Boasting grand architecture, a delightful riverside setting and a UNESCO-listed Ancient Town, Hoi An is one of Vietnam’s best-loved destinations. But what this enchanting city is most famous for is its shopping. From bustling market stalls to charming shophouses, there’s plenty of places to bag a bargain. And it’s near impossible to leave Hoi An without buying something.
So to give you a better idea of what this city has to offer, here’s our guide to shopping in Hoi An.
The city of Hoi An is home to some of the best, and most affordable, tailors in the world. Visitors can easily get their hands on tailor-made suits, shirts, dresses, shoes and more – all for a fraction of the price you’d pay back home. First, head to Hoi An’s Cloth Market or Central Market to purchase the fabric of your choice. You’ll find everything from vibrant Vietnamese silks to linen, cotton and even blended wool. It’s also a good idea to have a photograph or sketch of your design before you head to the tailors.
You’ll easily recognise which boutiques offer tailoring services with the words ‘made to measure’ in front of each shop. However, with several hundred to choose from, the choice can be overwhelming. Be Be is recommended by Culture Trip and is a bespoke tailoring company that’s been operating for over 15 years. A Dong Silk is also a popular choice, boasting a five-star Trip Advisor rating. Once you’ve chosen, you’ll be measured and then free to explore this magical city whilst your tailor gets to work. Depending on your choice of garment, it may be possible to have it completed in just a few hours or a day or two.
‘The biggest mistake for tourists visiting Hoi An is not factoring in enough time for their stay. While some tailors can offer rush jobs, you lose out in quality. Flipping an outfit in 24 hours means single stitching and no alterations. No tailor we met was capable of delivering a perfect outfit on the first try. Rather we found three days allowed for a good fit to become a perfect fit’.
– Mike, Two Travelaholics
- Whilst travellers should always haggle for a price they are comfortable paying, it’s important to remember that you get what you pay for. Unfortunately, there’ll always be inexperienced, unethical or dishonest tailors, so avoid those offering prices that seem too cheap to be true.
- When it comes to choosing a tailor, do your research rather than relying on local word of mouth. Often, restaurants, hotels or taxi drivers are paid commision to advertise a tailor’s services. To avoid disappointment, check online reviews or see what travel bloggers have said about their experiences. Also speak to other travellers who have already had their clothes made.
- Do your tailoring as early in your visit to Hoi An as possible. This leaves plenty of time for any alterations to be made.
Although Hoi An is most famous for its tailoring, it also has much to offer foodies. With a history of Chinese, Portuguese and Japanese settlers, the city’s cuisine is diverse and flavoursome. Hoi An’s Central Market offers an unmissable shopping experience and is the place to go if you’re feeling hungry. Expect to see a vast array of colourful foodstuffs for sale, ranging from exotic fresh fruit and vegetables to fragrant herbs and spices such as saffron and cinnamon.
The market also offers a huge selection of fresh fish thanks to its riverside location. And alongside the stalls selling produce, there’s a food court where you can sample the city’s culinary delights. Tasty street food offerings include Bahn Xeo, a type of crispy pancake, and noodle-based dish Cau Lau. Wander the market yourself and shop for ingredients or learn all about Hoi An’s unique food culture on a guided tour.
‘Central Vietnamese food is fantastic, so for me, no trip to Hoi An is complete without a stop at its Central Market. If you’re taking a cooking class, then you’ll be taken there first thing in the morning to do all your marketing. About half of the market is comprised of vendors selling fish, meat, and fresh produce, while the other half is taken up by stalls offering different types of cooked food. Be sure to try the White Rose dumplings. They’re a speciality of Hoi An. If you like street food, then just outside the market are pushcarts offering a variety of dishes like banh mi cha chien (pork toast) and fried green sentinel crab cakes. Many of these dishes can’t be found anywhere else in Vietnam so I suggest trying as much of it as you can, when you can.’
- The stalls closest to the Central Market’s entrance tend to have the highest prices, so be sure to delve right in for the best buys.
- It’s good to arrive first thing in the morning to avoid the noisy crowds and high daytime temperatures. Fishermen tend to drop off their catch around 7am, so you’ll see some fierce bargaining as local vendors and buyers dive straight in.
- The market can get quite messy, so closed shoes are highly recommended.
With numerous skilled craftsmen in Hoi An, the options for purchasing handicrafts are endless. From marble statues and ceramics to oil paintings and embroidery, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to souvenirs. However, the most popular choice by far are Hoi An’s enchanting silk lanterns. These ancient works of art are believed to bring happiness and prosperity to your family and are available in a wide range of colours, shapes and sizes.
Hoi An is also home to an abundance of non-profit organisations and fair-trade shops. One such example is Reaching Out, a social enterprise that employs and supports artisans with disabilities. The staff here are more than happy to show visitors through the workshop. In addition to selling arts and crafts, Reaching Out is a teahouse where you can enjoy some peace and quiet with traditional Vietnamese tea service.
‘Reaching Out is a unique place offering much more than tacky souvenirs. You can purchase amazingly crafted jewelry, bed covers, table cloths and unique candle holders, many of them are one of a kind.’
Ivana and Gianni, Nomad is Beautiful
- It’s best to buy lanterns at night when you can see exactly how they’ll look when they’re lit up.
- If you’re purchasing multiple items in one shop, it’s worth asking if you can have a discount. Plenty of places in Hoi An will lower their prices if you’re buying two or more items.
- Be sure to check that your agreed price includes tax, particularly if you’re arranging to have products shipped home.
Looking to do some shopping in Vietnam? We visit Hoi An and many other top sights on our group tours.