First, I have to say, the Lunar New Year (as called Tet) is an exceptionally beautiful time to visit and understand our tradition and culture. It might consist of all great things that you think to witness in an Asian country: the festivals, the bustling street, the hospitality of the people, the traditional markets…
In 2020, Vietnamese’s Lunar New Year Festival will be from 25 to 28 January: that’s the official break. But the real vacation would be from 22 January to 3 February.
I strongly suggest you should avoid the 24 to 28 Jan, as every services during that time will be charged double price. Same like Western’s Christmas – New Year period, few people want to work on these day.
But on the other hand, I strongly suggest the period before and after these days. Before Tet, the street is crowded with people going out for shopping. They have to buy many things: from the food for the big meals every day till the end of Tet to offer to their ancestor, the fake clothes made by paper – also then to be burned to send to their ancestor, flowers, mandarin or peach trees… that’s something you can’t see in an ordinary day. And the air, the excitement with a little of worry in everyone’s face before the big festival.
If you can afford the advanced cost during the vacation, it will be another perspective of Vietnam that you cannot see everyday: Tet is one of the very rare occasion that you find tranquility in this 92-milions-people country. Most people are back to their home town with their big family leaving a Hanoi, and a Ho Chi Minh city serene and peaceful. First morning is the really the most quiet morning of the year, because we believe that the first who come to someone’s house bring bad or good luck, and no one wants to bring bad luck to others, so we avoid to go out in the morning, and start to visit our relatives and friends from afternoon.
It will be even more interesting after Tet. Now released from all the responsibilities, people start to travel. First thing is go to the pagodas, to pray for a lucky and prosperous year ahead. Almost every regional, village festivals and ceremonies are held about 1 month after Tet. Bad thing is pagodas and some other religious places will be so crowded; good thing? You can witness the religious life of Vietnamese.
Markets and tourist sites usually open only after 5th January according to Lunar calendar (which is 1st February in Gregorian calendar), and everything fully open only after 15th January on Lunar calendar (11th Feb).
Weather in that time would be pretty cold (minimum 11-12 degree Celsius) but often without rain.
There are pros and cons of travelling during Tet. If your group is a normal one with require of good and full services, you’d better avoid that time, but if it’s a group of culture-lovers, or photographers, then don’t hesitate to bring them here, we’ll take good care of them.