Traveling in Vietnam: An introduction to “Tet”

When you travel somewhere, you probably want to get to know the country, its culture and its people. And what better way to truly get to know a country than to celebrate their holidays? One of Vietnam’s most important holiday is “Tet” which is what we can translate to the Vietnamese New Year. A lot of people might know this word because of the Tet Offensive in 1968, but it is actually Vietnam’s biggest celebration and is celebrated usually around January or February. It is the busiest time to be there as well, so if you are planning on visiting Vietnam this period, make sure that you book an accommodation in good time! And don’t forget to apply for your Vietnam Visa on Arrival or your E-Visa in order to enter the country.

What you can expect during Tet is that most businesses and shops will be closed. The celebration lasts about 3 days (yes, that’s right!) and the Vietnamese people prepare for this holidays weeks in advance. Go big or go home, as they say. If you aren’t very fond of the noise, this can be a chaotic time for you to travel in Vietnam. But if you don’t mind the noise and want to be part of something very unique (and perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime-experience), you will love Tet. People celebrate in the streets by banging gongs, throwing firecrackers, to scare evil spirits away that could bring bad fortune. The first day of the New Year will mark how the rest of the year is – so the Vietnamese makes sure that the first day is a happy and successful day.

Tet is coming - people shopping to prepare for Tet
Tet is coming – people shopping to prepare for Tet

While celebrating Tet, you will be able to see Vietnamese traditions, revelry and games. There will be public stages throughout the country with entertainment, music and free cultural shows. You will also most certainly see dragon and lion dances as well, just like during the Chinese New Year. Although many locals return to their families and friends during Tet, you will most likely be able to celebrate it wherever you are in Vietnam. But some of the best places to celebrate this holiday is usually in the cities, such as: Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang and Hoi An. These places will not only be filled with tourists, but also with locals, since Tet is the time of the year when they have holidays.

The first day of Tet is spent with immediate family. This is a day where you cook together, spend time together and even if you live far away, you go home to meet your family. The second day is for your friends – they usually go out for drinks, food and get to catch up with old friends they haven’t met for a while. The third day is dedicated to visiting temples and teachers.

Banh tet - Vietnamese traditional rice cake
Banh tet – Vietnamese traditional rice cake

As a tourist, you may encounter some difficulties while traveling around Vietnam during Tet. For example, transportation can be a problem. If you don’t book it long in advance (at least 1 week before Tet), everything can be fully booked. Since locals are also traveling during this time, it will be double the amount of travelers that are on flights, buses and trains. This can cause some problems for you if you have to be at a certain place at a certain time. But it’s all about planning during this holiday!

Accommodation is another problem. Make sure that you book far in advance – hostels, hotels, or wherever you intend to staying! Hoi An is a town that usually gets fully booked no matter the time of the year, but during New Year it gets extremely busy, so if you are planning on going here for Tet – book your accommodation now! Some of the restaurants and cafes will also be closed during this holiday. This plays a big factor for tourists that are visiting Vietnam. But there will surely be some restaurants that are opened, and the Vietnamese are very accommodating people, so you might even be invited to someone’s house for Tet!

Tourists enjoy Tet Flowers Show at Nguyen Hue Blv, Ho Chi Minh city
Tourists enjoy Tet Flowers Show at Nguyen Hue Blv, Ho Chi Minh city

If you are going to Vietnam and thinking about skipping it because of New Years – don’t! This is a very special holiday and one that you should not miss out on. It’s the perfect way to truly get to know Vietnam’s culture and its people. Getting to spend this particular holiday in Vietnam is very special and one that should not be missed. Get out on the street, celebrate with the locals, get to know Vietnam better and prepare to fall in love with the craziness! Who knows – you may even come back next year to celebrate Tet again!