For many, a trip to Vietnam is a trip of a lifetime, and you want something equally as special to remember your trip by once you get home. Since you are appreciating the landscapes and culture of Vietnam, your souvenir from Vietnam should something that is both significant to you and unique to Vietnamese culture (or at least are really fun).
These are the best Vietnam souvenirs and ideas for Vietnamese gifts for you to take back for friends and family!
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What to Buy in Vietnam
In no particular order…
The iconic hat is probably the most recognizable souvenirs that show you have been to Vietnam. It is an important symbol of the country. Known also as Non La, the hat reflects the rich agricultural culture of the country. During your travels around the country, you’ll see this hat everywhere from busy city streets to rural rice fields.
You can easily buy this in any market from the countryside to the city. This iconic hat is not only good to protect from the sun, but it also looks quite charming! Make sure to only wear it respectfully. Some travelers also use this handmade hat to decorate the houses when they get back home. These also make great educational Vietnamese gifts for children!
Ao Dai Traditional Dress
In Vietnamese daily life, the Ao Dai is used for formal occasions or holidays. There are designs for both men and women. Originally, this costume had two parts that contrasted: the long dress and the pants underneath.
The reason why foreigners love Ao Dai because it makes your body looks thinner and taller. One of the best places to buy Ao Dai is IN Hoi An where the tailor-made service is amazing. You can have a beautiful dress made to order within a day!
If you’re looking for a great Vietnamese gift for her, try to get an idea of your special someone’s measurements so you can bring back one that fits beautifully.
Of course, as with all traditional clothing and cultural apparel, be respectful. There’s a really fine line between appreciation and cultural appropriation. Purchasing them is a great way to support the local economy, but don’t wear them as costumes.
Vietnam is listed amongst the top coffee exporting countries in the world. The local coffee culture is distinctive, and you can try local unique drinks like Ca Phe Sua and Egg Coffee.
To have something to bring back home, I would recommend you visit some of the family-owned spots like Mai Café, and Nhan Café to buy the authentic Robusta Arabica to take home with you.
Vietnam paintings have their own voice. They are not full of monks or Buddhist images like you find in Myanmar, Laos, or Cambodia. Instead, you`ll find beautiful scenes capturing nostalgic streets, picturesque rice terraces, golden autumns, etc.
These make great home decor. (In fact, my souvenir collection includes paintings and photographs from all over the world).
In the old quarter of Hanoi, there are numerous galleries that offer paintings from $25 to $500. When buying art in foreign countries, make sure to look for pieces you’ll love and will fit into the rest of your decor at home.
After a Vietnam Tour, you may want to pick up something light that won’t add too much weight to your day bag. A Vietnamese Lantern is a great typical souvenir from Vietnam, and they are rarely heavy.
In Central Vietnam, especially in the Unesco World Heritage Site of Hoi An, lanterns are made by local artisans without any machinery. I really can’t think of a more charming Vietnamese gift to bring back for your family than a beautiful handmade lantern.
For those who want to have a sign of Asian culture in their house, a lantern is such a great choice. Nowadays, you can choose lanterns from different motifs, sizes, and shapes. Even the most particular traveler will find one he or she can adore!
It comes as no surprise that Puppetry is one of the most entertaining performances you can attend while you’re in Vietnam. This is considered a must-do while in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City at night.
When the performance finishes, you actually can buy a puppet to bring back home! If you’re looking for a Vietnamese souvenir for kids, these are a great choice!
Many people do not know that Vietnamese tea culture is extremely important to the Vietnamese. Across the country, there are many types of teas that do not appear in your place from bitter tea to herbal one.
Each tea region has its specialty. For example, Moc Chau plateau is good for Oo Long tea, Hanoi is famous for scented lotus tea, and Thai Nguyen is well known for green tea.
Depends on your travel itinerary and taste, you can pick up your personalized tea bags as a great Vietnam souvenir that won’t take up much room in your luggage. This is also a good option if you’re looking to bring back a Vietnamese gift for a friend or coworker.
Tribal Handicraft and Brocade
The mountains of Vietnam are home to many different hill-tribes whose traditional work of making colorful handicrafts is widely recognized. The markets of Sapa or Ha Giang display plenty of these handicrafts and brocades made by the Hmong, Dzao, and Tay ethnic minorities.
These are ideal places to buy an eye-catching dress or a handmade silver necklace.
Make sure to buy as close to the source as possible so you know your money is going directly to the artisans and local craftspeople making the items from their cultural traditions.
O Mai Sweetened Fruits
Looking for something to bring back for your tea time at home to make it even more special? Try O Mai, a Hanoi specialty that consists of dried fruits mixed with sugar, salt, lime, chili, and ginger. These snacks pair well with tea, especially lotus tea.
These are a great option if you don’t have much room in your luggage or are looking for cheap Vietnam souvenirs that won’t break your budget.
Historic Vietnamese propaganda makes for a great souvenir. Unlike Communist souvenirs from post-Soviet and other formerly Communist countries, keep in mind that Vietnam is still Communist and so much of the propaganda and other communist artifacts reflect the current community spirit that has been developed in the country.
Moreover, most of the propaganda is designed by famous local artists so they can be considered as a type of art too. You can choose from current and historic varieties.
Vietnam is famous for its silk products. I couldn’t help but pick out a beautiful silk robe to bring back from m own Vietnam travels. Sleeping bag liners, pillows, and decorative items are also popular options and are available in many shops. The best places to purchase are Van Phuc Silk, Hanoi and the Old Town in Hoi An.
Traditional Dó Paper
The traditional work of making Do paper originated in Bac Ninh province. The main material is the bark of the Rhamnoneuron Balansae tree. It is used for making the Dong Ho painting.
This is a great Hanoi souvenir option. Do paper has many varieties and you can find both blank sheets and ones with pictures.
Lacquer Ware kicked off in the 1930s at Hanoi University. This is a great gift from Vietnam since you can find it in many varieties and sizes, but the art form is uniquely Vietnamese.
Books about Vietnam
One of my all-time favorite souvenir ideas is to pick up local literature when you’re in a country. You can find local literature, both novels and non-fiction, that may not be available back home or online. This is especially true for books published and sold in museum gift shops since these tend to be specialty items with smaller print runs.
I chose these two books by Pulitzer Prize Winner Viet Thanh Nguyen. Even though these books are available around the world, I love my copies more because they’re from Vietnam.
Vietnam Flag Souvenirs
Budding Vexillologists and flag enthusiasts should pick up a few Vietnamese flag souvenirs. They’re widely available, and the Vietnamese flag is a really beautiful and easily recognizable one.
Vietnamese Food and Sauces
My business partner Allison may or may not have a pantry stocked with sauces from Vietnam from a trip she took solely to indulge in Vietnamese food for two weeks. While you can’t bring back an entire pantry or an unlimited supply of Bun Bo Nam Bo, you can bring back sauces and spices that will enhance your cooking and allow you to make some of these dishes back home.
Vietnamese Coffee Filter and Tea Sets
If you love specialty kitchen gadgets and beautiful kitchenware, then consider picking up a Vietnamese coffee filter or a beautiful tea set. If you love the extra bit of tradition and pomp that comes with using the right tools, you’ll love having these handy in your kitchen.
I’ll be honest. I can’t think of a single thing I’d use a bamboo sling for in my real life. Yet watching the Vietnamese gracefully maneuver busy streets and country farms with them makes me want one anyway. I’m kind of heartbroken that I didn’t bring one back, to be honest.
A Vietnamese Cookbook
I love picking up cookbooks written by local chefs when I travel. From Crete to Hungary, my cooking has gotten (a smidge) better because I have the books teaching me what I need to do. If you fall in love with dishes from a certain part of Vietnam, make sure to pick up a cookbook! It can be really hard to find good Asian cookbooks written by Asian authors in a lot of Europe and North America.
I’m obsessed with travel puns, and I honestly regret to this very day that I only snapped a pic of this t-shirt and didn’t buy it for myself. If you see an amazing Vietnam pun on a t-shirt, please don’t leave Vietnam without it!
Traditional Kitschy Souvenirs
If you always buy a particular type of souvenir for a collection, whether you’re looking for a refrigerator magnet, a spoon, a bell, etc., you’ll be able to find them easily in Vietnam. There are lots of great souvenir shops in the cities and airports that carry typical Vietnamese souvenirs.
More Vietnam Travel Resources
5 Things to Bring to Vietnam
The Lonely Planet Vietnam guidebook for your trip. I used a Kindle version during my time in Vietnam. It’s hard to find guidebooks once you’re actually on the ground.
Backup Charging Bank for your cell phone since you’ll be using it as a camera, GPS, and general travel genie.
A Full-Sized Travel Towel for anyone taking advantage of Vietnam’s beaches (or…hostels…). This is the best travel towel in the world, and you’ll need it if you are staying in hostels or anywhere that requires you to bring your towel.
A Great Day Bag so you can carry what you need with you (like your camera, snacks, water, sunscreen, cash, etc). My current favorite is the Pacsafe Citysafe, which is especially great for Vietnam because it has many anti-theft features designed to deter pickpockets. It also transitions to a night bag more easily and won’t embarrass you if you go to dinner directly after sightseeing all day.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Before you leave for Vietnam make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be hanging out in cities like Hanoi where tourists can easily become the targets of pickpockets.
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for three years, and I happily recommend them. If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you’ll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what’s stolen or broken.
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