Many foreigners know that Tet festival is the biggest festival in Vietnam. You may read that the country turns colorful and bustle, there is a wide range of things to do during the Tet holiday in the S-shaped country. There is no doubt that it is an amazing holiday of Vietnamese people when family members gather, arrange and decorate houses, enjoy great foods and talk to each other, go for a walk and take photos at spring flower festivals, go to pagodas, pray for health, wealth and happiness. What about travelers who visit Vietnam these days? Is it a good idea to visit Vietnam when the lunar new year comes. Here is the list of Pros and cons of visiting Vietnam at Tet Festival and I hope the information will be useful for you.
When is the Tet holiday in Vietnam?
Tet holiday in Vietnam usually starts from the 28th day of lunar December to the 5th day of lunar January. The Tet holiday changes its date from year to year so that you can search on the Internet to learn about the date of Tet in the year you plan to visit Vietnam.
Pros of visiting Vietnam at Tet Festival
See a colorful Vietnam
At Tet Festival, Vietnam covers a new coat. The main streets are decorated with colorful lights with floral patterns. Office buildings, restaurants, hotels, coffee shops, shopping centers, universities, schools, houses, apartments are all cleaned and decorated with ornamental plants and flowers, stickers, models of Tet symbols. Local markets, supermarkets, stores and moving stalls sell thousands of products relating to Tet festival: foods, decor items, gifts, etc. Spring flower festivals are open for local people and travelers in beautiful clothes to walk and take nice photos. It is a huge chance to immerse in the local life and enjoy the Tet like Vietnamese people. You will see Vietnam at its most beautiful and splendid.
Learn about the rich Vietnamese culture
When you come to Vietnam during Tet festival, you learn more about unique aspects of culture. They clean, arrange and decorate their living places carefully. They go shopping for new clothes, decor items, foods and drinks, gifts for family members, relatives, friends, partners, etc. Pagodas are the top places to visit at the beginning of lunar new years. Visitors pray for wealth and prosperity, luckiness, happiness, success, children, peace and many others.
Fewer tourists at Tet festival
In fact, a large number have been recommended not to travel Vietnam when the lunar new year comes. There are fewer tourists in Vietnam during the Tet holiday. It means tourist attractions are less crowded, you do not need to wait for a long time to take photos in front of wonderful architectural works, see artifacts at museums, buy tickets at theaters.
Less traffic in big cities
You may have heard about the crazy traffic and rush hours which make some travelers tired and impact their plans in Vietnam. Big cities are still crowded until the lunar New Year’s Eve but it is nearly deserted from the first day to the seventh day of lunar January. It is a plus to travelers who love peace and quietness. But it is a minus to travelers who would like to see the real local life of these bustling cities.
Let me explain why big cities such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Danang, Hue are deserted at Tet. Most of the students, officers and workers in big cities are from other provinces. These people tend to return to their hometown and enjoy Tet with their families because Tet is known as the reunion holiday and festival. Some leave the cities from the beginning of the holiday, some stay until the lunar New Year’s Eve. These cities are the most sparse from the first day of the lunar new year. Some people celebrate Tet in big cities but the also go to the countryside to meet their friends and relatives for a few days.
A wide range of things to buy
If you are a shopaholic, there are countless nice and cheap items at local markets, shopping centers and fashion stores before Tet holiday. Buying new clothes has been a tradition of Vietnamese people for hundreds of years. Especially, ready-to-wear Ao Dai and Ao Dai fabric are abundant in Vietnam these days. Shoppers find fewer sizes and styles on normal days but hundreds of Ao Dai in various colors and with amazing patterns for different ages at shopping malls and markets. Besides recommended souvenirs from Vietnam, you can buy Tet souvenirs such as parallel sentences, red envelopes, calligraphy artworks, paintings depicting Tet activities which are sold popularly.
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Cons of visiting Vietnam at Tet Festival
Up to 3 times higher prices of services
As mentioned above, most of the Vietnamese people are off on Tet holiday. A few receptionists, waiters, bartenders, chefs, managers, operators, drivers and tour guides work and are paid 1.5 – 3 times higher. Prices of tourism services are 1.5 – 3 times higher due to less workers and high salaries. It is not a good choice to pay more for the same service because of Tet.
Tours and tickets tend to sell out
Vietnamese people not only return to their hometowns but also travel together at Tet. Chinese people also travel Vietnam during the Chinese Tet holiday. Their favorite destinations include Halong Bay, Hoi An, Danang and Nha Trang. It is not easy to hunt for cars, tours and tickets at Tet. Based on my experience, prices of tours on the three first days of the lunar January are the most expensive.
Restaurants, coffee shops, shopping places are closed
Some restaurants for tourists and restaurants in your hotels are open. However, a majority of restaurants and coffee shops are closed because the owners and their workers are off at Tet. In big cities, Vietnamese customers leave the cities for the countrysides. There is no reason to open restaurants, pay the staff and wait for a few customers. You can not do street food tours on which they take you to local vendors and eat unique foods. Or you come to a hidden restaurant which is recommended on Youtube and it is closed due to Tet. Some supermarkets and markets close on a few days of Tet holiday.
Homestays and guesthouses are not available
Hotels are still open but some cheap and good homestays and guesthouses operated by owners can be closed at Tet. You have fewer accommodation choices.
Lack of support
Some tour agencies close their offices and you can only contact them via phone and email. Other offices are still open but with fewer officers. You receive less support and information from the staff when you need to change something or have problems with the services. This is based on reviews of some travelers being in Vietnam at Tet. There are still many companies that do their best to support their guests.
No flight, train and bus ticket
A lot of students, workers and officers who work in Ho Chi Minh City must book their flights, trains and buses some months before Tet holiday to make sure the tickets are available. It is usually crowded on some buses between provinces and regions.
Traffic jams on roads leading to big airports and on some highways
In addition, bus stations, railway stations and airports are full of passengers. The roads leading to airports, especially Tan Son Nhat are traffic-jammed. Highways connecting Ho Chi Minh City and Mekong Delta, Hanoi and some provinces may be traffic-jammed on some days when they go to hometowns and return to the cities.
How to overcome the disadvantages of Tet?
In order to lower the cost of your trip to Vietnam at Tet, I would like to recommend to:
Book flights, trains, buses, tours, accommodations, tickets and other services as soon as possible for cheaper prices.
Book tours with trusted travel agencies in order to avoid them to let you down at Tet.
Choose tourist attractions which are less crowded at Tet. I would like to recommend Mekong Delta regions (Ben Tre, My Tho, Vinh Long, Can Tho, Dong Thap, Phu Quoc – Kien Giang, Chau Doc – An Giang), Sa Pa, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Phan Thiet – Mui Ne. Hoi An, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Halong Bay are crowded with Vietnamese and Chinese people at Tet festival.
Book flights that arrive and take off at night in order to avoid traffic jams around Tan Son Nhat Airport.
A summary of visiting Vietnam a few days before the first day of lunar January
Crowded local markets, streets in big cities.
Beautiful flower markets.
Traffic jams on streets connecting big cities and neighboring provinces, streets surrounding Tan Son Nhat airports, some railway stations and bus stations.
There are lots of amazing things to buy: clothes including Ao Dai, accessories, souvenirs relating to Tet.
A summary of visiting Vietnam on the first days of lunar January
Desert streets, less traffic, less crowded tourist attractions.
Eateries and coffee shops are closed.
Prices are the most expensive on the first three days of the lunar new years.
Pagoda are crowded because going to pagodas at the beginning of Tet festival is a tradition of Vietnamese people.
At the beginning of the new year, no one buys ornamental plants and flowers.
Some supermarket closes on the first three days of the lunar new years.