Northern Vietnam and southern Vietnam have two very different climates. 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 from December to February. In contrast, it’s hot and humid all year in the south. The central highlands aren’t much different, but winters are cooler with temperatures close to freezing.
When to fly to Vietnam
Peak season in Vietnam is from September to April although there is no bad time to book a Vietnam flight. Winter in the north is from November to April when the weather is cool and dry, summer is from 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 center of Vietnam, there are often very heavy rains between December and February.
Off peak season in Vietnam is during Christmas and Tet (Lunar New Year) around February.
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Getting around Vietnam
Domestic airline Vietnam Airlines links 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.
Domestic flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi and Danang are also offered by Pacific Airlines.
The rail network in Vietnam is operated by Vietnam Railways. The main line runs from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, taking in Danang, Hue and Nha Trang.
Although buses are cheap and safe they tend to be slow and overcrowded. The best way of getting around the country (between popular destinations) is by tourist open-tour bus.
Vietnam insider information
- Visit the Imperial Citadel (Thanh Noi) on the northern bank of the Perfume River. The citadel has three ramparts: Capital Citadel, Imperial and Forbidden Citadel. Sadly, much of the interior was destroyed during the Tet Offensive in 1968.
- If you’re feeling extremely energetic, why not cycle or hike the more than 1200km (745 miles) of the Ho Chi Minh trail, extending 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”.
- Spend an afternoon in one of Vietnam’s treasured national parks. Cuc Phuong (established in 1962); Cat Ba on Cat Ba Island in Halong Bay; and Con Dao National Park on Con Dao Island are among the best known.
- Halong Bay, a Unesco World Heritage site, is composed of nearly 2,000 limestone islands. 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.
- Former Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, is Vietnam’s largest city, business centre and major port. It was also the capital of the French protectorate of Cochinchina and a strong French influence can be seen in its colonial villas, sidewalk cafes and rich cuisine. Among the city’s must-see attractions are the Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee (Town Hall), Notre Dame Cathedral; Ben Thanh Market; Quoc Tu Pagoda; Xa-loi Pagoda; War Remnants Museum and nearby Reunification Palace.