I am very new to this website and it has already been exceedingly helpful. My partner and I are travelling to Vietnam arriving in Ho Chi Minh City on the 25th January. Now I know this has been covered in other posts but they are seemingly a couple of years old and the time tends to vary. I am just wondering what others views are on the TET Festival and the best places to be and whether it is as hard to get accommodation and to travel around this time as what some are making it out to be.
The public holiday dates for this year are the 9th February to the 14th February so when will be the most hectic times or the hardest to travel. I am seeing conflicting views on booking accommodation and travel and on the best cities/places to be during the festival.
#1 StevenAM has been a member since 4/1/2013. Posts: 4
Hi Steve, Tet is a very important family celebration with the first two days based all around immediate family and the inlaws so everyone heads home from wherever they are based for this, it basically means that traffic on the roads, air and rail start to increase about seven days prior and peaks for the last two days before. You will be able to travel, but its expensive, time consuming and difficult to find seats if you don't arrange it in advance, even if you take a private car you'll face almost triple the normal rates and as the roads are so busy it takes an age to get from A to B. This goes on for a couple of weeks so bookmark from 5th- 18th Feb as tricky to travel times (they have to go home too). Cities and large towns are the worst hit with small mountain villages being the easiest to navigate transport wise.. switch this around for accommodation - so small Vietnamese guest houses in the small villages will be very difficult to find. Cities/big towns you will be fine.
As for where and when the best celebrations are held - anywhere, anytime from now (Hoi An is dripping with Tet Trees and decorations) until a few weeks after Tet. It is a family celebration so most events go on behind closed doors or at the pagodas. Family and friend days are on day three and four (this year the official Tet holiday is the 10th-14th Feb) so those are the days that you are more likely to be invited to get a little involved if you want to submerge yourself in the customs. Be respectful, it is a great honour to be included and your behavior, dress and actions are taken very seriously when invited in to a family home or business at this time.
If you feel a little overwhelmed by that responsibility the best way to join in the celebrations is to roll up your sleeves and plonk yourself down at a beer or streetfood stall, you'll be hugely rewarded and instantly welcomed to join in (beware rice wine).
I feel Tet tends to get a bad press as tourists don't often understand it, it is in fact a great time to be here and the atmosphere everywhere is happy and filled with optimism. Where ever you end up for Tet - Chuc Mung Nam Moi!
#2 LolaNguyen has been a member since 28/8/2012. Posts: 94
Normally, many shops and restaurants close for tet, including many expat eateries. Of course Western high grade hotels are operating normally. I suggest that you make any travel arrangements well in advance, as I am already having trouble going to my wifes hometown. Tet is not some huge party blowout, as Lola said, it's about family, and performing certain rituals to ensure good luck in the new year. I personally love Saigon during yet, because it's quiet the day before tet, plan on 2-3x travel time in the city, as everyone is making their last minute purchases. You never seen a traffic jam until you see the day before tet. I'll be on an island with my wife's family, sleeping under mosquito netting, electricity only 4 hours a day. Nice and quiet. Have fun...
#3 guidosaigon has been a member since 5/1/2013. Posts: 4
Thanks very much for your replies. We will probably look to book most of the travel in advance but we are not too fussy with accommodation so might only book this in certain places.
One other thing is the use of the normal buses from place to place. I have looked into Open Tour Buses and they seem helpful but the good ones are pretty booked out around the time of TET. I am just wondering if the regular buses that run (as uncomfortable as they may be) still usually run during this time. In this I am talking about the local buses that seem to be a little cheaper but have no guarantee of a seat. Such as ones that run between Hoi An and Danang for about 15000VND.
#4 StevenAM has been a member since 4/1/2013. Posts: 4
Just to add to the above, I was in Saigon for TET last year and while getting accommodation was no problem at all, transport was a nightmare. We had planned to get the train along the coast and found it impossible to get seats. We ended up changing our plans, rented motorbikes and did some overnight trips around (to Vung Tau and somewhere in the delta if I remember rightly) the traffic on the first day was INSANE. I've never seen anything like it. We didn't have problems finding rooms in the towns we went to, transport was the big problem.
#5 ThorntreeExile has been a member since 8/1/2013. Posts: 10
Just a quick note we have a feature coming up on planning around Tet 2013 -- will be live this coming Monday. I'll post a link in this thread when we publish.
Oh that might help answer a few of the questions I have. Sounds good.
#7 StevenAM has been a member since 4/1/2013. Posts: 4
Hi Steve, in response to the local bus question (its 18,000VND) from Da Nang / Hoi An , if they are running - which I'm quite sure they will but probably on a reduced service - I'd bank on the fact that maybe they won't run on the three main days, I asked but was subjected to lots of hand waving. This is a 45 minute route with buses leaving every half hour so you should not have a problem finding seats. The bus station in Da Nang is quite far out of the way though (at the Hoi An end its walkable). I think the best thing you can do is have a back up just in case. This might help - https://www.travelfish.org/blogs/vietnam/2012/12/28/travelling-between-hoi-an-and-da-nang/
#8 LolaNguyen has been a member since 28/8/2012. Posts: 94
Hi, don't want to hijack your thread but I will be in pretty much the same shoes as you, as I am entering HCMC on the 21st Jan and staying until probably the 20th Feb. So it looks like the week before (5th-10th) is the main time to have trouble getting transport, as well as the week after (up until the 18th?). Will there be trouble getting transport during the actual celebrations themselves (10th-14th)? I plan on 2 nights in HCMC and 7 nights in the Mekong delta. That will take me up to the 28th jan, still outside the tet period. From there it will likely be Nha Trang for 4 nights, and Hoi An for 4 nights, which will mean I am due to leave hoi an on the 5th, just as everyone begins to go home for the holiday. From there I want to go to hue where i will probably stay until tet actually begins on the 10th, and will then go to Hanoi for 1 week which will be during tet. After that I will go to ha long bay for a few days.
Basically, based on the above, will I have trouble getting around, especially going from hoi an to hue and from hue to Hanoi, and will I be able to get accomodation in those places as well as Hanoi? I imagine Hanoi should be ok as a lot of people will have left. One more thing; will the museums and cafes be closed in Hanoi during the 10th to 14th?
Thanks, I'm usually quite flexible but don't want to be caught out as I can't afford $100 per night hotels if that's all that's available!
#9 GhostOfTomJoad has been a member since 23/8/2012. Posts: 13