for tourists in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), the nest of Bến Thành Market. | Source

Souvenirs and Goods to Bring Home from Vietnam

Like Thailand, Vietnam offers many products that shopping tourists can enjoy. These include:

  • Non la or conical hat: This customary accessory formed using palm leaves, bamboo sticks, and Moc tree bark is also referred to as the "Asian rice hat". A myth involving a goddess who shielded people from the rain inspired non la's birth. Men, women, and young boys and girls from different socioeconomic classes and regions across the country wear this hat, making it a symbol of Vietnamese identity. Among its many variations is the non bai tho or poem hat. Its poetic verses only appear the moment sunlight touches the hat's surface.
  • Áo dài: A traditional silk garment that consists of a long figure-contouring gown with lengthy side slits and trousers that are quite loose. It is reportedly patterned after the body-hugging cheongsam or qípáo worn by Chinese women.
  • Ca phe or coffee: This is one of the top exports of Vietnam. The simple process for making ca phe involves the use of a phin or drip filter to produce a dark, aromatic brew from ground coffee beans. It becomes more flavorful with the addition of sweetened condensed milk. The northern region of the country prefers brown coffee (ca phe nau), while the southern part opts for milk coffee (ca phe sua).
  • Nuts, fruits, vegetables, fish, and seafood: Edible goods have significantly helped boost the national economy, with Vietnam being the world's primary producer and exporter of cashew nuts. Durian (sau rieng), pomelo (buoi), mango (xoai), mangosteen (mang cut), mushrooms, water spinach (rau muong), chayote (su su), cabbage (bap cai), bamboo shoots (mang), shrimp, pangasius, shellfish, tuna, oysters, and more comprise the country's perishable agriculture and marine aquaculture products.

Vietnamese markets sell fresh produce.
Vietnamese markets sell fresh produce. | Source

Shopping Tips for Tourists in Thailand and Vietnam

Before visiting a foreign country like Thailand or Vietnam, do some research first. For your own good, keep in mind the following tips as a shopping tourist.

Know something about the country's culture and language.

Learning about the host country's culture can make you aware of particular behaviors that are considered unacceptable and which ones should be avoided as a foreigner. Reading about other tourists' experiences, both positive and negative, would be useful. Such information will help boost one's confidence in navigating the market scene.

Likewise, it is best to learn the basics of the local people's language, such as common phrases. It helps build rapport with vendors when a tourist shopper greets them using their native tongue. You may hone your Thai or Vietnamese language skills through a local friend, translation books, or websites, such as 101 Languages.

Wear casual fashion items.

Spending time in cheap markets in tropical countries requires tourists to don light clothing and comfortable footwear. If one chooses to shop during the day, it is recommended to use sunscreen, a pair of shades, and a head covering. Look simple and wear minimal accessories to ward off potential thieves who may be locals or fellow foreign tourists.

Protect yourself from emergencies and frivolous spending.

The fun in shopping disappears whenever a health, money, safety, or security situation comes up unexpectedly. It is advisable to bring a bottle of water to stay hydrated, have enough cash or change to facilitate transactions, and check a prepared shopping list to give focus to your market trip.

When haggling, remember to smile. If you have local friends, they can do the haggling to save you from spending too much. Otherwise, observe and/or ask other customers how much they paid for certain items.

In addition, a traveler should carry her/his own bag. Some Vietnamese storekeepers use color-coded bags to notify other sellers of the customer's buying nature—i.e., whether or not he/she is stingy or generous. Valuables should always be carried. This means that tourists should be mindful of their belongings to avoid falling prey to pickpockets.

Prior to paying the seller, check the merchandise carefully. Cheap markets do provide a higher value to a tourist's money, yet it is better to check for quality so that you don't need to have a damaged item replaced or even regret shopping and feel duped for being a spendthrift.

Remember to charm market vendors with a smile while haggling for cheap goods in Asian markets.
Remember to charm market vendors with a smile while haggling for cheap goods in Asian markets. | Source
Visit Đồng Xuân Market and other shopping landmarks of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.
Visit Đồng Xuân Market and other shopping landmarks of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. | Source

For Budding and Seasoned Tourists

Do you plan to visit Southeast Asia?

See results


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Leann Zarah


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Wow! This could be one particular of the most useful blogs We've ever arrive across on this subject. Actually Excellent. I'm also an expert in this topic so I can understand your hard work. feekdbdaegfe

    • profile image

      Do Tung 

      7 years ago

      great information

    • Leann Zarah profile imageAUTHOR

      Leann Zarah 

      9 years ago

      Thanks for reading, Simone. :)

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      9 years ago from San Francisco

      Oh, what an adventure this would be! Great Hub!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)