Ben Thanh market is one of the more exciting places to visit in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a chance to truly get stuck in with the locals and test your bargaining skills. It’s a very different experience if you get used to fixed priced items that the idea of bargaining never comes to mind but after visiting a few markets, you almost start to limber up at the prospect of haggling your way through amazing bargains.
Ben Thanh market, located in District 1 across from the bus station, is probably the best known. It is especially popular in the evening and at night, when food vendors set up stalls and locals and tourists alike gather to eat and shop.
Ben Thanh is possibly more regulated, so you may have to worry less about knock-offs or price gouging. That said, you should always be wary of knock-offs and gouging.
Shopping inside the market will require you to practise the art of bargaining and, as they commonly deal with unsuspecting tourists, the vendors at Ben Thanh are pros. A common practice is to inflate prices to double or triple their actual value, meaning you must work the price down to get a reasonable deal. A quick tip in bargaining at Ben Thanh is to cruise the outer ring of the market, where all stalls are fixed priced and most items are actually marked with a price tag. This will give you a good idea of what a moderate price will be when you go inside to haggle.
Bartering is the way to shop here, so jump right in, offer a price that you think is fair, and have fun. Be extra careful if prices are absent or not clearly marked – that goes for everything, everywhere, every time.