Best Time to Visit Vietnam: When to Go & What to Expect
"When is the best time to visit Vietnam" is one of the most common questions that spring up to mind for all trip planners. Finding a time that fits well with your precious holiday, comes with amicable weather and is not packed with other visitors may seem an utopia in this booming age of tourism. Though you may not afford to plan it exactly as advised or find a solution to all your expectation, you can always "make do with" the next best option. Here comes a very convenient truth: anytime can be a good time to visit Vietnam.
The opposing monsoonal season spreading from the North to the South, the multiple types of terrains and landscapes, the high and low altitudes give the country a little bit of everything: you can get layered with warm clothes at one destination only to find yourself sunbathing under the scorching sun on the next leg of your very same trip. Beautiful as it may sound, the diverse weather patterns across the country also poses a dilemma: you cannot find a month that has perfect weather all throughout. To put it simply, each month and each season in Vietnam will meet some of your expectations, but not all.
If you want good weather
... take your trip in March-May or October-early December
Vietnam weather between March and May is quite steady and consistent across the whole country, with medium-high temperature and very little rain. It hardly gets above 30°C and only rises significantly towards the end of May. Humidity is higher in the North (Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sapa) and Center (Hue, Danang, Hoi An) than in the South (Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Mekong Delta) but in general more pleasant than the rest of the year.
The period from October-early December is cooler than the former, with temperature plunging to under 20°C in the Northern part of Vietnam. However the low humidity totally makes up for the fewer hours of sunshine: you will get cool breeze throughout the day, with some cities such as Hanoi being said to be at its best at this time of the year. There may be more rain as you travel south-ward, but the tempt is also higher and rain comes and goes quickly. If you spend the majority of time in the central region of Vietnam, March-May may be a better period as there are significantly fewer chances of downpours.
The balmy weather in these two periods is ideal especially if you want to spend time being outdoors, whether lazing on a Southern beach or ride a dirt bike up North. There are fewer risks for sunstroke, landslide, flooding or typhoon especially from March to May, and consequently lower the chance of trip cancellation.
If you want to experience festivals
... plan your trip for December - March
The period from late December up until March is a continuum of cultural events, both the Western-inspired and the thousand-year-traditions.
Toward the end of December, major travel destinations will be illuminated with Christmas trees and New Year countdown stages, offering you a glimpse into the modern day cultural values of Vietnamese. Churches and cathedrals normally celebrate the authentic holiday spirits with nativity scenes, prayers and carols. The larger downtown areas, however, are plainly covered with festive moods of Christmas decorations and musics. Youngsters normally seize the week from Christmas to New Year for hanging out with friends, dressed up nicely and celebrating the holiday season rather than joining family reunion (which is saved for Tet holiday).
Vietnamese have 2-3 days off for the New Year holiday, and many urban dwellers spend this short break on nearby beaches or popular travel destinations such as Halong Bay in the North and Dalat in the South. The city may temporarily look empty before the crowd returns in preparation for Tet holiday, which normally takes place from the end of January to mid-February (the actual date changes based on the Lunar calendar).
The most important event in Vietnam, Tet holiday or the Lunar New Year carries great momentum. It is a time to reflect on the past and look forward to the future, to pray for all the best to come, to sit down with the extended family and cherish the reuniting moments.
The period preceding Tet is totally worth your travel time: you will get to witness this once-in-a-year magnetic chaos. Supermarkets are flooded with red and yellow confectionery, streets are buzzing with more traffic as local residents shop for Tet and decorative trees sit abundantly on the sidewalk waiting to be picked. City and country areas will totally come alive, which is definitely a catch for visiting Vietnam at this time of the year.
On the actual Tet days, streets will be eerily quiet. Stores are closed, traffic will reduce to almost zero. You will get to see cheerful Vietnamese, young and old, men and women, dressed up in colorful clothes and paying visit to families and relatives, or crowding temples and pagodas hoping for a lucky year to come. Again, this happens only once a year - and regret/inconvenience will be the last thing that comes to your mind even though shops and services are mostly closed.
The period after Tet - from mid Feb till the end of March - is also dominated by cultural festivals. From the North to the South, spring is a special time for Vietnamese since the ancient history: it is a time to stay calm and laid-back, enjoying some travel or joining one of the many festivals such as Lim Festival (Bac Ninh), Perfume Pagoda (Hanoi), Yen Tu festival (Quang Ninh). In short, if you want to experience Vietnam's culture at its best, visit the country in the period leading up to March.
If you want to offer your family the best holiday
... consider March-May or November
It's not exactly in anyone's interest to haul their family around town in the blistering heat of summer (June- August) or under the staggering rain (September- early October) or the jam-packed traffic (December - February).
That leaves us with the two options: March-May or November, when the weather is calmest and the traffic is most acceptable. Spring is in full force from March and your kids will be just happy seeing the tropical flowers in full bloom.
Cool temperature and low domestic tourism volume also mean you get to experience any part of the country you would want: the sea, the mountain, the emerald bay, the rain forest, the highlands, the canals and even the cities. And in case you have enough of the exotic natural scenery, you can always bring your kids to visit a safari or amusement parks, such as VinWonders (Nha Trang, Phu Quoc, Nam Hoi An) or Sun World Park (Sapa, Halong Bay, Danang, Cat Ba).
If you are mostly interested in beach escape
... go for January or April-May
If you visit Vietnam in January: pick Southern beaches such as Nha Trang, Vung Tau and Phu Quoc. If you visit Vietnam in April-May: pick Northern and Central beaches such as Cat Ba Island, Thuan An, An Bang, My Khe or Ly Son Island.
The reason to plan your beach visit during these two periods is not just the temperate weather, low rain-fall, clear sky and gentle wind, but also because the beach is largely empty and perfect for your vacation. Vietnam's extensive coastal stretch is something one should not miss, and you can also do it well by scheduling the right time to visit.
Besides indulging yourself in the Pacific ocean water, you may also consider one of the many water-based activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, paragliding or island tours. Vietnam is a beach paradise, and will not disappoint you in the least.
If you want to avoid the crowd
... leave late December - mid January, June-August weekends off your table
Everyone wants to include at least a few, if not all, of the must-do, must-see, must-eat on their list - and that, inevitably, leads to over-crowding.
If you prefer tranquility over the hustle-bustle, and can actually afford to alter your travel time for it, we recommend you to stay away from the two periods: late Dec to mid-Jan and all summer weekends.
It is a fact that the Christmas holiday is also the busiest inbound tourist season: hotels are booked, spas are booked, restaurants are booked, attractions are not booked but packed. Everyone seems to take their annual leave at this same moment and flock to the popular destinations. Many feel better when joined by a crowd, but if this is not you, avoid at all cost. This can save you some considerable budget too as peak season surcharges are popular during this time of the year.
Then comes the locals' precious summer holiday: weekends from June to August. Vietnamese hardly travel solo - most find joy in a crowded destination with their extended family. It is not uncommon that a group tour of 20-30 people belongs to the same family. Parents normally wait for their children to finish school before jamming themselves on the beaches. This period without doubt is the peak domestic travel season, and you may find yourself lost in vast ocean of domestic visitors, cheering out loud over alcoholic beverage, or screaming babies running all over the hotel lobby.
The best case scenario if you only have these months to spare: visit during the weekdays instead.
If you want great deals
... May and September are your friends
In terms of weather, May and September are quite pleasant to begin with. The heat wave has either not yet arrived, or already gone by these two months, and so are local holiday makers. Most tourist facilities lower their price during these two months to attract more visits and balance out their annual revenue sheet, which means you can save as much as 30% compared with peak tourist season.
What's more, you can find yourself at a deserted beach, an empty mountain trail, an exclusive swimming pool just for yourself. Golden sunshine is on from 7am to 7pm but without the severe intensity like the months in between. Weather- and money-wise, there is no better time to visit Vietnam than May and September.
You can find further information about temperature, humidity, rainy days and precipitation level with our monthly weather guide.
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