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Traveling in Vietnam During Tet

What is Tet?

Tet, shortened from Tet Nguyen Dan, is the most important holiday in Vietnam. It marks the arrival of spring, falling in the months of January and February. It is a time to forget about past troubles and hope for a better upcoming year. Since many people return home for the holiday, busy cities can become almost like ghost towns during the main day of celebration. Preparations for Tet begin two weeks before the arrival of the New Year. Houses are cleaned, new clothes are bought, and debts are paid off, all done to have a fresh start to the upcoming year. Markets become busy as food is bought for family reunions and special, extensive meals are cooked. This is also a time to buy flowers, such as peach blossoms, kumquat trees, and chrysanthemums. For tourists, this is a great time to be in Vietnam. Everyone is in a very festive spirit and the streets are filled with flowers. New Year’s Eve has a party like atmosphere. Cities will launch fireworks, people will be making noise with gongs, bells, and firecrackers to ward any an evil or unlucky spirits nearby. Tet lasts for a total of nine days and the first day of Tet is the most important. Good fortune on the first day of Tet is very auspicious for the remainder of the year. Vietnamese people believe that the first person to enter a household can determine that family’s fortune for the entire year. Families may choose a person of good moral character and success to enter their house first. Then, for several days after the New Year, families and friends pay visits to each other. About four days after the start of the New Year, towns and cities start to come back to life as people return to work and their homes.
Things You Should Know for Traveling During Tet
1. Transportation:
This is one big concern that seems to occur to most holiday travellers. Without doubt, it is quite difficult to plan your trip when air, trains and coach are mostly fully booked. Tet holiday is when domestic travel volume rockets, especially South-North route before Tet and North-South after Tet. This is because during the year many Northern people migrate to Southern provinces where gather many industrial park and businesses. Tet, just like Thanksgiving, is a time for family reunion and consequently, air and trains connecting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are sold out well in advance.
2. Accommodation:
Unlike popular myths, hotels and hostels in Vietnam during Tet are abundant - there is no need to worry about overbooked hotel rooms. Tet holiday is a not a leisure travelling time for most domestic so you will have many choices with regard to accommodation. Some hotels will have special nights or New Year celebration so check with them in advance to be part of the fun.
3. Sightseeing:
The bad news: many museums, mausoleums, indoors exhibition place and art houses will be closed for at least 5 days, from January 24th to January 28th.
The good news: beach will be empty, cities will be vacant (on the actual date of Tet) - overall a great time for those who enjoy the tranquility.
4. Food:
To many's dismay, most restaurants will be closed during Tet, be it local or foreign-owned. Most will be open until late January 24th (the last day of old Lunar year) and reopened in the 4th or 5th date of lunar January (or January 28th, 29th of solar calendar). Wet markets will still run though vendors are scanty. Thus Tet may not be the best time for culinary tour fans. But Tet is like no other events in the year - there is a great variety of Vietnamese food that is not available elsewhere or else-when such as Banh Chung, Boiled Chicken, Pickled Onions. If you are invited to a Vietnamese family, that would be the ideal case. Otherwise, a visit to Cho Tet - special wet markets selling New Year stuffs, will surely be an amazing experience, whether you are in a big city or rural mountain province. Get your camera ready!
5. Shopping:
Like restaurants, many shops will be closed for the first few days of the lunar new year. Some market will still be open, with much fewer vendors than you normally see, even in major trading points like Dong Xuan market or Ben Thanh. To your surprise, many products will be sold at a very reasonable price because most sellers want to start a smooth sales year. Try not to haggle or if you do, do so politely or else it will be considered to bring about bad luck for the whole new year.

Chuc Mung Nam Moi…Best wishes for the New Year!