The Art of Bargaining
There’s one golden rule to shopping in Vietnam: bargain, and bargain hard. “Fixed prices” at most tourist shops aren’t really fixed at all – the listed prices are about 300% higher than the last price you can pay if you dicker long enough. Bargaining is an exacting discipline, and quite exasperating for the novice traveler who’s not used to the grueling back and forth.
Karin Muller, an old hand at the bargaining game, explains: “You can only bargain successfully if you do it with grace and humor – if you treat it as a game. Usually the amounts in question are minuscule anyway – why get upset?… And if you don’t like to bargain, don’t. Pay whatever they ask – your trip will still be cheap by most standards.”
Other Helpful Money Tips
- Budget travelers in Vietnam can expect to spend up to $25 a day on food and lodging. Middle-budget spenders can enjoy good restaurant food, hire cabs, and stay comfortably in good hotels for about $65 a day.
- Don’t change your currencies on the black market. The legal exchange rate beats black market rates any time; claims of better rates are probably just the lead-up to a scam.
- When visiting a pagoda, leave a small donation just before you leave.
- Bring a small calculator to calculate currency conversions.
- Travelers’ checks are nearly impossible to exchange outside Vietnam’s major cities and tourist areas. Bring US dollars or VND when leaving the beaten path.
- Store cash, credit cards, and other valuables in a safe place, like the in-room safe in your hotel.