Travelling in Vietnam During Tet
Tips for what to see and do
Travelling in Vietnam During Tết can be tricky and even a little frustrating. Getting around is more difficult, shops are shut and people behave a little differently. It isn’t all negative though. There’s flower blossom lined streets, fireworks, plenty of sweet treats and plenty of rice wine. Get up to speed with what you can expect travelling in Vietnam during Tết with this quick guide from Wide Eyed Tours.
Travelling in Vietnam During Tết
Travelling in Vietnam During Tết can be costly, frustrating and significantly more expensive than the rest of the year. Locals are desperate to get back to their families to avoid An Tết (eating Tết) alone. This means planes, trains, buses and airport transfers can be booked out weeks in advance. Taxi drivers might charge a little extra, transport hubs will be jam packed and you really need to look out for your belongings. Tết is an expensive time of the year and opportunists with light fingers are always on the lookout for easy targets. Keep bags locked, valuables tucked away and never leave electronic items unattended.
What’s Open and Closed?
If you’re travelling around the tourist hot spots of Hoi An, Hanoi’s Old Quarter, Nha Trang and downtown Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) there will be plenty of restaurants, hotels and shops open. Just don’t expect things to be running at 100%. Tết is a time for family and most staff will have left the big cities to spend time in their Quê Nhà (country home). Whilst you’ll still be able to eat, drink and sleep comfortably most establishments will be running on a skeleton crew and service may be quite a bit slower.
How should I treat people?
Vietnamese take the first interactions of the year incredibly seriously. They believe if you have a good start, the whole year will be more prosperous. A bad start to the year might mean disaster in love, money and business. People will be desperately keen to make sure you are happy and all your interactions with them are trouble free. However we know from experience this doesn’t always work out. Delays happen, service staff can be overstretched and travellers can get frustrated quickly. Get into the spirit of things by letting little problems go, smiling a little brighter and tipping good service with lucky money. If you’ve booked a holiday with Wide Eyed Tours over Tết you’ll be assigned an in country personal travel assistant who is on call 24 hours to resolve any of your problems.
Tips for Travelling in Vietnam During Tết:
- Book everything well in advance
- Be prepared for delays and cancellations
- Not everything will be open
- Problems will happen, call your Personal Travel Assistant to sort them out on your behalf.
- Remember, hotel and restaurant staff may be overstretched please be patient
- Big smiles and little tips go a long way
What to do in Hanoi during Tết
For Vietnamese people Hanoi during Tết can be magical. For tourists it can be a little dull. The shops are shut, restaurants and hotels are run on a skeleton crew and Hanoi’s vibrant street life disappears indoors for a few days. If you are in town for the big holiday, don’t panic. Here’s a few things you can do to make your trip more enjoyable.
Check out the fireworks
On the 15th February, just before midnight Hanoi will have a huge fireworks display over Hoan Kiem Lake. Head down to the West side of the lake for the best view at around 11.30 PM. It will be crowded so hold tightly onto your possessions just in case. Fireworks are also shown at Thong Nhat Park (Hai Ba Trung District), Lac Long Quan Square (Tay Ho District), Van Quan Lake (Ha Dong District) and My Dinh Stadium (Nam Tu Liem District).
Visit the pagodas and temples
Tết isn’t just a family festival. For many people it’s a deeply religious and moving time of the year. Hanoians will use their free time over Tết to visit their favourite temples and pray for luck and prosperity. For visitors to Hanoi it’s well worth spending some time visiting them too. Just remember these are holy sites. Make sure your legs and shoulders are covered. Don’t take pictures of people without their permission. Be quiet, humble and respectful. Don’t leave any rubbish behind and be prepared for some serious crowds.
Ngoc Son Temple
The Ngoc Son Temple is located on a small island in Hoan Kiem Lake, right at the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. It’s a place of worship dedicated to Trần Hưng Đạo, a general whose ingenious military tactics saved early Vietnam from multiple Mongol invasions.
Tran Quoc Temple
The Tran Quoc Pagoda is a 1450 year old pagoda originally built by King Ly Nam De in the 6th century AD. It’s nestled on a little island overlooking West Lake and is a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the Old Quarter. Monks have lived in the pagoda for centuries and the pagoda is said to hold the ashes of some of Vietnamese Buddhism’s most revered monks.
The Temple of Literature (Quoc Tu Giam)
The Temple of Literature is a thousand year old university surrounded by beautiful gardens at the centre of Hanoi. During the New Year Period people wanting luck at school will flock to the temple to pray for good fortune and good grades.
See the flower market on Au Co
The biggest flower market in Hanoi is located on Au Co street near the expat area of West Lake. Visiting the market after the New Years Eve Fireworks is quickly becoming a Tết tradition. Families will head to the market shortly after midnight or first thing in the morning to buy fresh flowers for their homes and to soak up the atmosphere.
Take photos on the Empty Streets
On the first day of Tết the bustling streets of Hanoi turn into a ghost town. Get out of your hotel around 6am and take a quick walk around and instead of a living city jostling to start the day you’ll be greeted with empty streets, golden light and the best time of the year to take photos.
What to do in Hoi An during Tết
Tết Fireworks in Hoi An
Just before midnight on the eve of Tết, fireworks will be launched over the river running through Hoi An’s Old Town. You can get an awesome view from the river front either side of the main bridge in the Old Town but if you want to make it extra special try booking a balcony in one of the restaurants lining the river. You may have to book well in advance to avoid disappointment. The fireworks are extremely busy so please remember to keep all of your valuables safe and leave your bags at home. Large crowds are a magnet for pickpockets anywhere in the world and tourists have been known to be targeted in Hoi An during the fireworks.
Go see the temples
Tết is a very religious time of the year for Vietnamese people. Many of them take the time to visit famous temples and pray for luck. It’s well worth visiting temples to see people praying to the gods. Remember though, these are holy sites, so make sure your legs and shoulders are covered and don’t take pictures of people without their permission. Be quiet, humble and respectful. Don’t leave any rubbish behind and be prepared for some serious crowds.
Van Duc Pagoda (Chùa Vạn Đức)
Van Duc Pagoda is an ancient monastery nestled on the outskirts of Hoi An, about a 10 minute taxi or 20 minute bike ride from town. Recognised as a national heritage site in 1991 it contains the relics of several infamous Buddhas.
The Lady Buddha of Da Nang (Chùa Linh Ứng)
A 45 minute drive from Hoi An is the modern and developing seaside city of Da Nang. Perched on the side of the Son Tra mountain is a huge statue of a Lady Buddha overlooking the sea. Surrounding the statue are a series of pagodas, temples and statues of infamous Buddhas. It is well worth a look, even just for the stunning views of Da Nang.
Go to the night market
Hoi An’s infamous night market is open on most days throughout Tết. Visitors can buy trinkets, jewelry, incense and games. Be warned though, the market tends to get flooded at this time of the year by locals looking for their first lucky purchase of the year.
What to do in Saigon during Tết
Check out the fireworks
On the 15th February, just before midnight Saigon will also have a huge fireworks display over the Saigon River (Thu Thiem, District 2). It will be crowded so hold tightly onto your possessions just in case.
Visit the flower street
Nguyen Hue Street in downtown Saigon gets transformed into a flower street over Tết. The busy walking street is decorated in thousands of lucky yellow flowers and ornate decorations. It’s open from the 13th-19th February 2018. Ten other surrounding streets will be dolled up with lights and decorations this year so prepare to look up and get lost.
Enjoy the empty streets
Saigon’s crazy traffic calms down considerably during Tết. Large numbers of locals have left the city and tourist numbers are down making it a perfect time to put on your day pack and explore the sites. We recommend walking around the Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Central Post Office, Independence Palace and City Opera House. Whilst many locals have left for home the hardcore Saigoneers take the opportunity to party a little harder. More restaurants and bars will be open than in Hanoi and beers to welcome in the New Year are mandatory for passing guests.