Tet holiday in Vietnam
Tet Nguyen Dan which means “Feast of the First Morning of the First Day” falls on the first night of the new moon in the first month of the Lunar Calendar. Thus, Tet Nguyen Dan or simply Tet is the Vietnamese Lunar New Year and the most important festival or holiday in Vietnam. This deeply rooted Vietnamese festival is usually celebrated for a week or even longer.
Since Tet marks the arrival of spring in Vietnam, the date of celebration normally falls in January or February in the Gregorian calendar. As the most important Vietnamese holiday or festival, the public is typically given a week-long day off to be with their family and loved ones during the celebration. It has been the norm that Vietnamese who are living and working in the cities go home to their families in the provinces to celebrate this special occasion.
In Vietnamese Culture, Tet Holiday is a chance to start anew and leave all the worries and problems behind. Everyone will be cleaning their homes, cooking delicious Vietnamese cakes, buying new clothes and colorful flowers in preparation for the Tet festival. In Hanoi, motorbikes carrying kumquat trees would be a common sight while in Hue, people mostly buy chrysanthemums and in Ho Chi Minh, bright and colorful flowers are everywhere.
Vietnamese Tet Holiday is the grandest holiday for Vietnamese and for travelers, it is pivotal to consider this holiday too when planning as it may affect the whole trip to Vietnam experience.
What to Expect?
Tet Holiday is the most important celebration for all Vietnamese, thus expect that people would be leaving the cities and return to their hometowns to be with their family and friends. This would mean that bus terminals, train stations and even airports would be crowded and getting a ride would definitely be a challenge.
Since locals are mostly leaving the cities before Tet holiday starts, expect that most stores will be closing down during these dates even in the big cities like Hanoi, Danang and Ho Chi Minh. Cities will be mostly quiet and with less people around. Several convenience stores will still be open on some days of the Tet Holiday though.
Tours would probably halt for a couple of days. Museums and most of the historical sites are closed during the holiday as well. Many temples and shrines are always open even during the holidays, visiting them during Vietnamese Lunar New Year to ask for good health and luck would be a good thing to do.
Expect to find young Vietnamese on the streets on the second day of Tet Holiday, enjoying coffee or milk tea, playing cards and hanging out with their friends. Traditionally, the second day of Tet Holiday is reserved for friends. Visiting them at their homes or meeting them outside for a drink is common. For some locals, they are nice enough to invite travelers to join the celebration with them.
For Vietnamese who would be staying in the cities, they will fill the streets and would make as much noise as possible to ward off evil spirits. Expect to be hearing loud firecrackers, drums, bells, gongs and even the roaring sounds of motorbikes.
Transportation in Vietnam Lunar New Year
Since local transportation like buses, trains and planes would be sold out. It is inconvenient but buses would likely be overcrowded. People would be sitting on the floor uncomfortably during the whole trip just to get back to their hometown. If you are planning to get on a bus, you may book before the Tet Holiday and arrive at the bus station early to reserve your seat. Normally, the reservation does not necessarily mean that the bus company would reserve an actual seat for you.
This is the same scenario when taking the train as well. It would be crowded and a little inconvenient most especially when you’re traveling to a different city or province. You may book tickets beforehand, it is highly recommended to get a bed instead of seats when it’s a long trip. It is a little more convenient to stay in bed rather than sitting down with the crowd.
If within your budget, you can rent a private transfer to get to your next destination. Some travelers would talk to other travelers traveling to the same place and get a van or sedan for comfort and safety. It would be slightly more costly but definitely better than taking your chances of getting a seat in a crowded bus or train.
Extra planes would be provided during Tet Holidays but since a lot of people would be traveling as well, it is better to book weeks or even months before the date of travel. It is very crucial to not take your chances during this time of the year especially if your travel plan is not flexible.
Most travelers would simply rent motorbikes if they are planning to simply get to the next city. This would be one of the best ways to travel during Tet Holiday. Just make sure to get the motorbike checked before the holiday as it would be like asking for a miracle to find a repair shop in case something goes wrong with the motorbike.
Accommodation these days
It is most likely that guesthouses, family owned hostels and hotels would be closing down during the Tet Holiday as well. For hotels and hostels that will be opened during the holidays, expect a higher price for accommodation. The price hike might go up to twice as much as its original price. This is quite understandable as these businesses would be paying the workers thrice their daily salary on these days.
For convenience, it is not enough to simply book your accommodation weeks or months prior to your trip. It is wise to get in touch with the hotel or hostel management a week before your supposed stay to make sure they will be open on these days. There are cases wherein hostel and hotel management would simply send their guests to another place because they did not sell out or suddenly no staff is willing to work on Tet Holiday.
Where to Eat?
It is a common misconception that all restaurants would be closing during the Tet Holiday, travelers would most likely be buying their meals at a convenience store close to their hotel or hostel. But this is not always the case in the big cities like Hanoi, Danang, Hue, Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh. Yes, it is undeniable that a lot of small and family owned shops and restaurants would be closing down but there are still places that would be open.
Normally in the backpackers area, shops and restaurants would still be open. Expect to see a different menu and pricing during the whole Tet Holiday week. Several international fast food chains are still open in Hanoi, Danang and Ho Chi Minh during these days, pricing might go higher but not as much as the other shops and restaurants. Checkout local malls as well as they are usually open even during the holidays too.
Things to do to enjoy your trip on Vietnamese Tet Holiday?
- Prepare for your trip carefully. Research and make itineraries beforehand.
- Never take chances. Book accommodation, transportation and even get restaurant reservation weeks before the actual trip.
- Make sure to get to the city a day or two before the actual Tet Holiday to avoid getting stuck in a far off place.
- The flower market is a great place to be before the Tet Holiday. There would be hundreds of fresh and colorful flowers and Vietnamese people interacting, flashing their smiles would be a beautiful sight to witness.
- Though museums and historical sites would be closing down, there are other places to visit and does not necessarily need a tour guide. Research and list down these places you can visit on your own during the Tet Holiday.
- If invited by locals, it is better to celebrate Tet Holiday with them than to stay inside your hotel room. If you are uncomfortable, politely decline the offer.
If you joined the Vietnamese Tet Holiday, please share your experience with us by comment as below.
VM Travel Team