Deciding where to shop in Ho Chi Minh City is really a matter of mood and mission. Although Vietnam’s largest city doesn’t boast as many massive malls as Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur, you'll find an abundance of busy, exciting markets here; wandering one or two is the best way to sample the pulse of the city.
Outside of the nicest malls in Ho Chi Minh City, haggling is expected and necessary. You’ll need cash (preferably small denominations), patience, and a smile to play the game. Choose wisely the first time—returns aren’t a thing—and always turn up hungry: carts selling delicious street food are never far from the best shopping in Ho Chi Minh City.
Ben Thanh Market
Ho Chi Minh City’s most famous market is the epicenter for touristy shopping, but locals squeeze in to enjoy it, too. Along with perusing for gifts, handicrafts, and such, Ben Thanh is a place to enjoy street food, socialize, and have a drink while people watching—especially after 6 p.m. More than 10,000 people a day come to this District 1 market to haggle prices among the thousands of booths selling everything from fruit to SLR cameras.
Le Cong Kieu Street
Le Cong Kieu Street, opposite Ben Thanh Market, is a short strip crammed with antique stalls and dim shops. This is the premier place to buy old coins, small Buddha statues, vases, gongs, and ceramics. Some of the wares on Le Cong Kieu Street make beautiful gifts and souvenirs, but don’t believe it when the proprietor tells you a piece is from the Ming dynasty!
An Dong Market
Air conditioned but hardly luxurious, An Dong Market in District 5 is a place locals go to find cheap clothing, jewelry, and handicrafts. If you’re disenfranchised with the tourist prices and hassle at Ben Thanh Market, then An Dong will feel more like a local experience. That said, you’ll still need to negotiate prices a bit with the wholesalers.
The first two floors of An Dong are piled with clothing, shoes, and handbags. As usual, cheap knockoffs of famous brands abound. The top floors are a good choice for finding less-touristic souvenirs, handicrafts, woodwork, and silk pillowcases. Go hungry: authentic local snacks and hawker food are cheap.
Vincom Center Landmark 81 and Vincom Center
Vincom Center Landmark 81 occupies the bottom of Landmark 81, currently the tallest building in Southeast Asia. After spending some time shopping, you can go visit the Skydeck Observatory between floors 79 to 81. Landmark 81 is also home to an indoor ice skating rink, an unusual sight after escaping from Vietnam’s tropical heat.
A 10-minute drive south from Vincom Center Landmark 81, Vincom Center (the two sometimes get confused) claims the title as the largest mall in Ho Chi Minh City. The mall is actually divided between two buildings; Building A is home to numerous luxury brands, while Building B hosts more midrange options and a food court in the basement.
Opened in 2011, Crescent Mall in District 7 occupies more than a million square feet and is filled with chains such as H&M, Gap, Nike, and others you’ll probably recognize from home. The mall is anchored by a large supermarket; this is where to shop in Ho Chi Minh City for a “classic” mall experience.
Crescent Mall’s enjoyable shape and lakeside setting give it appeal. The adjacent Starlight Bridge is an attraction in itself, so go at night. With a little timing you may catch one of the regular events (e.g. fashion shows, e-sports gaming tournaments) hosted either lakeside or inside Crescent Mall.
Binh Tay Market, located in Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinatown area in District 6, has an inspiring history. The start of the market is credited to a poor, Chinese entrepreneur who earned a hard living by collecting old bottles, duck feathers for pillows, and other discarded materials. Through hard work and smart trading, he slowly amassed a fortune and became a philanthropist before his death in 1927.
Local farmers come to trade goods inside the two-story Binh Tay Market. Chances are you don’t need a live fish or chicken on your trip, but you’ll also find handicrafts, packaged spices, coffee, textiles, and of course, excellent food stalls.
Diamond Plaza is a multi-story shopping complex only one block from Saigon’s Notre Dame Cathedral and other famous attractions. The building is well thought out, and the décor inside is vibrant and lively. Along with midrange and luxury brands, Diamond Plaza has a food court, cinema (with titles in English), and bowling alley. If you need a break while exploring District 1, Diamond Plaza boasts super-powered air conditioning!
Popular with locals and expats alike, the relatively new Estella Place offers five levels of shopping and eating in District 2. Although Estella Place isn’t as convenient if you’re staying in District 1, it’s worth a look, particularly if you’re going to explore the sprawling Minh Dang Quang Buddhist Institute just a short walk from the mall. The top floor of the mall is home to an international medical clinic and pharmacy.
The clean luxury malls in Ho Chi Minh City are good for gawking, but budget shopping malls such as Saigon Square stay buzzing with actual buying. Like An Dong Market, Saigon Square is where locals go for inexpensive clothing, shoes, backpacks, sportswear, and accessories. Perhaps a little unfairly, Saigon Square could be compared to Bangkok’s infamous MBK Center as both malls are crammed with fake knockoffs of famous brands. Saigon Square is a short walk from Pham Ngu Lao in District 1, so that means you’ll need to haggle hard for that “South Face” jacket.
Dan Sinh Market
The War Surplus Market is among the strangest places to shop in Ho Chi Minh City. The unusual market is small, tricky to find, and piled from floor to ceiling with military surplus, hardware, tools, and relics purportedly left behind after the Vietnam War.
Although some of the military artifacts are indeed authentic and brought in from villagers who find them, you’ll need to be an expert to distinguish between real and fake. Military dog tags, Zippo lighters, and other items are recreated then buried to make them appear tarnished and weathered. You’ll probably never know for sure if an American serviceman carried that lighter in the jungle or not. Still, a visit to Dan Sinh Market is a must for all military history enthusiasts as is the War Remnants Museum.