Food & Grocery

Guide to Convenience Stores in Ho Chi Minh City
Unlike many Western countries where numerous convenience stores are set up on almost every street corner, and most in a standardized form, the business of convenience store has by and large been an informal activity. Not until recently are more and more convenience chains springing up in Ho Chi Minh City, the economic center of Vietnam.
Its appearance aim to satisfy a customer market segment who are in need of  grocery late at night or early in the morning. The traditional retail chains such as supermarket or market are still playing its major role in the shopping habit of Vietnamese.
Nonetheless, convenience stores are essential and act as an emergency-aid for their urgent needs. Price of goods in these stores is a little bit higher than the market but still affordable.
Since 2006, there are several chains of convenience stores in Vietnam, mostly seen in Ho Chi Minh City. The 3 most popular ones are Shop & Go, Circle K and Family Mart.

Shop & Go:



Shop & Go was first established in 2005 at 74A1 Hai Ba Trung Street, District 1. Until now, it has expanded up to 70 stores nationwide. It offers a wide range of products: alcoholic beverages,confectionery, food, groceries, newspaper, etc. Shop & Go also has other service: phone cards and ATM. There are over 2000 products in each Shop & Go store, both local and imported products. Therefore, if one is seeking some foreign products, they may find Shop & Go suitable.
List of some Shop & Go stores in Ho Chi Minh City:
* 74A1 Hai Ba Trung Street, District 1.
* 254 Nguyen Cong Tru Street, District 1.
* 152B Tran Hung Dao Street, District 1.
* 161 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, District 1
* 194 Bui Vien Street, District 1.
More information about other stores can be found at: http://www.shopngo.com.vn

Circle K



The American franchised convenient store Circle K appeared in Vietnam in mid 2009 by GR International. Besides Vietnam, Circle K has been in China, Hongkong, Japan, Indonesia for a long time. Realizing the potential of the retailing market in a bustling economy in Vietnam, GR International aims to offer customer a new way of shopping beside the traditional way of going to the market or supermarket.
They offer wide range of products from snacks, tobacco, hair care products, stationery, to fast food. Some American products can be found at Circle K.
List of some Circle K stores in Ho Chi Minh City:
* 44 Lê Lai, District 1
* 95 Lê Thánh Tôn, District 1
* 139 Bùi Viện, District 1
* 15B1 Lê Thánh Tôn, District 1
* 251 Đề Thám, Pham Ngu Lao, District 1

Family Mart



Family Mart, a franchise convenient store business from Japan, started its operation in Vietnam in Decmeber, 2009. After 2 years, Family Mart has increased its number of store to 18 which is still too small in comparison with the giant Shop & Go (70 stores). However, with its Japanese-based , Family Mart has it competitive advantages. People love Family Mart because of its oriental taste of food and a variety of “hot” dishes for meals, the common cultural point of Asian countries. Hygiene and nutrition are two strengths of food offered in Family Mart. Rice Ball and Banh Bao can also be found here. Beside, train tickets, movie tickets and ATMs are available.
List of some Family Mart stores in Ho Chi Minh City:
* 69 Nguyen Khac Nhu Street, Co Giang Ward, District 1
* 38/1 Bis Tran Khac Chan Street, Tan Dinh Ward, District 1
* 56 Pho Duc Chinh Street, Nguyen Thai Binh Ward, District 1
* 494 Cach Mang Thang Tam Street, Ward 4, Tan Binh District 1
More information about other stores can be found at Family Mart website.
Cai Rang Floating Market (Can Tho)
People said that “If one has not visited floating market, he has not visited the south-west of Vietnam”. Literally, floating markets which have been around for a long time make the liveliest part of life in the south-west, the land of rivers, canals and ditches.

For tourists who travel to Can Tho, metropolis of the south-west, it would be regretful if they could not by and purchase something in Cai Rang (6km from Can Tho city), one of the most famous and biggest floating markets in the Mekong Delta.

Colorful market:

From Cai Rang Bridge, the market stretches half kilometre downstream Can Tho River. Hundreds of boats gathering here from the dawn till before noon makes the area extraordinary animated and the water surface colorful with numerous tropical fruits. The large sized anchored boats create meandering lanes for smaller ones to weave through. All create a bustling and joyful atmosphere that can attract any tourist.



Most of the boats here are packed with a lot of farm products and specialties of Cai Rang Town, Chau Thanh district and the nearby areas like vegetables, coconut, banana, watermelon, grapefruit, dragon fruit and so on. Small boats that sell soft drinks, wine and food for breakfast go among the others to serve market-goers and visitors. Other services and products like mending machine, selling gasoline, mobile card, clothes, cosmetic, spicy, etc all are available here, not different from what are sold in common markets on land.



Trading from boats brings excitement to buyers when catching some sample of products that are thrown by sellers from other boats. While shopping on boat, one can also enjoy fresh fruits and see floating house of the locals along the riverside.

Unique advertising tool:

In this bustling floating market, the cries of the sellers seem to be swallowed in the vastness of the river and lost into the noise of boat engines. The disadvantaged condition turns out to facilitate the birth of an unique advertising tool: pole of sample goods.

Every boat has a long upright pole with samples of the goods for sale hung on, so the sellers do not have to cry out what they are selling and buyers can easily see from the distance the goods sold on that boat. Just look up and ones can know exactly which boat selling the products they are seeking for.

Tips:

To catch the liveliest scenery and enjoy the most animated atmosphere of Cai Rang market (often 6 am to 8 am), travelers should stay overnight in Can Tho and come here at the dawn, about 5 a.m.



After enjoying local breakfast and watching the sun rising, one can charter either a motorized boat or a non motorized one to begin a morning shopping in floating market. The area where most of boats for charter are located is along Vo Tanh road. The fee is charged differently based on the kind of chartered boat.
Ho Chi Minh City- What To Buy
Ho Chi Minh City – What to buy ? This article points out some insiders' recommendations for visitors who are at a loss for ideas of what to bring home: souvenirs, gifts and everything in between.

1. Handicrafts

Handicrafts are popular gifts readily available in Ho Chi Minh City as well as in Vietnam. There are many different kinds of handicrafts such as embroidery, lacquer ware, vases, trays, rosewood boxes, wood-block prints, oil or watercolor paintings, blinds made from bamboo, reed mats, carpets, ceramics and leather work. You can easily get one in Ho Chi Minh City.

These you-name-its are truly works of arts. They are made by the skillful hands of the Vietnamese artists. The patterns are usually about Vietnamese people’s life so it is attractive to foreign people who are always curious about the life of an agricultural country. One way is visiting the handicraft shops in Ho Chi Minh City. There are many of them which are usually located in the center of the city (District 1 area). And there are some shops that are specialized in selling one kind of handicrafts only. Visiting these shops, you can find out more beautiful handicrafts with nice details that are skillfully and carefully designed. Just notice that the prices in these shops are usually higher.

Approximate costs: $4-8 for a quality silk scarf; $3 for reed mats, $2 for rosewood boxes.

2. Souvenirs

There are many different souvenirs in Ho Chi Minh City for you to choose from. They include magnets, statues, chopsticks and many more. Magnet usually has many different shapes. It can be a kind of fruit in Ho Chi Minh City like mangoes, coconuts, jack fruit or the dragon fruit. It can also be a shape of traditional man and woman in Vietnam in ao dai, Vietnamese traditional costumes. So are the statues. The statues usually are Vietnamese man and woman in ao dai. They have many different colors and different sizes. They are usually sold in pair or as a collection of 4 or more statues.



Chopsticks are also a popular souvenir. They are special because of the material they are made of - which is usually special wood in Vietnam. These souvenirs are easily found in Ho Chi Minh City. You can buy one from the street vendors along the boulevards in the city center. The souvenirs sold here are at affordable prices but you can negotiate to get cheaper prices. These souvenirs can also be found in Ben Thanh Market where you need to be more thoughtful about the price so as to avoid being ripped off.

Approximate costs: $3 for a set of chopstick; 50 cents for a magnet.

3. Vietnam's Traditional Dresses

If you visit Vietnam, you certainly can’t miss Vietnamese traditional dress called “ao dai". Ao dai is famous for its unique design which is said to make the woman’s body look more beautiful and attractive. You can buy ao dai in many tailor shops in Ho Chi Minh City. Visiting a tailor shop, you can choose the type of material you like with your favorite color and beautiful patterns. Then the tailor will jot down the measurements of your body and make you an “ao dai” as your wish. The waiting time is not very long. In some places, you just need to wait 3 – 4 hours to get a pretty one with high quality.



Another place for you to see more diverse patterns and materials is Ben Thanh Market where you have a wide ion for beautiful materials to make your ao dai more special and unique.

Approximate costs: $35 - 100 per outfit, depending on where you have it made

4. Sand Paintings

Sand paintings is one of the most special gifts in Vietnam. The artist use sands to pour in a cup to make beautiful pictures. These stuffs need an extremely focus and skillful hands to paint the picture. You will be very impressed with every work of this art and a huge admire for those artists. So are the receivers of your gifts.



The pictures made of sand are usually about Vietnamese lives. It can be a house in a country side with coconut trees, the rivers, the fields with cows and buffaloes. It could be a day of working on a field of the farmers or pictures of beautiful girls dressed in white ao dai which gives you the feeling of peaceful and cute. There are many different pictures on these cups.

Other pictures are about flowers, portraits, icons or scenery. You can buy one picture from the shop or you can choose your favorite picture from the catalogue, order it at the store and wait for a few days to receive it. Sand pictures are usually sold in specific shops with its famous brand names such as Y Lan sand pictures or Van Thien Sa sand pictures. The prices are affordable too so you can buy a beautiful, unique souvenir from Ho Chi Minh City.

Approximate costs: $5 - 15

5. Dried Food

Another thing that can be bought home with you is dried food. There are many different kinds of dried food from the salty, spicy ones to the sweet ones. The most popular ones in Ho Chi Minh City is probably dried squid, dried beef and many different kinds of dried fruit such as jack fruit, coconut or banana. Note, however that, your home country may not allow animal-related products upon your return.

There are many different brand names for these foods. You can come across many of them when you are in a supermarket or market. Most of them are good but to pick out the best one, you can get advices from the shop owners. Another place you can get delicious snacks or food to munch is Ben Thanh Market. Different from what is sold in supermarket, dried food is often sold in bulk and not pre-packed. You can buy in grams and the sellers will measure and pack all later.

This is a good idea for a unique gift because it brings you the chance to enjoy the taste of Vietnamese food. It is something that is particularly special about Vietnam. Who knows, you might miss it when you’re coming back to your home country.

Approximate costs: $3 for a big size dried food packs.
Danang supermarket
ddress: 46 Dien Bien Phu, Chinh Gian, Danang City.
Tel: (+84-511) 3 647 219/ 3 646 953/ 3 647 018/ 3 646 684
Fax: (+84-511) 3 647 218

Description:
This is a shopping complex that is located in the center of Danang City. The mall not only consist of the supermarket inside but also many additional service and entertainment such as bowling, cafeteria, restaurant and movie theater.
Hoi An Central Market
Address: Nguyen Hue and Tran Phu Streets, Hoi An, Vietnam

Description:
If you wish to experience the unique Asian markets in Vietnam, Central Market in Hoi An is definitely a nice place to come. As typical local market, the products here are predominantly food with seafood section closest to the water. There are also fresh fruits, vegetables as well as many kinds of prepared meals if you’re confident to try. When bargaining, don’t hesitate to suggest about half the price and continue to work towards an agreement. Just walk on and smile to avoid the hassled by the stall holders. 
Ben Thanh Market
Address: Intersection of Le Loi, Ham Nghi, Tran Hung Dao Avenues and Le Lai Street

Description:
One of Saigon's most famous landmarks; a best way to experience market in Vietnam with fresh and amazingly cheap products and exciting bargain. It offers good priced products, mixture of food, clothes, gifts, spices, fabric, just what you expect from an Asian market.
Supermarkets and Retailers
RNCOS, a professional industry research firm which specialized in providing analysis and business research reports, has reported in its Analysis of Vietnam's Retail Industry: “Retail market in Vietnam is growing at the remarkable progress, far exceeding many other economies in the world, behind only India and Russia. This area received a lot of investment from abroad, and the market is firmly established with the opening of many trading centers and larger stores.”

The retail market in Vietnam can be roughly divided into six types of modern distribution with specific characteristics, including hypermarkets, supermarkets, commercial centers, shopping centers, convenience stores and specialty supermarkets.

Hypermarket is expansive retail facility which encompasses a large number of types of products - both groceries and non-groceries items. Examples of hypermarkets are Loblaw and Superstore (Canada), Fred Meyer, Meijer and Super Kmart (US), Asda and Tesco (UK), Carrefour and NTUC Fairprice (Singapore), to name a few.

In Vietnam, Big C is the only brand name of hypermarkets. Metro Cash & Carry stores give the impression of hypermarkets but are not. Metro’s clients are mostly industry and wholesalers while hypermarkets’ are final customers. The bad news for fans of hypermarkets is that Big C is present only in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Da Nang, Vinh, Nam Dinh and Vinh Phuc. Because of its size, Big C stores are usually located on the outskirt of the city. As fantastic as its collection of goods and the attached low price, most Big C stores are usually cramped so if you plan to shop there, try to void evenings and weekends.

Supermarket, whose retail price is a bit higher compared with a hypermarket, is better fitted for weekly shopper. Some of the most famous supermarket names in Vietnam are: Intimex, Co.opmart, Fivimart and Citimart. Supermarkets in Vietnam offer more or less similar goods and services. Some offer frequent buyer card, with which you earn points to get deduction on the following purchase.

Department stores sell luxurious items such as brand-name clothes, shoes and high class electronic devices. Parkson and Diamond Plaza are two most popular department stores in HCM City, while in Hanoi City there are Vincom, Trang Tien Plaza, Grand Plaza, the Manor and the most recent one- Parkson.

Shopping malls are relatively new concept in Vietnam, which may include a hypermarket, a supermarket, a department store, a cinema and special stores. Lotte Mart in HCMC’s District 7 can be qualified as a shopping mall, and there’s also one Lotte Mart being built in Hanoi. Convenience stores serve daily demand for sundry items, and can be found in all streets. You can easily get water bottle or other petty items such as toilet paper, shampoo, tissue and you-name-it.

Convenience stores in Vietnam are competing with roadside stalls and traditional markets; Co.opFood stores, under the Saigon Co.op store system, G7 Mart and Shop & Go can be listed as convenience stores. However, it is the no-name convenience stores that still make up the majority of the Vietnamese retail market. (read more about Convenience Stores)