Question: Where to go in Vietnam in January?
Answer: January weather is cold and occasionally chilly in the Northern Vietnam but gradually warmer when heading southwards. The temperature in the Northern parts, typically, Hanoi, is around 150C. Meanwhile, in the Central and Southern regions like Hoi An or Saigon, the temperature fluctuates around 200C and 300C respectively. With the weather conditions like this, the best places suggested for travelers to visit Vietnam in January is in the Central and Southern cities/ provinces such as Saigon, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Hue, Hoi An, etc. Nonetheless, if you still desire to visit Hanoi or other Northern provinces, you can visit Huong Pagoda (Perfume Pagoda), Halong Bay, and Sapa. Perfume Pagoda in January is cool and windy but pretty tranquil. The main festival of Perfume Pagoda often takes place in Late-February, therefore, it is hardly crowded in this month. Besides, it is a bit chilly to visit Halong Bay and Sapa as well, however, if you want to avoid the crowd, this is the best time to go.
It’s hard to answer exactly when is the best time to visit Vietnam because the country’s climate is very diverse. From the North to the Central then the South, ones may go through chilly mountaintops, sunny coastline, cool highland and steamy jungle. Thanks to this diversity and opposing monsoon pattern among the three region, there is always a high season somewhere in Vietnam throughout a year.
The North is the coolest region of Vietnam where its seasons are clearly divided into four seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter. Amongst which, rainy season occur from summer to autumn while dry season falls between the other two. Winter in Northern Vietnam usually bring extremely cold but dry weather, especially in the Northwest altitudes like Spa, Dien Bien or Lao Cai where snow falling occasionally in sub-zero condition. Hanoi and its surrounding province like Ninh Binh, Hai Phong or Quang Ninh has a milder climate in winter but much hotter and wetter with high humidity (80% on average) in rainy season (May-October) should worry things.
Best time to visit the North: from October to April
Reason: when this area of Vietnam having its driest days and most favored temperature. This also includes your opportunity to enjoy the most festive time of a year in Vietnam when Tet Holiday takes place.
The central coastal area occupies the most beautiful beaches of Vietnam where monsoon season is opposed to that of the North. Hence, while the North having its dampest month, from June to October, this area going through its driest days and vice-versa. During its damp season, the area suffers from severe flood which damage uncountable properties and money annually. In general, although the Central Coast has both hot and cold season, its climate more likely to resemble steam climate of the South.
In opposite to the great heat of the Central Coast, the Central Highland, expanding from the inland to Southern end of Truong Son Mountain (Annamite Range), possesses temperate climate with its precipitation double fold of the country’s average. Highland areas like Da Lat and Pleiku are the two best representative of this kind of weather. Dry months seem to be more favored by travelers, lasting from November to March.
Best time to visit the central: from June to October
Reason: to avoid constant rainy days and enjoy sunshine on beaches.
The area includes Ho Chi Minh City and the vast Mekong Delta Zone is freaking hot with only one dry and one rainy season occurs between December-April and May-November respectively. Average temperature recorded in this steamy hot zone has been recorded is from 21 to 32 Degree Celsius. February and March should be ideal to visit Southern Vietnam since its heat is not too high while the rainfall stays at its lowest rate.
Best time to visit the South: February - April
Reason: dry and warm weather and many festivals will take place
Read more: Guide to Best time to visit Vietnam
Motor rental service is available in Hanoi and you can easily find the shops which offer this service on main streets like Ba Trieu, Hai Ba Trung, Tran Hung Dao, and especially small streets in Hanoi Old Quarter like Hang Be, Ta Hien, Luong Ngoc Quyen, Dinh Liet.
There are many kinds of motorbikes from the most popular ones in Vietnam like Wave, Dream, Viva… to favorite transportation means of backpackers like Simson, Minsk. The cost ranges from $6 to $50 per day depending on motor type.
Foreign tourists just has to leave one hard copy of his/her passport and one kind of identity papers like driving license or passport in the shop, then take the motor and begin a joyful trip. These rented motor taxi is usually empty of gas so you will need to find a gas station to fill it up (see How much fuel costs in Vietnam).
Monthly motorcycle rent is also available with Rentabike (www.rentabikehanoi.com/) starting from $50 a month. If you plan to stay long term in Hanoi, you may purchase a used motorbike from a fellow expat - such as visiting New Hanoian classifieds section.
Vietnam Airlines has several offices in North America, including San Francisco. The address for Vietnam Airlines San Francisco office is:
Address: 88 Kearny St # 1400 San Francisco, CA 94108
Telephone: (415) 677-0888
Toll free: 1-866-677-8909
Fax: (415) 677-9788
You can also contact the office by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
The opening hours of San Francisco office is Monday to Friday, 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM. Note that the office is closed on Saturday and Sunday and major holidays.
Other useful information about Vietnam Airlines:
Welcome to Hanoi, Vietnam. December is in the winter in Hanoi. Therefore, it is cold but is still ok for travellers, especially those from temperate zone like you will not have a difficult time at all. The temperature is about 16 Celcius degree on average, with light rain and windy weather. You can go out for sightseeing comfortably, but make sure that you bring some warm clothes because Vietnam does not have central heating system like North America so it might be colder than it sounds.
Many Hanoians talk about having ice-cream and walking around the tree-lined Hoan Kiem Lake as a leisure activity during the winter days. Winter food in Vietnam is not about apple cider and fresh-from-the-oven brownies, but there are sure things to enjoy: sweet potatoes grilled on charcoal or toasted corn on the cob; chicken skewer and a hot bowl of pho will definitely give your stomach a satisfying feeling like you never feel before.
Vietnam has public, semi-public and private medical care facility. However, most of the quality ones concentrate in major cities such as Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang. Public hospitals are large but often heavily cramped with patients and the staffs do not speak English well. You can visit other healthcare services as listed in our city pages, many of which have foreign doctors. Normally you do not have to book an appointment in advance unless otherwise noted.
Vietnamese New Year, or Tet, is the biggest festival and holiday of a year in the country. In 2012, Vietnamese New Year will fall on Monday - January 23rd. Most public offices will be closed from Saturday (January 21st) and will be reopen on Monday (January 29th). The main Tet days are January 23rd, 24th and 25th.
Many attractions will be closed, while those like Hue citadel will be open during the three days of Tet with free admission. Cu Chi Tunnel, for your information, remains open during Tet holiday from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm.
For more information about Tet and Tet travel advice, read visit our Vietnamese Tet page or take a look at the following articles:
Vietnam uses 127/220 V, 50Hz electricity. The power plug is mostly the 2 parallel flat prongs, 2 parallel prongs- French type (round) and the 2 parallel flat prongs with an earth connector. If your appliance uses different type of power socket, you can always buy an adapter from most tourist area or at the airport.
Question: Are there any direct flights from Phu Quoc to Phnom Penh? If no, can you suggest me the best way to travel between these destinations?
Answer: Until now, there is no direct flight from Phu Quoc to Phnom Penh and vice versa. If you want to travel by air, you can book connecting flights via Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh. For your information, the total flight time from Phu Quoc to Phnom Penh is about 5 hours and 20 minutes via Hanoi and 4 hours and 10 minutes via Ho Chi Minh.
Besides, you can take a fast ferry from Phu Quoc to Ha Tien. In Ha Tien, it is convenient to catch a regular bus which departs daily to famous destinations in Cambodia such as Kep, Sihanouk Vill, Kampot, Phnompenh, and Siem Riep. The price for one way trip is quite reasonable, around USD 10 – 30.
Most cinemas in Hanoi, like Thang Tam, Dan Chu, Sinh Vien, National Cinema Center, only show films with dubbed Vietnamese and no English subtitle. Thus far, choices for foreigners in Vietnam in term of cinemas are very limited.
In Hanoi, only 2 cinemas provide original films with Vietnamese subtitle: Megastar at 6th floor, Vincom tower (191 Ba Trieu Str.) and Platinum Cineplex, 4th floor (The Garden center, Me Tri, Tu Liem). Both cinemas provide films in 3D and 2D, but the prices are different. Megastar asks for around VND 70,000 for a normal movie ticket and VND100,000 for a 3D seat, meanwhile Platinum’s prices are just VND 50,000 and 80,000, respectively. Compared to other local cinemas, the prices are quite high, but it is worth every penny with high quality movies and comfortable seats. Megastar even provides couple seats in Valentine period and other discounts for students during the week.
For those with a tight budget, the ideal season to fly to Vietnam should be March and April, or September and October. That is to say, the beginning and the end of tourism reason offer you the best deals. In these months, the flight fare could decrease by 5-10%, or even a drop of 30% compared to the price in the tourism season.
In other months, you could grasp reasonable ticket fares for the flights to Vietnam, but the price in the summer or on Tet Holiday is significantly more expensive.
Summer in Vietnam lasts from late May to late August, with various tourism activities in many places and attracts a considerable number of travellers . Tourists are certain to face more challenges to reserve and purchase desired flights ticket while the ticket fare, in general, is considerably higher than the normal season.
The same situation occurs during Christmas and Tet Holiday, but to more extreme degree because not only the tourists use airplane to travel, but also the overseas Vietnamese who come back to Vietnam to have get-togethers with their family, leading to over-booking on most international flights to Vietnam.
Conversely, travelling in between September - November, February - April is advantageous thanks to the seasonal deals and discounts from the airlines to encourage people to travel.
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