In general, there are two seasons in Vietnam. November through April is the cold season and May through October the hot season.Along the coast, there is a tropical monsoon climate. Between May and September the south monsoon blows in while the north monsoon whips around between October and April.There is a rainy season during the south monsoon. Plenty of rain falls, even more in the hills and areas on the coast. Torrential rains hit usually between September and January.The north monsoon means cloudy days with a little light rain in the north of Vietnam, but dry and sunny days in the south.In Hanoi, average daily temperatures range between 12 (January) and 26 degrees (July). In Ho Chi Minh City, the range of temperatures is flatter - a minimum of 21 degrees in January and a maximum of 25 degrees in July. Humidity is a factor.
When to fly to Vietnam
With different weather patterns and rainy seasons, travellers considering taking cheap flights to Vietnam should not avoid any particular time of the year. However, you should keep in mind that the Tet Holiday (January and February) is a very important time for the Vietnamese and it's a peak travel time.
September to April is when most visitors come to Vietnam.
Christmas is a family-centric time in Vietnam as is Tet (Lunar New Year) around January/February. July and August are also very busy months for domestic tourism.
Getting around Vietnam
Domestic flights can be booked with Vietnam Airlines (www.vietnamairlines.com) or Jetstar (www.jetstar.com), which operate several routes throughout Vietnam, such as Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi or Hanoi to Danang.
The train is a wonderful way of getting around. The Reunification Express trains travel between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, stopping at points along the coast such as Danang and Nha Trang. Buses can be a great way of seeing the countryside, but they're often uncomfortable and very, very crowded.
Renting a car is not that commonplace in Vietnam. The traffic can be off-putting. Buying a motorbike or hiring a car with a driver afford maximum independence. You can buy a motorbike called a minsk, an ex-Soviet dirt bike, for a couple of hundred dollars and then sell it before leaving the country.
If you're in the south, you can travel by boat in the Mekong Delta. There are tourist boats and freighters plying the waters.
Vietnam insider information
- Hoi An, south of Da Nang, has a UNESCO-listed Old Town. It's also the place to go to have a new outfit made to measure. The thing to remember is that you get what you pay for. Give the tailors as much time as you possibly can and you may need to have alterations made too.
- Sa Pa (or Sapa), about 400km north of Hanoi, was once a French hill station and is a wonderful place to see the different minority groups of Vietnam, especially at local markets. The Hmong Leng are the most numerous of the minority groups in Sa Pa. Their costume is a black and brightly embroidered dress. The Dao group usually wear red, either a headdress or a red piece of clothing. At Bac Ha, there's a market on Sundays. Here, you will be able to see the Flowery H'mong ethnic minority people as they buy and sell and go about their business. The dress of the Flowery H'mong people is eye-catchingly bright, blocks of colour interspersed with stripes and patterns. Rainbows are less bright than the costume of the Flowery H'mong people.
- In the South China Sea, the Con Dao Islands have some amazing spots for swimming and snorkelling. They're tipped to become the biggest diving centre for Vietnam.
- Vietnam's coastline is 3,260km long. Some of the more famous national parks located throughout the country include Ba Vi in Ha Tay, Cat Ba in Haiphong, Cuc Phuong in Ninh Binh, Bach Ma in Hue, and Cat Tien in Dong Nai.
- The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City is a necessary, if sobering, place to spend a couple of hours. There's a fair amount of American military equipment scattered about the grounds - a helicopter, a "Daisy Cutter" bomb, a tank and an attack bomber to name just a few. There's also a guillotine that was used to execute prisoners. The photographs are the most affecting exhibit - stark black-and-white images of war in their uncensored horror.
- The Cu Chi tunnels are a couple of hours outside of Ho Chi Minh City. These tunnels are just a section of a Viet Cong network that once extended from the Cambodian border to the outskirts of the city.