While Cho Ben Thanh (Ben Thanh Market) is the most popular market for tourists visiting Ho Chi Minh City, we were keen to get out of the centre and discover more authentic local markets.
One of the markets that we visited during our stay in May 2013 was Cho Binh Tay in Cholon; District 5 of the city.
Earlier that day, we had visited a very authentic local market at Cho Ba Chieu. In comprison, Cho Binh Tay was rather touristy – but it was still much less touristy (and cheaper) than Cho Ben Thanh.
There were a few tourists at Cho Binh Tay (compared to none at Cho Ba Chieu and hundreds at Cho Ben Thanh) and there were some souvenirs for sale. Some of the stallholders were a little pushy and a little bit of haggling was required, but starting prices were significantly lower than at Cho Ben Thanh.
Cho Binh Tay is a particularly good place for buying items in bulk. We found that we could buy several items for the same price as an individual item at Cho Ben Thanh. For example, we paid 30,000 VND (£1) for a box of 5 shuttlecocks (we'd seen the locals playing games of keepy-uppy with them in the park) compared to 40,000 VND (£1.30) for a single shuttlecock at Cho Ben Thanh.
Like Cho Ben Thanh, the building at Cho Binh Tay is laid out with different areas specialising in certain products; clothing, fabrics, household goods, footwear, hair accessories, jewellery, ornaments, fruit and veg, coffee and tea, meat, seafood, children's toys.
Cho Binh Tay is located just a couple of minutes walk from Cholon bus station. Bus #1 travels between Cholon and Ben Thanh bus station and, at the time of our visit, one way tickets were just 5,000 VND (£0.15). The bus journey took around 45 minutes in heavy afternoon traffic.
Cho Binh Tay is a cheaper and less touristy version of Cho Ben Thanh. It is ideal for buying items in bulk at low prices and we found it to be a generally more relaxing shopping experience than Cho Ben Thanh.
While Cho Ben Thanh (Ben Thanh Market) is the most popular market for tourists visiting Ho Chi Minh City, we were keen to get out of the centre and discover more authentic local markets.
We had read about Cho Ba Chieu in a guidebook (written by somebody who is resident in HCMC) and were keen to pay a visit. There was no mention of Cho Ba Chieu in our Lonely Planet guidebook and we couldn't locate it on a map. When we asked the receptionist at our hotel how to get there, she couldn't understand why we would want to go. She told us that it was a market for locals and that we could buy everything that we needed at Cho Ben Thanh right next door. That wasn't the point of our visit. We weren't going to shop, but to experience an authentic local market with local people.
So, one morning in May 2013 we hailed a taxi and asked the driver to take us to Cho Ba Chieu. The journey from our hotel (right next door to Cho Ben Thanh) took around 15 minutes and cost 87,000 VND (just under £3).
Compared to Cho Ben Thanh, Cho Ba Chieu was a breath of fresh air. It was a much more enjoyable and hassle-free experience. While the building itself had a similar layout to that of Cho Ben Thanh, the goods on offer were different; there was a notable lack of souvenirs, touristy t-shirts and sunglasses and more in the way of fresh local produce, clothing, household goods, kitchenware, meat, live seafood (fish, eels, frogs...), coffee and tea.
The whole place felt much less touristy and sanitised compared to Cho Ben Thanh. The aisles were narrower and darker and there was no air-conditioning (just a few strategically placed oscillating fans). As tourists, we were viewed with curiosity at Cho Ba Chieu. Locals would stare and point at us, we heard them whispering and laughing and, when we caught their eyes, they would unfailingly smile at us. We didn't hear anybody speaking English and none of the stalls had signs translated into English. It was wonderfully authentic.
We were free to browse the stalls without any pressure to buy. When we did want to make a purchase, we used a series of hand gestures and facial expressions to ask "how much?" and the stallholder would either write a number down on a piece of paper or tap it into a calculator to show us. There was no haggling here, and there was no need to haggle for prices were generally 30-50% of what they were at Cho Ben Thanh.
We enjoyed snapping photos in the colourful fruit and vegetable area and we enjoyed the fact that the locals were giggling at us as we wandered around drinking fresh coconut milk through a straw. Overall, it was a much more enjoyable experience than visiting Cho Ben Thanh.
An authentic, local market with none of the hassling and haggling associated with the more touristy Cho Ben Thanh. Jump in a taxi and pay a visit to Cho Ba Chieu!
Ben Thanh Night Market operates in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City each evening from around 6pm until midnight.
Many of the stalls that are found inside the market building during the day move their wares outside after darkness when the building closes. The streets that line the east and west sides of the market building are filled with stalls selling souvenirs, clothing (t-shirts, dresses, underwear, socks, hats) jewellery, ceramic goods, handbags, watches, sunglasses and toys.
As well as the stalls, you'll also find mobile sellers walking or cycling through the market selling their wares (for example, CDs and DVDs, leather belts, paper fans, city maps)
There are a few stalls selling fruit and vegetables, but it's mainly clothing, bags and souvenirs aimed at tourists.
We only saw one food stall on the west side of the market, but later discovered a larger outdoor eating area with several stalls selling local cuisine on the east side of the market. There are also carts selling helpings of colourful glutinous rice, corn-on-the-cob and other snacks.
We visited the night market most evenings during our stay in the city in May 2013 as it was practically outside our hotel. It was often chaotic. As well as lots of shoppers, there was a near constant flow of motorcycles buzzing past and we'd often see rats scuttling around underfoot.
Although there are warnings in place over pickpockets and bag-snatchers on motorcycles around the night market, we didn't experience or witness any attempted thefts during our various visits and we never felt the least bit unsafe.
Cho Ben Thanh, or Ben Thanh Market, is a large market located in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City's District 1.
Hundreds of stalls are housed in the main building, with others on the streets surrounding it. The market building is divided into sections which specialise in selling certain products. You will find areas devoted to clothing, fabrics, souvenirs, CDs and DVDs, flowers, coffee and tea, fruit and vegetables, meat, seafood, nuts and spices, suitcases and bags, children's toys, household goods...and much more!
While some of the stalls have signs stating that they are "fixed price" shops, many of them expect you to haggle. We found that most people spoke English and that many of the stallholders would try to entice us into their shops. Browsing Ben Thanh Market is certainly not a relaxing experience!
As well as the shops, there is also an area of the market building that contains a cluster of food stalls selling bowls of piping hot pho (noodle soup), pork buns, rice, spring rolls, fresh coconuts and bottles of Saigon beer. We paused briefly at one of the stalls to enjoy refreshing drinks of coconut milk (20,000 VND / £0.70)..
We visited several other markets during our stay in the city in May 2013 and I would compare them as follows:
Ben Thanh Market (Night) – many of the stalls selling souvenirs, clothing, jewellery, handbags, watches, sunglasses and toys inside the market building during the day move outside onto the surrounding streets between 6pm and midnight each evening. There are also a few food stalls and stalls selling fruit and vegetables, but it's mainly clothing, bags and souvenirs aimed at tourists.
Cho Ba Chieu – a much more local and authentic market, located around 15 minutes taxi ride from Cho Ben Thanh. There are no souvenirs here, but instead items aimed at locals; foodstuffs, coffee and tea, household goods, clothing and kitchenware. We also saw live seafood, eels and frogs for sale. Here, prices are fixed and are considerably lower than at Cho Ben Thanh. Very few people speak any English, there is no hassle from the stallholders and tourists are met with curious stares and smiles. A much more pleasant experience than Cho Ben Thanh in my opinion.
Cho Binh Tay – located in the Cholon area of the city. A similar layout to Cho Ben Thanh, but with fewer tourists, less hassle and much cheaper prices. We found that we could buy items in bulk at Cho Binh Tay for the same price as an individual item at Cho Ben Thanh. For example, we purchased a box of 5 shuttlecocks at Cho Binh Tay for 30,000 VND (£1.00), rather than one shuttlecock for 40,000 VND (£1.30) at Ben Thanh Market.
Overall, the more time I spent in Cho Ben Thanh the less I enjoyed it and the less likely I was to buy anything. I'd recommend visiting the more laid back (and significantly cheaper) markets of Cho Ba Chieu and Cho Binh Tay instead.
There is a high end mall type shopping across from the Opera House and the famous Intercontinental Hotel that should not be misses because of the air condition and the variety of food that they have in the basement shop. All clean and taste good of high quality standards,
What to buy: i WENT TO THE FOOD COURT AND ENJOY THE AIR CONDITIONING
What to pay: 10 USD OR LESS FOR A GOOD MEAL
Ben Thanh Market is a big place where you can buy different kinds of souvenirs- key chains, shirts, coffee, caps, In case you’ll need another bag or wish for another jacket, Ben Than Market has a lot to offer other than the souvenirs.
What to buy: In case you’ll need another bag or wish for another jacket, Ben Than Market has a lot to offer other than the souvenirs. Here you can find Class A signature bags (Northface, Kipling, Jansport, Nike, etc.) and If you get lucky, you can also avail the original bags on cheaper price.
However, you just have to bargain with the vendors and this will take time. I believe this is a popular place where lots of tourists go so a lot of items sold here are a bit pricey. You just have to find a stall where a vendor will offer you a reasonable price. I find the stalls around the market (on the sides) sell expensive items- bags or shirts. The first stall we went into sell a Northface bag worth 800,000VND, price is twice higher. The vendors are very hard to convince so it’s better that you find some other place to buy. I believe the stalls inside gives cheaper price.
Just remember to bargain half of the price they offer. The vendors are transparent anyway, you’ll realize if you get the vendor convince with the price you like or not but from our experience there are a lot of difficult vendors you can come up with.
What to pay: only cash, USD are also accepted in case you ran out of VND
One of the first things I do in a new city is look for a supermarket, I like to have pop and crisps in my hotel room in case I need a midnight snack (which I usually do) there are a few Circle K shops in Ho Chi minh.
These supermarkets are handy for drinks and snacks as well as any toiletries that you may have forgotten.
What to buy: snacks, drinks, toiletries. some branches have hot food available like hot dogs.
A Caveat: You must be good at haggling when shopping at the Benh Thanh Market as most of the goods here are jacked up from 200 to 300% ! Better buy at the Fixed Price section of the market as they will be cheaper (but cheapest if you're a haggling expert).
Ben Thanh market was founded since the French occupation in the 19th century. It was originally located on the bank of Ben Nghe River near Gia Din Fort until 1899 when it was moved to the present location. The market is now standing at the intersection of Le Loi, Ham Nghi and Tran Hung Dao Avenue – the centre of the city. Almost every road in the city is connected to the market. The main gate of the market is a yellow clock tower that becomes the symbol of the city.
Inside is a tightly organized grid of aisles, arranged according to product. Clothes, shoes and fabric dominate the front, before giving over to kitchenware, cooked food, fresh vegetables and a somewhat alarming display of seafood and meat (some of it still alive). There is plenty for the visitor to buy, but the main attraction is the way in which the bustling market is still very much part of the city's life and economy.
Opens 6:00 am to 6:30 pm
What to buy: Ben Thanh Market is always loaded with varieties of goods, such as consumer goods, lacquerware which are famous handicrafts from Vietnam, t-shirts, food stall, spice stalls, cakes and candies, food and foodstuff, and particularly high-quality fruit and vegetables. Goods are displayed in a very attractive way that always catches the eyes of the buyers. t is one of the best places to buy coffee (especially cafe chon or weasel coffee!), but do try the stalls inside before buying, as the outside stalls are more expensive. Also if you are buying a reasonable quantity you can usually get a couple of free coffee filters. Vietnamese coffee is really delicious, I'm surprised it is not more widely available in the West.
The asking price is usually negotiable and depends on your bargaining skill. The more you buy, the cheaper it is. It is also wise to walk round, check the prices around before decidiing to buy. Do not bargain, having agreed on the price, but you do not wish to buy. It will anger the store owner. If you are not interested, do not agree on the price. Always use VND instead of USD. Reason : you tend to lose count on the changes and it's hard to calculate on the spot especially the currency exchange fluctuates. Always bring enough VND to Ben Thanh.
Apart from coffee, you can get almost anything in the market or the shops surrounding it. You will have to bargain, unless the prices are written on the goods, but that is all part of the experience. And afterwards you can have a bowl of delicious southern style pho hua noodles.
What to pay: Weasel coffee (Cafe Chon') at 25,000-40,000 VND per 100 grams, Coconut Candy (Keo Dua) at 15,000 VND for 250 grams, Lacquer stuff starting at 15,000 VND, Caps at 25-35,000 VND, Jasmine Tea at 30,000-45,000 VND per 100 grams, Kipling Counterfeit bags at 150,000 VND, Silk bags for ladies at 80,000-200,000 VND, Pho Noodles at 12,000 to 25,000 VND.
The Pho Mua Sam Nightmarket is just the road beside the benh thanh market and the street facing the road. When Benh Thanh Market closes at 6:30 pm, the side streets beside opens as a night markets with some of the sellers at the Benh Thanh Market as the sellers here at the night market too! . Pho Mua Sam Night Market is the real name of the Night Market, others might think that this is Benh Thanh Night Market. As in other night markets in Asia, they offer just about any other goods available in Ben Thanh but with an added bonus of a Hawker's Center Being Set up and offer lots of choices whether vietnamese or other asian foods at very cheap prices! It is open from 6:30 pm up to 12:00 am everyday.
What to buy: for the prices, I would suggest that you do your shopping at daytime since night markets tend to jack up their prices by 10-20% than daytime rates even if you haggle (hey, they have to pay for the electricity and the stalls!) but have fun at the Hawker Center Food for Culinary Food Tripping at budget prices!
What to pay: depends on your haggling skills, if you don't know how to haggle then just buy souvenirs at the airport or at the Tax Department Store as they are cheaper there for those not used to haggling.
Like in Any other International Airports Around the World, Than So Nhat International Airport has it's share of Duty Free Shops and Lounges and Bars. There are several Duty Free Shops along the Departure Area of the Airport but unlike in other major south east asian city airports, they have a relatively few numbers of merchandise and brand items on sale here at the than so nhat international airport. Among the items available here are cigarettes, tobacco, alcoholic drinks & Spirits and perfumes together with fashion and accessories brands from Vietten, Bossini, Gucci, D&G and An Phoc. Several electronic items like cameras or videocams or mp3 and tablets from Panasonic, Toshiba and Samsung and others. For those wanting something more “local” really good arts, crafts and souvenirs are well priced and certainly good value. Some of the souvenir items at the airport are even cheaper than buying it at the benh thanh market or the souvenir stands lining Nguyen Hue and Le Loi Streets.
Most Duty Free Shops Open: 8:00 am to 9:00 pm everyday.
What to buy: all the typical duty free items like Whisky, Vodka, Gin, Chocolates, Cookies, Bags, Travelling Bags, Wallets, Cigarettes, Cigars, Cameras, Travelling Kits and more.
What to pay: cheaper at times for the souvenir items than in Saigon Dowtown
The Saigon Tax and Trading Center is a landmark Building along the corner of Le Loi and Nguyen Hue Street and facing the Rex Hotel Across the Street it was built in a french colonial architecture and was an old french supermarket before the war. This is the place to be to buy quality but cheap souvenirs for tourists (fix prices but is cheaper here if you don't know how to haggle at the souvenir shops in District 1 or at the Benh Thanh Market) and they also sell assorted local merchandise since it is a big department store. There are 4 levels of shopping here and the most popular area will be the supermarket at the second floor and the highlands coffee shop at the second floor area. The department store sells a variety of local and imported items like electronics, watches, jewelries, furniture, clothesm dry goods, souvenir items and more.
opens: 9:00 am to 9:00 pm everyday
What to buy: assorted souvenir items like key chains, assorted laquered utensils, silk merchandise,suitcases, wallets, belts, hats, shoes, crystals, hand-made potteries, brocades, food items at the supermarket and more.
see my separate tips on the supermarket
What to pay: not a dent on your wallet moreso if you are not good in haggling at the markets. you have fix prices on the souvenir items here but they are sometimes cheaper than at the markets.
Co.opMart supermarket was about 15 mins walk from Hong Thien Loc hotel(backpackers area). Goods such as bottled water, canned drinks etc at were sold at a much cheaper price than the shops at the more touristy area. You could look around the supermarket and use the prices here as a gauge on how much to pay when you go to Ben Thanh Market.
I bought the following at the supermarket:
G7 3 in 1 coffee per box: 39,500VND
Trung Nguyen gourmet blend per box: 86,900VND
G7 Cappuccino per box: 44,400VND
Trung Nguyen creative one(culi robust) ground coffee powder (250g/pack): 31,500VND
Tom Say shrimp crisps (200g/container): 84,700VND (Seasoned crispy whole shrimp)
Com chay Chabong(rice cracker with pork floss): 12,800VND
Dutch lady milk (200ml/pack): 4,500VND
I noticed that the packaging of the Dutch lady milk is a bit different; it was in a flattend form of carton rather than a box type. I found it amusing because I don't get this type of packaging in our home country.
Ben Thanh market is big but not half as big as chatuchak market(Bangkok) though. You can easily spend about 2-3 hours here. There are stalls selling dried foods, coffee/tea, clothes, souvenirs, bags, shoes, kitchen ware etc. There is a fixed price section located on the outer perimeter of the market. You cannot negotiate for a discount but you can use the price here as a reference. You need a bit of bargaining for the rest of the stalls located in the indoor market. Somewhere in the middle of the market, you can find stalls selling all kinds of desserts and local food like pho, bun mam, bun bo hue, Chao tom(bbq shrimp paste on a sugar cane) etc.
I bought my t-shirts and fridge magnets from the fixed price section. As for the other items that I bought, I didn't really bargain hard as I'm not so good at bargaining (I got a feeling that it could have been much cheaper). Note: The same fridge magnet that I bought at the fixed price section was priced at 40,000VND at the other stalls.
What to pay: Ladies t-shirt: 75,000VND, Men's t-shirt: 97,000VND (fixed price section)
Fridge magnet: 9,000VND (fixed price section)
Rice crisp with pork floss on the top: 18,000VND
Jackfruit chips(1kg): 180,000VND
Trung Nguyen G7 cappuccino: 40,000VND
Small coffee phin filter: 25,000VND
This is market for rich people or foriegner.
yes of course they always start at a high price
everythign here is overpriced for tourist. Just try to have fun talking them down. You don't have to be rude, its their job to rip you off. Besides, they only ripping you off for maybe $5 or $10. So.......
Better to buy anything at Cho Binh Tay in district 6
if you are looking for Fabric, Wedding apparel, misc clothing stuffs go to Cho TAN BINH
What to buy: Shirts - large size for foriegner
However only one vendor I buy from. If you are at the circle with the statue, then proceed into the closest door which is either east or north door, the first vendor on your left is whom I buy shirts from.
They have large sizes ( polo shirt) she has sold them for 100,000 to me. Because I speak vn, they don't waste time with trying to hook me like a foriegner, so I'm just letting you know they can be had for about $6
What to pay: too much. Go to Binh Tay market in Quan 6
or go to a bookstore like a FAHASA or Nguyen Van Cu, they have gift section
One of my best friends recently was an ESL teacher in Ho Chi Minh City and emailed me about this amazing new concept store there called L’Usine and La Cafeteria. Housed in an old French colonial building, the owners were influenced by the elegance of the Indochina era, while creating a space that serves a distinct need in the burgeoning capitol - a place for creatives to congregate. Part store, part cafe, part art gallery, the store literally has a well-edited selection of anything you might need - from loose knits specifically chosen for HCMC's humid climate to vintage bicycles to imported Mariage Freres teas. Brands include Lomography, Wetter Indochine, Cheap Monday, United Bamboo, and Sienna Miller's Twenty8Twelve.
What to buy: Anything and everything from women's clothes by Kunzi and Twenty8Twelve, men's shoes by Supra Footwear, Baggu bags, Rosebud Perfume Lip balm, and Lomography cameras and film. I would probably pick up some of the Trois Filles scarves, and then relax over a Vietnamese iced coffee and croissant in the cafe.