Everyone knows that travelling to Saigon during Tet can be a bit of a headache, with many restaurants and shops closed and transportation is limited. Tet, however, isn’t Vietnam’s only celebrated holiday that can throw you for a loop: Reunification Day on April 30 (followed a day later by May Day on May 1) marks the rejoining of North and South Vietnam under one government. Like a major holiday in any city, there will be some changes to the usually day-to-day operation of the city. If you happen to be in the city on Reunification Day, here are some things you can expect.
In town, most shops and markets will still be open. So you can do some shopping, or get your street food fix, but don’t be too surprised if some booths are closed or your drink lady is gone for the weekend. While most commercial spots will remain open, government locations will be closed. This means schools, post offices, and more importantly museums.
Some places that hold historical importance to the day have strange hours. For example, the Reunification Palace, which was home to the governing body of South Vietnam, has historically closed on April 29 and 30 but opened on May 1, as has the War Remnants Museum and the Cu Chi Tunnels. This is all subject to last minute change so check ahead of arriving (or ask your hotel to help you out) if you can.
If you’re in town for the holiday, you’ll notice that every house flies a Vietnamese flag; the patriotism extends into the streets, with lights and flags decorating the entire city. An early morning street parade may close some of the city streets, and at the least expect the streets to be full of people on holiday with nothing to do except hang out at the park.
Since it is a holiday, many of the city’s residents take this opportunity to take a quick vacation. Because so many people are travelling, you can expect to find slim pickings when it comes to transport out of Saigon, especially by air, and hotels at inland destinations like Phu Quoc, Nha Trang or Vung Tau fill fast. If you can find a seat on a plane, train or bus expect prices to be significantly higher than usual. This is also true for hotels, with some adding a holiday surcharge.
Don’t be worried if your travel dates through Saigon include Reunification Day, as there is still plenty to do — and see — even if you can’t go to the palace.
By Angela Schonberg
Last updated on 19th September, 2014.