Experiencing Tet, the Vietnamese New Year or the Lunar New Year, in Vietnam is no doubt a unique and cultural experience. It usually lasts from Feb 27-Jan 2 and everyone is buzzing even days or weeks beforehand to prepare for the celebration.
Unlike New Year in the western world, Tet is not about partying on New Years Eve and going out of the old year with a bang. Most Vietnamese people travel home and spend it with their family. Personally, I think its cool that Tet is a more intimate experience where families gather together. If you’re lucky enough, some families will invite backpackers into their home to enjoy the celebration.
From a financial and traveling point of view, it was a bit frustrating. A large amount of restaurants and shops close and since all of Vietnam is traveling to see their family, almost everything was booked between hostels and buses. Also, since theirs a surge in demand, there’s obviously a surge in price. We’ve been paying double the amount we should. We paid almost 50 USD for a bus from Hoi An to Dalat–by far the most expensive bus ticket in all of SE Asia.
When we arrived in Dalat, we immediately spoke with reception at our hostel to book a bus to Ho Chi Minh a few days in advance because of how busy everything is. She told us that sleeper buses are sold out for the next four days, but we can take a sitting bus for the 8 hour journey at the price of 350,000 dong which is roughly 15 USD. Doesn’t sound like much, but the price is double what it should have been and this is how we sat in a very small, yet packed van for the trip.
Don’t get me wrong, the experience was amazing. We were in Hoi An for the week and the streets were covered in beautiful flowers for blocks and the city was busy with high spirits of starting off the year of the rooster on a good note.
However, if you’re backpacking on a budget, I would stray away from traveling to Vietnam during the end of January and beginning of February.