Rainfall is at a minimum in both north and south Vietnam in December, with most days sunny. Temperatures in North Vietnam, however, drop sharply with the onset of winter, averaging 66°F (19°C) in Hanoi, and gloomy days with occasional drizzle begin to increase. Lingering mists also set in this month: Halong Bay is famously, and frustratingly, affected by haze. The mountains will be significantly colder, with frost at night in higher regions. Be sure to pack plenty of warm clothing.
Central Vietnam’s coastal lowlands still see plenty of rain and stormy weather in early December, but this diminishes towards the end of the month as the monsoon comes to an end. By Christmas, Nha Trang and the other beach resorts are again viable options. The Central Highlands remain dry throughout the month—prime for active adventures—although temperatures will be much cooler than Hue or Hoi An (average 72°F/22°C), especially at night.
The best beach weather, however, is in the south, with the warmest weather of anywhere in Vietnam. Temperatures in Ho Chi Minh City average a pleasant 79°F/26°C (the lowest of the year), with low humidity, blue skies, and little rain.
Crowds & Costs
The winter peak season is well underway, and Christmas get very busy with tourists. You’ll need to book well ahead to secure accommodation for the Christmas and New Year weeks. And don’t expect bargains: December is the priciest month of the year for accommodations in Ho Chi Minh City. The most popular venues—such as Halong Bay—and beaches such as Phu Quoc can be crowded in December, as will top sites in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and (by month’s end) even Hue and Hoi An.
Where to Go
December is a great month to explore Ho Chi Minh City, as the monsoon rains finally cease. Top draws not to miss include the Cao Dai Temple, Binh Tay Market, and the futuristic Bitexco Tower. For a fascinating insight into the Vietnam War legacy, visit the Reunification Palace—the former presidential palace where, famously, the first Viet Cong Communist tanks burst through the gates on 30 April 1975 to seal Saigon’s fate, thus ending the war. Then head to the War Remnants Museum, full of sobering mementos of the war.
Pack your towel and sunscreen and head to the islands of Phu Quoc for relaxation in the sun on the sands. This archipelago of 28 islands centers on the eponymous main island, with its dozens of pillow-soft white sand beaches. Plus, the snorkeling and scuba diving is stellar, with everything from pristine coral reefs to marine turtles and even dugongs to be spotted!
If you want a mountain experience but the hills of North Vietnam appear too cold, head to Bach Ma National Park, between Da Nang and Hue. This park enshrines the Bach Ma mountain range that divides the northern and southern Vietnam climate zones. It stretches from the coast to the Laos border and is superb for hiking and wildlife viewing—keep your eyes out for the antelope-like saola and any of nine species of primates.
What to Do
Crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels, about 40 miles (70 km) northwest of Ho Chi Minh City. This network of some 150 miles (250 km) of tunnels is part of a much larger, multi-tiered underground honeycomb by which during the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong gained control of a huge area extending from Saigon to the Cambodian border. The amazing system included field hospitals, weapon factories, and countless boobytraps.
Take an experiential two-wheel adventure of Ho Chi Minh City in the mode of the Vietnamese… on a scooter, moped, or even a Russian Ural motorcycle with a sidecar. Let serendipity guide you off the beaten tourist path, or join an organized tour.
Although Christmas (Giang Sinh) isn’t a formal national holiday, it’s now one of the four main festivities in Vietnam’s major cities, which are adorned with Xmas lights and decorations. Head to the main streets and squares to partake of the party spirit on Christmas Eve, then seek out a midnight Mass—those at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hanoi, and at Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City, are the largest, drawing hundreds of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. If you simply must have snow for Christmas, head to Sapa where the mountains may be dusted with December flurries.
Christmas Day. Once considered a “foreigners festival,” Christmas is now a major highlight of the Vietnamese calendar. City centers, and many family homes, are decorated in traditional Christmas fashion; special musical and other festivals and events are hosted; and Christian churches and cathedrals hold traditional midnight Mass.
Traveling to Vietnam in December? Check out these great itineraries
Vietnam Nature & Culture Tour – 17 Days. Explore the cultural and natural highlights of Vietnam end to end on this 17-day trip, which ranges from trekking in Phong Nha National Park and a boat trip on the Mekong to exploring Ho Chi Minh City by Vespa.
Cycle the Highlands & Coast of Vietnam – 11 days. Dry sunny weather that’s not too hot and humid sounds ideal for cycling, so spin your way around Vietnam on this tour that combines the central coast and the northern highlands.