Tet is coming to us within the next few days, to all the Vietnamese it is the best time of the year, people gather together to share the joy and happiness, to talk about what they have achieved in the year. Tet is the Vietnamese word for Lunar New Year – the main and long expecting holiday of Vietnam. For this year, Tet fall from 27th January to 1st February, that one week holiday often stretches to a month for students (mainly university students) and factory workers.
If you stay in Vietnam during Tet, you will note a sudden change of atmosphere everywhere. Local people tent to smile brighter, streets become more crowded, and despite the cloudy and sunless sky in winter, the whole city seem to be in a joyful stage. About a month before Tet, it is a time of highly commercial activities: presents to buy for friends and family, food to store for Tet and flowers to decorate houses. But all the activities come to stop suddenly in the last day of the year (30th or 29th), Vietnamese people wrap up everything and quick to get home, stores close early, leaving Hanoi in it rare quietness.
What you should know and prepare
Tet is the lowdown time for local folk that means all stores, restaurants are closed and even the super market (especially on the 1st day of January in Lunar calendar), from the second day, some stores and restaurants open but either the operation time is shorten or restaurateurs doesn’t feel like working.
Be prepare when you book tours during that time, you should check with your operator for any change in itinerary and working hour. You might want to store some food and snake just in case you want to eat something.
In contract with popular belief, hotels and hostels in Vietnam during Tet are available abundantly. Vietnamese people tend to stay at home during this holiday or travel within a day, so you don’t need to book a hotel far in advance. But be careful with some unknown hotels, they might raise the price during Tet holiday attributing the “hot season” occasion.
Be noted that: many museums, mausoleums, indoors exhibition place and art houses will be closed for at least 4 days, from January 27th to January 30th.
What you can do during Tet
Go home with a friend, or enjoy homestay service. It is be lifetime memorable experience to have a Tet with local people, you’ll get to eat traditional Vietnamese Tet dishes such as “bánh chưng” (the sticky rice cake with pock and green bean), “chả lụa” (Vietnamese ham), “hành muối” (pickled onion). As a tradition of Vietnam, you will receive some “tiền lì xì” (lucky money) in the morning of 1st January from elder people and you should prepare some “tiền lì xì” for children of your host family.
Stay in the city, just relax and enjoy the empty streets of Hanoi. Hanoi gets back its peaceful charming of an old city; the French architecture building which usually hide behind crowded streets now reveal their timeless beauty.
Travel within Vietnam. If Hanoi becomes little boring during Tet, then you can pick a place and go. Some recommended destinations are: Ha Long Bay, Hoi An, Nha Trang and Phu Quoc – Good News: beaches are entry during that time! It will be better if you book a tour with transportation included in the package, otherwise you’ll be competing with the entire country’s population for transportation. Not only before “Tet” when people try to get back to their hometown but during “Tet” when they have time to visit friends and go to pagodas for praying.
While it is unnecessary to book hotels or cruises months in advance, it is wise to book before 30 to 60 days as many companies provide “Early bird promotion”. But please take note that if you’re going to get this good deal, you need to keep in mind not to change the departure date or no refund policy added in case of cancellation from you.
If your time in Vietnam is flexible or you are an expat, then the last booking is quite a good option for sudden get-away plan. The cruise operators always offload unsold cabins on the cheaper price as they’re getting closer to the departure date. The conditional dates in the Last minute promotion are normally about 15 days or less.
Places you should avoid during Tet
As an old saying of Vietnam: “January is the month for festival”, the number of Vietnamese people travel for pilgrimage purpose increases dramatically. So be sure to avoid Chua Huong Pagoda, Yen Tu Pagoda, Tran Quoc pagoda.
Avoid crowded place or be extremely careful when you joint local group for street parties. Any place packed with people increases the risk that you get pick-pocketed. Always hold on tight to your bag, and wear your backpack to the front if possible. Moreover, you should avoid leaving valuable items in your pocket. It is recommended to keep your wallet or phone in your well-zipped bags all the time.