Dec 06 2011

How cold does it really get in Hanoi?

Published by at 10:49 am under Weather


With the temperature dropping notably over the last week and my friend calling me this morning to ask where she could buy a heater, I thought it was an appropriate time to comment on the frequently asked question: “How cold does it get in Hanoi?“.

Coats have been lining the racks for a month or so

Coats have been lining the racks for a month or so.

We arrived in Hanoi at the end of January 2010 and it was dull and grey: not the warmest welcome Hanoi could offer us. That said, it was a mild winter by all accounts — I invested in a jumper, after being jumper-free for seven months of travelling, and it was a bit chilly when sitting outside drinking bia hoi, but nothing to moan about.

Winter 2011 however was a different story. When people in the UK heard that it was 12 degress Celsius, maybe even 10 degrees, they scoffed at my complaints of the cold. But let me tell you, 10 degrees Celsius in Hanoi is really cold.

Why? Firstly, it’s damp cold: the sort of cold that feels like it’s seeping under your skin and into your bones. Secondly, there’s quite a wind factor, particularly if you travel by motorbike. Thirdly, there is nowhere to get warm: central heating does not exist and the buildings are not insulated.

I was cycling — yes, exerting effort in an attempt to keep warm — to work wearing a jacket and gloves, which I then kept on during class. And I don’t work in a hut. Our apartment had constant condensation on the windows and there was no point putting on the reverse cycle air-con as the heat would just seep out through the walls and under the door. And I didn’t live in a hut either.

So what does this mean for your winter-time visit to Hanoi? It doesn’t mean don’t come: I may have painted a somewhat miserable picture of the weather in the middle of winter but there’s little rain, skies are blue, and a few days here in winter can be just as pleasant as at any other time of year.

Don't let the blue skies deceive you (photo taken a few days ago)

Don't let the blue skies deceive you! (Photo taken a few days ago.)

The definition of  winter is not always clear-cut and, as elsewhere, the weather changes throughout the season. The weather forecast at the time of writing this (December 4) is 20 degrees, and it’s a beautiful day: it’s cool but certainly not cold, although I expect it to be chilly enough for a jumper this evening. February is likely to be the coldest month.

Do check the weather forecast before you come, but remember, it will feel colder than the temperatures suggest.

Finally, pack appropriately. While I can’t predict what this winter will be like, in late November/December a jumper  or jacket and long trousers (if you get cold easily) should be sufficient, or if you’re coming January through to March bring a coat and some layers. It’s easy enough to buy scarves and gloves here so no need to bring them if you want to play it by ear, but it’s not so easy to buy warm clothes or shoes in Western sizes, so bring those with you.

If you’re planning on renting a motorbike then pack an extra layer and some gloves, and you might want to buy a face mask (as well as a helmet) when you get here — while the masks are not the best health protectors, they do a good job of keeping your face warm.

And don’t forget that north of Hanoi, particularly in the mountainous areas such as Sapa, will be a good deal colder.

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7 responses so far

7 Responses to “How cold does it really get in Hanoi?”

  1. Ranjanon 21 Oct 2012 at 3:10 pm

    I AM FROM SRI LANKA WHERE THE AVERAGE TEMPRATURE IS 30 C AND THERE IS NO WINTER. I AM PLANNING A TRIP TO HANOI IN MID JANUARY 2013. I WENT TOM DIFFERENT SITES AND THE OPINIONS DIFFER. IS IT VERY COLD IN HANOI IN J
    ANUARY. WHAT SORT OF WARM CLOTHINGS I NEED TO TAKE. DOES IT RAIN IN JANUARY AND IF SO HOW FREQUENTLY? I HAVE EXPERIANCED 19 C IN SOME PARTS OF INDIA. I COULD MANAGE AND THAT WAS COOL AND NOT COLD. I AM 67 YEARS.
    WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE? THIS ARTICLE IS DEFINITELY INFORMATIVE BUT SOME MORE INFORMATION IS WELCOME.

  2. Sarah Turneron 22 Oct 2012 at 2:20 am

    Hi Ranjan. Of course the weather varies in Hanoi in January as much as it does anywhere, however, it is the coldest month of the year and is likely to be around 15 to 20 degrees but will feel colder because of the high humidity (as I covered in my article). It might rain but not regularly – it’s not rainy season. So you should bring a thick jacket / coat and long trousers.

  3. Rachel warrenon 13 Jan 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Hi I am travelling to Ky son and Hanoi on 16th Feb. I really feel the cold but will the weather have generally warmed up by then? I’m wondering what to pack as I’m also travelling to Hoi an and Saigon so dont want to be weighed down but too much heavy stuff!

  4. Sarah Turneron 14 Jan 2013 at 2:48 am

    Hi Rachel. January is the coldest month — and don’t we know it at the moment! — so it does tend to get a bit warmer by February but it is still likely to be relatively cold: average temperatures are between 15 and 21C and humidity is still high (70 %) so it will feel colder than the same temperature might for you back home (depending on where you’re from). Check the weather forecast before you leave home, as you might hit a hot — or cold — spell but I would definitely recommend bringing some long trousers / jeans, a jumper and a jacket. If you don’t want to carry all of that, then you could pick up a cheap jumper / scarf / gloves when you get to Hanoi if you need it.

  5. Billon 14 Nov 2013 at 2:45 am

    Hello, I’m planning to go to Hanoi in January for 3 days then continue southward to HCMC and Malaysia. I’m from Canada so we’re used to the cold… Also, I was originally from Hong Kong so I understand how damp cold feels like. Is January weather in Hanoi more or less similar to HK? It gets quite cold in Dec/Jan in HK due to the lack of central heating…

  6. Sarah Turneron 15 Nov 2013 at 2:44 am

    Hi Bill. I’ve not been to Hong Kong in winter for about 15 years and can’t remember what the temperature was like then – I remember it was grey and wet though. From what I’ve read, it’s likely to be very similar to Hanoi though. Sarah

  7. […] a pleasant time of year to be here. As I wrote in my Travelfish wire a few years ago, it really does get cold in Hanoi. Or maybe I should re-phrase that: it really does feel cold in Hanoi. The temperature rarely drops […]

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