Locals to travel enthusiasts know that Tet in Vietnam (or Lunar New Year) is our biggest and most anticipated holiday. Tết is our longest holiday and the celebration lasts for more than a week. While our Vietnamese hearts are pumping with high anticipation, many visitors, probably you included fear traveling during Tet in Vietnam.
Why? Because almost all shops, restaurants and museums are closed. Streets would be left empty. Basically, usual bustling Vietnam would not be present. But there is a special vibe to it.
This might be the common view on Tet in Vietnam, but does that end only with the lack of vibrancy and hustling? What Tet holiday is anyways? How does the whole country transform to prepare for the most important and precious time of the year- Tet?
How long does Tet last for?
Well, it differs every year!
Long story short, Tet in Vietnam is a long celebration, ranging from 3 days before New year’s eve to 3-4 days after the eve. For the year 2019, Tet lasts from February 2nd to 10th. This year Tết’s eve will be February the 5th. Most of the locals travel out of cities to suburbs where their kin lives. That being said, the long holiday does not mean that everything will be closed.
However, you should prepare something to cure your boredom during the first 3 days of the New Year (which in 2019 is the 5th, 6th, and 7th of February). Several stores and restaurants are certain to be closed (even franchised fast food ones like KFC) on these days.
Atmosphere during Tet
A festive atmosphere, from the decoration to the New Year’s music lingering in your ear is just the tip of the iceberg. Your closest neighborhood of the Old Quarter is full of the red color, from the lanterns, lucky money packages to the new Vietnamese calendars all over the street of Hang Ma or Hang Luoc.
Residential areas will paint the sky red by raising the Vietnamese flag high and tall.
Before the New Year’s Eve, you will notice locals wearing pretty dresses and sharp tuxedos on scooters- sign of saying that they are ready to “look the part” for the New Year.
Colorful branches of cherry blossoms in Flower Markets will make your heart pumping in the same beat as the locals!
Many people go to the street preparing for Tet before the New Year’s Eve, but there will be a 360-degree shift after the Eve as people will mostly stay at home.
Vietnamese don’t celebrate Tet the same
Northern style is NOT like Southern style
Vietnamese people celebrate Tet all around the country. However, there is a tiny geographical difference from the North to the South.
The most recognizable is definitely the weather. While in the North the weather is cold and foggy, the South is blessed with warmth and sunshine.
For Tet food, if Northern Vietnamese use Chung cake which has a square shape, Southern people prefer cylindrical one. Flowers are present in both parts, peach blossom and apricot ones only in the warm South.
For Vietnamese Tet is the time to “let it all out”. For foreigners, take it all in!
Things to do for Tet in Hanoi
Plan everything ahead, be ready for a high rate price
Don’t flip when you see the price tag!
Tet is a very intimate holiday that Vietnamese like to spend with their families, so businesses are closed to cater in for it. Tours and accommodation can be at crazy high rates.
To avoid this we would suggest you book 2-3 months for the best and not overpriced services.
Should I go to Vietnam during Tet?
By all means!
What you get out of this is the one-of-a-kind experience that will not be available in any other time: Vietnam in its most rustic and traditional charm. Tet is a special occasion when you will sense a unique change: from people hustling for work to the sudden peacefulness and calmness where no bikes are in sight (quite unusual for Vietnam, don’t you think?).