Working out when is the best time of year to visit Vietnam based on the weather can often seem confusing. Vietnam is a relatively large and long, thin country, meaning it essentially has three different weather systems (the North, the South and Central Vietnam), all of which are doing different things at different times of the year! Throw into the mix the various highlands which naturally have cooler climates, along with the many beaches to consider, and it can all start to get a little overwhelming! The good news is that there is nearly always good weather somewhere in Vietnam, ultimately making it a year-round destination.
As there is so much to do and see across the country, the key thing to work out is what you want to get out of your time in Vietnam, and how the weather will affect it at that time of year. Here we aim to break this down for you in a manageable way so that you can work out the best time of year to suit you. We’ll do this by breaking the country down into three regions: North Vietnam (including Hanoi, Halong Bay, Ninh Binh and the central highlands), Central Vietnam (including Hue, Hoi An, Phong Nha, Dalat and Nha Trang) and Southern Vietnam (including Ho Chi Minh City, The Mekong Delta, Mui Ne and Phu Quoc).
The weather in Vietnam – dry vs. monsoon season
In general, the best time of year to visit Vietnam is from January through to April, when you’ll get the most consistent weather across the three regions. During this time, the climate is milder and rainfall is lowest, so can generally be considered as Vietnam’s dry season. The rains can then be broken down into two main seasons:
May – September: the southwest monsoon sweeps in and affects the north and south of the country. This monsoon is more tropical, meaning it’s warm and often involves sharp sudden downpours followed by blue skies. In contrast, the weather during these months in Central Vietnam enters its dry season; the hot and sunny days making it an ideal place for a beach break.
October – January: This is when the north and south see their dry season take over once again, whilst the central region transforms from sunshine into grey skies as the Northeast monsoon takes hold. The rain at this time of year is cooler and more persistent and is usually heaviest in October/November when the typhoon season disrupts the towns of Hue and Hoi An, making them prone to flooding. Things start to ease up from December time, but the sky is still grey and drizzly until February.
When is the best time of year to visit Vietnam: a breakdown
As each region can be so different each month, it can help to break it down into seasons which may help you to plan your trip more efficiently.
Winter (December – February)
Come December, Vietnam starts to return to its best. Both the north and the south are dry and sunny, with good visibility for trekking in the central highlands and sailing Ha Long Bay. Temperatures are much cooler in the north, however, especially in the hills, so a bringing few extra layers is sensible. Meanwhile, the worst of the rain has passed in the centre of the country, making it great for sightseeing once again. It won’t be quite beach weather here just yet, however, so it’s best to head to the Southern beaches of either Mui Ne or Phu Quoc for your dose of sand and sunshine.
Spring sees a transitional period across much of the country. The north starts to warm up and can become more humid as the wait for the rains builds tension in the air. Similarly, the south is very hot, and remains a good choice for the beach; however, bar the odd shower, rain is still unlikely until later in May. The skies in central Vietnam now start to clear, revealing blue skies, bright days and warmer temperatures, meaning the beaches start to become a great choice in this area.
The summertime is when the weather is the most mixed across different parts of the country. The north and south have been fully engulfed by the southwest monsoon, with tropical heavy downpours hitting the north, and short sharp showers trickling across the south. If you don’t mind a bit of rain, then you might still enjoy visiting these areas as there are often still many pockets of sunshine and it can be fun to explore the various cities and sites with fewer crowds around. However, the poor visibility and rains make trekking in the highlands off-limits.
In contrast, the centre of Vietnam is basking in the sunshine, meaning there’s no better place than the beaches of Hoi An, Danang and Nha Trang to enjoy the heat before cooling off in the ocean.
Another transitionary period hits Vietnam once again, as rains start to clear in the north, and good visibility in the highlands makes trekking an option once more. The south should also start to clear, although can sometimes be prone to receiving the tail-end of the Typhoons which hit the central area in October / November. This can make these months the riskiest time to visit, however, if you are only wanting to enjoy the cities and countryside of the north, then it can be an excellent time to visit.
Planning Your Visit to Vietnam During A Festival
Whilst the weather is a prime consideration in deciding upon the best time of year to visit Vietnam, it’s worth taking into consideration the various Vietnamese festivals and national holidays, and how these might also affect your time in the country.
The primary and largest festival is called ‘Tet’, which marks the Lunar New Year celebrations otherwise known as ‘Chinese New Year’. Not only do most of the Vietnamese offices and shops shut during this period, but it also draws a large number of Chinese tourists to the country, who use this time to take their own holidays during the break. This means that many of the large hotels and beach resorts can be booked up quite far in advance by Chinese tourists.
The dates for Tet change each year depending on the lunar calendar, but it usually falls between late January and early February and lasts around 5 days.
Tet is the main holiday that may cause disruption to your trip, however other big national holidays to consider include ‘Reunification Day’ on the 30th April, which celebrates the reunification of North Vietnam and South Vietnam at the end of the Vietnam War. During this day, local families may be enjoying some of the usual tourist spots, which is also likely during ‘International Workers Day’ on the 1st May, and ‘National Day’ on the 2nd September.
Vietnam can be considered as a year-round destination, depending on which areas you travel to and what you are looking to get out of the experience. The best time to visit is between January – April, when you’ll get the most consistent weather throughout, although be careful to avoid ‘Tet’, when most shops and restaurants will be closed. Our summer months can be a mixed bag for Vietnam, but the benefit of this generally means there will be fewer tourists. October & November can bring heavy rains to the central and often southern areas, meaning there isn’t much opportunity for beach time; however the north is great for trekking and cruising overnight on Halong Bay.