An Expert Guide to Travelling in Vietnam During Tet Holiday For Lovers Of Unique Cultural Discoveries

Nga Do
If you are interested in exploring unique cultures, Tet holiday in Vietnam is the place for you. So, you plan on travelling during Tết you need to be prepared as it will have a major impact on your trip – this guide has all the info you need to know!

An Expert Guide to Travelling in Vietnam During Tet Holiday For Lovers Of Unique Cultural Discoveries
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What Is "Tet"?

Considered the first day of spring and most important of national holidays in Vietnam, Tet is the annual Vietnamese New Year celebration, coinciding with the Lunar New Year celebrated throughout the world in January or February.

Technically, "Tet" is a shortened (thank goodness!) form of Tết Nguyên Đán, a way to say "Lunar New Year" in Vietnamese.

Although Tet can be a very exciting time to travel in Vietnam, it's also the busiest time of the year to be there. Millions of people will be traveling through the country to share reunions with friends and family. The holiday will certainly have an impact on your trip plans.

Tet is seen as a chance for a fresh start. Debts are settled, old grievances are forgiven, and houses are cleaned of clutter — all to set the stage for attracting as much luck and good fortune as possible in the upcoming year.

Tet has a very attached meaning to all Vietnamese. If you have an opportunity to visit Vietnam during Tet holiday, make sure that you join this festive and happy moments of Vietnam!

The whole Vietnam country is most lively and cheerful during this time, and if you don’t want to miss this chance to travel around and learn more about Vietnamese traditions, join now:

An Expert Guide to Travelling in Vietnam During Tet Holiday For Lovers Of Unique Cultural Discoveries 1
Photo by Donald Trung

When is Tet?

It changes every year and goes by the lunar calendar but is generally from mid January to mid February. This year (2019) it’s on February 5th and the official national holiday runs for about a week afterwards. 

Visiting Vietnam? You’ll probably need a visa… here’s our step-by-step visa guide:!

Some interesting Tết traditions and customs

Whilst Christmas and New Year may have moved away from their religious roots in the West, Tết has kept true to its history and the holiday period is filled with culture and tradition. There’s a very obvious emphasis on tying up all loose ends from the previous year and starting the new year in the best way possible. It’s quite a magical time filled with superstition, fortune and history.

Before Tết people clean their homes to get rid of bad luck, make sure they’ve paid off all of their debts and resolve any outstanding arguments. People, especially children, will get new clothes to wear on the first day of the year and homes and streets are brightly decorated.

Kumquat trees and peach blossoms, both with important symbolic meaning in Vietnamese culture, are put in homes and businesses, again with the hope of bringing good wishes for the year to come. You’ll see them all over the country either being displayed or being bought and sold from markets. 

You’ll also see plenty of trays containing 5 fruits being taken to shrines and temples. The fruits vary regionally but all symbolise elements for a positive year. Many people wear red, similar to other Asian countries, as it’s believed the colour brings good luck.

One of our favourite aspects of Tết is Banh chung, or Tet cake. A green leaf-wrapped square that you’re sure to see being bought and sold everywhere. It’s traditionally made together by the family and contains glutinous rice, mung beans and pork. To all you veggie travellers, Hanoi is a surprisingly good place for vegans and in many veggie restaurants or shops it’s possible to buy a meat-free alternative which is absolutely delicious!

An Expert Guide to Travelling in Vietnam During Tet Holiday For Lovers Of Unique Cultural Discoveries 2
Photo by nguyentuanhung

Things you should do if visiting Vietnam during Tet Holiday.

If you are travelling to Vietnam during Tet holiday, you will have good chance to discover Vietnamese culture and take part in many interesting activities.

1. Try Banh Chung.

"Banh Chung" (Chung cake) is a traditional and irreplaceable cake of Vietnamese people in the Tet Holidays. For the Vietnamese, making "Banh Chung" is the ideal way to express gratitude to their ancestors and homeland.

If you visit a Vietnamese’s home during Tet holiday, you will be served with this kind of cake. Or you can see the recipe here:

An Expert Guide to Travelling in Vietnam During Tet Holiday For Lovers Of Unique Cultural Discoveries 3
Photo by Vietnam Typical Tours

2. Go to pagoda

When spring comes, apart from traveling, Vietnamese people usually go to a pilgrimage at the beginning of Lunar Year - or called “go to pagoda to pray for luck”. Vietnamese people usually go to pagoda on the first day of Lunar New Year. They go to pagoda to pray for safety, health, good luck, prosperity and happiness during the year. If you want to understand more about Vietnamese culture or Buddhism in Vietnam, you should visit some pagodas and enjoy the atmosphere.

3. Take part in traditional games and festivals

There are many festivals celebrated through the country during Tet holiday with many kinds of games, competitions and entertaining activities. There are many different kinds of festivals, depending on the time and the province you visit, but they are all fun, bustling and attractive. So, don’t forget to join some festivals to have good time entertaining and having fun.

4. Watch firework at New Year Eve

Fireworks displays have also become a traditional part of a Tet celebration in Vietnam. During the New Year's Eve, fireworks displays at many cities are broadcast through multiple national and local TV channels. So, if you are in Vietnam during that time, don’t for get to go out and enjoy the firework with local people.

Tips for travelling in Vietnam during Tết

Accommodation tips during Tết

  • Aim to stay in more developed areas for a wider variety of accommodation options
  • Family-run hostels and guesthouses are less likely to stay open during Tết
  • Hotel prices can vary but will generally be under booked and easy to find
  • If you can stay in smaller guest houses it will be a good way of experiencing cultural celebrations

Transport tips during Tết 

  • Try to avoid long-distance travel in the week building up to Tết
  • If you do travel at this point make sure you book your tickets at least 1 month in advance
  • Bring a book to pass the time
  • If you’re travelling to the airport give yourself a lot of time
  • Be prepared for delays and increased prices
  • Make sure you contact the travel company before travel

Shopping tips during Tết

  • Shops will be busy building up to Tết
  • Shops may shut or have little stock
  • Stock up on water and necessities if you’re going to be in more rural locations
  • DON’T HAGGLE, it’s seen as disrespectful
  • Be prepared to walk to find an open shop

Eating and drinking tips during Tết

  • Expect higher prices, limited options and fewer places open
  • If places are open they’ll be in holiday mode so go with a relaxed attitude
  • Embrace the holiday and if you see locals drinking and eating ask if you can join them
  • Be respectful of the local culture if you’re drinking
  • If you do find a good place to eat then fill up cos you might not find another

Sightseeing tips during Tết

  • Definitely go to visit temples to see local culture
  • ATMs will be working but banks will be closed for the national holiday
  • Take advantage of the quiet streets and explore the city or go for a run/cycle
  • Have an adventure in empty national parks
  • Save museums, galleries and mausoleums for after the holidays

This is without a doubt an incredibly special time in the Vietnamese calendar and can make for memorable and unique travel experiences. To watch fields of families paying their respects in temples is truly priceless and exploring deserted cities is a beautiful opportunity.

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