What is Tet?
The full name for Tet is Tet Nguyen Dan. It is the most important and widely celebrated public festival of the year in Vietnam. It is the occasion for Vietnamese to express their respects for ancestors as well as welcoming the lunar New Year with family members. Overall, Tet holiday for Vietnam is a bit like the Spring Festival for Chinese: every family will get together to have big meals to welcome the New Year.
Since Tet is the most important festival for Vietnamese, preparations for the celebration begins well in advance. They make offering and pray at temples about the two weeks before and immediately after Tet because visiting temples is considered auspicious. Many families visit the graves of ancestors in the week prior to Tet. Homes are cleaned and decorated with Hoa Mai (yellow apricot blossom), Hoa Dao (peach blossom), Kumquat tree and many other colorful flowers. On the eve of Tet, they cook an abundance of food. On the first days of New Year, everybody, especially kids, wear new clothes and shoes to visit families and friends and enjoy the traditional Tet food like Banh Chung, Banh Tet (some sticky rice cakes). Many children receive “lucky money” in red envelopes.
Travelling in Vietnam during Tet Holiday
It Tet a particularly good time to visit in Vietnam? Should I time my Vietnam visit to avoid Tet? Many travelers have such doubts in mind. To help you make the decision, here are some things about Vietnam during Tet Holiday you should know:
1. Transportation: Flights, buses and trains about 1 week before or after Tet Holiday are often booked out well in advance as Vietnamese travel a lot this time (return home/go back for work). Be sure to book early.
2. Accommodation: Most hotels remain open, so there is no need to worry about accommodation. However, some hotels may raise the price if you stay during Tet holiday.
3. Sightseeing: Some tourist sites remain open during Tet, but many museums, mausoleums, indoor exhibition places and art houses will be closed at the first 3 days of Tet.
4. Shops: Many shops will be closed for the first few days of Tet Festival. The good news is - many products will be sold at a very reasonable price because most sellers want to start a smooth sales year.
5. Banks: Banks will be closed for the holiday.
Overall, some people may think that Tet is not the best time to travel to Vietnam, but will all these factors spoil your Vietnam holiday during Tet? Not really. Here are some good parts of Tet for travelers: The country is vibrant and colourful during this time, and you will have a chance to learn more about the culture of Vietnam. Streets are quiet and light in traffic during Tet. The streets are elaborately decorated and everybody looks happy. Just enjoy the festive mood! Hotels and travel agents still work during Tet holiday. Some hotels will have special nights or New Year celebration. Beaches will be less crowded - overall Tet is a great time for those who enjoy the tranquility.
Tips for Travelling in Vietnam during Tet
Book the transportation in advance: Because locals also need to come back hometowns, you should book in advance for the suitable prices and the best seats from an airplane, train to bus tickets.
Be locals: you don’t need to act like locals but you should try wearing like locals. Vietnamese usually wear Ao Dai or other traditional clothes on Tet. You can try to wear these cool clothes or at least, be conservative.
Enjoy first, shop later: in Tet holiday, the streets seem less crowded, most shops are closed. Therefore, take this chance and enjoy the fresh atmosphere. Try not to bargain because it will be considered to bring about bad luck for the whole new year. If you have to do, be very polite.
Try Lucky money: Then, if you have a chance, try to give people (especially the kids) the lucky money – money that is put in the red envelope. When you choose a homestay, give the kids lucky money and maybe you will get the lucky ones from their parents also. If you are in need of some currency changed, do this in hotels though the exchange rate might be less than favorable.
Don’t forget the local foods: you are so lucky if coming right this time. Locals prepare many kinds of traditional foods that may wow your palate. Try homestay and eat as the hosts are Vietnam tour’s advice in this case.
All in all, if you're planning to visit Vietnam during or around Tet Holiday, be sure to prepare your trip ahead of time!
Travel to the North to see Peach Blossom
North Vietnam with Ha Noi keeps the unique traditional Tet.
Traditional flower for Northern Tet: pink peach blossom. The flower with nude pink color best fits the dry and cold weather in the North. Let's go down the street and take some pictures!
Local food guides: Chung cake – the traditional food, which made with glutinous rice, pork, mung beans, onions wrapped by banana leaves, have a square shape. This shape is closer to the tradition when comparing with cakes in the South.
The atmosphere: you can see the cool things people do before Tet. They prepare the house, cook the cakes, decorate around. At glance, Tet in the North is the traditional Vietnam Tet.
Travel to the South to feel the Unite Tet
It’s interesting that the North and South of Vietnam somehow are contracted in the way of celebrating the Tet holiday.
The symbol flower for Southern Vietnamese Tet is yellow apricot blossom. Moreover, the weather in Ho Chi Minh and other cities will be cool and wet, unlike the dry and cold in the North.
Special foods for Tet: Banh Tet is a rounded pipe, representing vigor and perpetuity, sometimes with sweet banana inside.
The atmosphere: like the yellow color from the apricot blossom, Tet in the Southern is cheerful and reunite. People return home, celebrate with their parents, gather together and share stories.