Vietnam destination guide

Best time to visit Vietnam

Vietnam’s climate is characterised by strong monsoons, a considerable number of sunny days, high levels of rainfall and high humidity. Vietnam’s weather varies greatly from north to south with each area marked by slightly different seasons and climates. There is good weather somewhere in Vietnam all year round!

Hanoi and the north of Vietnam have distinct winter and summer seasons. The mainly dry winter lasts from December to March with average temperatures of 18-20°C but it can drop to as low 10’s at times. Summer lasts from May to October and is hot and humid with temperatures around 30°C and receives the most rainfall.

The Central Highlands enjoys very a hot and dry weather from February to August with temperatures reaching the mid 30's Celsius but can experience some heavy rainfall between September and November.

Ho Chi Minh City and the south have a hot, dry season from December until April with average temperatures around 28°C and a warm rainy season from May to November. In the rainy season, most rain comes in short, heavy bursts.

The South benefits from the sunshine and warm weather all year round. The rainy season lasts from May to November with afternoon showers and a dry season from December to April. Most rainfall is received in the months of June, July and August.

Visit Vietnam in January and February
This is one of the best periods to visit Vietnam with dry weather throughout the country. Hanoi and the Far North enjoy clear blue skies, the weather is dry, temperatures hovers at around 18C but expect chilly nights especially in the Sa Pa highlands. February is a good time for trekking in the Sa Pa Highlands. In the coastal areas eg Ha Long Bay, misty conditions are common and may have some impact on your Ha Long cruise. January brings an end to the rainy season in The Central Highlands and the sunshine for the beaches of Hoi An, Danang and Nha Trang. The South enjoys some of the best weather with sunny blue skies and dry conditions. The popular beaches of Phan Thiet & Mui Ne and southern islands of Phu Quoc and Con Dao enjoy sunny skies in January.
During the Tet Festival, which usually falls in Jan or Feb, many shops, museums, temples, and restaurants are closed for about a week.

Visit Vietnam in March and April
On balance, March is one of the best months to visit Vietnam from North to South. The weather is dry and sunny throughout the whole country. All the beaches in the South and Central regions enjoy long hours of sunshine, temperatures are hot averaging 28C. Phan Thiet, Mui Ne, Con Dao, Hoi An, Danang and Nha Trang all enjoy sunny days and clear blue skies.
In the north, temperatures start to rise and trekking conditions remain at optimum with some rainy days to be expected in April. This is also the best time to enjoy a cruise on Ha Long Bay with its clear skies to enjoy the scenery.

Visit Vietnam in May
With the onset of the wet season in the North and South, May sees few visitors and is a good time for bargains. The weather remains warm and humid, and there are still many dry days. Expect short and heavy afternoon showers towards the later part of May. Trekking conditions in the Far North of Sa Pa remain good. The Central region is basking in sunshine with the beaches of Hoi An, Danang, Nha Trang and Phu Quoc at their best. Average temperatures are 30 °C

Visit Vietnam in June and July
You can visit Vietnam in June and July but you should expect some rain. Hanoi and the North will experience hot (Avg temperature: 30 °C) and rainy days and occasional storms. Halong Bay experiences heavy storms and occasionally cruises may be cancelled. July is one of the wettest months in the North. Central Vietnam will be basking in sunshine and days are dry and hot. Beach resorts in Hoi An, Danang and Nha Trang basks in the sunshine and blue skies. In the South, the wet season brings heavy afternoon downpours but there are still dry and sunny days. Conditions are not ideal for trekking and adventure activities. The Green Turtle nesting season begins on the beaches of Con Dao at the beginning of June.

Visit Vietnam in August
The weather in North Vietnam and the Highlands remains hot and rainy with occasional storms. Central Vietnam is the best place to visit in august. The beaches of Hoi An, Danang and Nha Trang remains hot and dry but rain is to be expected towards the end of the month. In the South, expect heavy showers although the temperature remains warm with some dry days. Travel remains possible but trekking is not recommended throughout the country. This is also a time for bargains during the low season.

Visit Vietnam in September
In the North, weather remains hot and rainy, with rain becoming less frequent towards the end of the month. Conditions for trekking in the Sa Pa Highlands improves dramatically.
In Central Vietnam, September heralds the arrival of the rainy season although the beaches are still enjoying some dry and sunny days. Typhoons and storms are quite common in September and flooding is a possibility. The rain continues in the south with rainfall becoming less frequent with the end of the wet season in sight. Expect plenty of blue skies.

Visit Vietnam in October
With the arrival of winter, temperatures turn cooler and dry conditions returns with the end of the wet season in the North. Clear blue skies and drop in humidity. October is one of the best months to trek the Sa Pa Highlands, visit Mu Cang Chai’s golden rice-fields and venture off the beaten track.
Storms and rain dominate the Central regions and trekking in the Highlands are not recommended. Frequent flooding occurs in Hoi An with heavy rainfall a common feature on the beaches of Hue, Danang and Nha Trang.
In the South, October sees the arrival of summer with dry and hot days. The southern beaches of Phan Thiet, Mui Ne, and the islands of Phu Quoc & Con Dao begins to bask in the sunshine with little or no rain. For wildlife enthusiasts, this is the time to visit Con Dao to see the Green Turtle hatchlings emerge from their nesting grounds and make their way to the sea.

Visit Vietnam in November and December
November and December are some of the best months to visit the North. The weather is mainly dry with little or almost no rainfall and conditions for trekking and soft adventure is at its optimum. In the northern highlands of Mu Cang Chai and Sapa, days are dry with clear skies. Expect cool evenings and chilly mornings.
In November, rain and occasional typhoons hit the coast of the Central regions bringing heavy rainfall with possible flooding in Hoi An. The beaches of Danang and Nha Trang experiences high rainfall and for those on a beach holiday, we suggest the beaches in the South. By early December, rainfall is less frequent and temperatures average 24C.
In the South, dry conditions gather pace with the beaches of Phan Thiet, Mui Ne and Phu Quoc basking in sunshine with clear blue skies.

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Best time to go

The Far North: Sa Pa Highlands

The dry season runs from October to March and the rainy season runs from April to September.
If you are considering a trekking excursion in Sapa, the best months will be March, April, May, September, and November. Average temperatures range from 16 to 29 in the day and 10-18 in the night. It is still possible to trek in the other months, but conditions are not optimal. It will be wet from June to August and cold from December to February.

 

 

 

 

 

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
7℃ 8℃ 11℃ 13℃ 16℃ 18℃ 18℃ 18℃ 16℃ 13℃ 11℃ 8℃
 Average maximum temperature
13℃ 14℃ 18℃ 21℃ 24℃ 24℃ 24℃ 24℃ 23℃ 20℃ 17℃ 15℃
 Average hours of sunshine
3 4 5 6 6 5 5 5 5 4 4 4
 Average rainfall in mm
140 80 100 140 285 290 490 670 260 50 140 50

Hanoi, Halong Bay, Cuc Phuong National Park, Mai Chau & Ninh Binh

North Vietnam has a cold but dry winter and hot and rainy summer. The coldest months are from January to March with average daytime temperatures of 19-22 C and night time temp[ertures of 13-18 degrees. The spring season lasts from March to April and hosts an abundance of sun and high humidity. The hot season comes during the months of May to October with plenty of sun and heat with the highest rainfall from August to October.

 

  

 

 

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
13.7℃ 15℃ 18.1℃ 21.4℃ 24.3℃ 25.8℃ 26.1℃ 25.7℃ 24.7℃ 21.9℃ 18.5℃ 15.3℃
 Average maximum temperature
19.3℃ 19.9℃ 22.8℃ 27℃ 31.5℃ 32.6℃ 32.9℃ 31℃ 30.9℃ 28.6℃ 25.2℃ 21.8℃
 Average hours of sunshine
1 1 1 2 4 5 5 4 4 4 3 2
 Average rainfall in mm
18.6 26.2 43.8 90.1 188.5 239.5 288.2 318 265.4 130.7 43.4 23.4

The Central Highlands:Hoi An, Danang, Hue, Dalat, Quy Nhon & Nha Trang

The Central Highlands have very hot, dry weather from February to August with temperatures reaching the mid 30's Celsius, but can experience some heavy rainfall between September and January. Frequent typhoons with strong winds and heavy downpours hit the central coast from September to November which can cause flooding and disrupt travel plans.

Nha Trang has warm, sometimes hot weather all year round, with a rainy season from the end of September until December with the most rainfall during the months of October and November.

 

  

 

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
19℃ 20℃ 21℃ 23℃ 24℃ 25℃ 25℃ 25℃ 24℃ 23℃ 22℃ 20℃
 Average maximum temperature
24℃ 26℃ 27℃ 30℃ 33℃ 34℃ 34℃ 34℃ 31℃ 28℃ 27℃ 25℃
 Average hours of sunshine
7 7 7 7 7 5 6 5 6 6 6 7
 Average rainfall in mm
102 31 12 18 47 42 99 117 447 530 221 209

The South: Ho Chi Minh City, The Mekong Delta, Phu Quoc & Con Dao, Phan Thiet & Mui Ne

The South benefits from sunshine and warm weather all year round with a distinct wet and dry season. The warm rainy season lasts from May to early November and a hot, dry season from late November to April. 

July, July and August experiences the heaviest rainfall with heavy afternoon rain showers. More steady rain can be expected in upper mountainous areas in the south as well as cooler temperatures.

Phu Quoc and Con Dao enjoys a sunny climate year-round, with rain showers during the rainy season.

 

 

 

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
21℃ 22℃ 24℃ 25℃ 25℃ 24℃ 24℃ 24℃ 24℃ 23℃ 22℃ 21℃
 Average maximum temperature
31℃ 32℃ 33℃ 34℃ 34℃ 32℃ 32℃ 32℃ 31℃ 31℃ 31℃ 30℃
 Average hours of sunshine
5 6 5 6 4 4 4 5 5 4 4 4
 Average rainfall in mm
14 4 10.5 50.4 218.4 311.7 293.7 369.8 327.1 266.7 116.5 48.3

General travel tips

Currency

The currency of Vietnam is the dong (VND). All goods and services can and should be paid in dongs. Shops and restaurants in the bigger cities will also accept US dollars.

Clothing

Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for travelling in Vietnam. The dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the tropics but it is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects. A lightweight raincoat and umbrella are a good idea in the rainy season and an umbrella can also offer useful shade from the sun.

Evenings in the north and the centre can be quite chilly so bring a sweater and a good jacket especially from November to February. Visitors should not wear shorts, short skirts or other revealing clothing when visiting pagodas and monasteries. Shoes must be removed before entering some religious building or a private home.

Dance & Theatre

Classical Vietnamese theatre, known as hat boi, has links with the classical theatre of China, however, it is rarely seen these days. The most original theatrical art form in Vietnam is mua roi muoc or water puppet theatre. Plays are based on historical or religious themes, legends, village life and acts of heroism. Some include the use of fireworks – especially during battle scenes – while folk opera singers and traditional instruments accompany all performances.

Electricity

Vietnam mainly uses 220V but in some areas, 110V is also used. A mixture of flat and round 2-pin outlets are used throughout the country. It is recommended to bring a universal plug adaptor.

Etiquette

  • The Vietnamese used to greet one another by clasping their hands, prayer-like, in front of their faces and bowing slightly. Unfortunately, this charming custom has been replaced by the handshake.
  • When trying to gain the attention of a Vietnamese, try not to point or gesture excessively as this is regarded as rude. Call out their names if possible, or beckon by using the whole hand, palm downwards.
  • Do not touch people on the head as it is regarded as spiritually the ‘highest’ part of the body

Food

The cuisine of Vietnam comes as a pleasant surprise to many visitors and is definitely a part of the Vietnam experience not to be missed. One of the characteristics of Vietnamese food is that it is always fresh being bought the same morning straight from the market. Food is usually prepared with a minimum of oil and served with the ubiquitous fish sauce called nuoc mam. Typical Vietnamese dishes you can expect to try include pho, a type of rice noodle soup eaten for breakfast, cha gio (nem in northern dialect), deep-fried spring rolls and goi ngo sen, a delicious salad made with lotus stems, shrimps and peanuts. Due to the strong Buddhist influence in Vietnam, vegetarian food is widely available however more so in Southern Vietnam.

Health

We strongly recommend having good health insurance and carrying a good first aid kit. In general, there is a lack of international standard medical help and hospitals. Major cities like Hanoi and Saigon have international clinics which provide good services for minor ailments. No vaccination is officially required by the Vietnamese authorities, but immunisation against cholera, hepatitis, typhoid, tetanus, polio, and Japanese encephalitis is advised. Rabies is present in Vietnam, so you are advised to avoid dogs and other animals that may bite as a precaution.

Language

The national language of Vietnam is Vietnamese. In big cities and in places with many tourists, people will speak basic English. The younger generation will be more adept at speaking English, while the older generation still speaks some French. Because Vietnamese has six different tones, it is a difficult language for most foreigners to speak despite the fact that the Roman alphabet is used in modern Vietnamese. The same word can have six different meanings depending on the tone used to pronounce it. Russian and Chinese are also spoken by some people.

Malaria

Malaria is present in Vietnam, especially in the Central Highlands and some parts of the Mekong Delta The best protection against malaria is to avoid being bitten in the first place. Check with your physician about taking a course of anti-malaria tablets. It is essential that you consult with your doctors prior to departure as these are general guidelines only.

People

Ethnic Vietnamese makeup almost 90 percent of the population. Vietnamese culture was strongly influenced by the traditional Chinese civilisation, however, the struggle for political independence from China developed a strong sense of national identity in the Vietnamese people. Nearly 100 years of French rule (1858-1954) introduced European elements, but the Vietnamese still attach great importance to the family and continue to observe rites honouring their ancestors.

Various ethnic groups make up the remaining 10 percent of the population. The second largest minority is the southern Montagnards or ‘mountain people’ and the third largest is the Khmer Krom (Cambodians) who are mainly found near the Cambodian border and at the mouth of the Mekong River.

Other minority groups include Cham, remnants of the once-mighty Kingdom of Champa.

Religion

Buddhism is the dominant religion in Vietnam usually combined with elements of Confucianism and Taoism. About 10% of the country's population is Catholic and there are also communities of Protestants and Muslims. Vietnam is also home to a unique religion called Cao Dai, a religious cocktail of all the world's major faiths.

Safety

Vietnam is a safe country to visit. As a global rule, never leave your valuables unattended in the vehicles and always maintain eye contact and a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags. In Saigon (HCMC) there has been a surge in drive-by snatching so keep a lookout around you and never stay close to the road’s edge with a bag, gold chains or handling a phone or camera as these are the favourite objects.

Shopping

Souvenirs to look out for in Vietnam include lacquerware, silk, conical hats, woodcarvings, hill tribe fabrics and handicrafts, embroidery, marble, ceramics, silver, antique watches and paintings. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have the best choice when it comes to shopping but Hoi An in the centre of Vietnam is also a very good place to hunt for bargains.

Security

When planning your trip abroad, take steps to protect yourself from crime or theft. Vietnam is a relatively safe destination, with a low record of petty crime worldwide, but tourists are advised not to wear expensive jewellery while travelling.

Time

Vietnam is GMT + 7 and does not operate a daylight-saving system.

Tipping

Tipping for good service is not expected but is always appreciated in a country where the average annual income is quite low compared to Europe for example. It is customary to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a tour. Hotel and station porters should also be tipped. Do not let your guide talk you into tipping more than you plan to. It is totally up to you who you tip, when and how much.

Transportation

Visitors can travel to various provinces, cities, and towns by air, road, train, or boat.

Air - If you intend to visit only a few cities in Vietnam, flying is the most convenient way to travel. Train - There is a regular train service between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and most cities in between. You may choose to break your journey at the major regional cities like Hue, Danang and Nha Trang.

Visas

Most visitors to Vietnam require a visa to enter the country and all travellers must have a passport valid for 6 months after their planned exit from Vietnam. UK passport holders can enter Vietnam via designated airports for a stay of not more than 15 days visa free.

Water

It is not advisable to drink tap water but bottled mineral water is safe and available everywhere. Most international hotels provide a complimentary bottle of local mineral water per person in the room. Ice cubes in drinks are generally OK in good standard hotels and restaurants but it is best to avoid it on street stalls or in country areas. Some minor stomach problems are always possible when travelling in exotic countries. Bring a supply of your usual anti-diarrhoea medicine.