What to take to Vietnam – NOT MUCH!

When friends and family ask me what to take to Vietnam, my first response is always, “As little as possible!” There are, however, a few things you would be advised to bring.

What to take to Vietnam - Pack lightly

Pack lightly. Stay calm and SHOP!

The list below is for Ho Chi Minh City and most of Vietnam in Summer. If your are headed to the mountains or the north in winter you might want to pack some warmer clothes, although, I think these basic principles remain the same.

Vietnam is cheap and you can buy most casual clothing and other personal items here for much cheaper than you will at home (Note the sizing issues below)

If you can’t buy it, they can probably make it. You can have custom made clothes, including shoes, made for a fraction of the price you pay at home and most times it will take less than a couple of days. Express services can be 24 hours. The range of materials available are huge and if you choose the right tailor the quality will be excellent.

What to take to Vietnam - Shopping Centre

All the big names are here but cheaper…

Personal Hygiene items are widely available in the hundreds of minimarts scattered around the city. Unless you have really particular tastes in soap, shampoo, deodorant and toothpaste, you can buy everything here (including the big brand names) much cheaper than back home.

Pharmacies are everywhere in the cities and can provide something  to fix most minor medical issues extremely cheaply, on the spot.

Unless you can’t live without it, leave your valuable jewellery at home. It’s one less thing you will need to worry about. If you absolutely must bring it, read my tips for staying safe in HCMC here.

What to take to Vietnam - Ben Thanh Market

Inside Ben Thanh Market – Just one of many shopping meccas areound town

What to Take to Vietnam – A Basic Packing List

  • Light weight clothing that will rinse and dry quickly. You will sweat in HCMC without much exertion at all, so it might pay to choose colours that don’t show it as much. Don’t bring too much if you have more than a couple of days. Vietnam has some awesome, excellent value tailors that can knock you up the outfit of your choosing in a day or two.
  • Appropriate shoes for the activities you want to participate in. At the very least they need to be comfortable for walking around the city, and won’t injure you if your feet swell due to the weather. Shoes are cheap here but if you have even average size feet for a westerner you will have to have shoes made. Vietnamese people have tiny feet. I’m only a size 7.5 in Australia (UK 5.5) and I can’t buy shoes here.
  • Medication – Bring any medication you are required to take by your doctor and get them to write an official letter to say you must carry it. No point in getting customs excited if you don’t have to. Read more on my Staying Healthy on Your Visit Post.
  • Personal toiletries – See above. You can buy most things when you’re here but if you have specific preferences then bring them along.
  • Sarong or light shawl – this will be invaluable for both male and female travellers. Here’s but a few uses for it:
      • To cover your shoulders or knees when you enter temples or pagodas
      • As a makeshift towel
      • As a curtain to help block light into your room or window on a bus/train
      • As a head dress if you get caught short without a hat
      • As a flannel to wet and cool yourself down with on hot days.
  • Sunglasses – “Designer” sunglasses can be purchased off street hawkers and in markets all over town for around $3-4. Somehow I don’t think they’re genuine do you? I wouldn’t vouch for their UV protection either.
  • Sunhat – Caps and sunhats are easily purchased at any of the main tourist markets for just a few bucks, but if you have a favourite then bring it along.
  • Sunscreen- Sunscreen is available but there’s no price advantage in buying it here. It will of course save you a couple of hundred grams in your luggage.
  • Insect repellant – Freely available here but you won’t get some of the popular  brands like RID (Australia)
  • Camera, a spare battery and recharger – You won’t want to miss a single photo opportunity when you are here and there will be hundreds of them. Make sure you have enough battery power at all times. You can purchase a cheap adapter when you get here if you don’t have one, although a surge protector might be a good idea.
  • A money belt that sits under your clothes for your passport, cash and cards that you will not be using on a regular basis. (See my tips on staying safe in Ho Chi Minh City).
What to take to Vietnam - Tailors

If you can’t buy it have it made!

Other than that, you shouldn’t need much else except access to cash (Check out my Money page ) and space for all your souvenirs on the way home. Don’t worry about bringing an extra bag, you can buy that here too!!

If you have any other ideas on what to take to Vietnam then please let me know in the comments below.

Note: I do not receive any payment for this post (or any others on the site for that matter!). I do receive a small amount of money by allowing advertisements on the site and any purchases made through those links.

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5 Responses

  1. Clarissa says:

    Hi, I’m from Philippines and I’m planning to visit Vietnam and your tourist attractions also I wanna buy cheap clothes and some cosmetics for souvenirs and for my own , can you also suggest a stores where I can buy very cheap items and what store it is also ,how much money i need to prepare for it ? Pls. I need feedback ASAP I’m planning to visit By May of this year. Thanks

    • Sharyn says:

      Binh Tay market in District 5 is probably your best bet. It’s more of a wholesale market rather than a tourist market.There’s lots of variety and the prices are cheaper than in Ben Thanh (the main tourist market). I have no idea how much and what you want to buy, or how good your bargaining skills are so can’t advise on a suitable budget. I don’t tend to shop in the markets for clothes or cosmetics.

  2. Bee says:

    Hi, Im Bee from Malaysia. Vietnam is a good place to shop *esp for malaysian*
    However I don’t suggest tourist to shop at Ben Thanh market, but Binh Tay market. You can take take number 1 from Phum Ngu Lao bus station.Since Binh Tay market offers lower prices compared to Ben Thanh and you can bargain price with the shop. Eg: vietnam silk at Ben Thanh cost RM 60, but in Binh Tay only cost RM 35

  1. April 28, 2015

    […] people ask me what to bring to Vietnam, the answer is very little. You can buy most things here very cheaply. There is however one […]

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