Things to know on bargaining in Vietnam

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In some western countries, bargaining is not really welcomed but in Asia, especially Vietnam, bargaining is a part of Vietnamese culture. Actually, the Vietnamese appreciate the efforts of foreigners when they try to put the price down. But to have a perfect trip to Vietnam, you better have some knowledge about bargaining in Vietnam.

According to Wikipedia, we are told that “bargaining or haggling is a type of negotiation in which the buyer and seller of a good or service debate the price and exact nature of a transaction. If the bargaining produces agreement on terms, the transaction takes place.” But it really doesn’t have to be a debate at all, instead, you should likely have a small and fun talk with the seller about the price and the outcome would satisfy both sides and you can leave happily. But to win the game, first, you have to understand how it works.

Where you should bargain in Vietnam

Market in Vietnam

A market is a good place for bargaining

Wherever the prices aren’t fixed, wet markets, street markets, vendors, even in some shops that allow bargaining, you can show some negotiating skills. Vietnamese really like bargaining considering it can be done almost everywhere except for restaurants, supermarkets, and grocery stores. You would be surprised if you know how much Vietnamese like to purchase in markets than stores, malls or marts and in fact they buy kinds of stuff in the nearest markets much more often than going to a mart. It’s not like the prices in markets are much cheaper than in supermarkets, it’s like a habit that can’t be changed.

When you should bargain in Vietnam

supermarket in vietnam

The supermarket has fixed prices

It should be when you think a product is overpriced or when your budget doesn’t allow you to pay that much for the thing. Or when you buy in a large amount, that’s when you should ask for a lower price. You don’t do it when something has a price tag, it means the thing isn’t negotiable or when you feel the seller honestly tell you his/her possible lowest price or when the thing doesn’t really cost much (a cup of beer never costs you over one dollar).


– First, you need to know the exchange rate: 1 US dollar equals 22.547VND in August 2015. Usually shopping with local currency is cheaper than with foreign currency. It’s easier when you have different notes to give the exact amount agreed. You should remember the notes by their colours to avoid confusion.

– Locals always know the market price for an item before going to a market, and even though, they will stroll around the market to ask different sellers for their prices before decide to buy anything. You should go with a local if you don’t have any experience of bargaining and watch them in order to learn how they do it.

– When you have chosen something, think of a maximum price for that thing in your mind before getting the first price from the seller. Start haggling by quoting a price that is about 10-20% lower than what you think you should be paying.

– Your starting price shouldn’t be too low like fewer than 50% of the price the seller announced the first time. It would be offended by them. Actually 50% often work most of the time.


Bargaining Tips when shopping in Vietnam

–  Don’t feel embarrassed or guilty if you decided to haggle on something, there is nothing to be shy about a long-aged cultural thing that locals do all the time.

–  In fact, being smiley and confident will give you a lot of advantages because the Vietnamese like to bargain with foreigners.

–  It would be best if you can speak some phrases in Vietnamese like “bao nhiêu?” for “how much?” or “quá đắt” for “too expensive” or basic “Xin chào” (“hello”) and “cảm ơn” (“thank you”).

–  Sometimes, 50% rule doesn’t work if the seller wants to trick you by announcing the first price too high from the real price. So that’s why you should know well the market price about the thing you want to buy. But, it’s not enough; in some streets, all sellers tell you the same price because they know the price other sellers offer. In that case, you should get some advice from a local.

–  You can’t be rushed when shopping in Vietnam, the game takes time. You will likely pay too high for something when you shop impulsively and don’t carefully pay attention and consider the price.

– Don’t show the seller too much interest like “oh, I must have this, this is too beautiful”, always give off a vibe that you may or may not buy this depending on the price, if it’s too expensive, you don’t have to convince yourself that you need the thing.

– Walking away seems to be an effective trick you can use. Show your disinterest in the product and walk off nicely, the seller would reconsider the price. But it might backfire when the seller finds your price too low and when you come back you have to pay the price she/he offers.

– Or when the negotiation comes to a hopeless point, you can try another method by buying a bigger volume of the product and ask for a lower rate. In this case, the seller would just low it down a little bit.

– Foreigners sometimes are too paranoid that every local seller wants to rip them off. You shouldn’t take it too personally or seriously because even locals consider bargaining more entertaining and more like a game than a serious thing. You can’t avoid being overcharged all the time; it happens anyway, more or less. The more you are open-minded about it, the more money you will save the next time shopping.

In the end, it’s a win-win deal: you paid for a cheaper price, the seller sold at an acceptable rate. There might be one or two sellers who show their unhappiness even when they sell you for the price both sides have agreed on. But it’s a normal thing and don’t let them control your emotions. After all, practice makes perfect, maybe one day you will actually enjoy shopping in Vietnam?

Do you want to experience more Vietnamese culture and explore the daily life of Vietnam? But do not forget to contact us to arrange a Vietnam visa on arrival in advance.

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