November is one of the best months to visit North Vietnam, where the weather is now dry and sunny. Hanoi will be temperate, but expect cool weather in the mountain resorts of Sapa and Mu Cang Chai, where by month’s end you’ll feel the winter chill. This is also one of the best months to experience a cruise or sea-kayak adventure on Halong Bay. Pack warm clothing along with your shade hat and sunscreen.
In coastal Central Vietnam, the northeast monsoon is still at its peak, with heavy storms and prolonged rains and knee- or waist-high flooding, particularly in Hoi An. Bring rain gear! Expect temperatures to average around 73-80°F (23-26°C). Although there are sunny bright spots, this is far from the best time for a beach vacation (Nha Trang receives nearly half of its annual rainfall in October and November). Inland, the Central Highlands, however, are now cool and mostly dry—perfect for adventure activities.
Blue skies have also returned to the south, where the Mekong Delta and the beaches and offshore islands within easy reach of Ho Chi Minh City are now at their best. Early November still sees plenty of intermittent, but potentially heavy rain, but late November is mostly dry. In Ho Chi Minh city, the temperature averages 81°F (27°C). Pack a light rainproof jacket and/or umbrella, but for the most part, light summer clothing will suffice.
Crowds & Costs
November is the beginning of the winter high season as international visitors arrive in large numbers. Hence, you can expect some crowding at the most popular tourist spots, such as Halong Bay. And it’s wise to book your accommodations early in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and such popular beach resorts as Phan Thiet, Ho Tram and Phu Quoc. Nonetheless, airfares to Vietnam remain reasonable in November. If you’re on a budget, note that airfares and hotel rates skyrocket in December.
Where to Go
The weather is at its prime to visit Halong Bay, although you can expect double the crowds during this peak season. The humid haze of January and onwards has yet to set in, and your best chance of deep blue skies is at this time of year.
Although popular with Chinese and Vietnamese visitors, off-the-beaten-track Ban Gioc Waterfall receives few foreign visitors. Your gain! This exquisite series of waterfalls tucked away at the northeast extreme of Vietnam is fed by the Quay Son River and straddles the border with China. The cascades spill across almost one-quarter mile (300 m), and funnel between stands of bamboo and forest. Bamboo raft owners will punt you close enough to feel the spray, and you can swim in the jade-colored pools. Bring your passport to obtain a foreign visitor permit on-site.
If a sunny beach vacation sounds like a treat, South Vietnam calls. You’re spoilt for choice, with Phan Thiet, Mui Ne, Ho Tram and Long Hai among the most popular options. One of the top draws at this time of year is the island of Phu Quoc: it combines fabulous unspoiled beaches, dense tropical forest, plenty of adventure activities, and a great choice of accommodations, from budget to deluxe. Plus, it has fishing villages, Buddhist shrines, and colorful markets when you bore of beach time.
What to Do
Ky Son, an unassuming hamlet about 30 miles (50 km) west of Hanoi, is as good a place as any to experience the traditional Vietnamese rural lifestyle.
The community welcomes a chance to introduce visitors to ordinary, everyday life. Based at Moon Garden Homestay, which organizes the program, you’ll sleep in ancient houses (decorated in traditional manner with carvings of dragons, phoenixes, and other figurative elements), practice tai chi with village elders, learn to make classic Vietnamese dishes, and even get into the mud to till the fields with ox-drawn plows and plant or harvest rice.
You’ve raved about the food. So why not learn how to make it. An ability to whip up stupendous Vietnamese dishes will wow your friends back home, and let you relive the memories. Cooking courses are available in every major city. For example, in Ho Chi Minch City the Vietnam Cookery Center has been teaching tourists traditional Vietnamese cooking methodology for two decades. You’ll begin by joining a skilled chef as you buy fresh ingredients for your class amid the hustle and bustle of local markets. Then he or she will mentor you step by step as your prepare spicy, savory and sweet treats.
Ride the “Reunification Express” and discover the very beauty of Vietnam on a uniquely evocative and memorable journey. You can as short or as long a journey as you desire along a 1,000-mile (1,700 km) rail system that follows the coast from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi and the Chinese border. Savor quintessential Vietnamese landscapes, and the chance for hop-on/hop-off exploration at such popular sites as Hue, Da Nang, and the beach resort of Nha Trang. Best yet, it’s a great way to immerse yourself with locals and learn the local language, especially on the overnight sleeper compartments.
Ooc Om Bok. One of the liveliest of Khmer religious festivals, it is specific to the Mekong Delta. It’s held on the evening of the 14th day of the tenth lunar month, when locals pray to the moon deity for good luck and a bumper crop. The highlight is the Ghe Ngo Boat Race, a thrilling boat race that involves villages teams racing traditional Khmer boats in time to the beat of gongs.
Traveling to Vietnam in November? 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.
Trekking in Rural Vietnam – 9 days. Immerse yourself in the life of the North Vietnamese hill tribes as you trek from village to village, and enjoy homestays with the tribal people.