Seasonal Planning for Vietnam Travel
Vietnam is a very long country, bordering China in the north and extending into the Gulf of Thailand in the south, meaning there's a lot of climatic variation. Deciding which season is best for your trip to Vietnam will depend on whether you want to focus on the north or the south, and whether you're especially interested in a particular activity, such as lounging on a beach, or exploring the cultural riches. While the south tends to have two main seasons—the wet and the dry—the north has four distinct seasons.
Much of the country has a tropical climate and relatively warm temperatures throughout the year, although northern and mountainous areas get much colder. Most of Vietnam experiences an annual monsoon, but when exactly this hits varies across the country.
Most travelers will find autumn and winter the best time to visit Vietnam, as temperatures are the most pleasant for city and outdoor activities. Winter is peak tourism season, although it isn't a suitable time for outdoor activities in the far north, as it can get very cold.That said, you will only need a light jacket and sweater if sticking to the Hanoi and Halong Bay area. The summer tends to be hot and wet, although northern and higher-altitude places are cooler.
Many travelers to Vietnam work their way north-to-south, or vice versa, starting in Hanoi and ending in Ho Chi Minh City. This can be a good way of experiencing a bit of everything, and ensures you'll get some warm weather somewhere on your trip, even in winter. Check out a south-to-north itinerary here: Best of Vietnam - 14 Days.
|Season||Months||Average Highs||Pros||Cons||Best For||Where to Visit|
|Summer||May-Aug||86°F/30°C||Vibrant countryside in the north||High rainfall, hot temperatures||City sightseeing, outdoor time in the north||Hanoi, Northern Vietnam|
|Fall||Sept-Nov||77°F/25°C||Pleasant warm temperatures||High rainfall in Central Vietnam||Hiking||Sapa, Halong Bay, Hanoi, HCMC|
|Winter||Dec-Feb||86°F/30°C||Comfortable temps in many places||Snow in the far north, peak tourism season further south, especially during Tet||City sightseeing, beach time||HCMC, Mekong Delta, Central Vietnam, Hanoi, southern beaches|
|Spring||Feb-April||90°F/32°C||Warmer temps after the winter||Extreme heat and humidity later in the season||Hiking the mountains/ highlands||Hoi An, Hue, Northern Vietnam, Dalat|
Summer (May to August)
Summer tends to be hot in Vietnam, wherever you go, but the north is cooler than the south. Hanoi and northern Vietnam can reach the high 80s F (around 30° C), and the south even higher.
The summer is also wet, with a monsoon in the south, and daily showers in the north. June, July, and August are the wettest months. The rain can mean beautiful vibrant green landscapes, so it isn't all bad. While long-distance treks may not be ideal when there's rain about, you can still visit park and forest areas on day trips, to see attractions like mountains, waterfalls, and dramatic rock formations.
Although it may sound counterintuitive, avoid beach areas in the summer. Apart from not being pleasant beach weather when it's wet, seas can be dangerously rough. Winter is actually beach season in Vietnam. South Vietnam is best avoided in the summer. Ho Chi Minh City gets very hot and humid, and the Mekong Delta often experiences flooding.
An upside of visiting during the summer is that there are fewer travelers, and you will likely find bargain accommodation. Just be careful that the accommodation isn't such a bargain because nobody would want to actually spend time in that area at that time of year! (Such as the Mekong Delta, or the beaches).
As Northern Vietnam is one of the better areas to visit in the summer, check out this sample itinerary: Best of Northern Vietnam - 7 Day Itinerary.
International Workers' Day (May 1). As a country with a communist government, this international holiday is a big deal in Vietnam.
Ghost Festival/Month. This month-long festival, usually starting in late August, is when many Vietnamese believe the spirits of the dead walk the earth. People make offerings and home and at temples to these spirits, lanterns are hung, and boats are released on bodies of water. It's a very superstitious and sensitive time. It's observed particularly strongly in Ho Chi Minh City's Chinatown area.
Autumn (September to November)
Average temperatures throughout autumn are quite pleasant, with average maximums in the high 70s F (mid-high 20s C) throughout the country. However, this is when the monsoon hits Central Vietnam, so the central coast is best avoided at this time, as flooding is common. That eliminates two of Central Vietnam's greatest stars, Hoi An and Hue.
This is a great time of year to visit North Vietnam though, as temperatures are warm but not scorching, and rainfall is low. This is an ideal season to go hiking in the mountainous areas, especially around Sapa, as you're less likely to get wet than you would in the summer.
Halong Bay is lovely at any time of year, but autumn is a good time to take a cruise as it's warm enough to enjoy some of the water activities that many cruises put on, such as kayaking.
Check out a sample hiking itinerary for Northern Vietnam here: Hiking in Vietnam's Pu Luong Nature Reserve - 5 Days.
Vietnamese National Independence Day (2 September). This national holiday is observed with parades and fireworks, especially in Hanoi.
Ooc Om Boc (November). This is celebrated by Vietnam's ethnic Khmer population, mainly in the Mekong Delta area It honors the moon, and is celebrated with boat races. This is a good reason to visit the Mekong Delta in November.
Winter (December to February)
Winter is a good time to visit Vietnam, as temperatures range from warm (the south) to cool with some warmer spells (the north). However, the far north can get very cold, with rain and snow around the Sapa area. Elsewhere though, there's practically no rain during winter.
Winter can be a very pleasant time to enjoy general sightseeing activities in Vietnam's towns and cities, such as Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Hue, and Hanoi. Temperatures are generally pleasant for walking around outdoors (although HCMC can still get pretty hot and humid). Hanoi can get cold (a mid-weight jacket will do), but that actually makes it easier to spend full days walking around the city checking out the many cultural attractions.
Similarly, Hoi An and Hue are cool (although warmer than Hanoi), but as there's a lot of outdoor sightseeing in these cultural capitals, dry weather is preferable. Just be aware that Hoi An has regularly experienced severe flooding during the monsoon season, so if you visit earlier in the winter, you may still encounter evidence of this (such as hotels and restaurants undergoing repair work).
While popular Halong Bay can be misty in winter, this is actually an attractive feature and can add to the UNESCO-listed area's scenic beauty. Winter's also a great time to explore the Mekong Delta, in the south. This low-lying, watery area can flood easily when there's a lot of rain, but winter is dry. Floating markets, village homestays, and cycling are favorite attractions in this area.
Tet (Vietnamese New Year). Vietnamese New Year, or Tet, follows a lunar calendar, so its dates are not fixed. It sometimes falls in mid-late January and sometimes early February. This is a major festival in Vietnam, and wherever you go you'll encounter some sort of celebration. It's an especially festive time in the big cities, with colorful lights and music/dance programs set up.
Spring (February to April)
Spring is generally a pleasant time to visit Vietnam, with warmer temperatures and low rainfall. However, in the south, temperatures can be very hot and very humid in March and April, with increasing rain, and temperatures can soar into the 90s F (30s C). Central Vietnam is also quite hot, but not as extreme as the south. In the north, warmth returns more slowly, and earlier in the season you may still experience very cold temperatures, especially in the mountains. Later in the season will be more pleasant. The humidity begins to build in the spring, but it generally doesn't rain very much.
To escape the heat of southern areas, the highlands around Dalat are a pleasant destination at this time of year. Temperatures are cooler at this altitude (Dalat sits at 5000 feet/1500 m.), and the area is known for its beautiful gardens and flowers, which are especially vibrant in spring. In fact, Dalat's nickname is the 'City of Eternal Spring'. There are also great hiking trails and attractive waterfalls to visit.
Tet sometimes falls in early spring (early February).