The climate differs greatly between north and south. November through April is cool and dry in the north, while the rest of the year is hot and rainy. It’s not much different on the central coast north of Nha Trang, where the winter monsoon brings wet, cool weather between December and February. In the south, it’s hot and humid all year round. The central highlands are not much different, but winters are cooler with temperatures close to freezing point.
When to fly to Vietnam
Vietnam has a varied climate and there is no bad time to book a Vietnam flight, unless humidity is a turn-off. In the north of the country, the winter months take in November to April, when the weather is cool and dry. The summer months are May to October; weather is hot with heavy rains.
In the south, Vietnam experiences a dry, hot season between December and April and a wet season between May and November. It is most humid between March and May.
In the centre of Vietnam, there are often very heavy rains between December and February.
Christmas is a family-centric time in Vietnam as is Tet (Lunar New Year) around February.
Getting around Vietnam
Vietnam Airlines offers a good domestic network, linking Ho Chi Minh City with several destinations including Buon Me Thuat, Da Nang, Dien Bien, Da Lat, Hanoi, Hai Phong, Hue, Nha Trang, Phu Quoc and Rach Gia.
Pacific Airlines also offers domestic flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi and Danang.
Vietnam Railways operates the rail network in Vietnam. The main line runs from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, taking in Danang, Hue and Nha Trang. The journey takes about two days.
Bus services are popular and cheap, but can be slow and overcrowded. The best way of getting around the country (between popular destinations) is by tourist open-tour bus. A journey between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City costs less than $30 (US, about £15).
Vietnam insider information
- Hue was capital of Vietnam between 1744 and 1945, when the last emperor abdicated. Located on the northern bank of the beautifully named Perfume River, the Imperial Citadel (Thanh Noi) has ten entrances; each gate has a watchtower on top. There are three ramparts: Capital Citadel, Imperial and Forbidden Citadel. Sadly, much of the interior of the citadel was destroyed during the Tet Offensive in 1968. The Forbidden Purple City was mostly razed, but there are some smaller buildings still standing and restoration work is ongoing.
- Drive, cycle or hike the more than 1200km (745 miles) of the Ho Chi Minh trail, which extends from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City along battlefields such as Khe Sanh; Ben Hai Bridge; Truong Son National Cemetery (Vietnam's national war cemetery); and Dak Rong Bridge,the start of Highway 15, leading south to “Hamburger Hill”.
- Vietnam’s best known national parks are Cuc Phuong (established in 1962); Cat Ba on Cat Ba Island in Halong Bay; and Con Dao National Park on Con Dao Island.
- Halong Bay: Halong means “where the dragon descends to the sea” in Vietnamese. The bay is composed of nearly 2,000 limestone islands and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Several of the islands are hollow, ie, caves, and two are inhabited – Tuan Chau and Cat Ba – and offer tourist facilities such as hotels, golf course and fishing club.
- Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is Vietnam’s largest city, business centre and major port. It was also the capital of the French protectorate of Cochinchina. The French left their mark: wide boulevards, colonial villas, café society and cuisine. Some of the must-sees are the Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee (Town Hall), Notre Dame Cathedral; bustling Ben Thanh Market (for souvenirs); Quoc Tu Pagoda; Xa-loi Pagoda; War Remnants Museum and nearby Reunification Palace, complete with NVA tank outside.