Vietnam grabs hold of you from the moment you step off the plane. Your senses are assaulted by the blare of bus horns and revving motorbikes, the scent of grilled meat wafting from street carts, and the influx of people, always moving, always with purpose. This is a country on the move.
Forty years after a devastating war, Vietnam is in the midst of a comeback, rising in a cacophonous clash of old and new, modern and traditional. You’re just as likely to see a luxury car roll past a rusty one-speed bike as you are to find the upper echelon of society eating from plastic tables on the street. Amid the bustling street stalls and the frenzied markets, the country thrives.
Beyond its cities, another Vietnam awaits. Venture to the countryside or along the coast and find tranquil beaches and sleepy farming towns; never-ending rice paddies and the eerie labyrinth of limestone islands.
Vietnam grasps your full attention. With open arms, an open mind, and a sense of adventure, you’ll find yourself embracing it right back.
When to Go
Vietnam’s weather changes considerably from north to south. The best months for exploring Vietnam are September and October, just as rainy season comes to a close in the south but before winter has settled over northern Vietnam, or April and May, when the country’s northern destinations have thawed and rain has yet to reach the south. High season runs outside of both these times, with visitor numbers peaking November-March.
Things get especially busy over Christmas before sliding into Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year), the following month. While this is a holiday of fascinating local traditions, it makes for a poor visit, as the entire country shuts down for weeks before and after. Those businesses that remain open often hike their prices to double or triple the usual amount, and transportation is unreliable. While fewer foreigners travel during the summer months, July and August see droves of domestic holidaymakers, who flock to hot spots like Ha Long Bay and Nha Trang.
If you’re sticking to the north, your best months are September-October or April-June, when you’ll encounter warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine, while high season tends to be chilly and perpetually plagued by mist. The light fog that sits atop everything north of Hue can be beautiful, provided you don’t arrive expecting sunny days.
Down south, cooler temperatures prevail November-March, but the build-up to rainy season begins shortly thereafter, bringing temperatures to a balmy 100 degrees with high humidity before the downpours start in mid- to late May. Though travelers have to plan around the afternoon showers, rainfall between May and September is predictable, only becoming a true free-for-all at the end of the season in October.