Shopping in Hoi An

While many are attracted to Hoi An by the graceful pastel-coloured buildings, others are lured by an abundance of shopping.

First and foremost, this is the place to come for tailored clothes at dirt-cheap prices, at least by Western standards.

There is an absolutely ridiculous number of shops scattered throughout town, with most of them concentrated in the area between Hai Ba Trung, Phan Chu Trinh, Hoang Dieu and the riverside. Competition keeps the prices down, but also means that tourists are subjected to the constant badgering of touts and salespeople — after a few days of this, you may be ready to flee. A ban on any new shops opening was enacted a few years back, but they closed the barn door after the cows had already fled.

You'll want to know which of the myriad cobblers and cutters is the best, but the truth is, excellent quality is provided by many, many places. We find a good rule of thumb is to visit a lot of shops before buying, and go with your gut. If they are trying to rush you and give you the hard sell, smile and move on. In among the mercenary merchants are plenty of decent folks who take pride in their work — it isn't so hard to sort them out. The biggest mistake is to get overwhelmed by the limitless choices and go hog-wild at one shop on the first day. Try getting a shirt made at one shop, a skirt at another, some pants at a third. Most will have the piece ready for trying on by the end of the day, which will give you a chance to assess the quality of work and integrity of the staff before you commit to being fitted for a whole new wardrobe.

In addition to the clothes, Hoi An is truly a goldmine for unique handmade pottery, jewellery, statuary, furniture, quilts, embroidered sheets — the list goes on and on. Most places will arrange international shipping for you so you don't have to lug all that stuff around until the end of your trip, or go to the post office, which is used to tourists turning up with packages. As with the tailors, there are so many shops it's hard to recommend the best.

We'd suggest holding off spending all your money until you've seen at least two places: Hoa Nhap Handicrafts, which employs a staff of disabled craftspeople that does some truly excellent and unique work, and the Handicrafts Shop. There, too, we found an incredible variety and countless one-of-a-kind items at prices that seemed pretty darn reasonable to us, even before bargaining.

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