Tet plays an important role in Vietnamese culture because it’s the time for family reunion, new chances, and hope- as well as forgetting troubles about the year gone by.
It usually occurs in late January to mid-February; this year Tet holiday is coming a bit sooner because the first day of the lunar year is January 28th.
Like any country’s holiday time, things go a little crazy at this time of year. This article is going to outline some travel tips for Tet holiday time.
“A Cheerful Time of the Year”
Tet is referred to as a cheerful time of the year, because it brings together the Vietnamese themselves, as well as foreign expats and foreign visitors who’ll be in the country during this time.
Tet embodies a truly Eastern celebration, with interesting activities and customs that are unique to this part of the world.
A week before the first day of New Year, streets, houses and stores are decorated with flower plants and lights. The main color associated with Tet is red, which symbolize luck, happiness and success.
Depending on locality, Vietnamese decorate their living room with chrysanthemums and marigolds, which stands for longevity in southern Vietnam, and paper flowers and lavender in northern Vietnam.
You can really feel Tet “in the air”, streets, malls and supermarkets because they are more crowded and also various kinds of entertainment and shows are held throughout the cities.
Our travel tip for Tet holiday: Be prepared for things to be busier than normal at this time of year.
Tet Holiday Customs
The first sacred custom is preparing a large tray that consists of foods, candies and incense to say farewell to the ‘kitchen god’.
After the ritual, you have to release a carp into nature (the fish stands for transportation to help kitchen god travel back to meet with the emperor and other gods).
Similarly, on December 30th of every lunar year, Vietnamese believe their deceased ancestors will visit the family so they prepare a sumptuous meal to invite and welcome back the ancestors.
Customary foods during Tet include glasses of tea and rice wine, cooked rice, stewed pork, bitter melon filled with mince soup and the most well-known traditional Vietnamese food: “banh chung”.
Our travel tip for Tet holiday: enjoy the feasts and local flavours, and take the opportunity to try something new.
During the first three days of the New Year, people will visit a pagoda to pray for happiness and prosperity for their family, and then visit relatives and friends to give them best wishes and fortunes.
During this period, people try to avoid arguments or say bad things.
“Lixi” is an interesting custom, where a red envelop containing “lucky money” is given as a gift. Although the amount is usually quite small, it’s a way to show respect to the old and generosity to kids.
Tips for travelers visiting Vietnam during Tet Holiday
Our travel tip for Tet holiday: Shops are usually still open for Tet
In the past, commercial activities stop for about 5 days during Tet, but nowadays, since tet part of Vietnam’s “high season” shops usually stay open to reap the benefit of people’s extra generosity at this time of year.
Just few shops close now, and it is usually just for 1 day.
Our travel tip for Tet holiday: Higher prices than usual
During Tet, everything will experience a price hike, from a bowl of pho to a suit made to order. Moreover, many restaurants may not have their regular full menu either.
Our travel tip for Tet holiday: Transportation and accommodation
People generally take long trips and travel home at this time of year, so getting tickets for transportation is hard (even when you try to book in advance).
So if you want to take a trip to popular destinations like Halong Bay, Hoi An, Da Nang, Hanoi, or Saigon, book plenty in advance.
Our travel tip for Tet holiday: Be careful when bargaining
People believe at this time of year that any “unlucky signs” could be telling of financial losses for the year to come. Hard bargaining with merchants during Tet can cause some upset.
If they’re getting angry for no reason, you might find that buy the smallest or cheapest product in their shops resolves the issue.
Our travel tip for Tet holiday: Prepare lucky money – “li xi”
If you really want to make someone smile, prepare lucky money in envelopes and give them out to people you come into contact with.
If you obtain services in shops, foods and drinks at coffee shops or hotel rooms, remember to give staff “li xi”. You likely won’t miss a dollar or two, but they will absolutely go crazy for it.
Have you ever traveled to Vietnam during Tet? How did you feel? We’re glad to hear your stories and the experiences of the trip in the comments below.