Street sellers, Hanoi
It cannot be said often enough: Street vendors in the Old Town take prices that are up to ten or twenty times as high as what Vietnamese would pay. Although a higher price is reasonable (it's still cheap for westerners), this is far too much! Paying VND 30,000 for some small bananas when you can get them for 1,000 outside the Old Town isn't fair anymore. So beware of the vendors and buy your stuff outside the Old Town.
Unique Suggestions: If you cannot be talked out of buying your stuff in the Old Town at least start bartering...
Fun Alternatives: Regarding the shopping for fresh fruit, there are plenty of alternatives: Hanoi is full of markets selling fruit. A good area is the middle part of Hue street, around Tran Xuan Soan market. Fruit vendors are everywhere and the prices are relatively normal.
I was in Hanoi recently on a business trip for a few days. My colleagues and I walked around the old quarter where they sell a lot of tourist goods. I got caught just after I had crossed the road, a lady carrying 2 baskets on a pole bumped into me by 'mistake' and within seconds I somehow ended up carrying the pole and wearing her hat. My colleagues thought it was hilarious and took the opportunity to get a few photos. The only way I could get her to take it back was to buy some bananas from her for 2 dollars.
Down another street a young lad - maybe 15 or 16 years old and carrying a small tray of zippo style lighters and some leather wallets asked if I was interested in a lighter - which I was - and when I asked how much he told me 400,000 VND - about 18 USD or 11 GBP. This wan't a bad price - the lighters were quite attractively decorated with various designs and were solidly made.
Anyway, one of my colleagues interjected before the transaction and told him to sell me it for half that price. He tried to haggle but my colleague was having none of it and told him half-price or nothing and suggested we walk off. We did and the lad followed us along for a while until finally agreeing to the half price.
Unique Suggestions: It's a choice, you can just say no, walk off and ignore them if they follow you. They'll give up when they realize you're not interested. For me, I didn't mind. They're poor people and you can't blame them for trying - the couple of dollars I paid the fruit seller meant nothing to me but a lot to her and I've got a couple of decent photos and a funny story for the rest of my life out of it.
I actually feel bitter about my actions with the lighter and wish I hadn't listened to my colleague. The poor kid selling them was a skinny as a rake and almost looked tearful when he sold one to me for half price and although he remained polite and thankful, I could see that he was gutted. The lighter had been a bargain for me at the price he had originally quoted and I wish I'd have paid him that. The additional few dollars he made out the deal would have meant a lot to him. For all I know, it might make the difference between him eating properly or going hungry.
Like I say, if your not interested then say no, you have a choice. If you are interest and decide to haggle, try to keep in mind how relatively well off you are compared to them before you bargain too hard.
If you stop and show interest in what the ladies carry they will talk you into buying there goods.Even if you dont really want it .
Unique Suggestions: If you dont want what they have dont show the slightest interest as do seem to sell you somethign you dont really want
Fun Alternatives: Just keep walking if you see then and if you want to look wait till they arent lookign at you
As you travel through Vietnam, you'll definitely notice women carrying produce using an apparatus that looks like the scales of justice -- a long wooden pole across the shoulders dangling two trays loaded with (hopefully) equally weighted bundles. THis was a common sight in rural areas and not uncommon in downtown Hanoi -- and most of these people just want to carry their load to its destination and be done with it!!
However, we encountered a few women near Ho Kiem Lake who were carrying the poles just for show. Once they saw a westerner, the rushed forward, dressing him with a hat and carrying apparatus and demanding a money-for-photo exchange. This happened several times, resulting in me getting pushed by an old woman once. Finally, Phil relented and I got this picture -- for 50,000 dong!! Almost 4 dollars!!
Many women sells babanas, pineapple on the streets, but they just bring a few bananas on their two baskets. They may want to invite you to have their conials hat on, and taking the 2 baskets as they do, and you will pay 1 - 2 USD/time like that.
Know it in advance, and willing to pay, then everything will be OK.
For some thinks that the hospitality and friendliness of the vendors, you are wrong. Just so you know, and dont be shocked when they ask you about money.
Yes.. these innocent looking fruit sellers are really preying on tourist...
They'll come up to you, throw their traditional-looking hat on your head and get you to carry their stuff... so that your partner will whip out a camera and shoot as you look funny...
Then you'll feel obligated to get something from them... and they charge you exorbitant prices for pineapples...
If you're on a budget trip and hate to be ripped off, gently remove their stuff and thank them...
Unique Suggestions: If you love a funny photo opportunity and do not mind spending... what the hell... just pay a for the fruits... and take it as an interesting experience overseas...
The most annoying situation in Hanoi and the rest of the country is “OVERPRICE CHARGING.” It happens all over the country, no matter how big or small and how westernized the town is!! Tourists get everything about 3-times more expensive than the locals, I think if they just charge 20-30% extras it’s acceptable, but this is 300% way too much. Nothing else you can do but to fight back (not a real fight, I mean bargaining) just don’t give up easily, first ask for a half-price discount everything's possible over here!! If you’re not pleased with the price just pretend to walk away, less than 5 seconds they’ll call you back and “OK Ma’am.”
Unique Suggestions: Just walk away and don't ever look back. Just ignore them.
If you're cheating then we won't by it from you, someday when they realize that we're not silly, maybe they'll quit doing this.
Fun Alternatives: For groceries and dried food, there's a supermarket near the water puppet theater and another one at the mall by the other end of Hoan Kiem Lake.
I bought a Gucci watch knowing it was a fake. Even though it was really cheap I would have prefered if it had last longer than a week. I now have a "GUI" watch because the two letter 'C's have fallen off the watch's face. Still makes me laugh whenever I come across it, maybe I should throw it away because it is no use. You aren't gonna fool anyone with a GUI watch! :)
Unique Suggestions: Don't know if I was particulary unlucky with the life of my watch. You may have more luck, perhaps they aren't all as bad as mine.
While walking along Hoan Kiem Lake, you will invariably be approached by a street vendor selling you tourist maps, postcards and other souvenirs. Do not buy from them. Just shake your head and continue walking. Unlike the Chinese in China, the Vietnamese will not harass you and will leave you alone.
I was without a Hanoi map so I bought one from the street vendor at 30000 VND having bargained it down from $3.
At a local bookshop at the northern end of Hoan Kiem Lake, I discovered that the same map was being sold for 11000 VND.
Unique Suggestions: Do not buy from street vendors.
Fun Alternatives: Buy your postcards from bookshops around Hoan Kiem Lake - they cost 6000 VND for a stack of 10 cards. A foldable tourist map costs 11000 VND. Alternatively, there is a tourist booth in front of the statue of Emperor Ly facing the lake.
Beware of street sellers who offer themselves to be photograhed. They will pose with their baskets of wares balanced on headtops to be photograhed or they will pass you their pole with basket of wares for you to carry and be photograhed. After that, they will ask you to pay them a fee for taking their photo or using their equipment for photograhs.
Unique Suggestions: Be aware that you need to pay a fee for all these. Ask permission before photograhing and check if there is a price tag.
Fun Alternatives: If you need to photograh such a street scene, be discreet about it or else just buy a postcard off the shelf.
Some of the street vendors - especially the women carrying the sticks with baskets attached - ask tourists to carry their stuff and take a picture. Or they ask you to wear their hat and take a picture of it. Whatever they ask you, many of them become angry if you don't pay for it! The usual price is $1 or 2 and in my opinion this is too much for a forced picture!
Unique Suggestions: Just don't react if they try to convince you of taking pictures.
Fun Alternatives: If you ask kindly, some of the vendors will be gladly photographed. Others will still say no - respect this!!!
A lot of street seller with carrying pole on hanoi streets, especially in old quarter. Have to be extra becareful when you purchase anything from them. They take any opportunity to fraud.
A foreigner I met said the street seller give her wrong amount of money ( less) and then pretend to be very busy and run away.
Similar to my experience, I bought a 5,000D mineral water and pay 100,000D. Once the lady saw the 100,000D, she grabbed and kept in her pocket. Later she pretended that she didnt have so much money to give me back. Ended up both of us shouted at each other with different languages, until she give me back the right amount.
Now think back the situation, feel a bit funny.
There are many people selling postcards on the streets a lot of them are disabled in some way and yes it is hard to not feel sorry when you see how hard the people work in Vietnam especially in the north where they do everything manually.
Unique Suggestions: We did buy postcards but only 1 set each in every place simply beracuse they are sold in packs of 10 for $US1but they are all of the 1 place. When we were approcahed we just told them we already had some thank you they seemed pretty ok with this and many stayed to chat with us and ask where we were from. Generally we found the people to be very friendly and not a pushy as we had expected them to be.
On the streets of Hanoi there are hundreds of people selling various things. The most common thing is children selling postcards or chewinggum. The children can be very cute and friendly, but oh my! The price they want you to pay for the postcards! If you just arrived to Hanoi, are tired and don't really know the money yet, these little ones can really cheat you!
Unique Suggestions: Be friendly but determined!