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.
Question: Should I really need to carry a mosquito net when travelling Vietnam?
Answer: That depends. You may need one if your trip includes homestay; holiday camp in forest or jungles; or a visit to mountainous areas. On the other hand, if you only travel to big cities and stay in hotels which are equipped with modern amenities such as fans and air-condition, it may be not necessary.
Thanks for your email and your interest in visiting Vietnam in the next few days. You are right, there are several parts still flooded in Vietnam (information as of October 26th, 2011). At this time every year, the Mekong Delta area often gets flooded because it is rainy season in the South of Vietnam. However, if you travel around Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, it’s not a big deal at all. You can find more information about weather in Ho Chi Minh City here.
There are foreigners visiting Vietnam and being on the Mekong Delta Tour, though. For safety reasons, booking a tour at a travel agency is recommended. Floating market is a piece of Mekong Delta culture you should experience.
Besides, there are usually some upcoming storms in the Centre of Vietnam at this time of the year which makes the weather cooler than usual and more appealing to foreigners. If you are planning to stay in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi only, weather would be calm and will not to ruin your vacation.
Hope you find it helpful.
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Vietnamese cooking styles are often based on fresh ingredients which can be easily bought at wet markets. However, a wide range of microwaveable food is available mostly at the supermarkets to satisfy the needs of busy people who do not have enough time for cooking or find cooking so inconvenient. At the supermarket, frozen food is stored separately from canned food. If you don’t know where to get it, feel free to ask supermarket staff. After getting the food, just follow the instructions to make your meals correctly. Some require frying instead of putting in the microwave.
Frozen food in Vietnam might not be stored as long as food in your home country. So, make sure you take a careful look at the expiration date before you buy. Citimart offers more food with Western style in comparison with other supermarkets. You might be lucky enough to find your favorite brands at Citimart also.
If you want to purchase food in bulk, you should visit Metro hypermarket (equivalent to Sam’s Club or Canada Superstore) as long as you have a Metro membership card. Vietnamese food might have different taste from yours and you might not be quite sure which food to get, why don’t you try one of each kind and come back to get some more when you know what your favorites are? To avoid long queues at the check-out, it is advisable that you go to supermarkets on weekdays.
Previously, Vietnamese people did not have the habit of tipping; however, a boom in tourism allows this western life style to be adapted by the local. The most common situations to give tips are eating at restaurants, taking a taxi or hiring a tour guide. It all depends on the quality of services they provide you as well as yours’ satisfaction. To a taxi driver, 50 cents to $1is greatly appreciated, but not common. In a luxury restaurant, you can leave the change or a VND 50,000 note (about $2.5) which is really generous. In some upscale spa or hotels, a service fee of 10% is often added, so tipping is not necessary.
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
Theme parks in Ho Chi Minh City differ by games, decorating themes and services offered to their guests. Hence, the “should go” theme park varies from this to that based on your interest or time of traveling.
Dam Sen Water Park, located at no.3 Hoa Binh Street, District 11 is a “should go” theme park for any one who loves swimming and other exciting water-based activities like twisting in spiral pipe, jumping in the wave pool, or floating along the “wandering river” and so on. This is an ideal place for family tourists, especially who travel in summer time. Parents can relax themselves in massage pool, while children playing in the pool for kids. The advantage of Dam Sen Water Park is its easy reach - it takes only half an hour to get there from Ben Thanh market.
Suoi Tien Theme Park is also a popular choice, about 1 hour away from the city center. Suoi Tien is popular among international tourists for it paints the picture of Vietnam's history. Characters from fairy tales to legends are sculptured after and displayed all through the park. Game facilities are also of better quality than Dam Sen Park.
Lac Canh Dai Nam Van Hien or often called Dai Nam is a huge theme park located at 1765A Binh Duong Boulevard, just 1.5 hour’s drive from Ho Chi Minh City. This 500 ha site consists of an amusement section with modern games and exciting sports, a zoo with more than 1000 kinds of birds and animals, a spacious spiritual area with great temples, towers, statues and accommodation area with hotels in traditional architecture. The grandiose spiritual area on can be seen as the highlight for the park and makes Dai Nam become a destination for cultural tourism also.
Decide on your own how far you want to go and how much fun you want to get!
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.
There are three major places you can get a sim card in Ho Chi Minh City.
1. Post offices:
A sim card of any mobile carrier may be found at any post offices, especially, in the city center. Prices vary from $2 to $8 per sim card. A good point of buying a sim card at the post office is its availability. If you don’t care much about the numbers and just want to get one to call other people, you can get one at the post office quickly. The only drawback is its limited numbers. If you really want an easy-to-remmeber-number, you should try other options.
2. Mobile shops:
People can get a sim card at any mobile shops in Ho Chi Minh City. Price is quite the same as getting it at the post office. However, at some shops, there is a variety of numbers for customers to choose. The easier a number to be remembered, the more it costs. A good enough number may cost up to $25 to $50. If you are doing a business and need a number for customer to memorize easily, you may think of these options.
3. Mobile carrier service centers:
At any mobile carrier service centers, you can either get a pre-paid or post-paid sim. Price is a little bit higher than other places. However, if you need a post-paid sim, you need to go to a mobile carrier service center to buy a sim and fill a contract to make it through. Friendly staff is willing to answer all of your questions.
Thank you for your question.
Frankly, there is no strict rule or code for gifts and presents when you are invited to enjoy a family meal in Vietnam. Without any wine or flower, the diner guests are still warmly welcomed by hospitable Vietnamese hosts.
However, fruit is always a nice gift and seems to be well received. So, you are highly recommended to pick up some nice fruits for the dessert. Besides, one could bring something nutritious for the elder, some alcohol, pastries for the family, or candy for the kids, though these gifts may make the dinner a lot more formal than it should.
You are also recommended to ask the host if there is anything you could help, and be willing to give them a hand in preparing the meal. Remember to wait for the oldest to eat first, ask once before the meal and once after your finish.
Enjoy the meal.
Read our Article "Visiting a Vietnamese Family" for more detailed insights.