After having lived in Vietnam for almost three years I sometimes miss the convenience of Amazon’s incredibly fast shipping. While it’s true that many goods are cheaper to purchase in Vietnam versus the USA or any other developed country you may be coming from, this isn’t always the case. Many designer clothes and bags get marked waaaaay up here, especially in Ho Chi Minh City.
On the other hand, some things are best purchased in Vietnam once you get here. Toilet paper, soap, snacks, phone cases, and such are extremely cheap in Vietnam. This post will help you identify some things you should consider picking up before you arrive in Vietnam. Following this guide will save you both money and headaches.
If you’ve ever been to an Asian market you’ve no doubt seen some cheap backpacks. It’s not uncommon to see a Northface bag for just $20 in Vietnam. Of course, it’s not actually a Northface bag, but a cheap knockoff. Notice we emphasized cheap here.
If you purchase a bag in Vietnam, there’s a good chance it’s going to be lacking some quality. There are exceptions, but any quality bags you purchase here are going to cost you. If you’re fine with trashing a $25 bag every few months feel free to purchase your backpacks in Vietnam.
Otherwise, save yourself some time. Grab a Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack on Amazon now! These backpacks are a whopping 45L while still managing to be carry-on size. In other words, the perfect backpack for all but the most minimalistic of travelers.
Vietnam has some decent supermarkets, Circle Ks, Family Marts, and 7-11s. At any of these retailers you should be able to purchase some type of perfume or cologne. Plus, it’s likely to only cost you a few dollars. The downside is that these fragrances are probably going to smell just as lousy as that Axe stuff your classmates used to douse themselves with after gym class in junior high.
Don’t be an amateur. Take care of yourself, and grab some Acqua Di Gio Giorgio Armani before you fly across the world. Pro-tip, the 3.4oz bottle of Acqua Di Gio is the maximum you can carry-on the plane. I recommend you get the 3.4oz as it’s not too large to travel with, yet it is large enough to possibly last all year (depending on your usage).
(Picture taken by me in Penang, Malaysia)
Let’s not get too graphic here. Simply said, it’s better to be safe than sorry. A lot of the condom brands in Asia may be either unreliable or an uncomfortable fit for you. A lot of the expats in Asia complain about the condoms being tighter here, even for well-known brands like Durex or Trojan. It goes without saying you shouldn’t have faith in those 2 for $0.50 rubbers with the scantily clad woman on the package that you found at that sketchy convenience store in Malaysia either (true story).
While you could always go without, that’s not recommended. Unquestionably, the best decision is to get yourself equipped with your preferred type of condoms before you hit the road.
Perhaps this is just a personal obsession of mine, but I’ve found decent protein bars tough to find in Asia. While protein or energy bars usually aren’t necessary due to the abundance of cheap and delicious street food, they’re a welcome luxury when you’re hiking or traveling by bus. They also give you the homely feel if you’re living here long-term and begin to get jaded. Hey, it happens to the best of us!
Hate doing laundry? Want to cut down the number of shirts you have to pack for you trip? I highly recommend you pick up a few Woolly Clothing Short Sleeve Henley T-Shirts. These shirts are designed for travelers. They are made of an ideal fabric that allows you to wear them several times before they begin to stink and need to be washed.
This is perfect when you’re bouncing around from country to country or staying in hotels in Vietnam. While serviced apartments in Vietnam often do your laundry for you (every Vietnamese apartment I’ve had thus far has done my laundry for free), the same can’t be said for hotels.
In addition to not doing your laundry for free, hotels can charge you a pretty penny to do your laundry. If you’re staying in Ho Chi Minh City, you might find your hotel wants $5-$10 (or more!) from you per load of laundry no ironing included. That adds up fast! Again, that’s why I highly recommend you get some Wooly shirts to cut down on the laundry you need to do. That’ll save you both time and money.
While I’m a thrifty guy that’s still riding out my last few shirts from high school, you can bet that this is the first shirt I’m going to buy when I upgrade my wardrobe. I’d have already replaced all my cotton shirts if I hadn’t spent the last two years living in apartments that did my laundry for free.
Foot stink is equally as putrid as armpit sweat. Like I said earlier, wool is much more odor-resistant than cotton. This allows you to wear your clothes more times without washing them. If you’re trying to save money on laundry, and spare the rest of us a whiff of your smelly socks, invest in some Darn Tough Merino Wool Travel Socks off Amazon.
I’m young enough that it doesn’t matter much if I go on flights without a travel pillow. My mom and brother struggle to fly long-haul without the additional support and comfort a travel pillow provides, however.
Perhaps you’re the same. If so, I’d recommend picking up a Trtl Travel Pillow.
Apart from holding your neck in an ergonomic position, this pillow will also help keep you warm (everybody knows planes just love to blast the A/C).
If you have difficulty sleeping on planes or staying asleep, the Trtl travel pillow may be a good purchase for you! The pillow was also designed to take up a minimum amount of space in your bag.
If you’re going to be working on the computer while you travel, purchasing a laptop stand makes a lot of sense. Laptop stands help you work without hunching over your computer so much. Apart from simply being healthier, working in a more ergonomic position allows you to focus more easily as well.
There are two laptop stands you should consider purchasing. Your two main options are the Nexstand and the Roost laptop stand. The Roost laptop stand is said to have come first. Sturdy, light, and easily adjustable, I’d say the Roost is a slightly higher quality product than the Nexstand.
There’s a huge price difference, however. While prices could fluctuate, you can expect to pay 2-3 times more for a Roost than a Nexstand. Therefore, if you’re searching for the best value laptop stand I’d recommend a Nexstand (pick one up here). It’s what I use.
If you’re raking in the dough, however, and usually choose to purchase the best gear regardless of the price, a Roost may make more sense for you.
You need a laptop if you’ve got a laptop stand right? If you’re on a super tight budget it probably doesn’t make sense to purchase a Macbook. $300 for a PC goes way further than $300 for a Mac.
Macbooks offer a lot of benefits, however. You’ll find that most people consider them to be the most aesthetically pleasing type of computer. Macbooks are clean and beautiful. They are efficient, and offer great battery life. They have a high resell value, and tend to last you many years.
Of course, if you’re a fan of Macs you don’t need me to sell you on this and if you’re a fan of Windows you won’t be converted anyway. Regardless of how you roll, make sure you’ve got a decent computer before you come to Vietnam.
While you can purchase electronics here, it’s hard to be sure what you’re really buying. Cheap Chinese knockoffs as well as downright scams are prevalent in shops selling to foreigners.
If you’re due for a major electronics purchase, get it taken care of before you come here. As a newbie in Vietnam, there’s a good chance someone will take advantage of you if you don’t follow this tip.
Smartphone addiction is real. You’re probably using your smartphone waaaaaay too much. With that being said, you won’t want to be traveling around Vietnam without an iPhone (or other comparable phone).
My iPhone has come in handy so many times while traveling in Vietnam. My first night in Vietnam when I was a lonely scared teenager I used it to help navigate to my hotel. I used my iPhone for chat apps to arrange dates with both friends and local girls.
If you’re looking to date abroad, you can’t expect some girl to have the patience to call you on the phone. She is going to want to add you on Whatsapp, Viber, Line, Zalo, Wechat, or whatever the local chat app is.
More importantly, you’re going to need a smartphone to book Uber or Grab (the Asian equivalent of Uber). Taking taxis is a pain, especially in developing countries like Vietnam.
You constantly have to be worried about whether they’re going to try to overcharge or even steal something from you. You’ll save both time and mental energy using either Grab or Uber to book a ride for yourself.
Finally, having an iPhone is great because it’ll allow you to take photos or videos from your trip. If it’s not on Instagram it didn’t happen right?
Life in Vietnam is exciting. There’s amazing people, food, markets, you name it. With that being said, Vietnam is chaotic. If you’re in one of the big cities like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, it’s inevitable you’ll get overwhelmed at some point.
Even having been here for almost three years, the city is often too much for me to handle. If you’re traveling to Vietnam I guarantee the traffic, pollution, and noise will get to you. When that happens, the best thing to do is escape to your apartment and get lost in a nice book.
While physical books would make for an ideal experience, it isn’t practical to carry them with you while traveling. For that reason, a Kindle will serve you well.
I hope this post has given you some ideas on things you should buy before traveling to Vietnam. While you may not need all of these things during your travels in Vietnam, picking up at least some of them beforehand will ensure you make the most of your time here.