9 Portable & Memorable Souvenirs From Vietnam
Travelers shifted to light traveling since it saves money, carbon footprints and they slowly step away from buying souvenirs. Did travelers really stop buying souvenirs? We don’t think so! Some souvenirs take loads of space in the luggage, there are many other lightweight options (or electronic) that will make you smile while reminding you about amazing memories, beautiful people, cultures and traditions. Thinking of bringing a few souvenirs from Vietnam back home but lacking original ideas? Don’t worry, we get you covered.
We’ve been traveling to Vietnam a few times and we remember the struggle of getting souvenirs for friends and family back home. Some things are simply too big, or too fragile for flights which makes them non-practical souvenirs. In the list below, you can find practical, traditional and memorable souvenirs you can buy around different places in Vietnam.
#1- Nón lá – Vietnamese Conical Hat
One thing you can hardly miss in Vietnam is their iconic conical hat called Nón lá. People around the country (especially the countryside) wear Nón lá mainly during the day to protect themselves from the sun or rain, depending on the season.
Did you know that the first appearance of Asia conical hat dates 3,000 years ago?
If you’re looking to get Nón lá as a gift or souvenir from Vietnam, you shouldn’t worry since you can find it everywhere. Locals usually use palm leaves and bamboo to make Nón lá hat and its variations.
It’s interesting how styles differ depending on the region. For instance, in the northern province of Thanh Hoa, people tend to wear a hat with a large frame, while Hue is popular by its thin hats and Binh Dinh by small and thick hats.
If you’re looking to buy Nón lá, probably the best place would be Chuong Village that is located just 30 km out of the capital. As we’ve already mentioned, people can find Nón lá on every step in Vietnam, so don’t worry if you’re not visiting villages or the countryside. A simple visit to any night market will give you a huge variety of conical hats.
Prices in the market and touristic places vary a lot – 20,000 – 150,000 VND is what we usually see as the price tag. In the countryside and tiny shops where locals make hats, the prices won’t exceed 20,000 VND.
#2- Áo dài – Traditional Vietnamese Dress
Áo dài, a silk-made traditional dress, is probably one of the most recognized souvenirs you can get in Vietnam. The history of Áo dài dates all the way back to the Nguyen dynasty (19th century) who required court people to dress in Áo dài.
During a colonization era and 1950s, international designers saw a huge potential in Áo dài and decided to create a modern, unisex dress that is known today as Áo dài.
If you ever find yourself wandering around Old District streets in Hanoi or the Ancient Town in Hoi An, you’ll see many people wearing Áo dài with different graphics, colors, and styles. While picking Áo dài, it’s important that you think about the contrast – dress is one color, while trousers should contrast a dress color.
The most popular place for tailoring Áo dài (and other clothes) to your size is by far Hoi An. Since the town became extremely touristic, prices of tailoring Áo dài climb through the roof, so don’t forget to negotiate. People usually wear Áo dài during significant holidays, such as Tet Holiday or Mid-Autumn festival.
The prices for a tailored Áo dài usually start at 700,000 and can reach 2,000,000 VND depending on the fabrics, colors, graphics, and shop.
#3- Thuốc lào – Tobacco Bong
Thuốc lào, or Nicotiana Rustica, is a special sort of tobacco that contains up to 10 times more nicotine than the regular one. It’s very interesting how a tobacco bong ritual can be found only in the northern provinces while it’s very hard to see anyone smoking Thuốc lào in the south. Locals love to get a nicotine hit from a bong after a big lunch accompanied by a cup of Vietnamese coffee and herbal tea.
Since tobacco is very strong, people usually feel dizzy or high after inhaling through the pipe. Never take huge hits from the beginning, but rather start small and slowly increase.
Thuốc lào is a term for special tobacco, while a water bong is called dieu cay or dieu bat, depending on the material.
As we’ve already mentioned, the best place to find a pipe and tobacco is Hanoi, Thanh Hoa (best tobacco by locals) and Nghe An provinces.
Prices may vary, but expect to pay around 200,000 VND for a bamboo or metal pipe and up to 700,000 for a wooden one (which might be harder to carry it back home since border regulations).
#4- Traditional Vietnamese Coffee & Coffee Phin
What would be a better souvenir from Vietnam than delicious and potent coffee? Did you know that Vietnam is the second-largest coffee exporter in the world? Well, that says everything about the coffee in Vietnam.
Once you set your feet in Vietnam, you’ll see coffee everywhere. Locals talking with sips of strong coffee and tea, a coffee scent on each step and booming of cafe shops. Coffee in Vietnam is rooted in culture.
Vietnam mainly produces Robusta beans, but Arabica can be found in the Highlands, especially around Da Lat and Buon Ma Thuot which is regarded as the capital of coffee in Vietnam. We recommend visiting local farms and families producing coffee in the Highlands if you’re looking to bring coffee back home.
The prices from the farms usually start at 100,000 VND for 200 grams of packed coffee beans. In the markets and shops (Big C, Vincom, locals markets) you can get Trung Nguyen for about 70,000 VND (350g).
Don’t forget to get a coffee phin (filter) for about 30,000 VND that will make a delicious Vietnamese coffee.
#5- Guốc Mộc – Traditional Wooden Footwear
Wearing wooden footwear in Vietnam dates from Nguyen dynasty times when people started to wear Áo dài, Nón lá and famous Guốc Mộc. The beautiful and oldfashioned wooden footwear can be seen on Vietnamese women during special occasions such as the Tet Holiday celebration, Mid Autumn Festival or similar.
The history of wooden footwear in Vietnam is very interesting since farmers were mainly working barefoot all the way until the Tran dynasty in the 15th century. Did you know that indigenous people living in Cao Bang province (near China border) wear stone clogs? During the Nguyen dynasty, wooden clogs became mainstream footwear among rich people and soon after August Revolution in 1945., the first factory for producing wooden clogs was opened in Hue. The rest is history.
Nowadays, we had a chance to see old women wearing Guốc Mộc while driving around Nghe An countryside. Apart from that, I’ve seen plenty of artistic footwear in Hoi An during the Mid Autumn Festival (authenticity is questionable).
You can get your hands on wooden clogs around the Old District in Hanoi or Benh Thanh Market in Saigon or the Ancient Town in Hoi An. You can expect to pay around 250,000 VND in these touristic places for a pair of wooden clogs.
Silk might remind you as a luxury, but the times when silk was only worn by the elite and royal family were far behind us. These days you can find loads of silk materials, dresses (Ao Dai), shirts and much more on the markets and stores. For instance, Hoi An is widely recognized by tailors who’re going to make beautiful and elegant clothes from silk for your size.
Looking to buy high-quality silk in Vietnam? Head over to Silk Street (Hang Gai Street) in Hanoi’s Old District and you’ll be surrounded by hundreds of small shops and silk vendors. In Hoi An, there is a popular Cocoon Silk store that not only specializes in selling silk but also educates people about silk and its history. Other great places to buy silk are Cam Chau (Silk Village around Hoi An), and Toan Thinh Silk in Saigon.
Expect to pay around 100,000 VND per meter of silk.
#7- Herbal Tea
Did you know that Vietnamese tea is considered as a hobby of older people? You see, you can’t miss getting some tea as a souvenir from Vietnam back home!
There are many different types of tea consumed in Vietnam and the most popular are lotus, jasmine, and green tea. It’s not surprising that wherever you go in Vietnam, you’ll see people, young and old, enjoying green tea while socializing.
The best place to buy tea is by far Thai Nguyen province (around 150km north from Hanoi). If you don’t go there, try your luck in Lai Cau or Da Lat.
Jasmine and green tea costs about 50,000 VND per 100 grams, while Lotus tea can reach 1,000,000 VND for 100 grams.
We bought a very good tea (don’t know what was it) in Trang An area (Ninh Binh province) from our guest house. The tea was obviously a mixture of many herbs, roots, and leaves, but the majority of people in that area consume tea like that. We remember it was the most delicious tea we’ve ever tried. The price was around 200,000 VND for around 100 grams.
#8- Do Paper Postcards
Do Paper is a special type of paper made from the inner layer of do trees. This paper had a crucial role in Vietnamese tradition and history since the folk artists throughout history were painting the historical moments and events on this paper. Nowadays, do paper isn’t widely used, but important documents, books, and valuable paintings are still printed on it. The most famous art made on Do paper is by far Dong Go painting.
Sometimes, it can be tough to find a store that sells do paper, but don’t worry, we have you covered. Head over to Craft Link or small shops on Hang Gai in Hanoi’s Old District. There you can get traditional postcards, notebooks, shiny pictures, greeting cards and much more for the price starting at 30,000 VND.
p.s. If you’re looking for digitalized postcards from Vietnam, don’t hesitate to check our postcard page. Also, we’re creating digital postcards on demand, in case you’re looking for something creative and original. 🙂
#9- Traditional Hand Embroidery
Hand embroidery is rooted in Vietnamese culture so deep that even Vietnamese ancestors liked to say:
“Men read books and recite poems. Women have to do embroidery and sewing.”
You can find literally anything embroidered including sheets, quilts, pillowcases, table runners, bags, sleep dresses and much more. The majority of embroidered products differ in prices, quality, and material, so pay extra attention while buying. For instance, locals tend to buy hand embroidery made from cotton or silk as they believe it’s the best.
If you’re heading to Sa Pa or norther provinces where ethnic minorities live, be sure to take a visit around the villages and support their hard work. Embroidery from the north is arguably the best and most durable.
Buying embroidery in Hanoi is effortless and can be found around Hoan Kiem lake. Check out Hang Gai street and Hang Da Market (2nd floor) for creative hand embroidery products.
Expect to pay up to 300,000 VND for bed sheets, up to 150,000 VND for a handbag and around 200,000 VND for napkins.
We hope our list of 9 souvenirs from Vietnam will help you in deciding what kind of traditional product you’d like to bring home. There are still many other traditional products you can take as souvenirs, but we didn’t mention all since some are too big or heavy to be practical for transportation. If you have any other ideas feel free to share it with us. Enjoy Vietnam! 😉